There are two experts that any organization would need early on: an accountant and a lawyer. The reasons for hiring an accountant are undeniable—you need someone to help you set up your "chart of accounts," regularly check your numbers, and file all of your federal, state, and local tax returns that are required. However, the justification for hiring a company lawyer might not be so apparent. A successful business attorney will provide essential assistance in almost every area of your business, from simple zoning enforcement and copyright and trademark guidance to formal business incorporation and litigation and liability. However, the question is," How to hire lawyers for your business." First of all, some general guidelines for dealing with attorneys:
A major firm or a small company?
In general terms, the bigger the law firm, the greater the overhead, so the higher the hourly rates you are supposed to pay. Still, over smaller ones, bigger corporations have a range of advantages. Lawyers have become extremely specialized over the past 20 years. If you use a sole practitioner or small company as your lawyer(s), it is possible that they may not have all the expertise you will need to expand your company. Although larger businesses are more costly to work with, they have two significant advantages:
- Generally, they have all the legal abilities that you like "under one roof," and
- in the local, regional, and (perhaps) national legal culture, they have a lot of clout.
Of course, if you run a fast-growing business that plans to go public (or sell out to a large company) someday, you'd need to consult with lawyers whose names are known in the cultures of investment banking and venture capital.
Types of Lawyers:
Lawyers are becoming more specialized, much like physicians. It is probably not a good match for your company to be someone who only does wills, house closings, and other "non-business" matters. You would need the following sets of abilities, at the very least. The more talents that lie in the same human being, the better!
You will need a lawyer who can easily understand your company; plan the standard form agreements with distributors, customers, and suppliers you will need; and help you respond to contracts that other people will want you to sign.
2. Organizations for companies:
You will need a lawyer who will help you determine if the best way to organize your business is a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) and prepare the appropriate paperwork.
3. Immovable land:
Commercial space leases—such as offices and retail stores—are exceedingly complex and often favor the landlord. Since they appear to be documented in "printed form," you will be inclined to assume they are not negotiable. Yeah. Not so. Your lawyer should have a regular "tenant's addendum," which can be attached to the printed lease form paper, containing clauses that favor you.
Licenses and taxes. While your accountant will prepare and file your business tax returns each year, your lawyer should know how to register your company for federal and state tax identification numbers and understand the tax implications of the more common business transactions that your company will participate in.
5. Intellectual properties:
Suppose you are in a media, design or other company of a creative nature. In that case, it is a "plus" if your lawyer will help you register your federal trademark and copyright protection goods and services.
What to Ask While Interviewing Attorneys?
Are you experienced?
Don't be frightened to ask straightforward questions about the experience of a lawyer. For instance, if you know you want to incorporate your company, ask if they have ever handled incorporation.
Are you linked well?
Your business attorney should be a legal "internist"—one who can diagnose your problem, perform any "minor surgery" that may be required, and, if necessary, refer you to local "major surgery" specialists.
In my business, do you have other customers?
Your lawyer should know your business and the legal climate a little bit. If not, the ins and outs of it should be ready for him or her to understand.
Are you a good teacher?
Your lawyer should be able to take the time to inform you and your workers about your company's legal climate.
Are you going to make your billing flexible?
Since there is a "glut" of lawyers currently, with many too many working in most geographic areas, lawyers can negotiate their fees like never before, and it is undoubtedly a "buyer's market."
Questions to ask yourself before hiring a lawyer
- Is this person just a disgruntled businessman posing as an attorney?
- Does this person communicate well?
- Are the offices situated conveniently?
If you feel that one approach works better for you than another, don't hesitate to bring it up with the lawyer; several will provide flexible arrangements to suit your needs. When you hire a lawyer, draw up an agreement outlining the billing method (called an "engagement letter").