Legal Representation for the Small Business Owner

Every business owner, whether large or small, should have the safety net of a well-qualified attorney standing by in case they are needed.  However, many smaller business owners tend to get so embroiled in getting their business off the ground that they put off finding legal representation until it is actually needed. Looking for a trustworthy and appropriate attorney when you’re in crisis mode is not ideal, and will cause you to rush the process, likely landing you a sub-par lawyer who overcharges.  Take the time now to  retain the services of an appropriate attorney or firm, so that you can easily and confidently turn to them in your time of need.

As you may have already realized, the task of finding a reliable, successful, and cost-effective attorney can be daunting.  There are so many attorneys who want your business! How in the world should you even begin to narrow down the prospects, especially when your other business duties are taking up so much of your time?

Use your networking skills to ask around for names of attorneys who possess the most important qualities you are looking for when it comes to representing your business in any future matters that may arise.  For example, you may need help with planning the growth of your business, the writing, review, and revision of letters and contracts, and representation in court on the off-chance that you or your company ends up getting sued. Take down a number of recommended names from your most trusted peers who also run small businesses.  This will ensure that all of the attorneys on your list are familiar with problems that are common to small business owners.

In order to narrow the list of recommendations down to a reasonable number of candidates, have your assistant (if possible) do some investigation into each attorney’s experience, education, and wins versus losses in the courtroom.  Also consider having your assistant call each firm and ask about retainer fees and if a lower rate can be negotiated if a long-term relationship develops. You’ll want to inquire about any differences in fees for court representation versus office time, and what additional fees/costs will be your responsibility.

With a manageable list of appropriate local attorneys, take the time to interview the top three or four personally.  While anyone can look good on paper, it is important to feel a connection with someone who you may be dealing with regularly for many years, especially regarding something so important – your livelihood. Ensuring a good working relationship from the start establishes well-defined parameters, expectations, and how routine matters will be handled.

If you find yourself in an unexpected legal bind without an attorney, you’ll obviously need to find one – fast.  Although it’s best to have someone retained ahead of time, sometimes you can be caught unaware and unprepared for a crisis. If this occurs, act fast but responsibly by looking for attorneys who specialize in the area you’re having a problem with at the moment.  Worry less about connecting with them on a personal level and more about whether or not they can get the job done in the short-term.  You can always look for long-term representation after your emergency matter has been settled if this particular attorney doesn’t mesh well with your business or your personality.

*Photo credit: DonkeyHotey