How to Find an Excellent Lawyer
Follow these steps to get small business legal advice.
If your legal problem is complex or involves lots of money, you might not want to attempt to handle the entire matter without a lawyer. After all, lawyers do more than dispense small business legal advice or information. They offer strategic advice and apply sophisticated technical skills to legal problems. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a lawyer who’s willing to serve as your legal “coach” to help you educate yourself to the maximum extent possible and to take over as your formal legal counsel only if necessary.
How to Find the Right Lawyer
Don’t expect to find a good lawyer by simply looking in the phone book or reading an advertisement. There’s not enough information in these sources to help you make a valid judgment.
One approach to finding a provider of small business legal advice is to get personal referrals. But don’t make a decision about a lawyer solely on the basis of someone else’s recommendation. In addition to the fact that you may need a different type of small business legal advice, different people will have different responses to a lawyer’s style and personality.
It’s only when you meet with the lawyer and discuss your case, that you can decide that you feel comfortable working with him or her.
Also, it may be hard to find a lawyer with the expertise you need through a personal referral.
Businesses who provide services to key players in the legal area you are interested in may also be able to help you find a lawyer you should consider. For example, if you are interested in small business legal advice, speak to your banker, accountant, insurance agent, and real estate broker. These people come into frequent contact with lawyers who represent business clients and are in a position to make informed judgments.
Consider a Specialist
Most lawyers specialize in certain areas, and even a so-called “general practitioner” may not know that much about the particular area of your concern. For example, of the almost one million lawyers in America today, probably fewer than 50,000 possess sufficient training and experience in small business law to be of real help to an aspiring entrepreneur.
It can pay to work with a lawyer who already knows the field, such as employment discrimination, zoning laws, software design issues, or restaurant licensing. That way you can take advantage of the fact that the lawyer is already far up the learning curve. For example, need an Employment Lawyer?
Interview the Prospective Lawyers
When you get the names of several good prospects, the next step is to talk to each lawyer personally. If you outline your needs in advance, many lawyers will be willing to meet to you for a half-hour or so at no charge so that you can size them up and make an informed decision. Some aspects you should consider:
Pay particular attention to the personal chemistry between you and your lawyer. No matter how experienced and well-recommended a lawyer is, if you feel uncomfortable with that person during your first meeting or two, you may never achieve an ideal lawyer-client relationship. Trust your instincts and seek a lawyer whose personality is compatible with your own. Look also for experience, personal rapport, and accessibility.
Communication and Promptness
Ask all prospective lawyers how you will be able to contact them and how long it will take them to return your communications. And don’t assume that because the lawyer seems friendly and easy to talk to that it’s okay to overlook this step.
You want a lawyer who will work hard on your behalf and follow through promptly on all assignments.
Willingness to Work With You
When you have a legal problem, you need legal information. Lawyers, of course, are prime sources of this information, but if you bought all the needed information at their rates — $150 to $250 an hour — you’d quickly empty your bank account. Fortunately, many lawyers will work with you to help you acquire a good working knowledge of the legal principles and procedures you need to deal with your problem at least partly on your own.
If you are hoping to represent yourself and use a lawyer only for advice, make sure the lawyer is open to that type of set-up.
Likewise, if you’re going into business and will draft your own bylaws or business agreements, ask the lawyer if she’s open to reviewing your drafts and making comments.
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