Philadelphia corporate partner Doug Raymond and associate Vanessa Tabler co-authored an article for Family Business Magazine titled “Tips on interviewing law firms,” that outlines criteria for family businesses looking to hire a legal adviser.
In their article, they encourage businesses to first identify issues they want addressed in order to decide what kind of lawyer they need. They also note “It may be important that the lawyer appreciate the often-complex dynamics of a family business.”
To find the right lawyer, Raymond and Tabler advise businesses to start by asking around and researching recommendations they receive; from there, make initial phone calls to any promising leads. In the initial phone call, the authors recommend describing the family business and help needed and checking to ensure there is no conflict of interest.
The next step businesses should do is schedule follow-up interviews where the lawyer or firm can explain how they would approach the issue, expected costs, risks, timing, staffing and other details. Raymond and Tabler emphasize the importance of businesses to “be candid about any family disputes or tensions because such dynamics will often inform the advice the lawyer will give you.”
When interviewing lawyers, Raymond and Tabler recommend asking these questions:
- What is the lawyer’s experience in the industry in which your company operates?
- How is the lawyer or firm positioned to handle your matter compared to other firms?
- What is the lawyer’s experience with family businesses?
- Who will be working on your matter, and what are the respective skills and backgrounds of those people?
- Ask the lawyer to provide two or three client references.
- How will the lawyer charge for their services, and is there more than one option for how they are compensated?
The final steps they outline are for businesses to check references and compare fee structures.
Raymond and Tabler highlight that while the search may be time consuming, “If you are successful, you may be able to develop a long-term relationship with someone who will be one of the most trusted advisers for you and your family. The advantages to you, your family and your business of having that kind of adviser can be invaluable.”