Whether you are considering starting a business or have been well established, every business should have a trusted business attorney they can turn to when legal questions arise. A good business attorney can help with a myriad of issues a business faces, including but not limited to contracts, employment law, and buying or selling assets. But how do you choose a business attorney?
What do you need?
When considering hiring an attorney, no matter what type of attorney you are looking to hire, the first thing you should figure out is what you need. Depending on the type of business you have, you may want to find an attorney that focuses on certain areas of business law over others.
Different types of businesses may need an attorney to help with:
Contracts. Some types of businesses rely heavily on contracts. If you have a business that will be dealing with a lot of contracts, you will want to make sure the attorney you choose has experience with contract law. This could include drafting, negotiating, or reviewing contracts that help your business run.
Employment Law. If your business has multiple employees, you may want an attorney that has a lot of experience with employment law. An attorney with this type of experience could help with making sure your business is compliant with state and federal labor laws as well as any issues that arise with employees and unemployment.
Buying or Selling Assets. If your business does a lot of buying or selling of assets, you may need an attorney who has experience negotiating for the sale of goods and services and who will make sure you are in compliance with any state of national laws involving the types of assets you are dealing with.
Filing Reports with Business Organizations. Every business will eventually have to file some sort of paperwork or report with a government organization such as the Secretary of State. A good business attorney should be able to help you make sure you are filing the appropriate documents with the appropriate organization.
Lawsuits. No business owner likes to think about getting involved in a lawsuit, but it is something that could happen to anyone. When considering a business attorney, you may want to find out about their experience with handling lawsuits, whether they are against the company or on behalf of the company. If your business has a high potential for litigation, you may want to find out the attorney’s success rate when dealing with litigation and ask them how they go about handling these types of matters. Do you want an attorney who may be able to negotiate before having to go to court or someone who is going to pay hardball? Depending on the situation, you may want an attorney who is able to do both.
When considering your attorney, you may also want to keep in mind that an individual attorney may not be able to help you with every aspect of your business. For example, an attorney may do a lot with drafting and reviewing contracts but does not get involved in law suits.
You may end up working with more than one attorney in an individual firm. If the firm is very small, your attorney may refer you to another business attorney who handles what you need if they do not. An attorney may bring on other attorneys to co-counsel for your individual needs as well. You will probably want to ask your attorney if there is anything they are would be unable to handle for your business needs.
What Type of Firm is it? Once you know what type of needs you have for an attorney, you will want to begin looking at law firms. Some law firms only deal with business matters. Others may handle business law as well as other types of law, such as criminal or civil matters. You will also want to make sure the firm handles business law similar to what you are looking for. For example, if you run a home health business, you will want to find an attorney who has worked with those types of businesses before, rather than a firm that primarily caters to restaurants. Some law firms are large with many attorneys while others may be single practitioners or only have a few attorneys. Different firms may have multiple locations or a single location. What works best for you depends on your business needs and what you are looking for in an attorney. Both large and small firms have benefits depending on what you want for your business needs. It is a good idea to research the firm first to see how they handle the practice of law.
Reviews. With smartphone technologies, anyone can find an attorney with a quick internet search. However, it is important to research the firms you find online. Do they have reviews on their website? What kind of reviews are there? Most places also have reviews on Facebook, Google, or Yelp. These are a few sites you can use to read what various firms’ clients have to say about working with the attorneys. You can also ask your friends, family, and other business owners for a referral to a business attorney and find out about their experiences as well. When considering reviews, make sure you are paying attention to the ones that are most relevant for what you need. For example, if the firm has a negative review for a criminal matter but many positive reviews for business law, your business will probably be in good hands.
Cost. Running a business is usually expensive so you may be hesitant about having an attorney on retainer due to the potential cost. You may be tempted to go with the cheapest attorney you can find, but that attorney may have lower rates because they do not have the relevant experience. On the other hand, a really expensive attorney is not necessarily better just because they are more expensive. It is important that you find an attorney in the right price range for you who also has the experience you need for your business. You can usually find this out by reaching out to an attorney and setting up an initial consultation to meet with them and discuss your needs and budget.
Who will you primarily be working with? Depending on the size and type of firm, you may want to consider if you will be working primarily with a partner, associate, or paralegal. Who you work with can depend on your attorney’s case load; you may want to be familiar with the other attorneys and paralegals in the firm, though, as you may primarily be speaking with them. You may want to determine your comfort level with this idea and see if you can find out about any other people you may be dealing with in the firm you choose.
Communication style. Everyone has a preferred method of communicating. Some people primarily reach out via phone while others prefer email. Depending on the type of business you run, you may have a preference for one over the other. You should be willing to discuss this with your potential attorney to make sure that you are on the same page. Further, some attorneys may make it a point to follow up with you routinely while others wait for you to contact them with issues. You should discuss this with your attorney so that you do not build feelings of animosity over how often they are in contact with you.
Many of these considerations can only be made by researching and meeting with an attorney. Remember, once you retain a business attorney, you should expect it to be an ongoing relationship. You do not want to have to constantly catch new attorneys up to speed on your business, so make sure you are comfortable with the attorney you hire.
Once you speak with them, ask yourself if you would be comfortable working with them long term. Do they seem trustworthy? Intelligent? Knowledgeable in your business type and needs? You can certainly meet with multiple attorneys, although you should be aware that some may have consultation fees you should be prepared to pay once you are ready to meet with them. If you’ve done your online research, you hopefully will be prepared for an in person or phone meeting with the attorney.
If you have business questions or needs, the attorneys at Hopler, Wilms, & Hanna would be happy to assist you with them. Reach out today to find out how to set up a consult with one of our experienced business law attorneys.