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Solid Legal Planning Prevents Pain

Category: , Posted:02 Jun 2007 | 12:00 pm

Whether you are buying a resort villa, selling a piece of land or developing investment property, transforming any financial deal into a profitable investment can be a rocky road. Aside from sound accounting and tax planning advice, it is important that a key member of your team be your legal advisor.

All too often, individuals or businesses look only at the cost incurred, rather than the overall lowering of associated risks – including the possibly catastrophic impact poorly constructed deals often bring.

Matches are not often made in heaven. Finding the right legal advisor takes time, research and in many cases a trial-and-error approach. While picking a name out of a phone book certainly is one of the more common ways of finding council, the results are often a hit-and-miss proposition.

Start your search by speaking to friends, businessmen or other contacts. If possible, ask for an introduction by means of a phone call or email. It you are a developer, sound out other developers and see who is representing them and how they assess performance. Look closely at what your needs are. If you are buying a home, do you need a multinational firm – or will you do better working with a smaller organization or individual lawyer? Right-sizing the approach ultimately saves time and money.

As in most professional practices, it is important to know exactly who in the company you will actually be dealing with and who is handling your account. All too often, the "bigger is better" approach means you might be represented by a well-known name brand – with fees to match – but your actual dealings are with a new university graduate or junior staffer. At the end of the day, it is the person doing your work that matters most. The situation is much like choosing medical care: it is better to have an experienced specialist from a less-well-known government hospital than a green intern at a fancy international hospital.

Here in Phuket, the property market has evolved and developed to the point that we have a wide variety of choices, from well-respected local firms such as International Law Office, to firms with local and Bangkok offices, such as Belmont Limcharoen and McEvily & Collins, up to firms with international offices including JSM, and Tilleke and Gibbons.

There are also a number of extremely competent local law firms and individual lawyers. Getting into the market and speaking to a number of firms will enhance your own knowledge, enabling you to reach a more informed decision. Asking direct questions is always the best approach, but don't expect free advice and lose track of the overall goal of finding the most competent legal representative.

When engaging or appointing a firm, don't be too intimidated to ask for cost estimates or added and reimbursable costs. These small items often represent significant expenses and need to be anticipated and planned for financially. In many cases, firms will work on a contingency basis, though this comes at a cost.

Additionally, capping the cost of certain works is an acceptable practice that ensures you do not exceed your budget. In many instances, reviewing a cost estimate will help you identify certain scopes that may be eliminated or done more cost-effectively by non-legal staff. Carefully containing and managing the scope of work is good sense, as it is never wise to hand someone a blank check.

A reliable professional services team will go a long way to making your deals successful, be it a one-time affair or a long-term working relationship. But as in any relationship, success often reflects the time and effort you put into the process. Pairing up your legal team, accountants and tax advisors in a don't-leave-any-stone-unturned approach is one of the best investments you will ever make.

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