As a business owner, you launch your business with the hope that everything will go smoothly and you’ll wind up running a successful organization. Unfortunately, mistakes happen, issues arise and you may end up needing the services of an attorney.
Having a good attorney can provide incredible value to your business, protecting you from legal implications and keeping your business running smoothly. If you’re not convinced that hiring an attorney for your small business is a good plan of action, here are some reasons that may change your mind.
Reasons to hire an attorney for your business
1. Protection against lawsuits
As you might guess, having a lawyer can help prevent lawsuits. In reality, if you’re hiring an attorney after you’ve already been sued, it’s probably too late. A good lawyer can help reduce the charges, but they can’t protect you from them entirely. Be proactive before a lawsuit occurs so you can cover all of your bases.
2. Damage mitigation
Your business attorney can also help to reduce the damages you face in the event of a lawsuit. For example, if you’re faced with a personal injury case from an employee, a lawyer can help mitigate any damages. In order for them to get the best result, however, it’s important that you tell the truth. If you want an honest lawyer, you must be an honest client. Even if the employee was hurt because of something you did, it’s better for your lawyer to learn about it from you rather than the employee’s attorney.
3. Contract drafting
Anytime you need to draft or negotiate a contract – whether with a customer, employee or supplier – it’s important that you have a lawyer present. A contract that hasn’t been approved by a lawyer can quickly cause problems. It’s your job to run a business, not memorize the rules. If you try to do the contract yourself, you’ll likely miss a few things that could get you in big trouble down the road.
4. Business incorporation
Incorporating your business involves more than simply handing over a check and receiving a certificate. You need someone on your side that’s familiar with the process and can help you navigate it. You’re likely not familiar with all the intricacies of incorporating a business, but a good business lawyer will know exactly what to do.
5. State and federal compliance
You probably know that state and federal laws are often different. When you incorporate a business, perform business dealings across state lines, build property and pay your taxes, there are certain rules and regulations you must observe. Even if you’re a wiz at research, as a small business owner, there’s no way you have the time to sift through all of these laws to ensure that you’re complying adequately with each one.
6. Employee issues
Employee-related issues are all too common in the workplace, and they can leave you shorthanded and low on money. However, if you have retained the services of an attorney, those issues are quickly diminished since they can facilitate the hiring process, administer workers’ compensation, draft agreements for independent contractors and help you safely fire employees without legal repercussions.
The last thing you want is a lawsuit from an employee, and having an attorney on retainer, whether that’s a business lawyer or a personal injury lawyer, can significantly reduce that risk for your business. [Related article: How Does a Workers’ Comp Settlement Work?]
7. Patent applications
If you’ve developed a new product or service, it’s important that you apply for a patent. However, obtaining a patent is time-consuming and expensive, especially if you go about the process yourself. Furthermore, it’s often difficult to get approved in a reasonable amount of time without the help of an attorney. Fortunately, an experienced patent attorney can help you get your patent in a timely manner.
8. Business transfers
There are many legal implications associated with both purchasing and selling a business. It’s a little more complex than purchasing a car, for example, so having an attorney present to help you value the business, write the acquisition and purchasing agreements, and transfer any permits and licenses can be incredibly helpful. Working with an experienced business lawyer is crucial in these situations.
9. Environmental regulation compliance
The environment has become a huge issue as more and more people are trying to save it. As a result, certain rules and regulations may affect your business. In addition, in the event that you failed to comply with a regulation and are facing a lawsuit, a good business lawyer is your first, and most important, line of defense.
10. Business restructuring
If you’re seeking to restructure your business, it can be tempting to handle things yourself, but resist this urge. You’ll need to understand liabilities, tax obligations, ongoing expenses and employee-related concerns, just to name a few. Trying to handle each of these concerns on your own is daunting, and if you don’t get them exactly right from the start, you will likely face legal problems down the road.
Tip: Find a business attorney who is knowledgeable and passionate about their job, as well as a good listener and communicator. They should be trustworthy and as interested in protecting your business as you are.
What to look for in a business attorney
All successful lawyers have something in common: a true passion for their work. It’s been shown that people who are passionate about what they do perform better, are happier and are more fulfilled – all valuable traits of any business attorney you hire to protect your business.
Your business attorney should not only protect your business, but also reflect the standards of your organization. Honesty is therefore an important quality to look for in an attorney. Honest communication between you and your business attorney can also prevent any legal misunderstandings and serve to protect your company.
In addition to honest communication, a business attorney should have good communication skills; they will keep you up to date on what’s happening and can be persuasive. An attorney has to be a master communicator, as they have to get ideas across clearly not only to you, but also to others outside of your business.
A business attorney should be compassionate toward their clients, a crucial characteristic every lawyer should possess. It’s important that your business attorney is committed to representing and helping you and your company.
Experience and knowledge
When searching for a business attorney, finding someone who is knowledgeable and experienced is invaluable. Every lawyer relies on a certain body of law, so it is important to make sure the business attorney you hire has experience representing businesses and a thorough knowledge of corporate law.
An attorney should be willing and able to listen; effective communication is a two-way street. Successful attorneys are always sure to carefully listen to their clients, witnesses, opposing counsel and the court. Being attentive can help attorneys build their cases.
How to find a business attorney
When looking for a business attorney, take the following steps to find the right one for your company.
1. Identify what you’re looking for in an attorney.;
Before starting your search for a business attorney, it’s important to determine what you want. Ask yourself the following: Which area or areas of corporate law should they be an expert in so they can best protect the company? Do you want a specialist in corporate law or a generalist who can help you with a range of legal concerns?
2. Search for business attorneys near you.
Finding a business attorney can be difficult, but one of the best tools at your disposal is your own personal and professional network. Getting a recommendation from a friend, family member or business contact can be invaluable. You can use online legal directories to search for business attorneys in your area as well. You can also make use of legal support services near you.
3. Ask the right questions.
Before hiring a business attorney, you must conduct a thorough interview with them. Here are some important questions to ask them:
- Do you have other clients in my industry?
- What’s your fee structure?
- What is your experience working with small businesses and my particular legal issue(s)?
- Can you refer me to other small business lawyers if necessary?
- Do you have any conflicts of interest?
- What will our communication look like?
Tip: Discuss your prospective attorney’s fee structure before hiring them, as you need to determine whether their payment requirements are appropriate for your business’s budget.
4. Set up a payment arrangement that suits your budget.
Fees are the top concern of most small businesses when they are looking to hire a business attorney. However, there are budget-friendly fee arrangements that some law firms will use for small businesses.
- Flat fee: The attorney charges a one-time flat amount rather than an hourly rate.
- Contingency fee: With a contingency fee agreement, the attorney receives payment – usually a percentage of the total award – only if they win the case on your behalf.
- Equity: The attorney takes equity in your business in exchange for providing legal services.
- Retainer: Under a retainer, the attorney receives regular payments to take on any legal issues whatever they arise.
Larry Alton contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.