For obvious reasons, this may be the toughest column I ever wrote. In fact, I’m not going to say much at all, as I want you guys to tell me the factors that you consider important when deciding to hire counsel for the association.
I’ll tell you one thing that I’m not thrilled with. Association boards like to have representatives from a few law firms come to a meeting and give each attorney the opportunity to tell the Board how wonderful they are and whey their firm should be chosen. The attorneys go through their sales pitch, each spending approximately ten minutes with the Board and then each eagerly await their fate.
I don’t know how this process started, but I never liked it for a few reasons. First, it is impossible to know what you need to know about a law firm in an interview that lasts ten minutes. Far greater due diligence should be done by the Board first. Next, despite the thousands of jokes to the contrary, I still believe that the legal profession is dignified. The people who serve on these Boards would never ask a few doctors to appear at their home for an interview so that the patient can decide which doctor to hire. No doctor would participate in such a practice. Then why is it OK for attorneys to participate in such a practice? Why can’t the attorney say that they don’t want to participate in a practice that they believe is wrong in the first place. Don’t base your decision to hire counsel on a ten minute interview, especially you’re interviewing attorneys who for the most part have spent years or decades practicing association law.
In all candor, it is also not uncommon for Boards to simply choose the firm with the lowest hourly rates. This is despite the fact that higher priced attorneys in other firms with more experience may prove far more cost effective in the long run. Like any other service, do you sometimes get what you pay for?
Nearly every law firm today has a website that tells much about the firm. Internet searches can also provide a wealth of information about the firm. References are certainly important, and probably the most important factor in the medical field.
So what is the best way to choose the attorney or law firm for the association? What factors are most important? What factors may automatically disqualify a candidate? How important should the interview process really be? Ok…..feel free to let me have it.