When entering into the world of business, there are two people who are going to prove themselves indispensable to your success- an accountant and lawyer. Regardless of how fool proof your business plan might seem, without a solid corporate lawyer on your team, you stand to succumb to otherwise entirely avoidable roadblocks and setbacks.
A solid corporate lawyer will be able to provide you with vital assistance in almost every aspect of your business, from basic zoning compliance and copyright and trademark advice to formal business incorporation and lawsuits and liability.
1. Go big or go small?
The first step to take in finding the right lawyer for your needs is determining whether you want to work with a large or small firm. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that typically a larger firm will have higher overhead, so you can expect to see this reflected in their hourly rates. Although this may seem like a deterrent right off the bat, there are definitely some advantages to choosing to go with a larger firm. As the law has become increasingly complex, lawyers over the last several decades have become very specialized. This means that if you decide to go with a smaller firm, they simply might not have all the skills you need in order to keep your business growing.
2. Be aware of the scope of services you might require
Although an initial look at the portfolio of a single practitioner or small firm might be impressive, keep in mind the range of services you will require at various points over the development of your enterprise. Is the law firm you’re dealing with capable of negotiating your lease, filing a patent or trademark, drafting a software license agreement, advising you on how to go about terminating an employee, and overseeing your annual meeting. The problem is that when you go with a smaller firm, despite the fact that they might be well versed in a variety of law, at some point they are going to have to refer you to a specialist. You will end up having to deal with several law firms and ultimately spending more money.
3. Contracts, contracts, contracts
As mentioned above, lawyers are increasingly specialized. That being said, a good corporate lawyer should have experience in several key field. You definitely need someone who understand contracts and can prepare them quickly. You also want someone who can help you understand and respond to contracts that others will send you. Business organization is also crucial; you need a lawyer who knows what model is going to be most beneficial for you.
4. Other key skills
Real estate, taxes, and licenses are also fields you will want your lawyer to have experience in. Although your accountant will prepare and file your business tax returns each year, your lawyer should know how to register your business for federal and state tax identification numbers, and understand the tax consequences of the more basic business transactions in which your business will engage. Intellectual property also falls into the category of important skills. Especially in you are in media or another creative business, it is great to have a lawyer who can register your product and services for federal trademark and copyright protection.
5. Some questions to ask when interviewing a potential lawyer
It is important to be upfront about asking questions. Ask how experience they are and whether or not they are well connected. No lawyer is going to know everything, but it helps a lot if they have a network they can rely on when a problem falls outside of their area of expertise. It is also wise to inquire as to whether or not they have other clients in your industry, in can be a plus if they already know the legal environment but you should be wary about someone who is already representing several of your competitors.