Hirsch & Westheimer, P.C. Presents Top 10 Tips That Banks Should Consider in Hiring a Banking Lawyer

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What factors should a bank consider before hiring a lawyer?

Hirsch & Westheimer, P.C.'s practice consists of representing many different banks. People often ask what factors a bank should consider before hiring a lawyer. The below list is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will help you in deciding what lawyer to use on future legal matters.

1.    Look for a lawyer when you do not need a lawyer. Many times, a lawsuit will get filed and served or transaction will arise, and then a bank will need a lawyer rather fast. Most businesses do not want to make important decisions in a rushed and/or stressed environment. Consequently, one suggestion is that when you do not need a lawyer, you go out and look for a lawyer that you may need in the future (yes, most people are already too busy, and this is easier said than done).

2.    Experience counts. There are quite a few lawyers that state that they have “represented banks in the past.” Look for a lawyer who currently represents banks and has done so for an extended period of time.

3.    Ask up front about billing arrangements. Lawyers, just like doctors, advisors, accountants, and/or any other service professionals, have different qualities of service. Some charge hourly rates and others have alternative fee arrangements. Is there a retainer? Is any retainer refundable? Rather than just get the “best” and/or most experienced lawyer, find a very good lawyer that has a reasonable rate that adds value to your bank. For example, you do not want the lawyer to learn how to handle a new type of lawsuit and/or learn how to draft new types of documents. You want a lawyer that already has forms so you are not paying that lawyer to learn on your case.

4.    Ask about what clients the lawyer currently services. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the lawyer for names and telephone numbers of his current clients that you can call and see how that lawyer is doing. If the lawyer does not give out that information, you may want to look for a different lawyer.

5.    When searching for a lawyer, speak to the lawyer, and does the lawyer talk at you and/or listen to you. Do not just go to a website and/or ask for references. See how the lawyer communicates with you because the lawyer you choose will be communicating with you in the future if you decide to hire them. As with any relationship, communication matters.

6.    Good lawyers should not charge you for the quick easy questions. A part of any good long-term relationship is that a lawyer should not charge you for every single question raised. A good lawyer knows many answers to specific legal questions. If the lawyer can provide a quick answer, the lawyer should not always charge you for doing so. Do please understand that if a lawyer does need to research a slight twist on a legal issue, that lawyer may need to bill you for doing so.

7.    For specific legal matters, ask for the strategy up front. You want to make certain that both you and the lawyer agree on how the best way to proceed is. Do you try for a quick settlement in a lawsuit or do you begin aggressively defending the matter? Both you and the lawyer need to be in agreement on initial strategies, as these issues will determine the overall cost of the matter.

8.    Conduct an interview with the lawyer. Ask questions that concern you. Make sure you get answers. Tell the attorney what keeps you up at night, and ask how the lawyer can assist you in addressing same.

9.    Ask how the lawyer will charge you. For example, ask the lawyer’s hourly rate and/or any other charges. Also ask for whether or not secretaries will be charged, and how travel expenses will be handled. Also ask if there are associates that can do the work on a cheaper basis. Ask for paralegal rates. Ask for any other charges that might be incurred. You do not want any surprises.

10.    Discuss overall goals for the legal matter. Does the lawyer ask what you are ultimately wanting to obtain out of the engagement? A lawyer should ask his clients, “If I could wave a magic wand and get you the result you want, what would it be?” This way the lawyer has a clear understanding of what the client wants him to do. The lawyer should also inform the client that there are no guarantees. Even with the best lawyer, the result cannot be absolutely guaranteed by any lawyer.

The above article is not intended to be specific legal advice. It is not intended to address all issues that could arise with hiring an attorney. However, hopefully it has provided insights with regard to hiring an attorney. If you have any further questions, please contact Pat Huttenbach at 713-220-9184 or phuttenbach(at)hirschwest(dot)com, or find more information about Pat at his website at http://www.hirschwest.com/default.aspx/MenuItemID/117/MenuGroup/Attorneys.htm.

Hirsch & Westheimer, P.C.
700 Louisiana, 25th Floor
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 223-5181

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William "Pat" Huttenbach
Hirsch & Westheimer, P.C.
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