Selecting a Lawyer

Chances are that you will need legal advice right from the inception of your business. There are a number of legal issues where you might need help in your business in addition to getting your company set up and properly authorized to conduct business.

Selecting a lawyer to work with your business should be done carefully. A lawyer will be one of your key advisors -- you will want to ensure that you are comfortable with him or her and find it easy to exchange ideas. It does no good if you are intimidated or uncomfortable asking questions, or discussing a problem. Sometimes it might be necessary to change attorneys as your business needs change, but this can be an expensive process, so take some time with the selection process. Before contacting a lawyer learn about how lawyers charge for their services so that you approach them with a good sense of what to expect and ask about.

Here's a practical approach to selecting a lawyer:

  1. Ask for referrals from people whose opinions you respect and who have worked with attorneys representing small businesses.
  2. Set up interviews with 2 or 3 attorneys. There might be a fee involved, but many attorneys will waive the fee for a half-hour interview.
  3. Keep the interview focused on its purpose, that is, to determine if you are comfortable and have rapport with the attorney. Don't ask for legal advice during this process.
  4. Ask the attorney for 2 or 3 references for other small business clients and contact them.
  5. After you have interviewed 2 or 3 attorneys, you will be prepared to select the right one to help with your business.

The following questions will help you get started with the interview process:

How have you assisted other small businesses?

Do you have knowledge about my industry or field?

How would you charge me for your services?

What can I do to help reduce your fees?

What do you think is the attorney's most important job?

An attorney should emphasize protecting small businesses from legal problems and future litigation. An attorney should be able to help guide you through the maze of regulations that govern the small business. Depending on your situation you may need someone that is an expert at contracts, leases, loan documents, securities transactions, patents or trademarks. They should also be skilled at communication and negotiations.