Look, let’s be honest. If I were a dentist looking to incorporate, associate or buy a practice, I would need a lawyer to protect my rights and promote my interests. But who is the right lawyer for me? Is it the real estate lawyer who helped me buy my house? Or how about my friend’s referral – the divorce lawyer – who helped them out? When I do come across a lawyer (of which there are tens of thousands in Ontario), what criteria or considerations should I have before deciding to use them? Well, that’s what this blog post is all about.
1. Dental Law Expertise
Don’t go for any lawyer off the street. Pick the one that specializes in those areas of law that you need. Make sure they’re not ‘learning on the job’ as this will cost you (and perhaps more than money!). So pick a dental lawyer or law firm, like DMC LLP. The basic criteria that you’re looking for is competency in your area. You need to find a lawyer or firm who regularly deals with other dentists on the same types of issues that you are now facing.
OK, so you found someone who deals with dentists. Hopefully, they ONLY deal with dentists. This will make them highly specialized and be able to foresee all the issues that you could face. Now that you’ve addressed the whole “competency” issue, the next natural question is: HOW MUCH? Generally, dental lawyers charge hourly ($500 / hour seems to be the going rate). But some firms like DMC LLP give the option of fixed fees – irrespective of how long it takes. This actually gives us an incentive to finish the deal (so we can get paid!). And you’re not spending endlessly on things that would boggle your mind (e.g. 6-minute interval phone calls – which lawyers generally charge you for; or responding to emails – which lawyers generally charge you for). If the firm or lawyer has dealt with issues that come up often when incorporating or buying a practice or dealing with the landlord, they should have a good idea of how much time it will take for them to complete and how much it will cost you.
Credibility used to depend on word of mouth. You can’t really judge a lawyer’s work (because you’re not trained to be able to tell if it’s a good legal document or a poorly drafted one). So you depend on others to advise you. Did they have a good experience? Did the lawyer explain everything to them in humanese (not legalese)? Did the lawyer try to educate their clients through eBooks, blog posts, online videos, magazine articles, etc.? Ask around and see what their reputation is. Are they cheap as hell but won’t be responsive and won’t explain anything to you? Does it seem as if they are more interested in something other than you and your deal? The bottom line is that you should be looking for exceptional legal services from a team of lawyers that care about educating you along the way. You should feel as if you are their number 1 priority. That’s what we try to do at DMC LLP. That’s why we come to the office and stay late – so that we can accommodate your busy schedule. That’s why we give you information overload with our articles and eBook. We want you to be educated.
4. Response Time
Too expensive and unresponsive seem to be the biggest complaints about lawyers. You’ve heard it before. Lawyers just don’t get back to you any time soon. They’re too busy. But actually, we try to get back to you within 24 hours via email or phone call. We pride ourselves on efficiency. And we’re able to respond quickly because we know the players, the issues, etc. We’ve done it and keep doing it every single day. And we have built-in systems that allow us to speed up the delivery of legal services.
No matter how competent, responsive, and reasonably priced a dental lawyer is, you might not like their style. I’m talking about the way they behave or conduct themselves in person, on the phone or via email. They may be terse, heavy-handed, and patronizing. They may put up a fight where it’s not called for. They may simply clash with your own personality type. And this will put you off. So only engage a lawyer with all of the above skills, knowledge, experiences, and values IF you like their attitude as well. They should put you in the driver’s seat at all times. They should make suggestions for you and follow your instructions. They should try to avoid conflicts and try to “build a bigger pie” instead of “fighting over the crumbs of a small and fixed pie”. Some lawyers love the limelight (I’ll admit I’m one of them). That’s my personality type. Other lawyers – like my law partner David Mayzel – like the details. When you engage DMC LLP, you get both of us “in the loop” on every file. And you may gravitate naturally towards one of our personalities. But hey, that’s life, and we’re OK with that! We’re happy as long as you’re happy.