A business attorney provides legal services relating to the operating and regulating of businesses. Business attorneys can represent several different types of clients, including business owners, employees, insurance agencies, and other parties. Other work-related matters, such as discrimination and hiring disputes, are handled by employment law attorneys. Business lawyers address aspects that are related to the operations and structure of a business operation.

You might need a business attorney to advise and assist you in knowing which laws and regulations your specific business will need to adhere to. For new and startup businesses, a business attorney can help you ensure a legal start, as well as provide you with advice on how to use the law to protect your new business. If your business is already established, the attorney can ensure that any mergers or acquisitions go smoothly, and with limited complications. A business attorney can also navigate any complicated compliance issues you may be facing.

While business attorneys handle various legal matters, they most commonly address:

  • Buying and selling a business;
  • Filing incorporation documents;
  • Drafting and reviewing business contracts;
  • Business formation;
  • Business disputes;
  • Conflicts that involves the sale and purchase of stocks, and other securities;
  • Compliance with business regulations and laws;
  • Responding to the improper use of protected business information, such as copyrighted and trademarked materials; and
  • Interstate and international legal issues, such as the transportation of goods.

Besides litigating business disputes, a business attorney may assist with various tasks, such as:

  • Negotiating, drafting, and reviewing business contracts;
  • Assisting with business start-up and incorporation filings;
  • Addressing business termination or transfer issues; and
  • Assisting the business in their shift or change in organizational structure.

Business lawyers may be consulted for a wide range of legal issues. In some lawsuits, a business lawyer may play the role of an expert witness. An example of this would be if the court needs additional information regarding a particular business practice.

How Much Does a Business Attorney Generally Cost?

Legal fees for business lawyers are generally structured as an hourly fee. The amount an attorney charges per hour is generally determined by several factors. These factors include:

  • The experience of the lawyer;
  • The complexity of each specific case;
  • The average hourly rate in your community; and
  • The size of the firm.

Small business attorney fees differ from legal services provided by larger law firms. Larger law firms tend to charge more per hour for their services than smaller firms. Some attorneys may charge different rates depending on the task; meaning, they may charge a higher hourly rate for court work, and a lower rate for research. Typical hourly fees range from $150 per hour to $325 per hour. Hourly fees for legal services can vary widely based on the factors previously mentioned.

If the business issue goes to trial, litigation work can incur higher rates, as can complex work such as mergers or acquisitions. It is important when consulting attorneys to discuss their fee structure, as well as clarify what their hourly fee is if that is the agreed upon fee structure.

Generally speaking, an attorney will work out how their fees are to be paid when they first meet with you. A standard attorney fee arrangement will usually require you to fill the attorney’s retainer, which provides a set amount to the attorney that they may draw from for their first amount of work. Any subsequent legal work would incur the agreed upon standard hourly rate. The average business lawyer retainer fee as of 2020 ranges from $2,000 to $100,000.

What Other Fee Structure May Be Utilized By a Business Attorney?

Some business attorneys utilize an hourly fee structure, while others prefer a flat fee. This typically means that the lawyer charges a fixed, total fee. A flat fee structure is commonly offered if the case is relatively simple, or routine. Business incorporation, LLC formation, and reviewing business contracts are some examples of the business services some attorneys will perform for a flat fee. An example of this would be a flat fee for forming an LLC in California, which can range from $500 to $2,000.

With a flat fee structure, fees paid to any third parties are not typically included. Meaning, while you may pay your attorney $500 for an incorporation, you will owe an additional fee to the state in which you are incorporating. Some startups have been offering to compensate their attorney with equity in their new venture, instead of providing conventional monetary payment. While allowed under legal ethics, it is likely a risky bargain for the attorney, and many attorneys will not consider or agree to this sort of payment arrangement.

As of 2020, the average business lawyer hourly rate is between $100 and $400 per hour. Again, this rate can vary greatly depending on the aforementioned factors. Location and type of case will heavily influence an attorney’s hourly rate.

Which Fee Structure is Best, and How Might I Be Able to Keep Hourly Costs Low?

The best fee structure is whichever structure works best for the client. As business attorneys are both sensitive to and aware of the needs and limits of businesses, they want to ensure that their clients are getting the most for their money. An attorney who is meeting a potential client could be flexible in their fee structuring, and how they are paid.

Although some business matters will incur a flat fee, most business attorneys prefer to utilize an hourly fee structure. As previously mentioned, a flat fee structure would likely be most advantageous for businesses with relatively simple and straightforward issues to address. An hourly fee structure may be best for business needs or situations that do not neatly adhere to common procedure. Additionally, the hourly fee may be negotiated, whereas flat fees are set.

Do I Need a Business Attorney?

A business attorney will prove to be invaluable when establishing a firm legal foundation for your business. An experienced business attorney will protect your rights and ensure you are adhering to all applicable laws, while also assisting in more complex matters as your business grows. LegalMatch can assist you in locating a local, affordable business attorney.