Lawyer up: what to consider when you’re choosing a lawyer

Lawyers come in all shapes, sizes and levels of expertise. They are often mocked in popular culture as very smart but less than ethical professionals. The reality is they are usually highly trained individuals looking out for their client’s rights, attempting to give good service when called upon. 

Before choosing a lawyer, we suggest you consider the following:

1. Never expect a lawyer to make a business decision for you A lawyer’s job is not to run your business but to counsel you on the expectations of the law. Take the advice and make the best choice possible.

2. Choose wisely; the law is complicated - If you have a patent issue, don’t go to a lawyer specializing in family law; if it’s a tax matter, don’t go to an environmental lawyer. Remember, “the law” is a mix of all kinds of stuff made up by:

  • Politicians trying to please multiple voters (through legislation);
  • Bureaucrats trying to please politicians (through regulations); and
  • Judges trying to please previous judicial decisions (through binding cases). 

Basically, the law is far too complicated and even contradictory to rely on any one lawyer to know it all.

3. If you need an expert, ask your family lawyer first - If you already have a lawyer, ask him to recommend an expert in patent or tax. If not an expert himself, he may be able to recommend someone who is.

4. If no family lawyer, ask a business friend - If you have never consulted a lawyer, ask a successful business friend for a recommendation. It is rare that a business doesn’t owe at least a part of its success to the wise counsel of a smart, ethical lawyer at crucial moments in its history. 

5. If no business friend, ask the provincial law society - The provincial law society will have a list of certified lawyers practicing in your area of interest. Google “law society Ontario” or whichever province you are in.

6. Remember, the best advice is insured - You may have a family friend or relative who talks a big game on the law. Unlike your friend or relative, a lawyer is held accountable for his advice. If you act on a lawyer’s advice and are harmed by it, or the lawyer doesn’t fulfill professional obligations, a formal written complaint can be made to the law society. If the facts support your complaint, restitution may be possible. If the advice comes from someone other than a lawyer, you’re probably out of luck.