Tips for Hiring and Dealing with a Business Lawyer

Written by Business magazine. Posted in Judge faith s. hochberg, Judge thomas e. scott, Mediation

Judge oliver w. wanger

If you own or manage a small business, you may be in the market for a good business lawyer or law firm. The problem is that this can be a tricky process to find then, hire them and then get the most from your relationship with them. When you are concerned about issues around corporate compliance, intellectual property law or employment discrimination law, the first step is to find the right professional to help guide you.

When you are talking to different lawyers and law firms, here are some things you should ask them:

  • How much experience do you have? Like medical professionals, lawyers specialize. Even under he umbrella of “business law,” there are a lot of sub-specialties. You need to find a lawyer with at least some experience in the area that concerns you. If your worries are focused on issues of corporate compliance, you will not be as well served by hiring a lawyer who spends all of their time on civil rights. You also need them to be eager to work as your advocate.
  • How well do you understand what we do? If you are going to hire someone to be your advocate you need to find someone who understands your work, your needs and how to best help you grow your business. If they do not get all of that from the outset, you need someone who is willing to put in the time to get to know you.
  • What is their communication style? This is not really a question you can ask but is something you can figure out. It is not that they should have one communications style or another, it is just that you should be able to communicate with them effectively. If you have questions about your corporate compliance issues, you need to work with someone who can explain things for you.
  • Who will be there to answer my questions? Law firms hire a wide array of legal professionals. Your lead attorney may not be around every time you have a question but it is good to know who else will be working on your account. You also should be able to talk to your attorney when you really need to.
  • How much do you charge? Law firms can charge pretty much whatever they want. It is a good idea to talk to at least three law firms that deal with corporate compliance. When it comes to price, you are in a Goldilock’s position.You do not want the cheapest or the most expensive law firm in town, you want one right in the middle. Get estimates in writing from the law firms. This makes it a lot easier to compare them and can cut down on the likelihood you will see hidden fees on your account.

Once you have hired an attorney to handle your corporate and securities law issues, you have to work to get the most from your relationship with that law firm or lawyer. Here are some tips to get the most of that relationship:

  • Ask for estimates. You may have gotten a general sense of the fees and costs you will pay when you have a lawyer for things like your corporate compliance issues but things may get more or less complicated when you are working with them. Before you have them begin projects, work out how much it will cost (at least an estimate).
  • Ask about the billing practices. All law firms can handle their billing any way they want to. Understanding their billing policies and practices can help you manage your costs. Some may hire hourly while others do it in increments of 15 minutes.
  • Ask for bills that are itemized. It can be easy to look over the bill from a law firm and be overwhelmed by the cost. The problem is the bottom line number, by itself, tells you nothing about how much work went into your account. You do not want to shortchange the law firm you are working with but you will appreciate them more when you can see just how much they are doing for you.

You should have a good relationship with your lawyer, these tips will help.

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