Starting and growing a new business means attending to a lot of details. You may need inventory, a building, or a website.
Most people engage an accountant early on. Some even get preemptive business coaching to help them avoid some common mistakes.
There is one step that a lot of people overlook. They don’t hire a business lawyer. This oversight can leave you dealing with a lot of unnecessary headaches down the road.
If you’ve never hired a lawyer before, keep reading for the key steps you should follow.
Define Your Needs
Legal needs vary from one business to the next. A company that deals primarily in research or software development needs lawyers versed in intellectual property.
A brick and mortar business with customers coming in and out every day probably wants someone with courtroom experience. The odds of a lawsuit go up the more people who come and go through your workplace.
Some law firms provide a full range of business-related legal services. For an excellent example, view here.
Take a hard look at your business and ask what services you’re most likely to need over time. Then, look for lawyers that specialize in those areas.
Know Your Budget
Even if you’re on board with the idea of hiring a lawyer from day one, you need a realistic view of your budget.
That 200-person law firm might represent the gold standard. If you can’t afford $1200 an hour, though, it doesn’t matter.
More to the point, most new businesses don’t need the services of a huge, powerful law firm. They need sound advice from a competent lawyer. You can get that at a reasonable hourly rate from many lawyers.
Run the numbers and come up with an amount you can reasonably pay per hour.
Your selection process should include recommendations from knowledgeable friends and peers.
Ideally, you know a few lawyers who can point you in the right direction. They’re in the best position to know if another lawyer is competent. A business mentor can often make recommendations. If all else fails, other businesspeople who don’t run competing businesses can offer advice.
Look for crossover in the recommendations you get.
Take a Meeting
The final step is a meeting with candidates. During that initial consultation, the lawyer will look for information about your needs and wants.
For your part, these meetings give you a chance to evaluate the lawyers. Since you’ll probably spend years talking with this person on-and-off, see who makes you feel confident and comfortable. That’s usually the right choice.
This is also the time to work out a payment arrangement you can both live with.
Parting Thoughts on Hiring a Business Lawyer
Hiring a business lawyer spares you a lot of trouble.
They can help you incorporate, protect your IP, and even represent you in court if you get sued. Look for lawyers who specialize in the areas you need and get recommendations.
Finally, trust your instincts about which lawyer you hire.
Looking for more info about protecting your business? Check our post on filing for patents.