TIP #1 – SPECIALIZATION.
Attorneys, like ice cream, come in all flavors. Attorneys are highly skilled in their area of expertise. They are experts in the law, not necessarily in business. You want to find an attorney that focuses their practice on small businesses, because they understand business practices and work with a client base of small business owners. As my Mother used to say, “You don’t order steak at a fish house”. Do not let the criminal defense attorney who fixes your speeding tickets represent your small business interests.
TIP #2 – FEE STRUCTURE.
We live in a litigious society. Small business owners are served with lawsuits every day. Negotiate your fees before the lawsuit arrives. Once sued, you have 20 days in which to respond to the lawsuit. This is not the time to be negotiating fees with your attorney. Agree upon a set fee structure up front, and in writing. So much anxiety and uncertainty come with legal issues that you want to have something concrete and transparent. It will reduce your stress level in a time of crisis.
TIP #3 – ADVISORY TEAM.
Your attorney, along with your CPA, insurance agent, advertising agency, financial planner, and other management consultants, is part of your advisory team. When looking for a good small business attorney, consult your advisory team. Their purpose is to advise you. Are there attorneys that your CPA works with? Can your other advisors recommend an attorney that understands small business issues?
TIP #4 – ACCESSABILITY.
How easy is it to reach your attorney? Will they return your phone call the same day, or next day? Will it take a week? Can you text them a question? Do they answer email? Your attorney needs to be accessible. You have every right to question the attorney as to their level of accessibility. A business owner might be frustrated if they can only talk to a receptionist or a voice mailbox.
TIP #5 – REFERRALS.
Ask other small business owners which attorneys they use for their legal needs. Some of the best referrals can come from other business owners who have firsthand knowledge of working with a particular attorney. Business owners can also steer you away from an attorney that might not be the proper fit for your type of business or industry.