As a business owner or manager, it’s very important to have a team of people around you that you trust and who will help you to succeed. Even if you’re a contractor or other type of solopreneur, you still need to know people who you can go to for advice and assistance when you need it. From mentors and accountants to financial advisors, insurance agents, and more, during the course of doing business there will be a variety of services you’ll likely require.
One in particular, though, that you will certainly need at some stage, is legal advice. There are many reasons why your small business might need a lawyer (including establishing a business structure, facing a lawsuit, or chasing up outstanding client payments), so when it’s time to choose legal counsel, it pays to know how to find the right person for the job. However, it can often be difficult to know how to go about making your decision. Read on for some top tips to help you select the right lawyer for your business.
Hire a Specialist
When you create a team to help you succeed, it always pays to look for people with specific expertise in the area for which you need assistance. This is especially true when it comes to lawyers. For example, if you want to organize a trademark, patent, copyright, or some other intellectual property protection, it is a good idea to hire someone who knows this area of the law inside and out, rather than a generalist who works across all fields.
Since there are many different types of law that people can work in, your best advice will typically always come from someone who is very experienced in the particular area that you need help in. When you’re conducting research to put together your shortlist of prospective lawyers, keep this in mind.
It is also a good idea to find an attorney via recommendations. It can be difficult to work out who will provide you with the best representation just by evaluating websites or other information, so a personal recommendation can be the best way to narrow down your list. Ask other business owners and managers that you know for suggestions (particularly if they have had to use legal services for the same area in which you need advice), as well as family members, friends, and colleagues.
If you don’t come up with any helpful options straight away, consider broadening your search. The American Bar Association, for example, will be able to provide you with some names of legal firms and specific attorneys who are licensed to operate in the state where your business is based.
Alternatively, you can speak to your financial advisor, accountant or other business contact for suggestions. Most professionals in these arenas rely on strong relationships in order to get new business from referrals. This means that they often have a large network of contacts in affiliated industries, including law.
Evaluate an Entire Legal Firm, Not Just a Single Lawyer
Another tip for finding the right lawyer for your business is to evaluate an entire firm, not just a single lawyer, when making your decision. Keep in mind that even if you plan to hire a particular attorney who has been recommended to you, this person will still utilize the resources within their company, and potentially even delegate some tasks to junior team members. This means that you should be confident with hiring the firm itself, as well as the individual.
When evaluating a firm, look for evidence of the company’s recent and average success rate in the area you need help with. Examine the fee structure and find out exactly who would be representing you in your case, if you were to hire the firm.
In addition, weigh the pros and cons of a large legal business versus a small one. If you opt for a smaller outfit, you will typically receive more personalized attention and often more prompt answers to your questions. On the other side of the coin, if you are represented by a large firm, you will generally receive less one-on-one time with your lawyer, but will have access to more resources via additional manpower.
Have an Initial Meeting in Person
Once you have narrowed your shortlist down to just two or three potential lawyers or firms, you should take advantage of the initial free consultation that most attorneys will provide. This face-to-face meeting can really make a difference as it allows you to ask lots of questions and get a feel for how the person or firm works.
During the consultation, make sure you take into account whether the attorney is easy to talk to and seems responsive to your needs. Determine if they come across as very knowledgeable in their area, and if they seem detail oriented. Pay attention to what your gut instincts tell you – often your subconscious mind will pick up on details that you don’t consciously notice.