You should get a fee agreement in writing. If it is just drafting/reviewing a contract, the most appropriate agreement is a flat fee agreement. For consulting, advisory work, the agreement will most likely be an hourly fee agreement.
The most important thing is for the attorney to be very specific about the work to be performed and the charge for such work. For example, instead of "review of contract," the fee agreement should state "review of contract with x corporation regarding y obligations."
As you need to ultimately agree with the final contract, it should represent any and all conversations you had with the attorney. Keep good notes so that you can make sure that all items that you wished to be addressed in the contract are in the contract and any language or items you did not want addressed in the contract are not included in the contract.
A good attorney should protect themselves and you by emailing, faxing, or mailing a letter detailing your conversations to make sure that you are both on the same.
The content of this answer should not be relied upon or used as a subsitute for consultation with professional advisors and it should be clearly understood that no attorney-client privilege has been created. A more complete answer and/or more accurate answer can only be provided in a more thorough examination of the facts in a consultation with my firm.
It seems as if you are concerned about some conduct that you are seeking the attorneys' approval for...and are using the attorney's advice to CYA. CORRECT? If so, you need an "attorney opinion letter" which is a document from legal counsel evaluating a specific course of action. You must discuss the specifics with your attorney and give him/her time to thoroughltly research the issues and draft the letter. In a sense, you are getting the advice of counsel you seem to need, but keep in mind that most attorneys wont "sign off" on a questionable course of action. The attorney will evaluate the pros and cons and can advise you on the potential consequences or likelihood that the conduct is "xyz" but wont necessarily sign off on it unless its crystal clear.
This response is not to be considered legal advice by anyone. This communication, alone, does not create an attorney-client privilege. Unless you have executed a fee agreement with the attorney, that is related to the subject matter contained in this communication, you are advised not to rely on this communication to make any decisions whatsoever or to create an attorney-client relationship. No attorney-client relationship shall exist with this attorney without a fee agreement executed by you and the attorney.
You are asking two different questions:
1. How to make sure you and the attorney are on the same page. For this you need a fee agreement that spells out what the attorney will be handling for you. As of 1/1/13, Massachusetts now requires written fee agreements. This document will explain what the attorney will charge, how they will charge (hourly or fixed fee or contingent) and what they will be doing for you;
2. The second question seems to ask how you know you can rely on the attorney’s advice. In this case you are asking for a legal opinion letter. This is something that you can request of the attorney for the compliance work. In such a case the attorney should conduct detailed research in the area requested and give you a written opinion as to the actions you are taking. The caveat with this is that legal opinion letters can be costly so expect to have to pay for this. I am not suggesting that you cannot rely on advice generally, but a legal opinion letter is more in depth advice based on the facts you provide to the attorney and significant legal research conducted by the attorney.
The above statements are provided as general information and not intended as legal advice. Each matter has its own set of unique circumstances that cannot be adequately addressed without consultation. You are strongly advised to hire an attorney licensed to practice law in your state to represent you.