Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to Choose a Law Firm for Your Small Business

As the owner of a new small business you’ll be taking on a lot of responsibilities. In your role as boss, it will be your final decisions that impact your staff and the direction you want the business to take. While it might feel at times as if you’ve taken the weight of the world on your shoulders, you can (and should) add to your team with a qualified attorney. Developing a working relationship with an attorney who understands your business will be vital to your success. The following are some helpful hints to help you pick the right law firm.

1)      Start With a Recommendation

When you open up your business you’ll be entering into a community of your peers - other business owners who have been through your situation. These fellow owners can are great resources for solving any challenges that you might face. This network can answer any business related questions that you might have. Start by asking about the law firm they use. Getting recommendations from business owners is the best way to start researching the law firm that will be perfect for your needs. Keep in mind that just because someone recommends a law firm doesn’t mean you have to hire that firm. You’re just asking for names.

2)      Write Out Your Vision

You might have created some sort of business plan for your investors, but your vision of where you want your business to go is something less formal. This is a document that you can use to strategize with an attorney. This vision can help you choose the right law firm based on that firm’s experience. For instance, you might want to franchise your business so you should be looking for a lawyer with expertise in that field. The same holds true for expanding your business globally. Does the law firm have offices in other cities or countries?

3)      Research

Just as your business will need a website, every prospective law firm you’re looking into will have their own internet presence as well. This will be your first impression of the law firm and can tell you a lot about how they handle their business. Once you enter into discussions about retaining the services of a law firm you’ll be given the opportunity to follow-up with their references. Make those calls.

4)      Factor In the Costs

Billing practices vary from one lawyer to another. Many new business owners have gotten quite a shock from their first legal bill when they are charged for a quick phone call or email response. Remember that lawyers make their living through billable hours. When you develop a strong relationship with a law firm the “nit-picking” of hours charged might not become such a big issue. However, you should be aware of all the fees up front and what a lawyer expects to bill you for. Additionally, all these fees should be in writing.

Even if you are a freelancer or a home business, there will be a situation where you will need to use the services of a corporate lawyer. This could range from needing legal advice, or it could be to draft up contracts and agreements. Either way, it's always a good idea to retain the services of a corporate lawyer in case any unexpected situations come up.