How To Train Your Attorney

by Charles T. Wilson on August 11, 2014

Do I hear a snort?  Or possibly an “Oh, sure?” Does the title sound like How To Train Your Dragon? And when you question an invoice you’ll get your eyebrows singed off?

For many reasons, lawyering has evolved. Remember when your family doctor, the local GP, knew and did everything? Today they are all medical specialists and are questioned and second-guessed by many patients. Attorneys are the same, and most realize they don’t have all the answers. Working in concert with clients is not frowned upon.

Where do you Start?

Like it or not, for health and survival you need your doctor, and your business needs an attorney. The first step is choosing the right attorney for your industry, business, and legal needs.

Find the best person for the job by:

  • Interviewing several. Tell them what you’re doing, request a no-cost meeting, and pay attention to their “fit” with you and your business style.
  • Asking about their areas of specialization and how they can get you other expertise when you need it. Make sure you understand what “privilege” means.
  • Inquiring about the office staff – is there a back-up team for an urgent matter?
  • Discussing fees and flat-fee options for certain work like contract reviews. Are they open, flexible, and even pro-active in helping you manage costs? Insist on regular billing – not a huge whack six months down the road.

Getting Down to Work

  • Once you’re comfortable and think the relationship can work, explain your business in depth and your risk concerns.
  • To address your legal needs, I recommend you ask them for ideas from their experience before telling them what you think you need.
  • Ask how they have handled these issues for others – get “real” stories and examples.
  • Ask how they handle disagreements with clients. Do they use a written service agreement? You want an advisor who works with you, doesn’t tell you just what you want to hear, or gives ultimatums.

Address Future Issues

  • What could come up to derail all your plans? Raise issues now while everyone’s friendly. Be open and brutally honest about you and any potential problems.
  • Will they take an active role in learning about you and your business? How do they charge for that learning curve?
  • Can you create a plan to prevent a legal emergency? Will they accept a heads-up email that something’s coming up and work with your schedule?
  • How will they make sure you have complete understanding of their guidance or recommendation? Can they provide a legal dictionary and a lower paid clerk to clarify or explain a complex or obscure remark?

You should also quiz them on whether they’re willing to have a general discussion meeting at no charge once or twice a year. Ask them to lunch, then learn about legal trends that could impact you, contract revisions to better protect all parties, etc.

Anything you can do to proactively manage the relationship will be good for you and your attorney. You need someone you trust, respect, and enjoy doing business with.  With some focus and discipline it’s easy to train your attorney – and yourself – to get the best for your business and peace of mind

Call or email Charles (510-685-3883 | if you need more details or have a unique situation – there’s no obligation.

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Safety Training and Recordkeeping

by Charles T. Wilson on July 21, 2014

This is the last of RiskSmart’s Safety Series discussions (see Tips #85-#88 to see the previous posts). These will be consolidated into an e-book shortly and made available to subscribers.

Two final elements of any safety plan are training and recordkeeping. These are not afterthoughts, but essential foundations and where the plan must start.

Successful Training?

“Training” is talked about all the time, but often results in useless, time-wasting activity. “Didn’t he/she take that electrical safety course? How could they be so dumb?”

Anyone experienced with adult learning knows the key elements of success:  management involvement (not just support), interactive sessions with active discussion and worker stories, and take-always that serve as memory-joggers during a workday.

  • Management must be actively involved in actual training sessions – show up for tailgate or toolbox meetings; show you are really interested and concerned, use your own words, listen, and walk the talk.
  • Interactive training is when there are exercises, input from different workers and stories volunteered about when “OMG, that almost happened to me.” An experienced worker sharing his/her near -miss can have huge impact.

Recordkeeping can be a Stay-Out-Of-Jail Card!

Good documentation is critical – in a myriad of ways.

  • You need to have training records for each course and worker to confirm what was discussed and who was there. Noting a worker’s input and stories can also show it was not a “remote” session.
  • Create notes to file for each worker – noting positive and need-improvement comments and follow-ups show pro-active, constructive management.
  • Keeping training records and certifications up to date can avoid hassle and lost -time on the site and with any incident analyses or accident investigations.

Good, positive records can boost morale – especially when you remember someone’s input, story or safety alert to protect others. They can also mitigate liability in the event of a serious lawsuit. This should never be “just” an admin task.

Get Moving and Get Help

If you’ve followed this series of tips you know this is not a time to procrastinate. So many clients tell me, “I worry about safety every day, but ….”  They still haven’t started their plans, or training sessions, or discussions with workers – nothing except worry. That inaction could be worth fines, penalties, and even shut-downs.

Ask who is interested and might be willing to help; delegate some small project pieces. There are lots of available resources for all participants:

  • OSHA ( is chock full of information: Training, regulations, alerts, newsletters, and FAQs.
  • OSHA Consultation Services are free and offer confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses – completely separate from enforcement.
  • Some insurance brokers and insurers offer inspection and prevention services.
  • Independent consultants often have expertise to lead and implement projects.

Do you need a sample IIPP or help navigating the OSHA website or consultation services? Call or email Charles (510-685-3883 | to talk about your unique concerns or questions.

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Correcting Safety Hazards

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Exit Stage Right

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2012 Risk Protection Checklist

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