Have you ever hired a lawyer? Do you know someone who has? Whether you or someone you know has hired an attorney for personal or business matters, you’ve probably heard at least one horror story. That’s because few people do the necessary research to choose a great lawyer before they need one.
It’s easy to find a lawyer, but finding a great lawyer whom you can afford can be challenging. You have to do your homework!
Use the 10 tips below to find the right attorney for your business needs:
1. Ask People You Know
Ask the people you know for attorney recommendations. There is no better way to vet a business attorney than by getting real testimonials from people you know and trust.
If you’re active on social media (and as a business owner, you should be), then you can ask everyone who follows you for recommendations, too.
2. Review Attorneys’ Social Media Profiles
Unfortunately, most attorneys have yet to embrace technology, particularly social media, but those who understand that we live in a digital world where digital business is the norm provide a bevy of information about themselves on their social media profiles.
Visit their LinkedIn profiles and review their experience. Read the recommendations that other LinkedIn users have submitted about them, and read the content they publish on LinkedIn.
Review their Facebook and Twitter Profiles, and if they write a blog, read that, too! These profiles are windows into an attorney’s insights and experience.
3. Don’t Limit Your Search to Large Firms
A big law firm with dozens of attorneys might seem like the right choice, but don’t jump on the bandwagon without careful consideration first. Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond?
Large law firms have hundreds or thousands of clients, and many of those clients pay big firms a lot more money than you will. Which client will be prioritized? The one that pays millions of dollars to the firm each year or the one that pays hundreds per year? If your legal issue is small, you’ll likely be assigned to a low-level associate, so all of that big firm experience won’t even touch you.
Also, big law firms come with big price tags. Often, you can find a small firm with lower prices but equal (or better) attorneys. Shop around!
4. Talk to the People You’ll Actually Work With
When you contact a law firm or meet with them, make sure you’re talking to the attorney and team who will actually be working on your business matters.
For example, a partner at a large firm might make himself or herself available at an initial consultation, but once you hire the firm, you never speak to him or her again.
You want to build a relationship with the people you’ll work with on an ongoing basis, so make sure they’re involved from the beginning.
5. Ask Questions
The biggest mistake you can make when choosing a business lawyer is to call a firm and ask how much they charge for a specific service. A great business attorney will be reluctant to give you a price for a specific service until they understand more about your situation and needs.
A great business attorney will tell you what you need rather than just charging you for anything you ask for. With that in mind, dive deep in your initial calls. Ask hard questions and get thorough answers to make sure the attorney truly knows his or her stuff before you hire the firm.
6. Find a Proactive Business Attorney
You don’t want to hire a business attorney who simply creates documents for you. A transactional relationship that is highly reactionary (i.e., the attorney waits for you to ask before they provide you with anything) won’t necessarily be the right help for you or your business.
Instead, find a business lawyer who wants to fully understand your business, anticipates problems, recognizes opportunities, and recommends legal support that can help you reach your goals.
7. Discuss Fees
You can’t avoid a discussion about fees because you need to know that you can afford to pay the lawyer you want to hire. As a business owner, you have a budget that you need to stick to, so look for a business attorney who offers predictable, transparent pricing.
8. Find the Right Type of Attorney
You wouldn’t go to a family doctor for your heart problems (you’d go to a cardiologist), so don’t go to a general business attorney for your trademark and copyright matters (go to an intellectual property attorney). Too often, business owners make the mistake of working with the wrong type of attorney.
There are many specialized areas of the law including tax law, insurance law, real estate law, estate planning law, and more. These areas of legal practice require additional education and change frequently.
Make sure you’re working with the right type of attorney or you might not get the best advice.
9. Find a Business Lawyer You Can Build a Relationship With
Your business lawyer will become a critical member of your team, so you need to hire someone you can trust and with whom you can speak openly and honestly.
Make sure you’re comfortable with the business attorney you hire. This includes ensuring that you can understand him or her. Hiring an attorney who only speaks “legalese” when you don’t is a waste of money – you simply don’t have a common language. After all, why would you pay for advice you can’t understand?
Instead, hire an attorney who can explain complex legal issues that affect you, your business, and your family in terms you can understand and to which you can relate.
10. Start Your Search Now
Don’t wait to search for a business lawyer until you’re in some kind of trouble. At that point, you’ll feel desperate and will settle for someone who might not be the best match for you or your legal concerns.
By hiring a business lawyer before you’re in trouble, the attorney has a chance to get to know you and your business. He or she will understand what your future goals are and how you plan to reach those goals. With that knowledge, your business attorney will be able to act quickly to ensure your interests are protected when potential problems arise.