How to Hire a Lawyer for Your Small Business

When it comes to operating your own business it is important to build a great team that collectively has a broad skill-set. By surrounding yourself with people that you can trust and delegate work to, you will bring different perspectives and expertise to the organization. 

There are two obvious professionals that every business needs early on: a lawyer and an accountant. Both positions are important to the success of a business so it’s surprising that many employers neglect to hire a lawyer until it’s too late. While hiring an accountant is obvious, as you need someone to review numbers and prepare taxes, hiring a business lawyer is not always something that entrepreneurs consider early on.

However, lawyers provide assistance in almost every aspect of a business and are vital. Their roles include tasks such as tackling zoning compliance, trademark and copyright advice, and dealing with liability in general. It is never a good idea to wait until you’re being sued to seek legal counsel. At that point, the problem has already taken place and you’ll end up paying, whether in court costs or settlement fees to resolve the issue. However, often lawsuits can be entirely avoided when you have a lawyer on the payroll. 

One decision to make right away is whether you’re better off going with a small or big firm. Larger firms are typically more expensive however they do come with their advantages. For one, a larger firm holds much more clout than a solo practitioner. This can be beneficial in a number of ways, such as being introduced to financing sources or using their reference when you seek partnership arrangements. Furthermore, a large firm usually has every legal skill under the same roof so you’ll have any and all of your needs met.

The practice of law is becoming increasingly specialized. There are different types of lawyers, so it’s always better to hire someone that has experience with a number of skills. Ideally, you’re looking for a lawyer who can do the following things: prepare contracts that you’ll be sharing with clients, customers, and suppliers. Decide whether to organize your business as an LLC or corporation, provide provisions to your benefit when leasing commercial space, understand the tax consequences of basic business transactions, and have knowledge or connections with an intellectual property specialist.

When you are conducting interviews for a business lawyer it’s important to ask direct questions about their experience. It’s not possible for a lawyer to know everything about every area of law, however, if there’s something major outside of their scope of practice, a good lawyer should have working relationships with specialists who they can refer you to for different types of legal problems.

It’s also important that your lawyer is at least somewhat familiar with your industry; specifically the legal environment of your industry. It’s good to be wary of hiring a lawyer that represents more than one of your competitors. There is of course, a legal code of ethics, however, the last thing you want is sensitive information accidentally leaked to a competitor.

While you are conducting the interview try to get a feel of what type of lawyer you’re speaking with. Every firm employs lawyers that do one of three things: bring in new clients, make sure the existing ones are happy, and actually do the clients work. If you sense that you’re not talking to the lawyer that will actually be doing your work then don’t hesitate to ask to meet that person. You want to be sure that the lawyer providing their services is someone you trust and feel comfortable with.

During the first few years of business you’ll probably be visiting your lawyer’s office frequently so choose one that is conveniently located. Make sure that the person you hire can communicate well. A good business lawyer will outline all of your available options and point you in the direction of what the situation normally calls for. You want to like the person you hire because you’ll have to be comfortable enough to communicate openly. To be happy with your decisions make sure that the person possesses thoroughness, attention to detail, intelligence, and a willingness to work hard and at the end of the day, follow your instincts. 

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