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Communication is a prerequisite for hiring a lawyer!
Before a company and a lawyer can effectively begin dealing with one another on legal issues, they must be in communication with one another as to both parties’ goals and expectations. An inordinate amount of disputes (e.g., over time deadlines or fees) between clients and their lawyers are caused by either a lack of, or breakdown in, communications. A business owner, or an in-house General Counsel of a corporation, explodes when presented with a bill for professional services that, regardless of merit and validity, comes as a complete surprise.
Clients do not like surprises! The General Counsel, or business owner, cannot afford to be kept uninformed or in the dark on a legal matter. He or she must report to an executive, or board, level that expects information that is accurate and up-to-date.
Communications is gaining recognition as an important service component in law firms. However, lawyers in general are not known for being proactive communicators with clients. Communication is often limited to a standard reporting letter sent out with a monthly bill or an after the fact report that a service milestone has been reached. This does not meet with the communication standards often placed on a General Counsel, or business executive, who is expected to keep other executives abreast of all current legal developments. The source of this problem, when it occurs, is that lawyers do not have a professional level communications program in place.
General Counsels, and business owners, can change this. Start making communication one of the fundamental criterion in the relationship with your lawyer. Insist on a line of communication that is open and proactive. Stipulate that any inquiry on a legal matter is to be responded to within 24 hours. There is no reason that your lawyer can not respond with information that will at least inform you on the general status of a legal issue within this time frame.