For a new business, it can seem like finding and hiring a lawyer is too intimidating and expensive to be anything other than a burden. When you are just starting out as an entrepreneur, more burdens can seem like the last thing you need. While it’s totally understandable that the cost and the lack of resources available to small businesses makes someone not want to work with a lawyer, it is vital to a strong business. Lawyers are great advisors, help you protect your intellectual property, help you protect your finances, and down the road they can be the only thing that could save your business in the face of worst-case scenarios.
There are as many different kinds of lawyers as there are different kinds of businesses. When you start you search, make sure to spend some time narrowing down professional expertise. If you’re in fashion, someone who specialized in divorce law may not have the skill set later on to help you grow your business. Also interview potential lawyers to make sure that they identify with your vision. Personality fit and understanding of your goals is just as important to long-term success with a lawyer as the specialty. You may also want to look for lawyers that own their own business or who work in a small business and are more likely to identify with what goes into the startup and early days of running a small business. If you can find a lawyer who worked in a large company with big clients who left to start their own business then it’s even better, because then you get the best of both worlds.
A resource you may want to use is FizzLaw, a website founded by a former investment banker. It’s a directory of lawyers in multiple states that work specifically with small businesses. You can write an inquiry detailing your business and your needs, (including budget) and they will match you up with a lawyer that suits those needs.
Make sure to ask who else will be handling your business. Make sure that you know if there is more than one lawyer, paralegal, or business partner that will have responsibilities with your case, and what those responsibilities will be. Make sure that you know clearly where the tasks are delineated and who will be responsible for which. This allows clarity with your communication in addition to knowing exactly who and where you would go for follow up or answers. Make sure that you are comfortable with the amount of people handling your case. Too much delegation may mean that things slip through the cracks.
Make sure that you know the style of the lawyer and that it matches yours. Do they take everything to court to battle it out? Are conflicts usually settled in mediation? Make sure that you know what style of law they practice and that it meshes with your style as well. You don’t want to constantly be struggling with your lawyer as to how to manage a conflict or legal issue.
With almost every vendor or partner, it’s a good idea to ask how they primarily communicate. Are the in person meeting people, or do they like to text? Can you expect constant email communication, or will you have a hard time reaching them unless it’s a call? There is no right or wrong answer to this questions, it’s just good to know if the way they communicate works for you as well.
Protecting your assets and your business, as well as having a professional that will help as an advisory sounding board are all invaluable assets for you as an entrepreneur. It could mean the difference between longevity and a quick demise.