BY ELSIE OYOO
As a client, you want a lawyer whose legal advice helps you to fulfill your dreams such as owning some property or taking your business to the next level. Lawyers can also assist you to mitigate crisis moments in emotive issues in the settlement of personal or commercial disputes. You probably know in general what you want from your lawyer. At times though, it is difficult to identify which traits you should look out for in a legal advisor. While the list below is by no means exhaustive, if you pick your lawyer based on the five traits below, you stand higher chances of getting returns on your investment.
First, consider whether your lawyer possesses thorough knowledge of their area of specialisation. Lawyers should be able to establish the correct legal position given a certain set of facts. Moreover, look out for your lawyer’s concern to keep their knowledge up to date. They should be just as comfortable with newly enacted legislation as they are with age-old legal principles. Taking this a step further, the only knowledge that is useful to you as a client is the kind that helps you to solve a problem in the real world. Good lawyers do not simply regurgitate the law; they provide you with clear and concise solutions.
Someone once said that it gave them assurance to know that their lawyer was a phone call away in case they ever faced a legal emergency in their company like being served with an order to attach all their assets. As a client should also value legal advisors who point out and resolve issues that you did not even realise you were ailing from. Additionally, it only makes sense to give more work to lawyers who have consistently met deadlines in other assignments. The above can be summed up in one word; responsiveness.
The pace of business in the digital age moves at a dizzying pace. In this setting, turnaround time often determines whether you will choose lawyer A over lawyer B. An excellent legal opinion for instance, sent three days after you made a decision might only be useful as rough paper. In Kenya, lawyers are realising this and shortening their turnaround times to suit their clients. You should appreciate a lawyer who has relatively good turnaround times and can push themselves when the need arises but who are also honest enough to tell you upfront that a particular set deadline is unrealistic.
Only hire lawyers who have the capacity to address your legal issues in terms of the resources available to the lawyers. You should consider if the proposed lawyer has offices or access to the tools they need to do the work. Knowledge, already dealt with above, also forms part of capacity. Lawyers should also have the human resources and time to carry out the task of the magnitude you have at hand.
No discussion on good lawyers can end without a discussion on fees. Be sure to engage lawyers who bill in a transparent manner. In Kenya, most lawyers charge fees according to the fees contained in the Advocates Remuneration Order amended in2014. Big law firms usually bill by the hour or on a fixed fee basis. Other law firms charge retainer fees. Whatever the billing method, you should clearly know and agree upon the terms of payment prior to instructing the lawyer to proceed with the work.
No relationship is perfect. The client-lawyer relationship is no exception. Even so, if you and your legal advisor agree to evaluate the services on terms similar to the above at the point of engagement and from time to time, the world would have many happier clients.