No business will get very far without legal help, and it is in your best interests to ensure that you have a good, trustworthy company lawyer on your payroll.
Having good legal help is essential if you are setting up a business, but it can be more difficult than you might think to find a decent lawyer for your business. Most companies try a number of different lawyers before finally finding one that they can trust, but if you know what to look for, you should be able to speed the process up and save yourself a lot of hassle.
Business lawyers aren’t just for handling disputes and lawsuits; they can also be useful for:
- Reviewing or drawing up contracts
- Employment law
- Buying and selling businesses or business assets
- Filing paperwork as a startup
Of course, they are particularly handy if someone decides to sue you, but there are dozens of other smaller issues that legal counsel can help you with.
Find Out Who Will Actually Represent You
Working with a legal firm will often result in being sold on the firm by one charismatic lawyer, but when you run into legal issues, you end up actually working with someone completely different. If you’re a fairly small business, this secondary lawyer may be exactly the opposite of what you thought you were getting when you signed on.
To avoid this common issue, find out who will be representing your company and never assume it is the lawyer you are speaking with. You may even want to get this in writing, to make sure things don’t get switched up at a later date.
Get a List of Fees
Never agree to work with a lawyer without knowing what his fees are up front. This can end up being extremely costly for you in the long run. Not only do you need to know how much your lawyer charges per hour, you need to know where the cutoff is. Does he charge the full hour even if you’ve used only 30 minutes? What about ten minutes? Get all the details.
It can also help to ask for a per project estimate whenever you start a new project. In some cases, you may have the legal firm on a monthly retainer, which will entitle you to a certain number of hours every month. Stay on top of the number of hours that you use and check them with the bill you receive to avoid any overcharges.
Choose Someone with Business Experience
While any lawyer can learn business law, you really don’t want to be the company being practiced on. Choose a law firm that has a history of handling business affairs and you will save yourself a lot of time and money. Just one phrase that isn’t carefully checked in a contract and you could end up paying someone else thousands of dollars, so it really does pay to choose experience.
Check Out the Resources
Some lawyers specialize in a specific area of business law while others provide everything you might need, from payroll legalities to contracts and litigation aid. By selecting the firm that offers more, you eliminate the need to look for someone to handle each area of your business. Specialties can be good in some things, but when it comes to business law, you’re better off choosing a firm that can handle everything you need them to.
Find a Lawyer You Like
You can’t overestimate the pleasure of working with someone you actually get along with. While lawyers do have a bad reputation, there are good ones to be found, but it may take a few interviews with law firms to find someone you are willing to work with.
A good business lawyer will not only know how to handle all your legal affairs but will also be pleasant to work with. If all goes well, this will be a long term working relationship, so take the time to choose the right person for the job.
This is particularly important if you are hiring an individual as opposed to a law firm. Your lawyer won’t be giving you references who will speak poorly of him, but it’s still a good idea to find out what clients have to say about him. You don’t need to rely only on the offered references, since the Internet often yields useful information about both individuals and law firms, so make good use of it.
Whether you need a lawyer for your business from time to time or plan to keep one on retainer, you should do a little research before hiring. Make sure that you know who you will be working with, if you are hiring a large company and check out what resources are available to you, as well. Each firm is different in what it offers, including different prices and packages. In order to make the most informed decision, you should talk to at least two or three different lawyers, then compare them.