1. Identify The Legal Needs Of Your Business
Before looking for an attorney or law firm, first identify the type of legal issues facing your business. All business attorneys fall into 1 of 2 categories (or may fall into both): litigation attorneys handle lawsuits, arbitrations and disputes and transactional attorneys draft agreements and address general business matters. Additionally, there are a number of areas of specialization attorneys may earn proficiency in. Labor, real estate, securities, intellectual property, government contracts, licensing, workers compensation and tax are common areas of specialization.
The size of your business does not matter as much as the ownership structure and the type of legal issues facing your business. Start with asking yourself a few preliminary questions, such as:
- Are you looking primarily for advice relating to formation, business structure, corporate administration, contracts and transactions or do you have regular litigation needs?
- Are you looking for someone to assist with shareholder or buy-sell agreements in closely held corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) or are your legal needs related to securities laws and private or public securities offerings?
- Do you only need one area of specialization at this time or do you want one attorney to understand your business and assist you with managing the various areas?
Identifying the type of legal issues your business needs will allow you to quickly focus your search on viable candidates.
2. Find An Attorney That Fits Your Business
Once you have identified the areas of expertise you are looking for, it’s time to search out candidates who are familiar with those areas. Family, friends and your accountant or other advisors are traditionally a good sources of leads. You can also consider the “Find an Attorney” feature of the Arizona State Bar’s website. A link to the site is here: http://www.azbar.org/FindaLawyer. In addition to listing the attorney’s areas of practice, the State Bar also identifies the lawyer’s disciplinary history and whether they carry malpractice insurance.
More recently, business owners are turning to the internet to find their business attorney. Review the candidate’s website, professional ratings and reviews. Yelp, AVVO, and Martindale Hubbell all provide background, ratings and reviews on attorneys. A quick review of these websites will give you some insight into the attorney’s background and reputation.
Businesses run by family members, professionals and entrepreneurs have different needs then publicly traded multi-national corporations. The business attorney at a large national law firm representing Coca-Cola may be a fantastic attorney, but will have spent most of his or her carrier dealing with very different issues than the issues faced by closely held business owners. Closely held business owners will want to look for a lawyer or law firm that identifies with the entrepreneurial culture and has addressed similar issues in the past with simple and efficient solutions.
After identifying and reviewing each attorney’s information, you should cull the list down to the qualified candidates that fit your needs and culture.
3. Contact and Meet With Your Potential Attorney
The next step is to contact the candidate to ask some questions. Does the attorney respond timely? Are there any conflicts that need to be addressed? Are you comfortable speaking with them? Will the attorney meet with you free of charge to insure a good fit? Does the attorney have the time and resources to address the legal needs of your business?
At your initial meeting it is important that you gather specific information:
- Find out exactly how much experience, and what type of experience, the attorney and law firm have handling clients with similar needs to yours.
- Ask about the firm’s referral process in the case of clients who need outside specialists.
- Verify that the attorney is one that handles client work, as opposed to merely recruiting new clients for other attorneys or paralegals in the firm to work on.
- Ask about fees and billing. What is their hourly rate? Can they provide an estimate of the charges for various projects.
4. Assess Your Feelings About The Business Attorney You Met
You should be comfortable with the business attorney you choose—comfortable not only with the attorney’s experience and competence, but also with your relationship with that attorney. You should feel comfortable disclosing difficult and sensitive issues to them. Your attorney should communicate with you in a way you can understand, in an non-demeaning and non-confrontational manner. If you are not satisfied in any way with the candidate, move on. There is an attorney out there who will meet your needs, culture and personality.
If you are interested in meeting with a DeAngelis Legal attorney to discuss the legal needs of your business, please fill out the form to the right, or call us to schedule an appointment at (480) 281-1512.