Many first-time business owners procrastinate on hiring a business attorney, often to their own disadvantage. The motivation to wait is understandable. After all, if you’ve never brought in a lawyer to deal with the legal aspects of your business before, how are you to know who would be the best fit for your company? Will they deliver the exact services you need at a price you’re willing to pay?
Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Here are 8 rules to follow when choosing your business lawyer:
1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Too many entrepreneurs skimp on the essentials as they get their projects off the ground. Some may see things through without a hitch, but we know too many who have had a festering problem blow up in their faces and nearly burn their business to the ground. Even those who for years believe themselves in the first group can never be sure what decisions made and contracts written early on will come back to haunt them. Hiring a business lawyer from the get-go will put you and your business on a firm legal foundation.
2. Talk money. For any professional you hire, whether they are an electrician, a private detective, or a business lawyer, it is is vital that you talk about costs and fees from the start. Transparency in what they charge and when will keep you and them within a reasonable budget. As you consider different candidates, be sure to gently press each on money issues. Will their firm demand a flat-fee, in advance, or will they surprise you at the end of the month with an unexpected invoice charging $150 for a six-minute phone conversation? As your business grows, you will need to effectively communicate with your lawyer; you don’t want to be afraid to contact them for fear of the costly bill.
3. Bigger isn’t (necessarily) better. Though you may find several large firms that specialize in your industry, the extra time and attention your business would receive from a smaller firm may better serve your needs. Plus, smaller firms are generally more cost-effective!
4. From the horse’s mouth. Many large firms will put small business owners in front of a person serving more as a sales representative, rather than an attorney. Their goal is to sign you up, but your goal should be to size up the individuals who will actually be handling your file. Don’t be badgered into anything; request some time to speak directly with the attorney or attorneys who would be working with you.
5. Ants vs. grasshoppers. The moral of Aesop’s fable of the industrious ant and the lazy grasshopper should inform your hiring decision: the lawyer you want will be one who doesn’t wait for winter to fall before he finally kicks himself into gear; you need someone who will maintain consistent involvement with your business. By regularly checking in, an attorney can address legal challenges ever before they even really arise.
6. Treat it like any other job interview. You wouldn’t ask a prospective employee how much they want to be paid the moment they sit down in your office for an interview, nor should you do the same with a lawyer. You want to first be sure that the attorney can make a persuasive case for why he or she would be right for the needs of you and your business. Ask the hard questions and don’t be afraid to communicate what it is that you need from the relationship.
7. Get the whole picture. With your hard work, you know your business can carry on for decades, potentially lasting long after you’ve gone. Any business lawyer worthy of your business should be able to speak to your its legacy and continuation.
8. Communication is key. Though legalese is sometimes unavoidable when dealing with legal matters, a lawyer is no good for you if they cannot–or are unwilling to–explain the legal issues confronting your business in plain language. You need to be able to understand the advice you pay for; your business is counting on it.
To learn more about what a good business lawyer can do for your company, call us today at (612) 206-3701 or fill in our contact form to schedule a small business consultation session.
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