Nine Steps to Hiring the Right Lawyer for Your Business
When you're in business, it's vital that you find the right lawyer: a legal expert who can provide practical, useful, effective advice and represent your interests in the best possible way.
Whether it's sorting out contracts, dealing with trademarks or copyright, protecting your business or understanding industry compliance, an attorney can provide a number of useful services, but how do you find the right one? This article sets out nine simple steps that any small business owner can take to find the right legal expert to represent their business. This includes:
- Understanding what you need the lawyer to do
- Getting recommendations and referrals
- Preparing to interview the lawyers
- Establishing expertise
- Communication and delivery
- Finding someone you trust
- Interviewing your shortlist
- Establishing terms, conditions and price
- Hiring the right lawyer
The benefits of finding the right lawyer
The benefits of hiring a good lawyer or attorney include:
- Having more confidence that your business is in safe hands
- Getting clear, practical legal advice on the things that matter to you and your business
- Building up a good relationship with your chosen legal advisor
- Reassurance that legal issues and challenges will be dealt with quickly and effectively
Step 1: Understand what you need the lawyer to do
Think about exactly what skills and services you need an attorney to provide to your small business. Look at each area of your business, speak with colleagues and get advice from people in similar fields. Areas where you might want legal help include:
- Intellectual property, patent and copyright law
- Contracts, terms and conditions
- Hiring and HR practices
- Trademarks and brand protection
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Other areas
Note down the key areas or issues where you or your business would benefit from good legal advice. You can use your business plan, risk analysis, marketing plan and other business documents to explore areas where a lawyer could help.
Step 2: Get recommendations and referrals from others
Speak to colleagues and contacts in your networks, industry and other connections that you have. See if they have used lawyers themselves and if there are any law firms that they would recommend.
When you speak with people, find out what the legal results were and how individual attorneys performed; this will help you to create a shortlist of legal experts that you can interview.
Step 3: Prepare for interviewing lawyers
Now, you can start preparing to interview prospective lawyers. You need to be sure that any attorney that you end up hiring is going to be a good fit for your business. You can accomplish this through asking the right questions, following your instincts on who you could work with and understanding their skills and experience.
You should create a list of areas and questions that you want to ask, including finding out their legal expertise, understanding how good they are at communicating and looking for someone that you can trust.
Step 4: Establish their legal expertise
One of the most important areas is understanding what specific skills and topics of expertise a lawyer has. You will want to establish:
- Their expertise in your specific business sector
- Their knowledge of frameworks, regulations and compliance in your industry
- How long they have been practicing law and at what level
- Notable cases or topics that they have worked on
- Their record of success in the areas that matter to you (e.g. trademark disputes, contract negotiation, licensing etc.)
You should create a very comprehensive list of questions, so that you can gather all of the information you need to make the right choice.
Step 5: Find out how good they are at communicating
When you're seeking legal advice, its vital that your lawyer keeps their promises to you and keeps you informed every step of the way. You'll want to find someone that can explain things without using jargon and technical terms and who does what they say they will, when they say they will.
When you interview prospective attorneys, find out how they would like to communicate with you and also be very clear on the type of communication that you expect. Ask them to provide examples of how and when they intend to communicate with you.
Step 6: Find Someone You Can Trust
Ultimately, finding the right lawyer is as much about your instinct as it is about their expertise.
You need to be comfortable with whoever you end up hiring to represent your business, so use your intuition alongside referrals, recommendations and proof that they have done a good job in the past.
This will partly come from how well they answer your questions; testimonials from other people you trust will probably help you with your decisions.
Step 7: Interview Lawyers and Attorneys
Once you have your questions together, go ahead and interview several attorneys and lawyers to get a feel of who would be the right choice for your business. You may want to invite a colleague or business partner into the interview to help you out.
Make sure that you go through all of your questions and note down their responses to each; this isn't a decision you should feel rushed into making. Once you've interviewed, discuss each applicant with your colleagues and others that you trust.
Step 8: Establish Terms, Conditions and Price
Once you have chosen a lawyer, you'll need to make sure that you have watertight terms and conditions in place. You should agree ahead of time how much their fees are likely to be and what you can expect from their services.
You don't want problems down the line with misunderstandings or arguments over time spent and prices.
Step 9: Hire the Lawyer
Once you're happy with your interview results, terms, conditions and prices, you can formally hire a lawyer to represent you. Initially, you might want to take someone on as part of a trial period; this will help to sure that you're getting the legal advice you need, and that your attorney is performing as you expect them to.
Make sure that they keep you updated and review their work on a regular basis so that you and your business get what you need to out of the relationship.
What is business law?
Have you ever hired an attorney?
Taking the time to understand what you need from a legal expert, and putting together a rigorous set of questions can really help you to find the right legal firm for your business.
Remember that it takes time to build up trust, so you should use a combination of interview responses and your instincts to find the perfect attorney for you.