Always learn as much as possible about their practice areas, level of experience, fee structures and network. Then drill down on questions relevant to your particular business.
I’d like to take a moment to highlight the importance of finding an attorney with a robust network. This is one of the more valuable assets seasoned lawyers can offer to their business clients. Here are some questions around network:
- Do you belong to any trade associations? ( E.g., a lawyer who represents clients in the food industry might also be a member of the National Restaurant Association.)
- Do you have connections with vendors relevant to my industry or any complementary businesses? (E.g., a lawyer representing concrete manufacturers or heavy industry clients should also have some healthy relationships with reliable environmental consulting firms.)
Practice Areas and Level of Experience
- Do you work with other clients in my industry? (Make sure they understand your industry and the unique needs of your business.)
- Which bar association memberships do you hold?
- Are you licensed in more than one state?
- What’s your level of participation - do you teach or write for any journals?
- Are you a member of any particular bar association section - e.g., the business law section?
Lawyers often have different rate structures depending on the the nature of the project. Here are some helpful questions:
- How much will it cost to incorporate and set up the company’s books?
- How will I be charged beyond incorporation?
- Do you offer a combination of flat and hourly rates, or are blended rates an option?
These are the questions you need to ask about your business structure, tax and financial implications, compliance, financing and employee matters:
- What kind of business structure will best serve my company’s financial interests?
- What are the tax advantages and disadvantages of selecting different corporate entities?
- Which state is best for incorporating my business?
- How do I protect my business name, trademark and intellectual property in general?
- How do I protect proprietary and confidential business information?How do I ensure regulatory and legal compliance?
- How do I handle payroll and taxes in general?
- What do I need to know how employment law and how to be compliant?
- What are the considerations of seeking financing, whether traditional loans from financial institutions or from private investors?
- What record retention policies do I need to be aware of?How will my personal assets be protected?
- What business, state and local licenses do I need?
- Do I need a business plan?
- How do I open a business bank account? What documents will I need?
This should help you get started. Finding the lawyer that’s right for you and your company can be daunting. You want quality, but as a startup you’re usually on a tight budget. Plus it can take considerable time to locate a reliable attorney.