This is the second part of a two part series. Part 1 provided practical advice on how to define your task and identify relevant candidates to provide the service you need. This installment provides suggestions for selecting the service provider that is right for you. Click on the link below to read or refresh your memory on the advice from Part 1.

1)   Based upon your evaluation of complexity and risk, start shopping for relevant service providers: Low complexity/low risk matters can often be handled by solo practitioners or small offices with relevant experience. Higher complexity/higher risk matters may be more suitable for “full service firms”. Even among large firms, there may be significant differences in approach and/or costs.

Using the DWI example from Part 1 you might find one attorney that offers to represent you for $1,500. His strategy is to plead your outstanding record in the past, your status in the community and a willingness to enter a guilty plea to reckless driving and pay the $500 fine. Total cost for this package is $2,000. He estimates your chance of success at 75%.

You might find a second attorney that offers to represent you for $3,000. Her strategy is to prove that the township where your ticket was issued has not calibrated their breathalyzer equipment in accord with legal requirements. That would make the breathalyzer results inadmissible as evidence. She says she has access to the only approved testing center in your state and she knows the testing center has not received any orders from the township in over two years, when the regulations require calibration of equipment every six months. She proposes that you not offer to plead guilty to any charge or pay any fine. Total cost for this package is $3,000. She estimates your chance of success at 99%.

2)   Remember your budget: Spending more than you expected is not necessarily bad, as long as you know why you are spending the extra money and are satisfied that the added expense is adding appropriate value. In the DWI case above spending an extra $1,000 for the second attorney increases your estimated chance of success by nearly a third. The reason is the difference in proposed strategy. There is also the tangible benefit of not having points for reckless driving on your license.

3) Ask hard questions: Ask the higher priced service providers why their prices are higher. Listen for the word “value” in their answers.   Ask the lower priced service providers why their prices are lower. Listen to their answers to see if they are skimping on value. The illustration shows how price and value are not necessarily related.

4) Be observant: If you go to an initial consultation and are escorted to a conference room with museum quality art by a receptionist with a $1,000 outfit you know that clients are covering that cost. On the other hand, if the place of business is too shabby, that may mean not enough income to meet operating costs. Look for a comfortable middle ground.

5) Define the task: Ask what is included and what is extra. Discuss schedule to completion and milestones. Ask who will be doing the work and how many people will be working on the task. Try to understand what each person does for you, as opposed to their employer.

6) Demand to be the boss: This does not mean you should try to second guess the professionals. It means you should make it clear that anyone assigned to your task is working primarily to serve your interest as a client, and not to meet billing quotas imposed on them by the firm. Of course, this has to be done in a low key way. You want the person that is doing your task to be interested in doing a good job for you. Provoking hostility will not serve that goal. Just make it clear that you are purchasing professional service, not hours.

7) Trust your gut: Your first impression is often correct. If somebody rubs you the wrong way, there is probably a reason for it. Remember though, you are choosing a professional service provider. Differences in politics, musical taste and fashion preferences are not important. Look at the candidates in their professional context.

Thanks to all who sent us e-mail after Part 1 was published. We received some great feedback on both ends of the spectrum: those who were extremely satisfied with the services that were provided to them and those who decided that price does not always equate to “value”.

Please share your story of purchasing legal services, and why you were satisfied, or unsatisfied with the experience to: