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Selecting a Business Attorney

Ultimately, your business attorney should become a trusted advisor who understands your business and the issues it faces. Consider the following when choosing a business attorney.

Size

A large firm will have the resources to handle a wide variety of legal needs, but generally charges more. Small firms and sole practitioners may not be able to handle the same range of legal issues, but you may experience more personal attention and lower hourly rates.

Firms both large and small may make allowances for your capability to pay their standard rates based on your business' ability to evolve into a major client that can then be billed at the firm's standard rates. Many firms will not turn you away because you are (initially) unable to pay the going rate.

Experience

Does the attorney have an area of expertise that is relevant to your industry? While you cannot expect an attorney to have your depth of understanding in your particular field, he or she should have a background that will enable a detailed comprehension of your business.

Cost

Expenses and services vary greatly from one firm to the next. Remember that all fees and costs are negotiable, negotiations should be had at the beginning of your relationship with the attorney, and you must get everything in writing to avoid dispute.

Sample questions

When interviewing a potential attorney, it's a good idea to have a list of questions to help you get to the bottom of the above criteria as efficiently as possible. The following are questions you might consider:

  • What specialties are regularly practiced in your firm? Which are your strongest? Weakest?

  • What are the possible outcomes of my specific legal matter?

  • In addition to your fees, what other expenses should I anticipate?

  • If you and I have a dispute, how will we resolve the matter?

  • Who else in your firm will be involved in my account?

  • What can I do to keep expenses down?

  • Does your firm represent any clients that may present a conflict of interest?

  • What business experience do you have?

The bottom line

Remember that a good business counsel is not necessarily a good business person — don't mistake legal advice for business advice. Understand the role a business attorney should play, the fees and costs involved, and then use that understanding to select an attorney who suits your business' needs by asking thorough and pointed questions.


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