David Millard is a partner and the chair of the business department at Barnes & Thornburg LLP. Millard counsels middle-market and high-growth businesses and private equity funds and the investors in those businesses. His practice includes a wide variety of business services.
Q. How often should a business meet with its lawyer?
A. I come from the fundamental advice to most companies that meetings are costly. Regular meetings are great time wasters and cost increases. I have many clients that want to overmeet. Their first reaction is to meet, when e-mail or a phone call will be sufficient. Meetings are expensive and are not always an effective use of time. If you are billing by the hour, it increases your costs. They need to think if a meeting has to happen or can the situation be handled best by a 10-minute phone call or e-mail?
Q. How should a company prepare for a meeting with their lawyer?
A. Every meeting, I do an agenda that either the client or the lawyer prepares. It’s easier and cheaper if the client does the preparation. It doesn’t have to be rigid, but it forces the client to think through what they want to talk about in advance and forces them to be more productive. If the agenda implicates, send documents in advance. It is the biggest waste of time to have the lawyer reading something during the meeting.
Q. How can seeking legal advice save money for a company?
A. The richer advice is the business advice, rather than strictly legal advice. You only get that sort of information from the sit-down overview of different aspects of the business, and the attorney can help coach you on business thoughts and approaches. Those meetings will steer you clear of bear traps. The problem becomes much more expensive once you’ve fallen in and now have to get your leg out of the trap. Like health care, the preventive is much cheaper.