Are you getting everything you expect from your lawyer and accountant? Do you really know what you should expect from them?
You say, “Sure—I expect my lawyer to keep me out of legal trouble and my accountant to keep my books and taxes straight.” And you’d be right, up to a point. But if this is the extent of your expectations, you’ve set the bar too low.
With our industry in the shape it’s in, these two should be suggesting ways that they can serve your needs at the lowest rates possible. You don’t need a high-priced partner to handle every request that you make. Discuss what issues only the partner can handle and what issues a less expensive associate can take on.
Also discuss no-billable time. You should not feel that the meter is always running, especially on short phone calls. Most lawyers bill in 10-min. increments. You could eat up the first 10 min. simply with normal phone courtesies. Come to an understanding that you don’t expect to be billed for every second you spend on the phone. You do lots of things for your customers for which you don’t get paid. You’re his customer. He should treat you the same way.
While we’re on the subject of fees and billings, you should insist on prompt and understandable bills from both parties. This helps you plan cash flow. Furthermore, your memory is fresh on what they have done, and you will have fewer, if any, questions.
In addition to suggesting how you can save money in connection with their fees, your lawyer and your accountant should be suggesting ways for you to make more money, save more money and keep more money. They have a lot of other clients and work with a variety of businesses. Most good business practices are transferable to other industries. Make sure your outside professionals know that you expect them to be proactive in sharing ideas used effectively by their other clients.
Another important service your lawyer and your accountant can perform for you is a referral to someone who can help you with problems that are outside their discipline. In the course of their work with other clients, they may have come across someone who is particularly good at developing a marketing plan, creating a compensation package or has another skill. If they see that you need this sort of help, they should be proactively recommending these individuals.
Your relationship with both your lawye