Starting a small business can be tough. From running the day to day business to launching new products, you need to ensure your business is meeting the highest standards at all times.
In the last five years, 22% of small businesses have been involved in a commercial dispute. Statistics like this indicate that small businesses are not engaging lawyers early enough to take preventative measures. A lawyer provides legal guidance to protect your intellectual property and ensures your company adheres to governmental regulations. For minimising your business risks and tax disadvantages, a lawyer’s contribution to your small business is immense.
In this post, we will break down the things you need to consider when choosing a lawyer for your small business, helping to safeguard your business with reliable legal counsel.
Analyse your needs
Every business is unique, so you need to find a lawyer who fits in with your vision. 60% of small businesses fail in their first three years, so analysing your needs for legal advice can help keep your business afloat. A small business lawyer may offer general counsel, covering business aspects such as commercial contracts, employment law and leasing. This kind of counsel is excellent for business owners who require day-to-day legal advice.
Areas such as mergers and acquisitions, corporate structuring and trade marks are more specialised, so finding a lawyer who specialises in those domains is essential. Your business may require a combination of general and specialist legal advice, so consider a small business lawyer with experience in these more specialised fields.
Seek referrals and reviews
Personal references and positive reviews are a great way to assess a firm’s quality of service. Evaluate the suitability of recommendations and referrals before hiring a lawyer. For example, if your colleague refers you to a lawyer who helped them out on an isolated project several years ago, then the prospective candidate may not be an ideal fit for your current business needs.
Consider the law firm’s size
You need to understand how the prospective candidate will work with you in the long term to know if they are suitable for your business. From sole practitioners to small law firms and large law firms, legal counsel comes in all shapes and sizes. Considering how a law firm’s business model will fit with your own is essential.
For example, some big law firms may prioritise legal operations of larger corporations. For a small business, this can leave you with a hefty price tag and less attention from the firm. Smaller firms and individual practitioners usually offer more personalised service for small businesses, at a fraction of the cost. As small business owners themselves, they often understand your situation and are able to offer more than just legal advice.
Blending larger and smaller firms can offer you a highly specialised mix of expertise. Depending on your business needs, this option can be worth exploring. For this to work, you need firms who are willing to collaborate, with small business lawyers offering long-term counsel, and large firms coming in for one-off projects.
There are 24,107 legal service providers in Australia in 2020, so finding one to fit your business needs is essential. A great way to assess this is to see if your lawyer understands your industry or shows a willingness to learn about it. Industry knowledge is crucial for understanding your business’s day-to-day operations, its customers, and how your business can see growth and succeed.
Know the costs
How much is this going to cost you? Knowing how the prices for your prospective hire work is vital. Some lawyers charge hourly rates while some offer fixed-rate services, and each will vary depending on the project. Check the suitability of the lawyer’s fee structure for your business model.
Some key questions you should ask your prospective small business lawyer include:
- How many years of experience do they have as a lawyer? In what practice areas in particular?
- What is the firm’s mode of working? Will you deal directly with a senior lawyer, or will you be assigned a junior lawyer? Who will communicate with you?
- How do they communicate with their clients? What is your contact person’s maximum response time? How accessible are they?
- How many long-term clients does the lawyer or firm have?
- What is the firm’s view about long-term client relationships?