Business owners are never into the idea of hiring an attorney, but situations arise where you might need one – even in the early stages. From legally establishing your business to leasing working space and even acquiring licences, you need legal counsel, especially if you are new to the world of entrepreneurship. Not only that, where would you go if someone filed a lawsuit threatening to sweep away your investment?
If you have made up your mind to get a business counsel for your enterprise, here are some questions to ask before signing a deal with your attorney.
#1. How much for the service?
Price is a key factor for any business transaction. You really do not have any extra cash waiting to be thrown on an attorney, so charges become a sticking point. It is an excellent idea to negotiate a fixed-fee deal instead of an hourly rate. Experienced lawyers know how to go by the book and are aware of how much time it would take to fix a matter and can, therefore, accurately price it beforehand. Unfortunately, a flat fee may not apply if you have a complicated lawsuit.
It is important to consider price first because there is no point wasting your (and the attorney’s) precious time if their price does not fit your budget.
#2. How long has the attorney they been in this field of law?
What are their winning rates? How many such cases have they handled in the past with great success? Have they ever lost this type of lawsuit and under what circumstances?
Such questions can help you decide if an attorney matches your needs. There are many types of business lawyers e.g. corporate lawyers, commercial litigation attorneys and more. Read more here to learn a thing or two about commercial litigation attorneys.
#3. Do they need a down payment?
Most attorneys ask for some down payment as a retainer. Make sure to ask them whether the deposit is refundable (if unused) or not. In short, inquire more about the terms and conditions of the down payment.
#4. Will everything we discuss stay confidential?
Attorneys should be familiar with all the personal secrets that are vital to solving your case. Ask if you can trust them and if there are any binding contracts. Give out all facts to the attorney so they can assess the situation accurately. Attorneys are good at keeping information confidential even if the discussion doesn’t end in a lawyer-client relationship.
#5. What will be your job as my attorney?
A lawyer’s job is to identify and preserve your claims. Your attorney should make sure that you meet legal timelines, understand omissions to the rules, present evidence, and arguments to back your claims. In addition, the attorney should be able to help in the cross-examination of witness testimony, and discuss the best deals (in your favour) as a settlement.
#6. Have they owned a business before?
Though this point may not be a strong factor to consider, it would be a lot more advantageous to work with a business counsel who doubles as a business owner. The truth is; such attorneys are experienced in both legal and financial matters, and they can relate to your failures based on past experiences. However, this does not mean that attorneys who haven’t been entrepreneurs are not competent. It only means you will have someone who can relate to your situation pretty well.
#7. Can you interview them for free?
Hiring an attorney is a lengthy procedure that requires hours of discussions to know if the candidate matches your needs. While some allow clients to question them at no cost, most of them charge an hourly rate or small consultation fee to visit them on an interview capacity.
Some attorneys are used to having many people come around, ask questions and get info for free without any intention to hire them, so many attorneys are shifting to requesting consultation fees. Consult upfront to find out if you can vet them for free.
#8. Ask about their background?
Clients deserve to learn everything about their attorney. Ask about their background. You can ask questions including: Where did they study law? How did they end up where they are today? And, why they chose this line of service?
#9. How long have they served in your locality?
Years and years of service make an attorney more experienced and well-placed to tackle many legal issues in the community. Choose a business attorney with a reputation of helping the businesses in your area. Remember, laws differ from one state to another, so you want someone familiar with your state’s business regulations. Besides, you need someone from your area because you will need to consult them from time to time.
#10. Who will work on your case and will they go to trial?
Some lawsuits are long-term and very engaging that your attorney may need to outsource the job to some staff. Be sure to inquire about it upfront and whether another attorney or staff will take care of specific tasks. Seek to know more about their credentials and experience.
Furthermore, ask if the attorney can go to a trial. Some attorneys avoid prosecution by attempting to settle the case at any cost. Be sure to question their trial experience beforehand, more so if you need someone to help you with a lawsuit. You stand better chances of winning cases if you have someone with years of experience on your side.
Frankly, it is challenging to single out the right business counsel for your needs in a field that is so crowded with lawyers of different experiences and competencies. It can take from weeks to months of research to get attorney services that are not only cost effective but also efficient.
Again, apart from basing your searches on Google alone, ask the bigger players in your industry to help you link with attorneys who have helped them before. That way, you can find an attorney who does an excellent job at a competitive fee and a lawyer you can trust with your case.