In a recent article in The Globe and Mail, Forget the fees, this is why businesses need sound legal advice, Chris Griffiths discusses how sound legal advice can strengthen your business.
More specifically, he discusses the value of engaging good legal counsel who is capable of going beyond providing limited, technical advice on isolated legal matters (which is a given) to also providing more general advice on your overall business and personal affairs and objectives. This more general advice could include coaching and education on potential risks and alternative options and solutions as well as leveraging his or her network when and if other specialized expertise is required.
Griffiths also points out that using your lawyer as a trusted advisor will provide long term value to your business. To this end, it is better, he argues, to think of your lawyer's advice more as an investment (than a mere out of pocket expense) that will pay dividends down the road in better managing risks. Don't think about the hourly rate, he states, That's just a distraction and will likely lead to an emotional decision, not a pragmatic one.
In my experience, the real value in hiring competent counsel who you enjoy working with, is to act as a trusted advisor who can provide not just great legal advice, but pragmatic advice on your overall business and personal legal affairs. As for hourly rates, I agree that this is too often a distraction. Ironically, a higher rate is normally indicative of more experience which often translates into lower overall fees as less time is spent analyzing legal issues and on immaterial issues.