As a small business owner, you will come across a number of situations which will require some level of legal expertise. If you have only a limited knowledge of the relevant laws and regulations, it may be in your best interests to retain an attorney.
However, before hiring an attorney, you should perform a careful review of their credentials.
The best way to do this is by asking questions. Here are 4 questions to ask before hiring a small business lawyer.
1. "What is your Experience in My Industry?"
Not all small business lawyers will have experience in your business sector. Each lawyer specializes in his or her own particular fields, and possesses different levels of experience in those fields.
For these reasons, it's important to ask whether the attorney or firm you're considering hiring has experience in representing clients in your particular industry. You want your lawyer to have extensive legal knowledge of the industry that you're in so that he or she can give well-informed legal advice and provide you with staunch defense should legal issues arise.
2. "Will You Be the Only Legal Professional Dealing With My Issues?"
In some firms, one lawyer will handle essentially all of your issues on his or her own, while in others, your primary counsel will delegate certain tasks to various assistants. These assistants, known as associates or paralegals, have legal experience, but not at the same level as the person you hired.
This isn't to say that you should avoid lawyers who use associates or paralegals. Many times, a portion of the work can be completed at a lower cost by such a trained professional, who doesn't have the same billing rate as the primary attorney on your matter. However, you will want to be sure that the attorney, and not his or her assistants, will be dealing with the complex aspects of your legal issues.
3. "Do You Have Any Clients Which Could Create a Conflict of Interest?"
It is also important to ask the lawyer you are seeking to hire is whether or not their firm has any client relationships which could result in a conflict of interest issue. Conflicts of interest can arise when your attorney represents other businesses in your industry, estranged business partners, or other clients who may influence your lawyer's ability to advocate on your behalf.
While there's no guarantee that a potential conflict of interest would negatively impact your lawyer's ability to represent you, it's generally not something that you want to risk. You want an attorney that you know will serve as a staunch advocate for your interests. Your potential lawyer should also independently check for such conflicts of interest, and advise you of the existence of any potential conflicts as soon as they appear.
4. "What is Your Firm's Billing Process?"
Before hiring an attorney, you want to have a general idea of how much it will cost. This can be achieved by inquiring about the nature of a lawyer's billing practices.
Not only do different lawyers charge different rates, they also bill based on different criteria. For instance, while some lawyers will round up to a pre-determined minimum (i.e. charging a tenth of an hour or a quarter of an hour for a short telephone call or a 10 minute meeting), other lawyers will only charge you for the actual time incurred. And, some lawyers charge for travel time to and from the meeting or court house, while others do not.
By asking about a lawyer's billing practices, you'll have a better idea of what to expect.
Thinking About Hiring a Small Business Lawyer?
If you're reading this blog, there's a good chance that you're actively seeking a small business lawyer. If your business is located near Chicago or the Northwest Suburbs and that's the case, there's no reason to look any further. John J. Pembroke & Associates are on your side.
We have a deep knowledge of every legal aspect of running a small business. With John J. Pembroke & Associates, you'll be getting competent legal advice from the moment your business gets its start.
Interested? Contact us to get started!