When you start a small business, there are two business professionals without whom your work cannot take off: Someone who reviews your accounts and someone who takes care of the legal matters. Though the former is an obvious requirement, amateur businessmen tend to completely ignore the need for a business attorney. This is a grievous mistake. Even though initially it might seem like an unnecessary expense, getting legal advice from the start can help you avoid lawsuits and other legal pitfalls. Here are five easy steps to finding the best legal advice for your small business.
1. Assess the type of legal advice you need
There are various disciplines of law under which lawyers work. Determine your business goals and assess the type of legal advice that you require. For example, if you are starting a real estate business, you may need an attorney to advise you on the various IRS tax relief program options. If you are venturing into the publishing business, you might want to hire a lawyer to give you legal advice about copyright. You might need an attorney to draw up contracts or terms and conditions for an online service that you are providing. You need to know why you need legal advice to start searching for an attorney.
2. Determine whether you want to work with a solo practitioner or a law firm
You know the domain of your legal needs. The next step is determining if your legal advice is going to come from an attorney who works solo, or from a law firm. If your business is small and consolidated in a single domain, one attorney is generally going to be enough to solicit all the legal advice you will need. If your business is interdisciplinary or involves complex transaction structures involving multiple entities, a law firm would be a wise choice. This is because all lawyers have specialties. For example, a lawyer with experience in legal dealings regarding real estate may not give the best legal advice concerning an international sale. Law firms cost a bit more but they have attorneys who specialize in a lot of different fields. Hence, they can easily help you out with interdisciplinary law matters.
3. Shortlisting the source of your legal advice
Now you know what legal advice you need and from which kind of legal entity (an attorney or a law firm). The next step is to shortlist a few attorneys/law firms which are best suited to your needs. Reach out to other businesses who operate in the same domain and require similar legal advice as to your business for referrals on lawyers/ law firms. Look for reviews of the shortlisted lawyers/law firms online. Visit their website and examine their track record of success. Ask for advice from the local bar of lawyers in your city. Lawyers who have been practicing for a few years usually know a lot about the way of working other lawyers in their area, their reputation, their practices etc. and these lawyers can prove very effective in advising you which lawyers/law firms to approach.
4. Interviewing the shortlisted attorneys
Once you have a list of possible attorneys that you want to work with, the next step is to schedule meetings or consultations with them. During the meeting, you must interview them on several topics. Ask about the lawyer’s alma mater. It is not necessary for him or her to have studied in an ivy league law school, but the law school should have generally fair reviews. Ask what experience they have in their field, how long they have been practicing and other similar work they are currently engaged in. Inquire about the other people they would be working with on your legal matters like paralegals. Ask if they outsource work. Ask how they will communicate with you, whether via emails and calls or through in-person meetings. Testimonials from previous business entities that the attorney has worked with are also important, and a good lawyer will be able to provide you with enough references to satisfy any doubts that you have.
5. Asking about payment
The important thing to keep in mind here is that an exorbitant fee is not fail safe insurance that the legal advice you get is the best; good legal advice can also be quite affordable. On the contrary, if a lawyer or law firm is charging you very less for legal advice, there might be something negative about their service that has forced them to drop their charges so low. Lawyers may charge by the hour/day. They may also charge a flat fee or a contingency fee. Make sure you understand the payment structure and work out a deal that is affordable to you.
So, these are five easy steps that anyone can follow to find legal advice for their small business. Getting sued can prove to be a major money sink. Preventing this is more cost-effective and convenient as compared to not getting legal advice and getting into trouble. Hence, getting legal advice is very advisable.