Choosing a Legal Advisor – Part 1

Legal needs arise in different circumstances. While it is easier for people to decide when they need a lawyer, it is often challenging to decide which lawyer to hire as a result of the proficiencies of legal practitioners in various aspects of life and business. To the “lay-man” who identifies the need for a lawyer, every lawyer is trained to solve his problem and the next lawyer relative or friend already suits his purpose. To others, the lawyer who successfully represented their friend or colleague in a divorce case seems good enough to hire in negotiating a complex business transaction. In Nigeria, this perplexity seems to be made easier due to the fact that the legal profession here is infused whereby a lawyer is trained both as barrister and solicitor, unlike in other foreign systems. Typically, while barristers specialize in courtroom advocacy, solicitors have more direct access to clients and do more transaction-type legal work.

Most times the consideration of employing a legal advisor is usually based on the cost and this frequently results in compromising credibility and professionalism for lower professional fees payable. In choosing a lawyer, individuals as well as companies usually get faced with various questions and criteria. Do we need a lawyer or a law firm? Should we settle for a younger or an older and presumably more experienced lawyer? Do we settle for a lawyer or law firm that has a record of winning cases or those that have successfully negotiated huge transactions? What about lawyers whose core competencies are in a specific area of the law?

Agreeably, where one has had little or no prior interaction or business with a lawyer, whether in a social or professional engagement, one of the best ways to find a lawyer is to seek recommendation from people whose opinions you trust; friends, relatives, your pastor, doctor etc. However, you must recognize that the peculiar nature and spheres of your legal needs may demand a specialist in certain respects. The lawyer who successfully represented your friend in a tenancy matter may not be the right lawyer to advise you effectively on business establishment, regulatory compliance issues, or intellectual property protection.

The nature of your legal problem or legal concerns will help you determine the type of lawyer or law firm you want to hire. Some lawyers may have particular specialties and the profile of a law firm may show vocational expertise in some areas of practice more than others. Your goal is to find a lawyer with whom you are comfortable with on a personal and professional basis. It is imperative that you hire a legal professional you can trust to handle your case and represent your interest to best of his or her professional and intellectual ability.