Working with a reputable law firm to assist you in drafting and negotiating agreements for sales, real estate transactions, employment agreements, and intellectual property licenses, has never been more essential to the success of your business. The attorney you choose should be focused on preventing problems and helping you navigate your company through a challenging and ever-changing business and regulatory landscape.
Even with insightful, intelligent and proactive legal management, you and your business may still face a lawsuit at some point in time. This unexpected situation could encompass defending your company against a lawsuit or suing in order to protect business interests. When the prospect of business litigation becomes real, you should consider several essential qualities as you select a trial attorney to lead you through what could have a far-reaching impact on your business.
Let’s start with understanding the fundamental qualities you should identify in any business attorney and how they apply to working with that person through trial or settlement.
Subject Matter Expertise
The stronger your case, the faster the whole process will go and the greater likelihood of a positive outcome. This may seem obvious, but it is worth emphasizing. Often, building a strong case requires a deeper understanding of the law and how it applies to your facts than the attorneys on the other side. Your attorney can only develop deep subject matter expertise through years of experience helping other businesses wrestle with similar issues.
Litigation Experience With Similar Cases
While a sharp, experienced litigator with the subject matter expertise required for your case can be an excellent choice, selecting someone who has already tried similar cases offers you several advantages. For one, your costs may be lower because your lawyer would likely need to spend less time researching similar statutes, regulations and case law that touch upon the issues that are most likely to arise in your case. Additionally, a trial lawyer who has dealt with matters similar to your own will be able to provide you with more accurate insights about the likelihood of winning and how best to navigate the litigation process.
Work with an attorney who listens intently, explains arcane legal concepts in plain English, grasps the fundamentals of your business and the facts or your dispute, and, frankly, is comfortable communicating with you about the intimate details of your company’s business. The more comfortable you are in working with him, the more confident you can be in achieving the results you want. That’s important. While you’re not hiring this person as an employee, you may find it helpful to evaluate your relationship with him as if you were. Ask yourself if you’d be comfortable working with him on a daily basis. Ask yourself if you trust his judgment. Ask yourself if you respect his knowledge of your industry and the law in which he professes to be an expert. Ask yourself if you believe you can have a constructive working relationship him for at least a year because if you find yourself embroiled in a lawsuit, in state or federal court, it will be at least a year before it is resolved. Not only will good communication skills allow you and your attorney to develop a good partnership, these skills will help him get the right points across to judges and juries, as well as negotiate with opposing counsel. If you meet with an attorney who doesn’t take the time to listen, dismisses your concerns, or struggles to translate legal concepts effectively, keep looking.
Credibility is really a blend of all the factors above, but worth calling out separately. The attorney you choose ultimately has to persuade an audience (a judge or jury) who may or may not be attorneys and are not likely experts in your industry when the trial begins. Credentials, experience in similar cases, and perhaps a focus on this area of the law, will support his credibility… but won’t be sufficient. Your lawyer’s manner and style of communicating will matter immensely. When you consider attorneys for your California business case, ask yourself, who seems the most credible?
So far, the characteristics we’ve reviewed constitute a good guide for hiring a business attorney… period – even outside of the context of a trial. Good news, right? You won’t need a completely separate set of criteria for selecting a trial attorney. But when it comes to the high-stakes world of business litigation, it helps to work with a lawyer who has one additional quality – competitive confidence.
You might also think of this factor as a “killer instinct.” Hiring an attorney who enjoys the competition of a trial or negotiation – someone who loves to win and hates to lose – will work in your favor. This person will go above and beyond to get a good outcome AND is likely to be brutally honest with you upfront – before costs start to accumulate – about your chances of winning.
To uncover this quality, ask the attorneys you meet to talk about (without revealing confidential information, of course) cases they’ve taken to trial, how things played out, and what it took to get a positive outcome. As much as a good lawyer will stress that the focus of their practice is preventing litigation, the ones who possess competitive confidence won’t be able to hide their pride and excitement about cases they’ve handled. Like asking an athlete to recount the time they scored the winning point or beat a record, an attorney with that killer instinct will come alive in describing the challenge, the twists and turns, and the winning argument.
Trials can take months or even years, and the outcome will have a lasting effect on your company. Interview several firms, consider the qualities we discuss in this post, and choose your bay area trial attorney carefully.