1. Document everything. Attorneys thrive on written documentation. They're probably building a file on you from the moment you call to introduce yourself, so you should do the same. Committing everything to writing allows you to track your costs more accurately so that you do not overpay your lawyer. You can also monitor how much time you invest in legal matters. More importantly, if a billing dispute develops between you and your attorney, you can rely on your file to substantiate your point.
2. Stay informed. Even if you lack a law degree, you can still educate yourself about legal developments that relate to your field. Read newsletters or trade publications that target your type of business, as well as general legal publications and those specializing in employment law. Also, attend any presentations or panel discussions hosted by your state bar association, professional group or chamber of commerce that address relevant legal issues.
updates on current case law or make referrals to experts who practice in that specialty.
4. Know whom you're hiring. Unless you're dealing with a solo practitioner, always track who's doing your legal work. Just because you initially meet with one attorney doesn't mean that same person will handle all your subsequent work. In some larger firms, a client's work is assigned to rookies for on-the-job training, but the client still gets billed for a full partner's time. If new associates handle aspects of your case, make sure you know about it and confirm that you will be billed at a lower rate as a result.
5. Hire the right experts. Don't treat your lawyer as an all-purpose business resource. Accountants, insurance agents, real estate brokers, management consultants and other professionals can provide services that relate to legal issues. You're better off going directly to them when you can, rather than asking your lawyer to handle such peripheral matters. Save your lawyer for when you need nitty-gritty legal counsel.
Get the guidance you need without paying for outside counsel. The Employer's Practical Legal Guide has more than 80 checklists and self-audit questionnaires to help you target your company's weak spots — and correct them before you end up in court. Get your copy...6. Question your insurer. Under your personal and commercial liability insurance policies, your insurance carrier will provide legal services to you in certain situations. But just because your insurance company pays the legal bills doesn't mean you should blithely ignore the costs. The more money it pays for your legal defense, the more you may wind up paying in higher insurance premiums. As a result, you should shop for liability insurance with care. Ask carriers if they routinely review legal bills or use litigation management systems to contain costs.
7. Treat litigation as a last resort. As a rule, preparing a case for trial comes at a steep financial cost. Attorneys require dozens of meetings to discuss the litigation, with associates huddling together for hours on end to plot strategies. You may be billed for 10- or 12-hour days, six days a week. Never initiate litigation unless you're willing to incur virtually unlimited legal costs before reaching a verdict. There are less costly ways to resolve legal conflicts than litigation. You can often bring a case to arbitration or mediation, both of which are significantly less expensive and less formalized than litigation.
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The Employer’s Practical Legal Guide steers you through the treacherous waters of hiring, firing, appraising and disciplining your employees. More than 80 checklists and self-audit questionnaires are included to help you target your company’s weak spots—and correct them before you end up in court.
- Family and Medical Leave—Since an employee took his paternity leave, you’ve made layoffs. Do you have to take him back? See Section 13.
- Recruitment—During an interview, a job candidate talked about her children. You didn’t hire her, but she’s back—with a lawyer. How can you prove you’re not guilty of discrimination? See Section 1.
- Downsizing—You’ve been asked to cut your staff. Performance-wise, you know who should go. But legally, it’s not so easy: Two are older than 65, half are women, three are immigrants and one was out of work half of last year on disability. How can you make the cuts without making appearances in court for the next 10 years? See Section 7.
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- Review I-9 compliance through Homeland Security's eyes
- Promote civility, but watch for discrimination