When starting a new business, or even in the course of running an already existing one, there are bound to be several issues you will come across in the everyday running of the business. Issues of a legal nature are likely to be the most challenging of these issues, one in which the business owner is not likely to be able to solve without adequate and experienced legal help.
Some of these business activities can range from certain business transactions, employee contracts or disputes, tax return filings, partnership disputes, business litigation and many more. What is more, having access to a business lawyer can very often help you in preventing or mitigating many of these issues, while at the same time keep you from running afoul of various state or federal laws that have been passed to regulate these exact business relationships or situationships.
Hiring a business attorney when you have never done so before can often be a somewhat daunting task, chiefly because of the number of things that need to be considered in order to ensure that the right or best decision is made in the interest of the business. Therefore, get this decision right, and your business will most likely be the better off for it. Get it wrong, and it can easily set you back a bit.
There are several different ways to find an attorney, but the quickest and easiest way to do so in this day and age is to do a quick search on any one of the major search engines like Google or Bing. Or alternatively via any one of the many legal directories that compile a large list of lawyers and other legal professionals according to their practice areas and/or their location.
The following discussion focuses on some of the things that you should consider in your quest to hire a business or commercial attorney for your business.
Why do you need an attorney?
The very first thing you need to be very clear on, is the reason for wanting to hire an attorney in the first place? Oftentimes there might be one specific reason, other times there might be several independent or related reasons. Whatever the case may be, you need to be clear on what this reason or reasons are. This clarity or purpose can point you in the right direction in your search.
Once you know the specific reason why you need a lawyer, and you know where you are going to begin or conduct your search, the next thing you need to have a firm grasp on, is what questions, if any, you are going to ask the individual, and/or what criteria the candidate must have to be considered for the job, all in a bid to ensure that they are best fit for the specific situation you need them for.
To this end, and if it is relevant to your specific business situation, you should try as much as possible to gather some basic information about what the law says about your specific case. This way, if you find any inconsistencies between what your research tells you and what a lawyer that you are interviewing says, then you can put this discrepancy to him and hear what he or she says.
One idea behind this is to let the attorney know that you have done some homework on the subject matter. Such an lawyer is more likely to take you seriously because he will know you are not completely ignorant.
What to look for when hiring an attorney?
The number one thing you want to look out for when speaking to an attorney you are considering hiring, is the level of confidence they posses as it pertains to your specific case. Similarly, you need to be sure that they have the necessary experience in the specific type of business that you are running. For instance, you wouldn’t want to hire a general business attorney to handle a case involving a real estate transaction, if he or she has no experience in real estate.
Another important feature to be aware of, is the background of the law firm. These days, it is very common to find single-person law firms who do pretty much all the work required for the firm to stay afloat. One potential disadvantage to hiring such law firm, is the possibility that at any given point in time, they might have a heavy caseload from different clients, and if they are not at the point of hiring additional staff, they might try and “wing” it and handle all the cases themselves. This can obviously lead to some cases being prioritized over others, which very possibly can lead to some cases not getting the deserved attention.
Know your budget
There is a general perception that lawyers are expensive. This may or may not be accurate. Whatever the case may be however, the fact remains that you need to be sure that you can afford to hire an attorney for whatever you need one for. Therefore, when you settle on a lawyer that you think is best fit for the situation at hand, be sure to discuss everything as it pertains to the cost, or potential cost of retaining their services.
Most attorneys have a range of $250-$800 per hour, but this varies from firm to firm, or attorney to attorney, and the kind of work which will be expected of the attorney. For some relatively simple cases, you will be able to know exactly what your expenses will be. Other times, especially for complex or ongoing cases, it will be almost impossible to determine exactly what your total cost will be.
Whatever the situation is, you should be sure to discuss the financial implication of retaining the services of this lawyer. The last thing you want is for you to get a bill shock at the end of your dealings with the lawyer.
Stay Informed Throughout the Process
Even after you have hired the attorney, and signed any necessary contracts or retainers, you need to stay on top of the goings on with the situation at all times. This is especially true for long drawn-out cases. This means ensuring that you are getting regular updates, asking relevant questions and seeking clarification for what you are being told and whatever else is relevant. At the same time, as previously mentioned, you should continue to educate and inform yourself on the situation from a legal perspective, so that if necessary, you can always challenge your attorney to do more, or question if he or she is doing or saying things contrary to what your findings indicate s/he should be doing.
As stated at the beginning of this piece, unlike other types of issues that a business might face, such as those related to marketing, IT or sales, issues of a legal nature can often be the most difficult to handle, often because of the delicate and often ‘tricky’ nature of the law, and often because the vast majority of people know little to nothing about it. As well as the fact that the consequences of a violation of a law, can usually have much more dire consequences than those of other industries.