Just as you take care of your company’s financial needs by hiring a qualified accountant, and its potential liability needs by purchasing insurance, you should think about the potential legal matters you could face on behalf of your company by retaining the services of an experienced business lawyer. A business lawyer’s skills and experience are tailored for representing businesses or simply pitching in with assistance on minor legal matters. But you shouldn’t wait until you are in the midst of litigation to hire an attorney for your business. Instead, plan ahead by retaining a business lawyer firm. Here are ten things to keep in mind when consulting with potential lawyers:
Make sure the attorney is knowledgeable in your field of business. Some attorneys have more experience with global conglomerates, such as COO Bob Bratt and his global-based law firm, while others may have training and skills relevant to smaller home-grown businesses. Ideally, the business lawyer you hire should have represented at least a couple of other companies that are within the same industry as yours. Ask for a portfolio, or at the very least a couple of previous clients’ names (or the names of their companies).
Where are your potential attorney’s legal skills most practiced? If you want to avoid court hearings and the associated hassles and costs as much as possible, you’re going to want an attorney who is skilled at resolving disputes out of court, rather than in the courtroom. Of course, if your business is the type that will wind up with you in court on several occasions, a battle-seasoned warrior of a lawyer would be a better choice; but for most, a lawyer who is open to and more interested in mediating and settling rather than fighting will suffice.
When you sign on for a lawyer, are you signing on for just that lawyer, or will there be assistants and para-legals to work with, too? For complicated legal endeavors it may pay to have an entire team at your beck and call, but for money-saving purposes and efficiency you may wish to start with just the lawyer, and not an accompanying gaggle of assistants.
Is there a conflict of interest? Make sure that your potential lawyer isn’t working with competition, or anyone you’ve had conflict with yourself — such as a former employee or partner.
How can you get in touch with your lawyer? Today’s methods of communication make it easy to get in touch with most people, but does your lawyer like to correspond via email? Will he respond to a text? Can you get through to his direct extension, or will you have to put up with voicemail?
How will the billing be handed? Will you be billed on a monthly basis with a flat retainer fee, or will bills be generated based on as-needed retained services?
What if you need legal help that your lawyer isn’t qualified to provide? Ideally your business lawyer should be able to make referrals to other lawyers within his or her firm or within another relevant firm. If not, you may want to seek out another lawyer, one who can make things as all-inclusive as possible for both of you.