The rule of thumb says that there are 2 professionals that every business needs at one point or the other. First, an accountant and the other is a lawyer.
Hiring an accountant is pretty straight forward: you might need them to set your accounts right, take a look at your bookkeeping etc. However, hiring an attorney for your business might not have such straight forward reasons. So, how do you make sure that you are getting the best services for your needs? That’s what we will be exploring here in this article. (1)
It is important to note that a good attorney would provide legal assistance in almost every aspect of your business. This may include anything from basic zoning compliance to copywriting and trademark issues. Moreover, they would also help you with formal business incorporation and lawsuits etc. The first rule of thumb about attorney services is that if you are being sued, it’s probably too late. The mistake that several small businesses make is that they don’t hire an attorney until they have been slapped with a lawsuit. (2)
The next thing to note is that bigger the company, greater the overhead, hence you are to pay higher wage rates to attorneys. Also, lawyers have been revolutionized in the past couple decades or so. This means sometimes a ‘general’ lawyer would be enough to keep you up and running but sometimes even they might refer you to someone more of a ‘specialist’.
Types of Attorneys
Like every other sector, attorneys have been adapting and are becoming more specialized. For example, a great lawyer who mostly does wills, house claims and other domestic type of legal matters may not be a great option for your business. It is good to look for specific skills in the attorneys and the more skills they have, the better it is for you. (3)
- A good attorney should be able to get an understanding of your business quickly. They should be able to draft contracts that you need for your vendors, customers or clients. Contrarily, they should also offer help with contracts that other people want you to sign.
- Any sharp attorney would help you decide if you would be better off working as a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC). Then they would prepare the necessary paperwork in this regard.
- Having an attorney with great real estate sense and exposure is always great! For example, leases of commercial space are always drafted up in the favor of the landlord. Your attorney, however, should be able to draft up a “tenant’s addendum,” with provisions in your favor.
- Although taxes and licenses fall under the category of accountants but attorneys offer help here as well. A sharp minded attorney would help you get registered for federal and state tax identification numbers. You can also get to know a lot more about tax aftereffects of your business transactions from your attorney.
Questions to ask when conducting interviews
Let’s keep one thing clear: do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you want. That is, until you get satisfied and have a heads up with them. Ask them what kind of experience they have had and if you want to incorporate your business, inquire them if they have some experience in this domain or not.
Cut them some slack. They do know all about bare acts and policies and legal proceedings etc. but don’t expect them to be “know it all” kind of person. If someone acts that way, chances are that there is something shady. A good business attorney would detect an issue, perform their operation to fix it but may refer you to a specialist for more specific advice. For example, graphic designers may need attorneys familiar with copyright laws and everything. The attorney should either be familiar with that area or know someone who does. This would ensure that you don’t go hunting for an attorney every time a different sort of legal issue arises.
Last but not the least, the attorney must know about your industry or at least, should be willing to learn. However, you should be extra careful if your attorney serves someone from your industry. This is because the legal code of ethics ensures that everything between you and your attorney stays fully confidential. Still, you might not want to risk any accidental leakage of important information to a competitor. (4)
On a bright side, a good attorney should be able to educate you and your employees about the legal matters, in plain English. They should be able to tell you and your workers about the important laws in place and how they might affect your business. This would help ensure that the problems are spotted in advance, without causing any damage. Any brilliant attorney would distribute documents such as newsletters or memoranda explaining recent developments in your industry.
Fee of attorney services
In most cases, attorneys would be hesitant to agree on flat fees especially if it involves litigation or negotiations with someone. So, in such situations, it is a good idea to ask for a written estimate of the money and time expected to invest. Also make them bound to offer advance notice if a situations arises where they are to exceed their estimate. Be strictly aware of the attorneys who are even remotely offering up to take ownership interest in the business in lieu of a remuneration. (5)
Do a thorough background check, ask for references and internet is the best place to look if they have done something shady. However, if everything checks out, go ahead with your gut feeling and everything will work out eventually. You can also ask them to give you a visit to their office, which tells a lot about them.
(1) – https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/growth-strategies/2015/04/5-reasons-why-your-business-needs-an-accountant.html
(2) – https://quizlet.com/303823699/chapter-3-selecting-and-working-with-an-attorney-flash-cards/
(3) – https://www.usa.gov/legal-aid
(4) – https://www.padisciplinaryboard.org/for-attorneys/rules/rule/3/the-rules-of-professional-conduct
(5) – https://www.law.indiana.edu/instruction/tanford/web/archive/Negotiation.html