ARCHIVED  August 1, 1997

How to select a business attorney

Every business has legal needs, though often business owners aren’t even aware of those needs. That’s where a good business lawyer can become indispensable.

A good lawyer can identify the legal concerns of any given company and then figure out the best way to address those concerns.

In choosing the right lawyer, it’s important to find one who is experienced with the concerns of your particular business. The best way to begin your search is by asking others in your field. Ask those who own businesses similar to your own about what lawyers they know of. Also ask any professional association to which you might belong.After checking around, you should have a pretty good list of contacts. It’s important to shop around – talk to more than one lawyer. In employing a lawyer, the typical procedure is to set up an interview. This is basically like a job interview. They’re done at no cost to you. Lawyers sometimes refer to these interviews as “dog and pony shows” or “beauty contests” because it’s their chance to show you all that they have to offer.
The typical structure of these interviews is for you, the interviewer, to give an overview of your business, offering nonproprietary issues that you think might need to be addressed legally. The lawyer then comments on how he or she might address those issues. The lawyer also might address other issues that you might not have been aware of.
During this process, it’s important to pay attention to how you feel personally about this particular lawyer. You need a lawyer with whom you can get along.
Another important factor to determine is the capabilities of the other lawyers in his or her office. No one lawyer can do all things at all times. All have to delegate certain tasks.
The strength of the support team is often what determines the strength of your legal representation. If your company’s interests are far-reaching, you’ll want to know the extent of a lawyer’s networking capabilities. Can this lawyer find someone in San Francisco to handle a problem that has suddenly arose there?
You’ll also need to determine rates and billing during the interview. Not only do lawyers offer different rates, but they also charge for different things. For example: Are they going to charge you an hourly rate for photocopying? How do they bill for traveling? Do they fly first-class or coach?
You also should determine how high-tech the lawyer’s office is. Do they have computers? E-mail? A lower-tech lawyer might cost you more in billable hours. You also might want to know where the lawyer went to school. The longer a lawyer has been out of school, however, the more his or her experience matters than the prestige of their alma mater.
Once you’ve interviewed a number of lawyers and compiled a short list, go back to your professional community. Network until you find someone who has worked with the lawyers on your list. Ask for a full report on their capabilities. You also can check with the state agency that disciplines lawyers. They’ll be able to tell you if any given lawyer has engaged in any misconduct.
If you still can’t decide, schedule a second interview. Generally, if a lawyer is truly interested in representing your business, he or she will grant this second interview. At this time, you can really pay attention to how well you work with this particular lawyer. After all, with a job as important as a lawyer’s, you’ll need someone you can trust.

Every business has legal needs, though often business owners aren’t even aware of those needs. That’s where a good business lawyer can become indispensable.

A good lawyer can identify the legal concerns of any given company and then figure out the best way to address those concerns.

In choosing the right lawyer, it’s important to find one who is experienced with the concerns of your particular business. The best way to begin your search is by asking others in your field. Ask those who own businesses similar to your own about what lawyers they know of. Also ask any professional association…

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