This is part three of a five-part series will help answer the question “how do I know which lawyer is right for me?” by breaking the analysis down into vitally important component parts.
QUESTION 3: WHAT SUPPORT SHOULD MY LAWYER HAVE?
You have to trust me on this. I cannot cite you statistics or studies. I can just work from my experience and the experience of people I look up to in the Government Contracts Bar when I assert that government contractors and commercial firms that dabble in government contracting will have the following legal needs at some point in their climb from small through the ranks of the middle market:
– government contracts counseling (which may include SBA rules, but is more broad than that);
– government contracts-focused litigation (e.g., claims and protests);
– compliance counseling;
– corporate transactional;
– and financing.
They are less likely to need commercial litigators or investigation response/defense attorneys, but that is also possible.
I have yet to meet a solo practitioner who can practice at a high level in all of these areas. In my opinion, your lawyer will need some support and the amount of support needed will increase as your business grows, new issues arise, or it gets “big enough to get noticed,” and starts attracting suitors, purchasers, financiers, . . . and lawsuits.
Companies need to ask how much time they have to manage the legal function, and whether relationships with various attorneys and multiple law firms (and the associated pricing structures, billing arrangements and conflicts issues) are worth the time that could otherwise be spent managing the business. You can find very good practitioners in these disciplines with diligent effort, but you need to invest a good bit of time for this structure to work well.
Or, does a more “full service” firm make sense for your company? I am partial to full service firms–that is why I joined one. When used properly, full service firms can cut down on the time and effort companies need to spend managing their lawyers, but there is very important caveat to keep in mind. Companies have to trust that the government contracts attorney they use to manage the relationship will tell them, openly and honestly, if their partners are the “right lawyers” for their specific projects and if not, offer names of other lawyers at other firms who may be worth considering. To be clear, full service firms can do a lot very well. But be wary of any pitch that says “we have the very best lawyers for every type of legal need.”
Stay Tuned for Question 4 later this week…