In a recent post, I shared my 10 point guide for in house counsel who have cases in the Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas (the trial courts). Number 10 on my list was to retain local counsel. By local counsel I mean an attorney who has a significant practice in that county.
In my opinion you need local counsel. I have retained local counsel and I have been retained as local counsel. Retention of local counsel gives you instant credibility with the Court. Additionally, as I shared in my prior posts each county has their own practice and procedure. Local Counsel can guide and advise you. Mistakes can be made through lack of knowledge of the local procedures and landscape. Mistakes can be the difference between favorable and unfavorable outcomes.
Here are my tips regarding retaining local counsel. You need to ask yourself the Who, What, When and Where questions.
- Who – You shouldn’t just retain any attorney to be local counsel. They need to know what they are doing. More importantly, you want to retain someone who is well respected by the Court. It will cause you more harm if you retain someone who is not respected by the Court then if you choose not to have local counsel;
- What – You need to decide the role of the local counsel. Are they just to assist you with the local Court? Are they to handle filings? Are they to primarily handle the case? Are they second chair? You need to define their role. More important, you need to define their role from the outset. This way you avoid any misunderstandings.
- When – You want to retain local counsel as early as possible in the litigation. If a Plaintiff, prior to filing the lawsuit. If a Defendant prior to the expiration of the time period to file Preliminary Objections or an Answer;
- Where –So where do you find local counsel? You need to do your research. Contact the local Bar Association. Look to the leaders in the local Bar Association. Look at the law firms with an office in the County. Look to see if they just have a token office or if they primarily practice in the County. Ask the people who work in the Courthouse, such as Court Administration. They know who handle the cases and who are well respected by the Court.