Finding Legal Counsel for a Small Business Before Everything Is at Stake
By: Svetlana Binshtok 07/15/2014
Entrepreneurs are historically wary of lawyers, especially small business owners. Some believe that their company is too small to need a lawyer or to afford one. However, there is an endless amount of legal issues that can spring up in the company’s early years, especially once you start growing and hire more staff. You can wait for a problem to arise to hire legal counsel, or you can find a trusted lawyer beforehand and avoid getting into trouble to begin with since lawyers are trained to spot issues before they develop.
Starting a company is complex to say the least and entrepreneurs are, by nature, do-it-themselves people who rely heavily on their knowledge and skill. The problem is that legal matters require specific experience and education to navigate. From setting up the company’s legal structure to making sure your insurance coverage is adequate, a lawyer is key. Also, keep in mind not to mix your personal assets with the business; otherwise you (and your spouse) can personally be at risk. Another tip the lawyer can explain.
These are just a few things legal counsel can manage and mitigate if you hire the right lawyer. Being proactive is only beneficial if it’s done right the first time. Here are some tips on hiring the proper legal counsel for your business:
No friends: Although many old rules were made to be broken, “business and pleasure should not mix” has always been good advice. Do not hire your friend to be your lawyer because this would only serve to further complicate the situation. Business strains relationships and you do not want to risk that with someone you care about. On the other side, you need to be able to make difficult decisions without worrying about hurting a friend’s feelings or if your secrets are safe with the friend.
You can, however, ask friends for a recommendation, and so much the better if they are in the legal field themselves. Gather names and interview several lawyers as you would an employee, ask about strategy and experience, before you make a final decision.
Look online: Everything happens on the internet and legal counsel is no different. There are online resources that can help you find the best lawyer for your needs and price, and some are even more cost effective than going the traditional route. Before hitting the pavement and considering only the narrow scope of brick and mortar firms, explore other resources and learn more about your options.
Get what you need: You need someone who will aggressively defend your best interests, but also personable enough to really understand your needs - this process is like picking a best friend for you business. Your lawyer should be committed to ongoing education so he or she can stay competitive in their industry (and better defend your needs). When it comes to size, there are benefits and drawbacks to working with both large and small firms.