How To Hire A Business Lawyer
Written by Gregory L. Phillips, Founding Partner
How To Hire A Business Lawyer
We go to the doctor for preventative and prescriptive purposes. We have annual check-ups to make sure everything is working as it should and to prevent health problems in the future or prevent existing ones from getting worse. We also visit the doctor when we’re sick. Ideally, we already have a working relationship with this doctor who knows our medical history and can treat us accordingly.
Having a business lawyer is similar to having a primary care physician. A business lawyer is available for both preventative and prescriptive purposes. When you hire a business lawyer, you are hiring a consultant, guide, and problem-solver. But with good preventative care, problem-solving should be kept at a minimum. No business owner wants to find himself frantically searching for a good business lawyer after he’s received news he’s being sued. Ideally, you are already equipped and prepared for this worst-case-scenario, and with good legal counsel on hand, you may be able to prevent these scenarios altogether. Further, a good business lawyer can help you think through your strategies and practices with an eye toward the potential legal pitfalls at a time when there are options.
Although you may already be aware of why you need a business lawyer, you may still be wondering how to hire one, what type you should hire, and when.
"Don’t wait until you’re being sued or have found yourself in a legal mess to begin searching for a lawyer."
--- GREGORY L. PHILLIPS, HOUSTON BUSINESS ATTORNEY
What: What type of business lawyer do I need?
Under the broad umbrella of the term "business lawyer" fall many specialties. Business lawyers can specialize in contract law, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, employment law, the list goes on. To help you determine what type of legal counsel you need for your business, we’ve broken down the most common and most crucial types of business law.
A general counsel business lawyer can consult on general business-related issues. For some businesses, it makes sense to have that role be in-house full time, but having a legal team on staff as employees could be more than what you need and more than you can afford. This is where hiring outside general counsel on a contract basis is ideal. General counsel services are a catch-all for legal advice, consulting, and execution. If you don’t have recurring specific legal needs but rather need an expert who can cover the general business bases, this is a great option.
Mergers and Acquisitions
This is a more specialized type of law. If your business is going through a merger or you’re acquiring a new company or being acquired by another company, a business lawyer plays a key role. Business lawyers in this area help draft all legal documents, contracts, and agreements. They can also help determine the terms of the deal and agreements for all employees who will be affected by it.
Intellectual property includes trademarks, trade secrets, design, domain names, and patents. If your company deals with any intellectual property, which it probably does, you will need a business lawyer who specializes in that area to ensure your “property” is protected.
Contracts are binding documents. Because of this, you want to be sure every paragraph, sentence, and bullet point is correct, clear, beneficial to your business, and reasonable. Hiring a lawyer that specializes in contracts will give you peace of mind in a world that is often confusing and overloaded with legalese.
Corporate governance is essentially the rules and policies set in place by a company that define the expected behavior. A lawyer who specializes in corporate governance can consult with you, or the leaders of your company, in decisions that are compliant with these rules and policies.
When: When should I hire a business lawyer?
The short answer? Now, before it’s too late. Don’t wait until you’re being sued or have found yourself in a legal mess to begin searching for a lawyer. Many business owners begin the search for a lawyer early to help with establishment needs such as corporation formation. Hire a lawyer for your business as early as possible but make sure you’re anticipating what type of lawyer you’ll need so that you hire one who can represent you in all of those areas.
How: How do I hire a business lawyer?
Word-of-mouth is a great place to start when looking for a business lawyer. Who do you know who has hired one? Get recommendations. Ask your contact what he or she liked and didn’t like about the business lawyer. Once you have a name and contact information, you can reach out to the attorney and set up an initial consultation to see if he or she would be a good fit for your company.
You can also search online for lawyers by state at the American Bar Association’s website here.
During your initial consultation with your lawyer, be sure to ask a lot of questions.
During your initial consultation with your lawyer, be sure to ask a lot of questions. Entrepreneur magazine suggests asking these key questions to any lawyer candidate you’re considering:
How experienced are you?
Are you well-connected with other lawyers and attorneys?
Are you flexible with your rates and fees?
Do you have other clients in my industry?
Read what they write. Check out their website, newsletters, and blog. Is their website and content professional? Do they provide content that is insightful and useful?
Check their online ratings and reviews. Do they have 5-star ratings? Are there recent reviews? What do clients say about them?
Set up meetings with several different business lawyers if necessary, and don’t be afraid to ask hard, direct questions. Good legal counsel, while it costs money, can save you from potential legal disasters and help grow your business while assessing and managing risks along the way.