Throughout a business owner’s journey, there are many times when the value of trusted council can either help to avoid or efficiently navigate legal challenges. A business lawyer helps to ensure the owner opens and operates by federal, state and local laws. Doing business naturally exposes the owner to risk, but a business lawyer helps to reduce those risks. Whether establishing the entity, fine tuning procedures that will limit risk, drafting important documents, reviewing contracts, managing the recruitment, onboarding, performance, and termination of employees, taking on a partner, or even plain old strategizing, there are countless instances, beyond litigation, in which a strong relationship with a trusted business lawyer can benefit a business owner throughout her journey.
So how does a business owner begin the process of scouting for such an important advisor? There’s certainly no shortage of options, so what should she look for when perusing websites from google search results or colleague referrals? What things should she consider? What questions should she ask? Here are some helpful tips for finding the business lawyer that is right for you and your business.
I have seen many business owners be hesitant to spend money on legal advice, particularly in the start up phase of the business, to avoid incurring expenses. I have also seen some of those same owners end up spending much more money to correct a contract or deal with a situation because they used a contract that they “found on Google,” repurposed a document they “got from a friend,” or had no documentation at all. The sooner you hire a lawyer in the life of your business, the better. I appreciate that lawyers are not inexpensive but hiring one at the right time could save you—and your business—costly mistakes, such as signing a contract you don’t fully understand or taking on a partner without a document governing the rights and responsibilities of the parties.
I have represented many types of companies, from nanny agencies to real estate development and boat chartering businesses. Each of these businesses, and the problems they need solved, sometimes vary greatly. It is important to find an attorney who is willing to learn your business/industry in order to be an effective problem solver. The more your attorney understands about your business, the more he or she can anticipate how to solve problems and craft solutions.
I used to work at a large law firm, and eventually departed to start my own law firm. It is helpful to know what type of firm you need to meet your needs, and that may change over the life cycle of your business. When I was a big firm lawyer, we typically represented large companies or institutional clients, which makes sense as those types of clients usually want a “one stop shop.” Larger firms can offer that as they typically have lawyers who practice in various areas of law. Depending on the size of your business, you may prefer a solo attorney or small firm to service your needs. For example, my practice is limited to business law and employment law, so oftentimes I act as an outside general counsel to my clients and if they need an attorney who does something that I don’t, I have a network of colleagues I can connect them with for assistance on that particular request.
Business lawyers may vary their fee structure depending on what you need. Work performed can be charged on an hourly basis, at the lawyer’s hourly rate, typically in 6-minute increments. Other tasks may be charged at a flat rate. For example, a lawyer may be willing to charge X amount to prepare a common document. It varies from lawyer to lawyer, so be sure to ask about the fee structure of any lawyer you are considering hiring for your business needs. Also, expectations are important. If you are paying hourly for a specific project, it may be helpful to ask the lawyer what he or she approximates it will cost so you have a general idea and are not surprised when it comes time to pay the invoice.
**This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.