Hiring a Small Business Lawyer
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Why Should a Small Business Hire an Attorney?
For a small business owner, hiring a lawyer may seem daunting. Many small business owners and entrepreneurs are often too invested in their business venture to even consider seeking the advice of an attorney. However, these enterprises could benefit from a business lawyer’s perspective. Not making the effort to seek legal counsel leaves these businesses exposed to unnecessary risks and liabilities.
Common Misconceptions about Small Business Lawyers
Lawyers are often perceived as people who say “no” in a world that wants to hear “yes.” However, without attorneys, many tax incentives and intellectual property protections that small businesses enjoy may not exist. With this in mind, here are several common misconceptions about small business lawyers:
- "Lawyers charge outrageous fees." – In reality, a lawyer’s first consultation may be free and legal fees may be negotiable and come in a variety of options.
- "Lawyers are too risk-averse and only see the negative side of things." – Actually, lawyers simply help to assess business’s contingencies, risks, and liabilities. Thus, securing a lawyer’s advice now could avoid potential costly litigation in the future, saving time and money.
- "Lawyers do not understand business management." – A lawyer may provide valuable business insights and a different perspective on business. For instance, a specialist in particular areas of law is likely to be very informed about common failures, and alternative courses of action to put their clients ahead of the competition.
- "Lawyers are self-interested and may steal opportunities." – The simple reality is lawyers owe clients fiduciary duties. Therefore, lawyers have to act with honesty, reasonable care, and loyalty towards a client’s business. Otherwise, betrayal of client’s interests may result in expose to suit and even a license suspension.
- "Lawyers are required to report illegal activity, limiting honest and open communication." – Lawyer-client communications actually usually require confidentiality. Nearly every communication is protected, barring some exceptions, which a local business lawyer can explain.
What to Know before Hiring a Business Lawyer
Small businesses could maximize the benefits from their lawyer-client relationship by keeping the following in mind:
- Size matters – Ask a lawyer about how many employees their firm has. Large firms may have more resources, but a larger legal staff may increase costs, which will likely be shifted into higher expenses for the client. Bigger isn’t always better for small businesses.
- Talk strategy – Looking into an attorney’s prior cases may help show how they will handle future matters. A lawyer may be litigious, meaning they may want to fight a case in the courtroom instead of settling. On the other hand, a lawyer may want to settle quickly, risking missing a higher payout. Understanding your lawyer’s case management strategy ensures that it aligns to the interests of a small business.
- Heavy caseloads – Ask attorney about their current caseload. No matter how skilled a lawyer may be, the reality is sometimes they may be too busy with other clients. Being aware of a lawyer’s caseload can help make a determination about whether they will be a good fit for the business, particularly if one is looking for a more individual, personalized approach.
- Relevant experience – Many legal issues, such as tax or intellectual property, require specialized knowledge. Inquiring as to whether a lawyer has taken course work or become certified in a certain field may help one determine if they will be the right fit.
Is It a Time to Seek Legal Advice?
- Negotiating and drafting various contracts, from sales contracts to leases
- Limiting liability
- Guarding your intellectual property, such as trademarks and patents
- Forming the proper business entity itself
- Tax, bankruptcy, and other complex matters
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Last Modified: 05-09-2016 02:22 PM PDT
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