by Deborah Sweeney | Featured Contributor
Finding a lawyer can be pretty intimidating for anyone that runs a small business. Before I bought my company MyCorporation, I actually worked as an attorney specializing in intellectual property law, so I know what it feels like to be on both sides of the desk. Because of my past experience as a lawyer, a lot of entrepreneurs ask me for advice on finding an attorney of their own. And the process isn’t as complicated or drawn out as you’d think either – you just have to know how, and where, to look.
Remember that not all lawyers are created equal.
I don’t mean that some lawyers are good and some lawyers are bad. Though that one is true – if you’re meeting with an attorney whose office is a mall kiosk, look elsewhere. Lawyers and law firms come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re a small business, you probably want to work with a smaller, local firm that is willing to meet with you one-on-one. Different lawyers also have different specializations, so make sure whomever you choose can help you with what you need. A tax and licensing attorney, for example, would much more useful in helping you map out tax liabilities and gains than an intellectual property attorney.
Know what you can afford.
Attorneys are not cheap – according to the Laffey Matrix, an attorney fresh out of law school charges on average $320. Larger firms can typically handle all of your issues in-house since there are multiple attorneys in the office, but you’ll also pay for convenience. An attorney from a smaller firm may be more affordable, but might not be able to meet all your needs. It’s all about cost-benefit so be sure to set a budget ahead of time and know what you can and can’t afford for representation for your business.
Ask for references.
The network of small business owners you’re connected to has probably consulted with an attorney at one point or another so ask them who they’ve used, or if they know of anyone in the area who does good work. If your peers fail you, move on to friends and family. One of the biggest hurdles in looking for an attorney is finding someone you trust and connect with and reliable references matter here. Only ask people you trust for references, and use them to narrow down your list.
Make a list and schedule consultations.
While there are some attorneys that fit the stereotype of being snarky and underhanded to a T, most lawyers are genuinely honest people. You just need to make sure you find one from the latter group, rather than the former. Make a list of possible attorneys in your area based on price, references, and specializations and meet with them. You want to hire someone who you feel comfortable with, and with whom you can communicate easily too.
Treat these consultations like you would an interview with anyone else you were considering hiring. Jot down a few notes and reflect on the interview. Did you mesh well with them? Could you see yourself maintaining a solid, working relationship with that person? Do they seem genuinely interested in helping you and would their past experience make them an asset to your business? Remember that hiring an attorney is a serious investment, so you need to be absolutely sure you choose the best lawyer for you. Do your research and trust your instincts, and you’ll be able to find someone you can trust to help protect your business.
Deborah Sweeney – Legal Expert, CEO, MyCorporation.com – Calabasas, CA
As CEO of MyCorporation Business Services, Inc. (MyCorporation.com), Deborah Sweeney is an advocate for protecting personal and business assets for business owners and entrepreneurs. With her experience in the fields of corporate and intellectual property law, Deborah has evolved from lawyer to business owner. She has extensive experience in the start-up and entrepreneurial industry as she has been involved in the formation of hundreds of thousands of businesses for MyCorporation.com’s customers.
Ms. Sweeney received her JD & MBA degrees from Pepperdine University. She is active in the community and loves working with students and aspiring entrepreneurs. She serves on the Board of Regents at California Lutheran University and is a founding member of Partners of Pepperdine. Deborah has served as an adjunct professor at the University of West Los Angeles and San Fernando School of Law in the areas of corporate and intellectual property law. Ms. Sweeney is also well-recognized for her written work online as a contributing writer with top business and entrepreneurial blogging sites. She is a regular contributor on Forbes, American Express, Social Media Today, and BlogHer among many others.
In her ‘free’ time, Deborah enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, Benjamin (8) and Christopher (6). Deborah believes in the importance of family and credits the entrepreneurial business model for giving her the flexibility to enjoy both a career and motherhood. Follow her on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.