No matter how careful you are in running your business, a business deal gone wrong or hiring the wrong person can come back to haunt you. And if you’re a first-time business owner, there are many legal issues you need to get through that a legal counsel can help you with. This includes applying for your business license and permit, as well as leasing an office space. The best way to mitigate your legal problems in the future is to invest resources and time in finding yourself a small business attorney as early as possible. Don’t wait until there’s a problem before you hire one.
However, do make sure that you hire someone trustworthy. You are, after all, entrusting your company’s most sensitive information and legal issues with them. Asking the right questions can help you find the right attorney for your business.
Here are some questions to ask before hiring a lawyer.
How Much Do You Charge?
As a small business owner, you know the importance of hiring a business attorney. However, you probably don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around for a lawyer. That’s why knowing how much you’ll be charged is vital to your business. Try to negotiate with your lawyer if you can get a flat fee instead of an hourly rate. Of course, a fixed price becomes impossible if you’re already being sued or have a complicated legal issue.
Asking this question from the get-go can help avoid wasting time by going through the vetting process with a lawyer outside of your budget.
Do You Require a Retainer?
It’s not uncommon for lawyers to ask for a down payment as a retainer. If that’s the case with your attorney, ask if the retainer is refundable if it’s not all used up. Make sure to ask and understand the terms and conditions of the retainer.
What Types of Clients Do You Usually Work With?
Find out what types of clients your attorney’s law firm usually represents. Do they work with large corporations or small businesses? This will give you an idea about their pricing structure.
Do You Specialize in Business Law?
General practitioners practice in multiple law areas, such as family law, business law, and criminal law. However, they might not know all the ins and outs of all of these branches of the law. They can help you with some aspects of your business. But the more complex your case, the more you need a business lawyer. For example, franchise agreements, service contracts, tax law, and intellectual property require special skills and knowledge that a general practitioner might not have.
Who Will Handle My Case?
It’s normal for law firms to delegate routine matters to paralegals. However, assigning a large portion of the task to them can cause problems along the way. Your lawyer re-explaining to a paralegal everything you’ve told them can muddle the message. So, be sure to ask upfront if a staff member or another lawyer will work on your case, and ask for their credentials and experience.
Are You Working with Other Clients Who Can Create Conflicts?
Ask your prospective attorney if they’re representing your former business partners or other clients with the same business as yours. This is a crucial step, as it can potentially cause a conflict of interest.
Whether you found a lawyer through a legal directory, a referral, or a legal help website, it’s important to have an open conversation with them. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. This is the only way to make sure that you’re hiring the right attorney for your business.