The Wrong Questions to Ask Your Lawyer
The Wrong Questions
Most new entrepreneurs, at some point during their endeavor, learn that some questions asked of their lawyers are effective, while others serve little purpose. If there is such a thing as a wrong question, here are the top five. These either serve little purpose in providing the client with useful information, initiate something that is of disservice to the client, or are just plain wrong.
Wrong Question #1: “What’s your hourly rate?”
If my hourly billing rate is $225 and I can do the job in one hour, and another lawyer charges $175 per hour but it takes her three hours, …. You get the idea.
The Right Question #1: “How much will this cost?”
Wrong Question #2: “Can you just skim this for me to make sure it’s okay?”
No. If I skim it I may very well miss something, which not only doesn’t serve my client very well, it also exposes me to liability. If a document needs a review let the lawyer do his or her job in protecting your interests.
The Right Question #2: “Make sure I’m protected here. How much time do you think it will take?” Or see Right Question #1.
Wrong Question #3: “Can you slip this in without telling anybody?”
Most lawyers take our ethical responsibilities quite seriously. It’s not a good idea to ask us to lie, steal or cheat for you.
The Right Question #3: There is none.
Wrong Question #4: What’s the difference between a scuba diver and a lawyer?
Lawyers are generally a humorless bunch. Personally, we love lawyer jokes and have even been known to discount invoices based on a belly laugh-o-meter. But unless you don’t want your phone calls returned until next week, best stick to business.
Right Question #4: See The Right Question #3.
Wrong Question #5: Can you give me a template of an NDA (or a ubiquitous document?)
Attorneys use templates to customize documents for their clients. But templates have Form Fields, or variables, that require decisions and input beyond merely the date and names of the parties. For example, a template of an NDA, or non-disclosure agreement, has several decision points embedded within it, such as whether a restrictive period will be used (and if so how long), the definition of confidential information and its scope or breadth, and whether an agent of the receiving party shall be required to sign a separate NDA. Most “template” agreements require discussion, questions, and answers before a “standard” document can serve the clients’ needs.
Right Question #5: Can we spend a couple of minutes talking about an NDA?