When you are about to hire a contract lawyer to help you with a contract issue, there are three fundamental questions that you need to ask him.
1. What percentage of the practice is devoted to the contract law? The purpose of this question is two-fold. First, you will figure out whether this contract lawyer likes handling cases in your area of law. If a Minneapolis attorney devotes more than 15-20% of his practice to contract law, you know that he likes this area of law and will be enthusiastic about your case. This means that, in addition to his general due diligence obligations, this contract lawyer will have a professional interest in your case. Second, generally, a contract lawyer who devotes 20% or more of his practice to contract law is likely to have good experience in this area.
2. How will I be billed? Generally, Minneapolis contract lawyers will bill you on the hourly basis. They will provide you with a general estimate of your future expenses, which, understandably, will vary with the progress of the case. In contract drafting situations, a contract attorney may also offer a flat fee option, but, usually, there will be an additional charge when contract modifications are likely. Flat fees are almost never used in contract litigation.
The more important issue with regard to this question is the manner in which you will be billed. Here, the practice varies among contract lawyers in Minneapolis. Some contract attorneys may require you to supply a large retainer which is later deposited in a client’s trust account; if the retainer is depleted, your lawyer may ask you to replenish it later. Other contract lawyers will require a smaller retainer and will then bill you on a monthly basis. If the latter option is proposed by your contract lawyer, you should ask for a sufficient time period (usually 10-14 days) to pay your bill. A mix of these options is also available. Finally, in a contract drafting situation, some contract attorneys require a large flat fee right away with modifications paid for later upon completion of the contract. You will find that contract lawyers in Minneapolis, especially solo practitioners, are rather flexible in their choice of the payment mode, but, once the fee agreement is signed, they tend to be firm in insisting that you comply with the terms of the agreement.
3. Will the contract lawyer devote his personal attention to your case? This question is very important, especially in the context of mid-size and large law firms, because in those firms the partner with whom you singed the agreement will generally delegate some of his responsibilities to his associates, who are generally less experienced in the area than the partner. In this case, you should insist that the contract attorney with whom you signed the agreement devotes his personal attention to your case and delegates only marginal matters to his associates. Generally, contract lawyers in Minneapolis who operate as solo practitioners or in small firms do not have similar problems.
The other important issue involved in this question is whether your contract attorney is generally responsive to your calls and keeps you up-to-date with respect to the progress of your case. Most contract lawyers in Minneapolis are very busy people; yet, you must insist that you would be able to communicate with them. In my practice, I devote a great deal of energy and time to make sure that my clients do not feel neglected and have the latest information about their case. For example, my firm has a rule of returning most calls within two hours after the client calls. I also make sure that the communication details are discussed during the first meeting. Usually, in additional to bi-weekly phone updates, I also send out a monthly written update, which generally includes a brief summary of events and copies of all relevant documents and materials, including communications with the other party.
In conclusion, by asking these three questions to contract attorneys in Minneapolis, you will make sure that the contract lawyer you are choosing is congruent to your interests and character.