If you want to start a business, you need to find a good business attorney to help with any contracts, SOWs and business formation etc. And while there are over a million practicing lawyers in America, it can be hard to find one that is perfect for your new business.
In this post we’ll look at five things to consider when searching for an attorney that can help your business achieve its goals.
Finding the Right Experience
Perhaps the biggest thing to consider is whether your attorney has the appropriate experience for your business. A common misconception is that all attorneys do the same thing. That can’t be further from the truth. Some lawyers never step foot in a courtroom, while others are there every day. Some lawyers are experts at contract language, while others are experts at resolving DUIs. And if you pick the wrong kind of lawyer for your business, you are bound to end up with poor (or at least not great) advice.
For that reason, always ask about whether your prospective lawyer has experience representing businesses. From there, ask if they have experience working with your kind of business. Some business lawyers are experts at counseling restaurants, while others might be experts working with construction companies.
Understanding Their Pricing
Most lawyers charge by the hour and, depending on where you are, their rates can be as low as $100/hour or as high as $1,500/hour (the average is around $250/hour). If your lawyer charges hourly, be sure to ask for an estimate on what you should expect for each project and keep tabs on how much time they’ve put in since the last time you spoke with them.
Although hourly is still the standard, more and more business lawyers are offering fixed fees and some are even offering subscription legal services. For many small businesses, and especially new businesses, this is a much better approach because then you know exactly what you’ll be paying your lawyer.
Understand How They Work
Just like with any professional, you should make sure your lawyer works the same way you work. Are they responsive to emails, or do you need to pick up the phone and call them? Can they process signatures electronically, or do they need you to come to their office to sign things? Will they invoice you electronically, or do they require you to mail in a check after receiving a paper invoice? All of these items should be discussed up front to make sure you are not hiring someone that will not work like you.
Get a Referral
By far the best way to find a lawyer is to ask your fellow business owners for a referral. You should start with other entrepreneurs that own businesses similar to yours and then branch out as needed. If you can’t find one that way, consider contacting your local bar association or law school as they can probably provide a list of attorneys. And obviously you can always search online.
Tips for Managing Your Relationship
Many business owners avoid talking with their attorneys due to their high fees. But the truth is that spending money on lawyers up front can help you avoid disputes and problems later. And if you don’t call them until the dispute or problem arises, you’ll almost certainly pay your attorney more to fix things than you would have up front.
From there, be sure to keep an honest and open dialogue with your attorney. Discuss your goals, ask questions about things that confuse you, and never ignore fee discussions. The more transparent you are with your lawyer, the better they can help you.
Keep Asking Questions!
Working with legal documents is just one of many important things you’ll have to do to start and grow a successful business. If you want help with all of the various things, you should enroll in the free FastTrac program offered by the Kauffman Foundation. Their free resources can help you succeed. Learn more and sign up at www.fasttrac.org.