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Take These 3 Steps Before Hiring a Lawyer for Small Business

Eric Pesale

Eric Pesale is an attorney and entrepreneur who writes about business and legal issues for law firms, publications, and companies as the founder and chief legal contributor of Write For Law℠ (https://writeforlaw.com). He is a graduate of New York Law School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has been published in CSO, the New York Law Journal, and Above the Law.He is actively engaged with startup business issues, and also helps with Barkitwear® (https://barkitwear.com), a family-run, USA-made dog products company.

When you start your new business, you’ll have to learn a lot of skills you never imagined you would. One thing you shouldn’t take care of yourself, however, is anything legal related—which is why you need to be well versed in hiring a lawyer for small business.

Law, put simply, is a complicated field. There’s a reason why lawyers have to endure three years of law school and several dedicated months of bar-exam preparation to become licensed to practice. Tackling legal issues requires a specific type of analytic approach that’s difficult to pick up through self-directed research—especially when you’re trying to run and grow your business day to day.

You might not see a need for an attorney immediately, but hiring a lawyer for small business is a great idea. You’ll want help to troubleshoot any issues that arise, whether it’s one of those unforeseen common small business lawsuits or little contracts here and there.

Knowing the best way to go about finding and hiring a lawyer for small business, then, will help you out, no matter where you are in your business life cycle. Especially if the decision will help you avoid costly future litigation.

Fortunately, finding the right attorney for your business doesn’t have to be complicated. And, contrary to popular belief, hiring a lawyer for small business doesn’t have to bankrupt you. Here’s what to keep in mind when before hiring a lawyer for your small business.

hiring-a-lawyer-for-small-business

Step 1: Know When Hiring a Lawyer for Small Business Makes Sense

It’s true that hiring a lawyer for small business isn’t required to do your day-to-day work, of course. You certainly can do the law-related business filings that you need—like establishing your business entity, for instance—on your own.

Just because you could doesn’t mean that you should. Although you definitely can theoretically file articles of incorporation or submit trademark applications without hiring a lawyer for small business, it could cost you. There’s a big possibility you might end up paying exorbitant legal fees down the road to correct any legal mistakes you might have made. It’s not your fault, exactly, but you’re not a trained lawyer for small business—and attorneys know exactly what to look for.

There are also some business-related steps that are impractical to address on your own, like taking the company public or negotiating complex debt and equity financing to fund your operations. (If you have to read that sentence twice, don’t even think about going forward before hiring a lawyer for small business. That’s what they’re for!) Working with an experienced legal team is absolutely invaluable for avoiding litigation-inducing headaches and making sure you receive the best possible terms.

→Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR): Simply, hiring a lawyer for small business will save you money in the long term.

Step 2: Know How Much You’re Willing to Pay Before Hiring a Lawyer for Small Business

You’ll need to consider how much you’re willing to pay to retain an attorney’s services. And there’s a spectrum depending on the type of experience you want or need, plus how big of a team you want to work with. Regardless of your budget, though, you can make hiring a lawyer for small business work for you.

Hourly rates vary based on the attorney’s years and type of experience, pedigree, and legal market. They usually start around $150/hour for a junior associate, up to $1,500+/hour for a leading senior partner at a multinational law firm.

If the billable hour model isn’t going to work for you, look into alternative fee arrangements to get low-fee small business legal advice. Some lawyers for smal business often use:

  • Contingency fees: This allows an attorney to forgo their hourly fees in exchange for receiving a fixed percentage of the damages or settlement awards collected during litigation.
  • Fixed rates and task-based billing: This lets attorneys bill flat rates instead of hourly rates for different types of legal tasks.
  • Fee collars: This sets absolute minimum and maximum pricing for legal tasks based on the lawyer’s hourly or flat rates.
  • Contingency or performance-based success fees: This allows the law firm to collect fees and potential performance bonuses when they meet agreed-to milestones or outcomes.

→TL;DR: There’s a big range of fees for hiring a lawyer for small business, but there’s both a budget and a pay model that’ll work for your business if you do a little bit of work to find it.

hiring-a-lawyer-for-small-business

Step 3: Where to Research Hiring a Lawyer for Small Business in Your Area

One you’ve decided that hiring a lawyer for small business is the right move for you, you have to find one! The good news is it’s actually not that hard. Although state bar associations do impose restrictions affecting the way attorneys advertise themselves, you can use quite a few law-specific and public resources as you start the process of hiring a lawyer for small business.

Here’s where to begin:

State Bar Associations

In most states, lawyers who are licensed to practice law have to join a state bar association. Lots of bar associations have public online directories where you can research lawyer candidates based on their practice area, educational background, and other factors. They can also be useful for learning more about an attorney’s disciplinary history when working with clients, which can uncover prior incidents of unethical conduct. (In other words, stuff you want to steer clear from.)

Awards Directories

Lawyers love accolades, and awards directory sites can be a good place to start researching well-regarded business lawyers in your state. Some good websites you can start out with include Martindale-Hubbell, Super Lawyers, Leading Lawyers, Chambers USA, and Best Lawyers in America. Benchmark Litigation is also worth looking at for finding small business litigators.

Law Firm-Hosted Public Events

If you’d rather ask around for referrals in person before hiring a lawyer for small business, you could try going to law firm-hosted networking and continuing legal education events. Many law firms tend to host educational events as a way to position themselves as thought leaders in particular legal fields and market their services to new clients.

For entrepreneurs, this can be an invaluable way to meet attorneys in person and get a better sense about what it’d be like to work with them on an ongoing legal matter. If there’s a particular law firm you’re targeting, contact them directly to learn about upcoming business law-related events.

Freelancer Marketplace Websites

One emerging trend that lawyers are taking advantage of is marketplace websites. They advertise their services there to connect directly with clients for whom they’d be a potential fit—and who are looking to, for instance, hire a lawyer for small business.

Not only can you check out traditional freelancer websites such as Upwork, but you can also visit specialized legal services marketplaces such as UpCounsel, Jurbid, Lawdingo, and Hire an Esquire to find legal assistance. Specialized legal marketplace websites usually have stringent approval processes for allowing attorneys to advertise on them. They also typically showcase business attorneys who have prior experience working in the corporate world—whether for established law firms or in-house at major companies.

Online Networking

Lawyers are also actively promoting themselves on online, where you can reach out to them directly to learn more about their services. The best place to start would be on LinkedIn. In fact, according to one American Bar Association study, 53% of participating attorneys said their law firms actively use LinkedIn. You can also research attorneys on other oft-used networks such as Facebook, Martindale, and Avvo.

→TL;DR: There are lots of ways to find the lawyer for small business right for you, whether you want to talk to other small business owners, meet attorneys in person, or look online.

Hiring a Lawyer for Small Business Is Easier Than You Think

You have lots of things to consider when making decisions for your small business. But the point of hiring a lawyer for small business is to let the legal stuff be as easy as possible.

The best time to bring on an attorney to help you out is now. Or at least start thinking about these considerations, and don’t wait until a legal issue arises! The last thing you want to do is rush this extremely important decision.

Regardless of who you are, what kind of business you have, and where you are in the growth stages, every entrepreneur should consider hiring a lawyer for small business. Given the complexities of the law and the pitfalls that can occur, you’ll quickly find that hiring a lawyer for small business is money well spent.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Eric Pesale

Eric Pesale is an attorney and entrepreneur who writes about business and legal issues for law firms, publications, and companies as the founder and chief legal contributor of Write For Law℠ (https://writeforlaw.com). He is a graduate of New York Law School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has been published in CSO, the New York Law Journal, and Above the Law.He is actively engaged with startup business issues, and also helps with Barkitwear® (https://barkitwear.com), a family-run, USA-made dog products company.

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