Lawyers. For many, it’s a dirty word, along with court cases, indictments, summons, and depositions. The court is not where someone wants to be.
Lawyers deal with litigation and legal matters pertaining to a city, state, or federal umbrella of laws. They are not just necessary for a business, but they accentuate a business’s success. Consider:
- A business lawyer gives business owners knowledge about zoning laws.
- A business lawyer gives business owners qualified advice about complying with local and state laws.
- A business lawyer becomes a representative for that business owner in front of city council members, judges, and more.
Lawyers, connotation aside, become an integral part of the team of a small business owner. Without them, noncompliance and unintentional violations of law could result.
Here are five questions to ask when hiring your new business lawyer.
One: What Are Your Qualifications?
A lawyer, like any employed individual, has qualifications. Think about the following:
- Their legal specialty
- How many years of experience they’ve practiced
- Their knowledge of the laws and litigation in your target area
- The percentage of cases they’ve won
- The school they attended to study law
- The amount of connections they have
There are many others on top of that. Interview your prospective lawyer in the first consultation. It is free, almost always.
Two: How Big Is Their Law Firm?
This is important from two angles: expertise and finances.
A big law firm has expertise. They have many lawyers who specialize in different parts of law. This means that they will likely have one that suits your needs as a small business owner. However, they may be expensive. Big law firms have a great deal of overhead. And because they are experienced, they will charge more.
A small law firm has fewer specialists and will likely handle your case with less experience than a larger law firm. They also have less clout: An angry letter from a well-known large law firm will be more intimidating than one from a smaller, less known law firm. However, their rates might be cheaper.
Finding the right balance is important. Figure out what is right for you.
Three: What Is The State Of The Office?
Lawyers are thought of as organized and neat.
If their offices are such, that is a good sign.
Imagine this: You walk into your prospective lawyer’s office and find they have papers stacked everywhere, in disarray. Their files are falling on top of one another, pens are scattered across the desk, and there are haphazard electronic equipment in the corner.
Or this: You walk into another prospective lawyer’s office and find their files to be stacked neatly. Their pens are in the cup holder, instead of a stack of electronic equipment in the corner there is a filing cabinet, and their papers are color-coded.
The first lawyer presents disorganized. The second seems competent.
The choice is straightforward.
Four: What Is Their Personality?
A good lawyer should be able to do the following:
- Give effective legal counsel
- Handle legal issues
- Resolve disagreements
Those are influenced by a lawyer’s personality. Additional questions to ask in this section:
- Do they communicate well?
- Do they listen to my concerns?
- Are they positive and up-beat?
A lawyer that does not communicate well with you the first session will likely not do so in later sessions. If they are not a good listener, they may struggle to handle your case. A negative lawyer might feel your case isn’t worth fighting for.
Five: What Is Their Fee Structure?
This is more complicated than it seems.
Some lawyers bill by the hour.
Some take a commission.
And even worse: Lawyers who charge huge legal fees aren’t necessarily the best. Lawyers who charge bottom level legal fees aren’t necessarily the worst.
What a fee usually signifies: Experience. Reputation. Clout. The ability to win a case. But that’s not always the case.
Ask prospective lawyers what their fee structure is. Ask questions within the community about each lawyer’s reputation. Balance the fees with their reputation.
Those are five questions to ask when choosing a new small business lawyer. Ask questions in your first consultation. Shop around, and figure out which one is right for your needs.