The Role of Corporate Lawyers in Today’s Business World

Attorney (also called attorney-at-law or a lawyer) is someone who practices law, offering guidance and expertise on legal matters. They also perform research, draft documents, and negotiate on behalf of clients.

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An attorney represents clients in legal matters. In this role, attorneys provide comprehensive legal services to clients including legal counseling, researching, drafting documents, negotiating deals or settlements and providing guidance on various non-litigation matters. Depending on their area of expertise, an attorney may even appear before court judges and other government officials.

Many individuals seeking assistance with legal issues will call or email a law firm to set up an initial interview with an attorney. The first impression a potential client makes of an attorney’s office will depend on the way he or she is treated during the telephone call or email interaction and how quickly the law firm responds to an inquiry.

Once an attorney has screened a prospective client, conducted the conflicts check1 and gathered information and impressions through the initial consultation, the attorney must decide whether or not to accept the case. Ideally, the decision should be made in writing. This can be done by sending an engagement letter to the client that welcomes him or her as a new client, confirms the scope of representation and sets forth essential terms such as the fee arrangement. The engagement letter should also include provisions for obtaining complete copies of client files at the end of the matter.

While representing a client, an attorney must remain neutral and not disclose any confidential or privileged communications to others without the consent of the client or a court order. This ensures that the client receives the utmost protection under the law and allows the attorney to zealously advocate on behalf of the client. However, it is important to avoid inordinately demanding or uncooperative clients, clients who “lawyer shop” and those with a personal vendetta against the lawyer.

Researching and Analyzing Legal Issues

Legal research is a large part of an attorney’s job. It involves finding relevant law and legal precedent, applying this to the facts of a case, and writing about the outcome. This process is complex and requires critical thinking, analysis, strategy, and perseverance. It is also highly individualized to the client’s needs and case circumstances. For example, an insurance claim for a car accident might involve a different set of facts than a criminal defense case.

It is important to define the legal issue before beginning to do research. This is often done by identifying the desired outcome or relief sought in a case. This will help attorneys stay focused and on topic. Then, attorneys can use a variety of digital research products to gather relevant information.

For instance, a researcher can find laws in the form of statutes, regulations, and cases. They can also monitor pending legislation through legislative websites or specialized platforms. This way, attorneys can anticipate any future changes in the law and prepare accordingly.

Another aspect of legal research is interpreting and analyzing these documents. This can be done through reading and reviewing the facts of a case, as well as assessing the law’s current status and applicability to the case at hand.

Developing and following a research plan is essential to effective legal research. Many researchers throw keywords into Westlaw or Lexis without first coming up with a clear research strategy, which leads to a lot of time spent on irrelevant searches and inefficient results. Additionally, researching with a purpose helps ensure that all pertinent issues are addressed. This allows attorneys to save time and avoid unnecessarily going down rabbit holes, which can be very frustrating and difficult to navigate.

Writing Documents

Lawyers often write documents, including letters and emails, to communicate with clients. They may also use their legal knowledge to create formal court filings and other official documents. Some attorneys specialize in particular areas of the law, and they are sometimes called experts in their field. Depending on their occupation, they may be required to use technical terms and phrases that non-lawyers would find unfamiliar — a style of writing commonly referred to as legalese.

Negotiating Deals or Settlements

Settlement negotiations can take place in a variety of ways. They can occur through informal back-and-forth conversations or correspondence on the phone, at meetings or by email between your attorney and the other side’s representative. They may also take place in a formal setting such as a court-ordered mediation. The outcome of a negotiation often depends on the ability of the parties to compromise, and your lawyer’s negotiating skills can be very valuable in helping you achieve an acceptable result.

Your lawyer should always prepare carefully before engaging in settlement discussions. That way, you can enter the conversation with confidence and a clear sense of what your objectives are. This will give you a better chance of reaching a successful negotiated resolution.

You should also prepare for your negotiation by reviewing your case file and gathering supporting evidence. Typically, you will want to establish that the party with whom you are negotiating breached a duty of care by making or acting in a manner that unreasonably put you at risk of harm. You will also need to determine how much that harm is worth and be able to prove it through documents such as medical records, witness testimony and expert analysis.

As you begin your negotiations, it is important to establish a realistic bargaining range for your client. Your opponent will be more likely to listen to your advice if you can show that your position is reasonable and grounded in the facts of the case. Using tactics such as association, where you link the issue to something outside of the case, and authority, where you cite legal precedent or other authoritative sources, can help you establish your credibility.

Meeting With Clients

Meeting with clients is a critical aspect of being an attorney. Client meetings require attentive listening to fully understand a client’s concerns and presenting well-thought-out solutions or alternatives that are aligned with the client’s objectives. It is also important to have the ability to handle objections during meetings by maintaining composure, welcoming diverse viewpoints with empathy and creating a professional environment conducive to productive dialogue.

Clearly define the purpose of a meeting in advance. This will prevent surprises for both parties and ensure that the meeting is productive. Similarly, if you want to propose a new solution to a client’s problem, let them know that ahead of time.

Schedule a meeting in a distraction-free environment, such as a conference room. This will eliminate distractions such as incoming emails and phone calls. Moreover, scheduling the meeting at your place of business or your office can help you focus on the client and their issue without getting distracted by other tasks.

Prior to the client meeting, prepare for potential questions and issues that the client may raise by researching the relevant legal issues in advance. This will enable you to provide quick, decisive responses during the meeting.

At the end of a client meeting, send a thank-you email within 24 hours to show your appreciation for the client’s time and to summarize the key points discussed during the meeting. You should also send a document outlining the agreed-upon action items with assigned responsibilities to serve as a record of progress moving forward. If you decide to not represent a prospective client, it is helpful to send a non-engagement letter to clearly communicate this decision. Likewise, if you decide to retain a prospective client, you should send a contract outlining the legal representation and fee arrangement.