As an entrepreneur or a business proprietor, you set up your business and hope everything will go without a hitch, and you’ll end up running an incredibly successful business. Stop right there, because you need a reality check. We don’t happen to live in an idealistic society, where each and every organization thrives. Issues arise, mistakes happen and time and again you need an attorney to do the dirty work. This is what makes attorneys an integral part of your business because they help you navigate through the maze of legal issues, and having a good attorney adds up incredible value to your organization by helping you protect from all the legal hassles. We at Merrchant have prepared this article and we hope it will be Your Guide to Hiring a Business Attorney. We assure you it will that help you find, interview and hire the best. Here’s everything you need to know.
You’re probably wondering why you’d need an attorney in the first place because let’s be honest, nobody likes to pay lawyers or deal with attorneys, heck nobody wants to be associated with them, but the fee an attorney will charge to keep you and your business out of trouble is only a tiny amount of the fees an attorney will charge to get you out of trouble once something’s happened.
To avoid any legal ramifications, an entrepreneur must consult their lawyers- whether it is checking for compliance with regulations, setting up a corporation or a partnership, obtaining patents or trademarks, negotiating loans,
preparing contracts to buy or sell real estate, drawing up pension plans, need assistance with tax planning *or tax evading*, reviewing employee contracts, draft a software license agreement, collecting bad debts, negotiate the lease of your retail or office space, or oversee the corporate annual meeting- so that all your legalities are in order.
First things first, here are some general rules about dealing with attorneys:
You’re already too late if you need an attorney
Most small organizations put off hiring an attorney until the constable is standing with a warrant, ready to whisk them down to the station and serve them with their summons. It is often said a relationship with an attorney is like a marriage- it takes a lot of time to develop. Therefore, in today’s litigious society it is necessary to have an attorney at your beck and call.
Big vs Small firms
It doesn’t matter if you own a megacorporation or a small business, you’re always going to have legal troubles, so save us all the trouble and change your archaic mindset. You need an attorney if you’re running a business. Period.
And if you are still not convinced that hiring an attorney is for your own benefit, here are eight points that will definitely change your mind.
Incorporation of a Business
Incorporating your business doesn’t mean waving off a check and receiving a certificate in return. You need an expert on your side who can sail you through the legal formalities without any glitches.
You might be starting a new business or restructuring an old one, you’ll be tempted to handle things on your own but we will strictly advise you to resist this urge.
Aside from setting up the business, you’ll need to understand tax obligations, ongoing expenses, liabilities, setup fees, employee-related concerns and what not.
Trying to handle all these issues on your own will not only be exhausting but also very daunting because one wrong decision will lead you straight to the court.
To save you when you land up in trouble
It seems obvious but some entrepreneurs like to hold off hiring an attorney until they have actually landed in a great deal of trouble. Big mistake. You should be proactive and hire a lawyer before you’ve been sued because an attorney will make sure you don’t do anything to reach that stage in the first place.
Buying or selling a business
You need an attorney to help you extract the most value from any business whether you’re planning to buy one or sell a business. It can be hard to determine the actual value of a business since ample amount of legal implications are involved from writing the acquiring and purchasing agreements to the transfer of license and permits and therefore having an attorney would be extremely helpful.
In the unfortunate event of a lawsuit, your attorney will make sure you are charged with the least amount of accusations and will help in mitigating any damages. However, in order for them to deliver best results it necessary for you to be honest with them, even if did something wrong. Let your lawyer learn it from you and be prepared accordingly.
Filing for a Trademark or a Patent
Not only is filing for a trademark or a patent a very tedious task but apparently also involves a lot of legal details. Furthermore, they aren’t as easily approved as you think they will be so an experienced attorney will help you get done with it in no time and in a proper manner.
An attorney will help you diminish your employee related issues by assisting you in the hiring process, administer the workers’ compensation schemes, draw up agreements for independent contractors and help you safely fire employees without legal repercussions.
We don’t want to get our hands on a lawsuit from a former employee, now do we?
Assistance with Contracts
You will always be required to draft contracts whether with a customer or an employee or a supplier so it’s important that you have an attorney by your side to assist you with all of them.
If your lawyer hasn’t approved a contract that simply means it has loopholes and you might end up in legal trouble so it’s always wise to take an attorney’s opinion without getting involved with anyone.
It’s your job to run a business and not memorize the rules so let an attorney do his job while you do yours.
Now that we’ve established that attorneys are unquestionably an important part of your team, we will help you understand what skills to look for in an attorney before you hire one.
Skills to look for in an Attorney
Sound analytical skills
What makes an exceptional attorney? The ability to quickly read a large volume of information, connect the dots and strategize. You’ve probably got nothing to worry about if your attorney has great analytical skills.
You want an attorney who has plenty of experience and expertise so that you have better chances of defending you and your organization-or suing the other in some cases- so that you have better chances of winning that case.
It goes without saying that your attorney should possess an excellent command over the language and good public speaking skills since matters are rarely ever discussed in complete privacy. Your attorney should be comfortable and at ease while addressing a courtroom.
Your attorney must understand that even though you are a startup today you will want to be much more in the near future. You’re not just looking for an attorney, rather you’re looking at someone who is going to be your long-term partner in your organization’s growth.
Your attorney shouldn’t only be sly as a fox but also highly creative and focused so that he can think of reasonable solutions and brilliant arguments to defend and save you and your organization.
Will your attorney be there in case of an emergency? Consider whether he will be able to attend conferences with you or simply be available at your convenience or not.
Logical Thinking ability
An attorney must be able to think logically and make sensible assumptions, judgments, and assumptions based on the given information.
Get quotes from different attorneys before finalizing your decision because you don’t want to end blowing all your hard-earned money on the fees of that lawyer. You want someone who has reasonable fees rather than someone who has exorbitant rates.
An extensive amount of research is required before an attorney actually gets involved with a case or even during a case and therefore your attorney shouldn’t shy away from hard work.
Get a list of clients or other references like bankers or accountants who they worked with so that you can discuss or contact them to inquire about their service, competence, and fees.
Strong Reading Comprehension skills
All legal professionals- lawyers or attorneys or even paralegals- should have strong reading comprehension skills to be able to make sense of the complex information encountered during legal documents and research.
You will be disclosing all the details about your business and you shouldn’t be doing that of the rapport of the attorney isn’t good.
Attorneys are individuals with high levels of perseverance. Dealing with a case means being at it for hours and involves plenty of reading and writing work. Your attorney should be willing to put in the necessary time and effort to get the tasks done.
Exceptional Persuasive skills
What’s common in all the top attorneys? They have excellent persuasive skills. An attorney is an individual who can not only give sensible arguments but can make others believe them. If your attorney is poor at convincing, then you definitely didn’t hire wisely.
Attorneys have become highly specialized and an attorney who does house closings, wills and other non-business matters isn’t the one you want when it comes down to handling your business matters. We need an attorney who would be able to do the following:
You will need an attorney who will help you decide whether a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation is the better way to organize your company and draw up the necessary paperwork.
Licenses and Taxes
Yes, your accountant will prepare and file your tax returns every year but you need an attorney to understand the tax consequences of all the transactions your business engages in.
You don’t need an attorney who just understands the business and prepares the standard form of contracts, rather, you need someone who in addition to all that will help you respond to contracts that other individuals want you to sign.
It is a bonus if your attorney can assist you to register your products and services for trademark and copyright protection.
Be it the leases of commercial spaces such as retail stores or offices, the documents, and legalities involved are pretty complicated. You might think you understand everything because that’s how it looks, but its anything but easy. With strong negotiation and persuasive skills, your lawyer should be able to get you maximum benefits at the lowest cost.
Having said that you now want to know how you can find the right attorney.
Most organizations prefer to find attorneys through personal references- colleagues, owners in your industry, professionals or friends- as it provides a type of “social proof”. However, a personal network is generally limited so make sure you ask around and inquire the type of attorney they hired and the type of work he/she did for them. Make sure you get their details, strengths, and weaknesses.
2. Online Resources
You can also use online resources that review lawyers based on factors such as field of expertise, experience, fees, etc. but you must understand that they are not always reliable.
3. Ask other Lawyers
Attorneys know the reputation and skills of other attorneys. Lawyers will be able to help you with the information about a fellow attorney that you may not be able to find anywhere else. They will know the attorney’s competence level. Practice habits, demeanor, reputation and his ethics.
Consider asking these questions when interviewing attorneys these questions will give you a good sense of whether this attorney is right for you or not:
- How did you become an attorney? What are your certifications and specialized skills?
- How experienced are you? Or how many years of practice do you have?
- What are your main areas of practice and what is the analysis of the work you do?
- Are you well-connected?
- Do you happen to have any other clients my field? Who are your standard clients in terms of size and industry?
- How efficient are you at handling issues like mine?
- What is your fees and how is it structured?
- How flexible will you be with your billing? How often will they be due and what modes of payment will you be willing to accept?
- How many attorneys are there in your firm and how competent are they?
- Do you carry any malpractice insurance? If yes, then how much?
- What is the track record of your success?
- Do you outsource any legal functions or tasks?
- What will be the primary point of contact (email, text, phone) and how often will we have to meet?
- Are there any additional costs that I should be aware of?
- According to you what makes an attorney-client relationship work and what makes it challenging?
- Will you be comfortable if I went ahead and talked to your client references and discuss a few things?
Once you’re done meeting with the attorneys, you should then ask yourself the following questions:
- Are the attorney’s background and experience compatible with my legal needs?
- Does this attorney communicate well?
- Did he come up with courteous and prompt responses to your questions? And
- Do I genuinely like this attorney and do I feel at ease while working with him?
- Am I sure about his experience and skills to handle my case?
- Am I comfortable with the fees and the fee structure?
- Do I agree with the terms of the agreement?
After finalizing your attorney make sure you do the following:
1. Conduct a thorough background check:
Even though you have interviewed the attorney make sure you conduct a thorough background check because this attorney will be involved with you in all sorts of matters and you want to be sure if he can be trusted.
Don’t hesitate to contact the lawyer disciplinary agency to confirm all the facts and information your attorney has presented you with and whether they match or not.
Recheck with the references and check the attorney’s peer review if possible.
Visit the attorney’s chamber/office:
An attorney’s office will reveal a lot about him and we advise you to visit their place of work before appointing them as your hire.
Request a brief visit or tour of his office and pay attention to the minor details like did the employees seem cordial? Was the office efficient, neat and well-run? Does the attorney have an efficient support staff?
Try to identify any red flags such as empty office spaces, unhappy employees, etc. and remember to trust your instincts.
Also, you will have to visit your lawyer often and it should be conveniently located.
We hope this article was helpful and you find the attorney that you’ve been searching for all along!