As an entrepreneur, you have to be competent in many things so that there is little room for gross incompetence in any area. However, unless you are professionally trained, accountancy and legal matters are two aspects that are hard to match up. A qualified business attorney will avail the assistance in most aspects of your business, from trademark advice to basic compliance requirements, lawsuits and liability guidance. Therefore, it’s accurate to say that the lawyer you hire for your firm can either make or break it.
Big or small firm?
Usually, large firms have massive overhead, which implies that they would have to pay more hourly rates. Large firms also have more advantage over smaller ones. Over the past two decades, lawyers have chosen to specialize in particular fields. Therefore, having one lawyer might limit the extent of legal services your firm receives. While large companies can afford to hire specialized attorneys for their legal needs, small firms might be unable to meet these expenses and should consider hiring a general business attorney.
How do I find a lawyer?
Most businesses go for personal referrals, which seems practical because everyone wants to hire someone they can vouch on. Personal referrals also provide a kind of “social proof.” If you opt to go through this route, make sure you ask your friend about the type of service the lawyer did for them. A personal network might be limited, so you might consider using online resources to look for lawyers. Reviews are an excellent place to start, but take time to check the website thoroughly.
Qualities to look for in a business attorney
1. The lawyer should have excellent people skills
Sometimes you will require the attorney to jump on the phone with a potential customer, employee, buyer, vendor, shareholder, or board member. Lawyers are just like other employees; some are good at relating with people while others aren’t.
Some entrepreneurs think that attorneys should be combative, which is right for litigators. However, litigation is only a minor part of a business. Anyone can litigate, but it requires skills to relate well with people and also to compromise. Ensure you hire a lawyer who knows what to say at the right time and chooses their words wisely.
2. The lawyer should be of sound judgment
Judgment is not something that’s taught in college, yet it is such an essential skill that one can barely survive without. Beyond the lovely papers that the professional presents, you ought to analyze how good they are at applying their judgment in complex situations. Some situations are not only a matter of legal items but have a lot to do with business strategy. The problem would be figuring out how good someone is at making such decisions, but you can always present an illustration and ask the expert to provide their judgment.
3. The lawyer should be your business’s partner
Most lawyers claim that they walk with the company, but only a few of them practice it. When starting, you may not afford the high fees that attorneys require. So, is the lawyer willing to give discounted rates until the business picks? Another factor to look out for is whether they have your interest at heart. Would they be ready to go an extra mile in a bid to ensure that your firm prospers? This is vital because many firms have failed to perform adequately during the scale-up season.
What to ask when interviewing attorneys
· Are you experienced?
Do not shy away from asking direct queries about the lawyer’s experience. If you understand what your business requires with regards to business matters, find someone with the stipulated skill set. For instance, if you are dealing with conveyancing, hire a lawyer with sales contracts experience.
· How well connected are you?
Your business lawyer should be someone who can diagnose the issue and work it out as required. No attorney is well acquitted with every area of the law. Try finding someone who deals with your firm’s specialization.
· Are you a good teacher?
Your lawyer should be willing to educate the staff about the legal environment in your area of specialization. He or she should explain the consequences of doing what you do and how you do it. They should spot problems in advance so that they do not escalate.
· Will you be flexible in your billing?
Today, more than ever, clients can request discounts. Most business lawyers work for a contingency fee that is payable after they perform the legal work you assigned to them, and to your satisfaction. Make sure you negotiate fair rates especially if you are establishing your business and cash-strapped.
Building a business is difficult, and you cannot be good at everything. A good lawyer can help position your company for greatness. Therefore, making a wise lawyer-hiring decision from the onset will pay off well eventually.