Every business needs two professionals on their team, an accountant and a lawyer. The reasons for having an accountant are quite self explanatory, to navigate the minefield of tax and finances. But the reasons for having a lawyer are less obvious. If you aren’t in any legal trouble, then why do you need a lawyer, right?
A lawyer is actually an asset that your business cannot afford to be without. Don’t look at the dollars involved with regular legal work, look at the money they could save you in the long run. They can provide you with valuable advice in lots of areas: compliance, where you stand, your rights regarding your clients, and how to avoid business no-no’s!
Here are some considerations to take into account when choosing a lawyer…
- Don’t wait until it is too late! Don’t wait until you need a lawyer’s services to get you out of hot water before selecting one, it will be too late then. Engaging a lawyer in the early stages of your business will ensure that your processes are compliant, therefore minimising the risk of legal action being taken against you.
- Big Firm or Small Firm? Connecting yourself with a small firm generally means lower rates and a more personal relationship with your attorney. However, as lawyers tend to become specialists in a specific area, they may not be able to service all of your legal needs in house. A larger firm will have specialists in all areas of law, so you would still be able to deal with one company as opposed to multiple.
- Specialists: Because lawyers do tend to niche down to a specific area of law, it is important to select the right one for your business. There is no point employing a real estate lawyer if you specialise in intellectual property!
How To Know If A Lawyer Is Right For You
The only way to find out if an attorney is right for you business is to do some research about them, which is perfectly fine to do. You want to make sure that the relationship is going to work for you both so as not to waste each other’s time.
Here are some areas you can start with…
- Experience: Are they experienced in your industry and do they have other clients in the same industry? Or if they don’t have the relevant experience on hand, would they be willing to learn about your industry?
- Connections: One single lawyer is unlikely to be able to solve every issue that you have, so do they have a lot of connections that will fill the gaps in their own services?
- Educator: Is this attorney someone that will be able to educate you in areas of business that you require help with?
- Billing: What are their rates and payment terms, and can they be flexible?
- Communication: Is their communication going to be in a form you can understand? Legal jargon is quite complicated, so you want to know that you understand what they are talking about.
- Convenience: You want their office to be located close to your home or office for ease of signing documents and attending appointments.
- Go With Your Gut: Use your instincts - can you trust them, can you work with them, do you like them?
Where To Look
Finding the right lawyer takes more than just typing local lawyers into Google. It’s not to say that you can’t use online tools to find the lawyer for you, but just do an in depth search.
Referrals: Referrals are one of the most powerful tools when looking for a professional. If you can get first hand feedback from someone that has used their services before then half of the battle is won. You can know what to expect in terms of service and trust. If someone is willing to refer a lawyer, they must have done something right!
Online: Check your local business directories and online resources. And I mean really check them. Look at what services they are offering, see how they compare to other lawyers in the area and always read feedback and testimonials.
Physically: There is nothing wrong with pounding the pavement and physically going into the offices of lawyers in your town. You get a feel for what their offices are like and get to meet them face to face.
Tips For A Smooth Relationship
When dealing with a lawyer, money has to be a concern as they will bill you for any time worked on your business. Because of that, you want to make sure you have all the relevant documentation ready when asked for and get it to them in a timely fashion. Don’t be the reason for any delays.
Be open and honest with your communication. Trying to hide things from your lawyer is counterproductive as it might undo the good work they are trying to do for you. Lay everything on the table and give them the full story.
Meeting with your lawyer regularly can actually be a cost saving measure. Yes, you will pay a fee to meet with them, but at those regular meetings you can nip any small legal matters in the bud before they turn into something more serious.