When general counsel hire outside counsel, they come armed with insider knowledge. They know what questions to ask and which metrics to focus on to hire the best candidates. They also know the red flags.

However, when CEOs, CFOs and other business executives hire attorneys, they often do so with limited knowledge of the legal industry or what makes an attorney truly great. The result is that they may end up hiring someone who is not a perfect fit for the job at hand.

That’s not to say that all GCs have the same methods of evaluating attorneys or that they are all looking for the same qualities in the attorneys that they hire. On the contrary, every GC has developed his or her own strategy for assessing the merits of attorneys.

Below legal directors from top companies Gusto, Tastemade, Collective, Vacasa and Major League Soccer tell us how they hire outside counsel.

“It’s Like Dating”

Caesar Lopez, Legal Counsel at Major League Soccer

Caesar LopezFor Caesar Lopez, Legal Counsel at Major League Soccer, first impressions are important. He attends legal panels and conferences and keeps an eye out for attorneys who are both impressive in their subject matter knowledge and also talented presenters.

“If I come away with a positive impression from their presentation, I’ll approach them and ask a question or two,” he says. “If they’re quick on their feet and give compelling answers, I’ll be sure follow up.”

“Get to Know the Person Behind the Screen”

Ian Connett, Legal Director at Collective

For Ian Connett, Legal Director at Collective, it’s important that an attorney’s humanity and personality come through on their online profiles. He believes that a good headshot and bio are crucial.

Ian ConnettBut he also looks for other indications of an attorney’s skills and abilities, such as articles and blog posts that demonstrate expertise, niche industry experience and client reviews.

“It’s very important to see positive feedback from other clients,” he says. “I want reviews like I’d be able to find on Yelp.”

Additionally, Ian considers the extent of an attorney’s experience as part of his evaluation.

“I need to see the number of deals and the number of completed transactions to ensure that the attorney is competent,” he says.

“Word-of-Mouth is how you Find Lawyers”

Derek Huoth, General Counsel at Tastemade

DerekDerek Huoth, General Counsel at Tastemade, knows exactly what he’s looking for in an attorney.

“I give them some scenarios and look for good, practical answers,” he says.

However, he also laments that it’s often difficult to judge an attorney based on their responses to such questions. Therefore, he leans heavily on referrals to find attorneys.

“Every lawyer I’ve worked with is either a referral or someone I’ve worked with personally elsewhere,” he says. “It’s easier and I trust the people I work with.”

“I Give People a Chance”

Neema Hodjat, Corporate Counsel at Vacasa

Neema HodjatLike Derek, Neema Hodjat, Corporate Counsel at Vacasa, says that it’s often hard to evaluate an attorney over the course of an interview.

That’s why he prefers to evaluate attorneys by working with them on a project.

“I give people a chance to show what they know and how competent they are when dealing with people and solutions and issues,” he says.

“Look for Quality. Efficiency will Follow.”

Liza Kostinskaya, Legal Director at Gusto

Liza“I want legal to be an enabler to Gusto’s growth,” Gusto Legal Lead Liza Kostinskaya says. “I want to help the company grow as quickly as possible without legal slowing them down.”

That’s why Liza values efficiency first and foremost but without sacrificing quality. She says that substantial, niche experience leads to efficiency so it isn’t an either/or question.

“It doesn’t make sense for me to pay for someone to spend time researching something that another attorney could tell me right away,” she says.

“For example, before engaging one law firm, we saw that they conducted a full survey of certain regulations in every relevant state and published a detailed article about their findings,” Liza said. “We decided to hire them because we knew that they would have the answers to our questions on-hand, and we wouldn’t have to wait and spend additional funds to get to the answers.”

The Takeaway

1. A full evaluation of an attorney requires far more than a price comparison or a review of the attorney’s resume.
2. Get to know the attorney and how you mesh as human beings. You’re going to be working with them for countless hours.
3. Whether you trust them is one of the most important data points you should use.
4. Attorneys are as dynamic and multifaceted as the companies that hire them.
5. It’s impossible to evaluate an attorney completely and accurately based on a Google search or a single conversation.

How UpCounsel Can Help

For people with limited knowledge of the legal industry, it’s often difficult to know where to start when evaluating an attorney. At UpCounsel, however, we’re experts. Each and every attorney who joins the platform has been carefully vetted by the UpCounsel team based on experience, industry knowledge, response time, personality and more.

Our deep familiarity with UpCounsel attorneys benefits you when you sign up for UpCounsel All Access. All Access customers receive a legal team that’s built especially for them according to their specifications. All Access customers also have UpCounsel’s nationwide network of over 2,000 attorneys at their disposal to ensure that they always receive timely, high quality answer to their questions, no matter how niche.

That’s why business executives can rest assured when they use UpCounsel. They know that their attorneys have been hand picked from among a pool of qualified lawyers to meet their particular requirements, and that top-quality legal advice is just a click away.

Get a free demo.

About the author

Aviva Schmitz

Aviva Schmitz

Aviva is a content marketing intern at UpCounsel and student at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. She has served as an editor and contributing writer for publications such as The Culture Trip, the Tufts Daily, and satirical magazine The Zamboni.

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