One of the biggest challenges for business lawyers is getting information from their clients. You might think this would be easy. Clients are sophisticated and know you can’t really help them unless you are given all the pertinent facts about a matter, right? After all they called you; you are clearly on their side so why would they conceal anything? But they aren’t hiding information. They’re just not sharing it with you.
‘Getting the lawyer involved’ is often seen as a step in the process. The dreaded last step. Because lawyers are rarely seen as collaborators they often aren’t enlisted until their clients think it is absolutely necessary. Clients may say they delay calling their lawyers to avoid running up fees unnecessarily but often they worry about what they will hear. They want to know the chances a deal may succeed but think all they will be told are the ways it might not work. So they only offer up what they believe their lawyer needs to know.
Some law firms train their lawyers to keep their distance from their business partners during the gestation of a deal, lest they accidentally utter a non-legal suggestion. These lawyers tend to view their role exclusively within the prism of the law. Clients are understandably terrified of these lawyers and fear that with this narrow view they will undoubtedly come up with a way to block a perfectly good deal.
Good business lawyers know how to get that call early and how to keep their clients talking.
Always say yes. To each and every question you get from your clients. If you always say yes your clients will want to talk to you. Why wouldn’t they? Who else says yes to to them? All the time.
Of course your client can do most of what they propose unless it is truly criminal. Even then you can say yes and then quickly and cheerfully describe the fines and possible jail time associated with the new venture. Whether they should do it is another matter. Having been engaged from the beginning you will already have the information you need to guide them in the right direction.
Seems simple, no?