Once you have engaged a lawyer and taken care of your current needs, contact could be sporadic. That said if you want her acting as “my lawyer” — as in “Well, my lawyer says…” — you actually want an ongoing relationship.
Find out how often you will have contact with her. Will she call periodically to see if your will needs updating, for example, or if you need a new healthcare proxy? When something else comes up in your life, will you be able to call her with a question — just to get a sense of the direction you want to go — and not be billed for it?
Lawyers know how they want a relationship to work; they know the circumstances under which they want to hear from clients.
They also know that some of those phone calls will turn into billable hours; you want to know when they drop the flag on the meter.
By defining what you want and describing the kind of ongoing relationship you desire with a lawyer, you lay the foundation for a long-lasting, recurring business relationship.
If you want to have a lawyer as part of your financial team, you need to plan regular visits, at least as often as you have major life changes — children, buying a house, moving, etc. — and as infrequently as once every other year.
Ask the lawyer how often they feel your paperwork needs to be revisited and possibly updated; even if all you have is a simple will — and grown children so that your circumstances appear static — you may want to get your lawyer involved in estate-planning discussions that you have with your financial advisor. Moreover, if your estate planning attorney establishes trusts on your behalf, your financial planner or broker may have to re-title assets and move them into the trusts, so they may need to work together. There is nothing worse than spending the money to establish a trust, and then to ruin the effort and waste the money because nothing was properly moved into the trust.
And, if you like your lawyer, consult with them on other legal matters, if only to get a referral to another specialist who is likely to help you in areas outside of their specialty. All of these conversations help to ensure that you will feel comfortable with your attorney, regardless of when you actually need their services.