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Legal Alignment: Choose Your Lawyer Like You Choose Your Doctor

By Travis Townsend Jr.

A few years back, I was playing a game of 5-on-5 pickup basketball at a local high school gym after work. During a drive to score by the opposing team, I got in the passing lane and stole the ball for a fast break lay-up on the other end. As I was racing towards the basket full speed, the guy from whom I had stolen the ball was in hot pursuit in an attempt to prevent me from scoring. We met at the basket, jumped in the air, I made the basket and my opponent banged into me causing me to crash awkwardly into the bleachers, twisting my ankle. Thick-headed, I continued to play on the swelling ankle for the remainder of the game. That decision resulted in me waking up immobile the next morning with an ankle swollen like a tennis ball.

It became apparent I needed to visit a doctor. So, I began my search and immediately determined I needed to see someone who specialized in foot care and ankle injuries. I was not just looking for any doctor — oh no. I was looking for a podiatrist, preferably one who specialized in sports-related injuries. My ankle was in serious pain and it was urgent that the expert I sought out was all about ankles. This doc needed to be knee-deep in ankles. I am reminded of that awful experience from time to time while working on a business acquisition or a money raising stock offering and the counsel on the other side is a highly skilled and highly professional attorney, but in a field totally unrelated to mergers and acquisitions or corporate finance.

While every lawyer worth his or her salt is able to provide counsel and services in a wide breadth of areas, it is always best to line up your specific legal needs with an attorney having considerable expertise in the areas of your particular needs. Your family lawyer may very well be the best darned criminal prosecutor in the county, but that does not guarantee that she is the right lawyer for you when you are selling your company or negotiating a $25M credit facility for your business. She is, undoubtedly, a great place to get preliminary feedback and recommendations for experts in your area of need. However, remain vigilant in seeking that attorney who is well-versed in what you specifically require.

Sophisticated business transactions are best serviced by attorneys with numerous transactions under their belt, a history of commitment to learning the laws relevant to transactional matters, and a solid foundation in understanding the focus and goals of business operations. This latter point is very important. Legal services provided in connection with business transactions should always be delivered with the client’s profit-making interest foremost, coupled with a keen attention to potential liabilities the client faces as it takes its calculated business risks. While every client that engages a lawyer for assistance in conducting its business operations expects that lawyer to protect it from risks of loss, every such client has an equal need for their lawyer to enhance the profit-making capacity of their business and not become an impediment to the company’s success.

If you’re having heart problems, go to a cardiologist not a dermatologist. And if you want a lawyer to help you with your business, hire a business transactional lawyer.

 Travis Townsend Jr. is managing partner at Townsend Lockett & Milfort, LLC

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