4. If your legal issue requires a specialized knowledge of church or nonprofit law, then call several local attorneys and see if they represent any churches or nonprofit organizations. Ideally, you will want to stick with an attorney with experience in handling your specific concern.
5. Unfortunately, few attorneys are able to specialize in "church law," and so many church leaders are unable to find an attorney in their community with experience handling church legal issues. In such a case, you should consider retaining an out-of-town attorney. There are a few excellent regional and national law firms that have experience representing churches. In some cases, their fees may be higher, but this is almost always offset by their expertise. Does it make sense to pay a lower hourly fee to a local attorney who has to spend hours educating himself about your issue, or, to pay a higher hourly fee to a specialist who will work significantly fewer hours? In addition, you are much more likely to receive a helpful and accurate response from an attorney who specializes in church law.
6. If possible, identify a few candidates for the job, and then solicit bids from them.
7. Often, a member of the church board will be acquainted with a local attorney, and will want to use this person to represent the church with respect to a particular issue. This should not necessarily be the basis for hiring an attorney, especially if the local attorney lacks experience in working with churches.
Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA, and best-selling author specializing in legal and tax issues for church and clergy. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is senior editor of Church Law & Tax Report, a bimonthly newsletter.
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today
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