It is fair to say that lawyers are among those professionals, along with dentists, car salesmen and paparazzi (you can also throw in politicians and parking wardens), that most people find just…hard to love. But as much as legal practitioners might not be your favorite professional connects, when it comes to business, you just have to shove your reservations about them aside. Because, apparently, you need them. A good business lawyer will offer vital legal assistance in almost every aspect of your business, ranging from copyright and trademark advice to business lawsuits. In fact, before you make any move that could likely lead to legal ramifications, it is wise to seek legal advice, especially in this litigious society we live in today. So then, how do find a legal practitioner? Below, we share five out-of-the-box tips on how best to choose the right fit for your business, large or small.
1. Expertise (Area of Specialization) of the Lawyer
Law has dozens of fields of study. This is one of those professions in which a jack of all trades doesn’t cut it. There just happens to be too much practitioners are required to know to keep up with it all. Hence, there is the need to specialize – unless one is a general practice lawyer. Take business lawyers, who serve enterprises like yours, for example. They come in different shapes: contract lawyer to handle job contract issues; employment lawyer to handle disputes between employer and employees; commercial bankruptcy lawyer (different from a bankruptcy lawyer) to handle company or organization bankruptcy matters; intellectual property lawyer to handle matters touching on trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets etc.; startup lawyer to offer legal services for startups, just to mention but a few. Now, this is one of the first things you need to keep in mind as what you want is a legal consultant well versed in that specific area. Or as they say, someone who knows their stuff. Of course, not every lawyer is neck-deep proficient in all these areas. This is why, you should think of your business lawyer as you would your general practice doctor. They sure can cure some things. But, they will always refer you to a certain specialist should the need arise.
2. Track Record of the Lawyer
To be sure of the service you can expect from your potential legal advisers. Do a background check on them to assess not just their success rate, but also their reputation. Avoid going with greenhorns, who have a little experience in the field in the name of saving money. They might turn out to be costlier in the long run, keeping in mind what you stand to lose. Recommendation has worked for many in the past. And, your closest friends (and family) can especially come in handy here. And, so are those, who have been in your shoes before.
3. Service Delivery Time Must be Taken Care of
Another important aspect many businesses often overlook is the time it takes the law firms to respond to your cry for help. You want someone, who will be right there when you need them. And there is a quick method you can apply to weed out your choices in this regard. When you express an interest in working with a select bunch of candidates, see how long it takes for them to get back to you. If you don’t hear back from them on the same day, be hesitant about hiring such types. Because when it comes to your business and legal assistance, you want someone, who will be right there with you, especially in a pinch.
4. Personality Fit is Definitely an Issue
One way to quickly dispel the misconceptions and reservations you may have towards lawyers is to work with one, whose personality aligns with yours or what your business is all about. Whomever you decide to go with is going to work very closely with you (and be privy to intimate details about your business). For this reason, it is absolutely imperative that you feel comfortable with them on a personal level. Seriously. Underestimate this at your own peril. In the same breath, you also want someone who shares your risk appetite. If you are the kind that likes to sail close to the winds (within legal bounds obviously), you don’t want a legal practitioner who is too cautious; they just might not be the right fit. Rather, you want someone with a shared risk profile as they are in a better position to outline every little possible risk, and ultimately make decision-making easier for you.
5. Consider Alternative Fee Structures
Something else that should inform your decision while comparing different legal services is the cost versus value. Legal fees should be discussed openly and well in advance to avoid any nasty surprises down the road. Usually, most business lawyers have tended to work on an hourly basis. However, some are moving away from that model and are now charging a fixed amount for each service. But there is a third approach, one that is quickly gaining prominence: a hybrid between hourly and fixed billing. Enquire whether the law firm is willing to craft an alternative fee arrangement or if they work on a commission basis – depending on the sort of service you are requesting. Some lawyers are willing to work at significantly reduced rates upfront and work their rate up as your business starts to thrive. Discounts, sometimes referred to as courtesy discounts, are also becoming common as firms compete for clients. Just make sure you ask for one because if you don’t, chances are they might fail to bring it up.
Follow these simple tips and you can be assured of a more informed decision when finding your legal practitioner.