Just like accountants, builders and plumbers, lawyers do not always inspire trust from a lot of people. Fortunately, similar to those services offered by these professionals, hiring an attorney can often be a necessity for anyone who currently is, or plans to successfully walk through the minefield that is the business world. Whether it is to provide guidance in an business sale or acquisition, company formation, during or as a preventive measure against a lawsuit, chances are extremely high that at some point in time in the life of your business, you are going to need to hire a business attorney for one reason or the other.
Before looking at a few criteria on how to choose a trustworthy lawyer, let us first look at why you may need the services of this professional:
A lawyer can help you with one or more of the below things related to your business:
- Helps in the setting up of a company, be it a creating an LLC, corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship.
- Helps check for compliance with various state and federal regulations.
- Helps with the process or negotiations in the sale or purchase of a business.
- Helps in filing and obtaining any type of intellectual property protection.
- Helps to draft or review contractual documents before you sign them.
- Assists with tax planning.
- Assists in drawing up pension plans
- Can represent you in litigation.
- And so much more. The list is practically endless.
The million-dollar question is, how do you find a good and trustworthy lawyer for your small business for the exact reason that you need one for?
Here are some guidelines to help you make the right decision:
What do you need a lawyer for?
This is perhaps the number one and most important question that you need to answer. The answer to this question will help you determine a lot of other things as it relates to your need, including things like what type of lawyer you need, what a “reasonable” amount of money is that you should be prepared to spend in retaining a lawyer, and even up the question of if you even truly need a lawyer in the first place.
Expanding on the point of what type of lawyer you need, it is important to note the fact that the law is very broad and lawyers usually specialize in one or several fields of the law. But it is impossible for one lawyer, or even law firm to specialize in all of them.
Knowing this fact alone can potentially begin to help you in your search, especially if you conduct an online search in Google or Bing for instance, and can consequently steer you in the right direction, so that you know to type in the words: “New York Business Lawyer” instead of simply typing in “attorney” or “New York lawyer,” as the latter two search phrases will likely serve up result listings containing personal injury lawyers, immigration lawyers, criminal attorneys and various others, none of which is what you are looking for.
Good and effective communication is very vital in maintaining good and healthy relationships, and it is or should be no different with your prospective lawyer. This should therefore be something that you should be very aware of from the very conversation you have with him or her. Is the attorney easy to talk to?
Does he or she seem confident in what they are saying? Does information “flow” from them in your conversations? Do they make you feel at ease? Is there something “off” about them or something specific that they said? These are some of the things that you should try and take notice of, to help guide you on the decision of whether or not to sign up the lawyer.
The average attorney in New York can charge anything from $200 onwards per hour to hire them. It is however not impossible to find lawyers who charge 5 times that amount. While some people will have no difficulty in being able to afford a $200/hour bill, others will obviously find it difficult to afford.
Therefore, the use of the words “reasonable fees” is relative, because what is affordable or reasonable to one person, will not be so to another. It will therefore be up to you to determine if the quoted lawyer fee is reasonable to you or not. And since most law firms offer a free phone consultation, you can easily shop around to compare prices until you find a lawyer that checks all your other boxes, including being reasonable with their fees.
References and Reviews
References and reviews are often a good way to find out what other people who have worked with this lawyer you are considering hiring, think or have to say about them. An expression has it that it is always better to learn from other people’s hardships and mistakes, than to go go through or make them yourself.
Therefore, by reading through available reviews about a lawyer or law firm, it will be much easier to spot any potential red flags about an attorney, and where such red flags are substantial, you will definitely be more inclined not to work with such person, so as to avoid the possibility of you being one of the people who will also come away with a negative experience
Another thing you need to find out from the attorney, is their availability, and this might be much more applicable to single lawyer law firms. The thinking behind this is that, lawyers, as with many small businesses, can often have more businesses than they can handle, but might not have the capacity or personnel to handle the workload. And because they are a small business and want to grow, they likely will not turn down any new business that they get, even though they might struggle to be able to service that account.
In your case, this might mean that the lawyer might have to stretch him or herself thin to try and service all their clients, which will potentially means they won’t be able to dedicate the required amount of time and other resource into ensuring that they provide you with the best possible service. In situations where the matter at hand is a crucial or delicate one, such as in a case of civil litigation that has gone to trial, this can potentially have a negative effect on the outcome of the case.
As you embark on your business journey, it is very important that you get the foundation or basics of your business right. Referring to things like ensuring that you registered the right company structure, to making sure that you have a properly drafted operating agreement, to having proper employment contracts in place, and much more.
If you are a new business owner, it will likely mean you have never done any of these before, and this is exactly where getting proper legal advice will come in very handy. But just as importantly, ensuring that you can trust the legal advice that you get.