Dealing With Attorneys

From the January 2007 issue of The Legal Connection Ezine:

keeping legal technology and people connected

Dealing With Attorneys

Hiring an attorney can be a daunting task for many not familiar with the law.  Just as with any profession, there are good attorneys and not so good attorneys too.  Here are a few items to consider in the selection of any trusted advisor:

  • Lawyers are Humans

We are all humans. If you think that an attorney has attained some level of humandome unavailable to those of us lesser mortals – WAKE UP!

Along with inspiring a feeling of trust, respect and the certainty that you can discuss anything with your attorney; ultimately, you are going to get better service from a practitioner you like. It’s a fact – humans like to do business with humans they like. Do you like your doctor? What about your accountant? Same principle applies to attorneys.

  • You are Paying for a Service – Not an Outcome!

Everyone forgets this.  Throwing gobs of money and hiring only the most costly lawyer can have little effect on the outcome of your case – other than assuring the attorney will get a great deal of exposure from your matter should it be newsworthy.  Ultimately, you need a champion – someone willing to put in the time and thought required to protect or advance your case.  Not all champions charge top dollar!  A smart, resourceful associate or single practitioner with lesser overhead can be the perfect lawyer to handle your matter.

  • The Consultation is Key

The consultation is generally where an attorney will meet with the potential client and learn/discuss the merits of the case. Call it a “consultation” but consider it a mutual interview.

Make sure to discuss how/when you are kept informed as a client on the status of your case; a contact telephone number for a support staff member should the attorney be unavailable; and any other issues regarding the management or details of your case you feel is relevant.

If there are no attorneys in any of your networking groups, contact the local County or your State Bar Association for a referral to a member in good standing.

  • Know The Name and Phone Number of a General Practitioner

You should know the name and phone number of a general practitioner with an office close to your home or business.

Unfortunately, many of us only think to locate an attorney when a specific need arises. Often such needs are due to a sad or stressful event – a time when most people are apt to make rushed or emotionally charged decisions. This may include signing a retainer with an attorney simply to move a process along (such as a divorce or probate) rather than to establish a trusted relationship.

But you can’t know what type of attorney you will need until the time arises – which is why you should know a good, general practitioner – to use for little items like applying for a permit or working through a traffic violation. This person then becomes a trusted resource you can turn to get a referral to a specialist. Think of it like your general doctor who refers you to medical specialists when needed – same concept only there’s no insurance company footing the bill! 😉

  • Laws Don’t Remove the Need for Judgment or Common Sense!

The law can be so stupid. This short film ( illustrates how breaking something down to the lowest common denominator ends up being where it all began in the first place!  Only now we’ve had too many law suits, the creation of organizations, institutions and laws to protect the differences rather than advance the common, IMO.  [2009 Insert: A LegalTypist DA is in that short film… can you guess which actor was the DA?]

The law is not always right and a very astute attorney once told me a successful negotiation is where everyone walks away feeling like they lost. Very rarely does one ‘win” when the judicial system is in play.

In the end, use your best judgment and apply common sense to every situation, including hiring an attorney.

Are You Tongue Tied?

I follow lots of people in the on line world and one of my favortes is Chris Brogan of  Here’s some information about Chris (directly from his site:)

Chris Brogan is President of New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency, as well as the home of the New Marketing Summit conferences and New Marketing Bootcamp educational events. He works with large and mid-sized companies to improve online business communications like marketing and PR through the use of social software, community platforms, and other emerging web and mobile technologies

Pretty straight forward – as is Chris.

Now, the reason for this post is because Chris recently wrote in his blog:  27 Things To Do Before A Conference.  As I’m headed off to Chicago for a conference in April, Chris’ post couldn’t come at a better time.  While all the information he provides is helpful, of particular interest to me and what I wanted to highlight for you is this entry:

#24  If you’ve got a business offer to promote at an event, practice and practice and practice how you’re going to talk about it. Be crisp. Make it easy to say. Be very clear about the ask. If you’re looking for people to review your demo, then make that the ask. If you’re looking for work, be clear that you’re available for a few extra projects. It seems that lots of folks beat around the bush or don’t exactly know how to have a beginning, middle, and end to a conversation.

I find that lots of people who are in business do not understand the importance of being able to answer normal, business type questions – what do you do, how do you do it, how much do you charge – and sound like a coherent, intelligent person (meaning not stumbling through scattered information in sentences laden with uhhhs and ummms).  Even if there is no networking event or trade show to attend, every e-preneur needs to be able to speak about their business.

It’s not that I don’t understand why…. I attribute it to the fact that e-preneurs spend a lot of time in the first few years on development.  Generally, working alone for one or two clients while putting in place the processes and tech their budding business needs to be in business and, of course, grow.  This means, e-preneurs don’t spend much time in the first few years talking to anyone not already familiar with them and their business, service or product.  Hence, no need to develop the lingo.

This is why I always suggest to newbie VAs and fledgling e-preneurs that they write out a list of the “normal” business questions they will be asked.  You know, the stuff they would ask of someone else if they were doing the hiring.  Then draft 1-3 sentence responses.  Some questions may require more information – but the goal is to deliver the answer in as few words as possible – keeping the answer somehow memorable, if possible.

Once the words are written, it is just a matter of practice.  I encourage literally speaking the sentences out loud, and refining the responses until each rolls off the tongue with ease.

For those who prefer a live audience to practice on, look to ToastMasters International – a true not for profit group with a mission to help ordinary people speak better and become better leaders.  I’m the VP of PR for the Syosset ToastMasters Club (, and can personally attest to the benefits I received from going through the manual of 10 speeches.  There are ToastMasters clubs in 100+ countries and you can find one near you by visiting the main site:

3 Requirements For My Web Based Tech

When setting up my VA practice (which works predominantly with attorneys)  I had three mission critical criteria of any web based “tech”  1.  Security;  2.  Accessibility;  3.  End User-ability

1.  Security – is the actual tech behind the service or process secure?  Here’s what I look for/ask about:

(a)        Does it make you use e-mail?  Yes?  Strike one.  It’s very well known in the techy world and I’ve been saying it for years:  e-mail is more of a postcard than it is a sealed envelope.

(b)        Are all connections to the servers secure? No?  Why not?  Techy Truth:  doesn’t cost anything extra to pull your website visitors through the https protocol – thereby making the connection encrypted.  Why wouldn’t a web based service wish to be as proactively secure as possible, especially when it doesn’t cost anything more?!  So, when I ask if all connections are secure and I hear “No” or if this conversation makes the vendor uncomfortable, strike 2.

(c)        Where are the actual servers a/k/a my data located?  If I don’t hear “on US soil” – strike 3.  I’m Canadian by birth, a legal resident of the United States who works from my home based office on Long Island, NY.  Has nothing to do with anything other should something go wrong with my relationship with that vendor, I do not want service of process to be an international (a/k/a much more expensive) endeavor.  Also, “ordinary course of business” can mean different things in different parts – so keeping all my company and client information/data securely within it’s country of origin is a requirement for me.

2.  Accessibility – as a mobile professional, this ranks as the second “must” for any tech I take the time to learn, test, incorporate and recommend.  I specifically do not mean how accessible I am to my clients and contacts, e-mails, etc.  I mean how securely can I get at my practice’s critical information when I want or need?  Can I get at it by computer?  What about my personal mobile device (Palm Centro) and/or my favorite – by any telephone?  In my world it’s all about the options and the more options you have to get at your data (securely), the more mobile a professional you truly are.  FYI, the two techs I combine and recommend to my clients and contacts make them securely able to process work using nothing but a toll free number and that’s because of criteria 3…

3.  End User-ability – if your clients/contacts can’t understand how to use a tech or if using it is difficult or cumbersome, they won’t.  If possible, mold your tech and processes around how they work – not the other way around.  I’ve got my tech down to the point where all one need do is call a toll free number and enter a 7 digit user ID to securely dictate everything from correspondence to billing notations, from briefs and pleadings to blog entries.  Of course, my clients can also connect to their information in as many ways as I can, it’s just that they don’t HAVE to!  Again, to me it’s all about having options.

It’s hard to know what to look for in a web based service.  This post provides you with three of the “musts” I have for even considering a technology to incorporate into my virtual assistant practice.  Also, just because I work with attorneys, doesn’t mean my/their information is any more important, confidential and private than any other business owner/client – digital security is important for all businesses, not just law firms.


This is just one of the stories contained in the 2009-02/03 edition of The Legal Connection Ezine.  Want to read more or see the pictures from LegalTech NY?  Sign up here to get the entire issue: (upper right hand corner).