If life were a board game, lawyers would be the players who have read the rules on the inside of the lid of the box.
Bottom line, you need a lawyer, a very good lawyer in your corner.
But, how do you find one?
1. Figure out when you need to hire a lawyer
There’s a saying “If you are looking for a lawyer after you’ve been served with court papers, it’s a little bit too late.”
Generally speaking, the sooner you get this crucial relationship sorted and start getting good advice, the better for your business.
The first thing you need to do is understand what your challenge is and ascertain that you cannot solve that challenge on your own.
Once you are sure you need a lawyer, contact business lawyers and ask them what their rates are for basic services. You should put those numbers in your initial budget as you raise funds to start your business. This is merely a consultation, to give you an idea of what lawyers charge so you are prepared when you eventually need a lawyer.
Generally, the favorable practice is to hire a lawyer before you get into trouble.
2. What type of lawyer do you need?
What kind of cereal do you like? The fruity type? Or just plain oats. Either way, if you love plain oats cereal, what’s the point of buying the extra colorful and delicious fruity cereal?
It’s the same with lawyers. They specialize in different areas and it’d be a waste of time and resources to hire a lawyer who doesn’t specialize in the area you need them.
Most business lawyers can handle the typical stuff, registering your Business Name or incorporating your company, putting a partnership agreement together and drafting everyday business contracts.
But your lawyer should be doing way more than just drafting documents and handing them over to you.
If you have questions about taxes, get a lawyer who specializes in taxation law. If you want to retain a counsel for your business, you need to look for business lawyers and if you need specialists from time to time, your business lawyer can refer you to competent hands.
It’s close to having a GP (general practice doctor). You visit your GP for regular medical needs but if you need a specialist, you get referred.
Lawyer referral services are simply the ultimate. You have lawyers screened by lawyers and recommended by lawyers. The process relies on careful screening of lawyers, and only those lawyers with particular qualifications and a certain portfolio will be listed.
For this to work for you, determine what qualities and qualifications you want so it’s easy to match your expectations with what is obtainable.
The DIY Engage platform, for instance, screens lawyers but before lawyers get to be screened at all, they have to be referred by previously screened lawyers existing on the platform.
What a referral service may not give you, however, is an insight into how the lawyer operates, what his philosophies are, or even the personality of the lawyer.
4. Interview prospective lawyers
Getting the names of good prospects is just the beginning, now you need to talk to each of them… personally.
The way to do this and not get charged is to outline your needs in advance and request a free consultation. Many lawyers will be willing to meet you for half an hour. The point of this is so you can size them up and make an informed decision.
While you run the show, this is not your regular job interview so a teeny little bit of extra work is required.
Below are some of the questions you can ask a prospective lawyer:
- What experience does the lawyer have in handling your type of legal matter?
- How long has the lawyer been in practice?
- Is there a track record of success? You need to hear it
- What are his fees and how are they structured?
- Does he outsource? Be very clear on this
- Are additional or hidden costs attached? You don’t want to be caught off guard.
- Can he provide you with references from other clients?
- How will he keep you informed about the developments in your case?
Things to keep in mind
- A higher fee isn’t necessarily a guarantee for excellent services
- But a very low fee in comparison could be a signal of an inexperienced or incompetent lawyer.
5. Conduct a background check
Your lawyer has provided you with referrals, what do you do next? You dig deeper.
Contact these references and get a feel of the lawyer and his competencies and style of operating.
Similarly, you can check online lawyer directories for reviews. Reviews are extremely important and they tell you two things; if people take the time to come back online and review a lawyer, they are either quite pleased with the services or disappointed.
6. Make sure the charges are in your price range
This is a no-brainer. You are running a business and of course, there’s a limit to what you can shell out to lawyers. So at this point, the brilliance of the lawyer is not in the question, can you afford the services? The ideal thing is to inquire about costs at the outset of your initial consultation meeting with the lawyer.
What is the “fair price”? This is what consultations with the lawyers will help you ascertain. By the time you have spoken to 3-4 lawyers that you are considering, you should have an idea of what the fair price is.
Remember to get the services of a lawyer before you get into trouble. It is far easier and cheaper to have a lawyer help you prevent litigation than to pay a lawyer to get you out of court.
If you need the services of a lawyer, our DIY Engage platform is a perfect place to start.