28 Jul Finding The Right Small Business Lawyer
Good legal help is a vital part of every small business. The right legal advice can help small businesses succeed today and avoid painful mistakes tomorrow. Finding the right small business lawyer can be tricky but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
How do I find the right small business lawyer for my business?
Finding the right small business lawyer is an important way to help your company navigate difficult legal issues and protect itself from future litigation. Contract disputes, lawsuits from unhappy customers, intellectual property disputes, and many other types of legal problems can have a devastating effect on small businesses. The first step in finding the right small business lawyer is to consider when you need a good small business lawyer. Unfortunately, most people wait to call a lawyer until they are in a legal crisis but this is not always the best idea. If possible try to establish a relationship with an attorney early on in your business and decide if they are a good fit for you. Ask questions to determine if they are familiar with your business niche and industry. They don’t need to be a specialist in your industry but you want to work with someone who has a good general understanding of what your business does. Legal help can be expensive so be sure to ask questions regarding their fee schedule and make sure it works for you. Just like you would hire any other professional, dig into their background and credentials and make sure they have a good track record and certifications that match your needs. If you are at the moment dealing with a specific legal issue, ask questions to determine that they are not only familiar with your business and industry, but also familiar with the specific problem you are facing.
Why is finding the right small business lawyer important?
Litigation can have a disruptive and sometimes fatal effect on small businesses. Litigation has an obvious financial cost. A study from the Klemm Analysis Group on behalf of the SBA Office of Advocacy stated that legal costs for actual litigation ranged from 3,000 to 150,000 with approximately one-third of the cases surveyed reporting costs under 10,000. However, the actual cost of litigation is only a small part of the overall impact on a business. A vast majority of small business firms in the US have under 50 employees and most are still operated by their founder/owner. Legal issues tend to cause a lot of emotional stress on business owners and drain a significant amount of their time and attention away from important responsibilities within their company.
The cost of losing litigation battles can be expensive with large payouts for damages. The time drain and opportunity cost can often disrupt operations for smaller firms and even cause them to have to make a variety of internal changes to recoup legal costs and stay afloat during litigation proceedings. Finding the right small business lawyer can make a big difference in helping you overcome a legal challenge facing your business or avoid costly and time-draining litigation in the future.
Keys to finding the right small business lawyer
No small business owner wants to deal with difficult legal issues or litigation against their company. Unfortunately, litigation has become part of the landscape of owning a small business in America, an uncomfortable reality that pragmatic and proactive business owners must prepare for. It is unwise to put your head in the sand and hope it never happens to you. Wise business owners look ahead and prepare for future issues and make a good working relationship with an attorney that is knowledgeable of their industry and business.
Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Wise business owners make finding the right small business lawyer a priority before they are in legal trouble. If you are just looking to start a business, consulting with a good small business lawyer can help you make sure that you have all of the proper documents in order. A good small business lawyer can help you with things like setting up your business entity, drafting an operating agreement and creating documents defining and establishing key partnerships. A common legal issue that small businesses face revolve around contract disputes. A good small business lawyer can help you draft initial contracts that you use with customers, vendors, and contractors in your business. Involving a lawyer early on in your business can often seem like an easy step to overlook due to a desire to keep costs down in the early stages but the long term value it can bring by helping you potentially avoid costly litigation in the future makes it well worth the time and expense.
When you begin the search of finding the right small business lawyer for your business it’s always best to prepare beforehand. Think through and perhaps even write down specific questions you want to ask. If you are dealing with a specific legal issue at the moment be sure to prepare as much documentation as possible. Think through potential documents that may be needed and a timeline of any important events that have happened thus far. This will greatly benefit any discussion you have with an attorney and will help you both determine if they are a good match to take on your case.
Ask good questions.
This goes along with being prepared but be sure to think through beforehand of specific questions you want to ask. This will make finding the right small business lawyer easier. During the conversation, don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions as well that come to mind or ask for clarification if you didn’t understand something fully. Finding the right small business lawyer for your business is based on a good working relationship. Assumptions are the plague of all relationships, both personal and professional. Good questions help us fight through or prevent assumptions that might cause problems later on. Never fear to ask a “stupid question”, the cost of ignorance for not asking is too high a price to pay unnecessarily. A good small business lawyer will also be a good legal coach, helping you understand complicated legal issues.
What are some of the most common legal issues for small businesses?
Common legal issues for small businesses include contract disputes, employee complaints, bankruptcy filings, civil lawsuits, tort cases, property rights disputes, and intellectual property lawsuits. Tort cases include all negligence cases as well as intentional wrongs which result in harm. Many times small businesses will try to settle out of court but this is not always possible if the other party is not willing to cooperate. The most common legal issue for small businesses is contract disputes, with some studies estimating that about 28% of all legal action against small businesses related to contract disputes. The second most common legal issue for small businesses is tort cases where there is an accusation of negligence or intentional
Business Specific Issues/Claims
Many of these issues are industry-specific. For example, many tech companies become involved in intellectual property disputes and many small construction companies deal with being blamed for structural issues resulting from problems the client could not initially envision. Because certain legal problems are common to certain industries when finding the right small business lawyer be sure to find someone familiar with the common legal issues in your industry.
No small business survives long without happy customers and word of mouth referrals. A positive reputation in the marketplace spread by word of mouth is the lifeblood of every small business. Litigation from customers can be especially damaging to a small companies reputation and cause them to lose market share to competitors. Many times small business owners will try to avoid litigation by reducing the final invoice cost, providing additional services, or a variety of other means to help ease the customer’s concern even if the customer is known to be incorrect.
Fear Not Intrepid Entrepreneurs!
A society that is prone to sometimes frivolous and unnecessary lawsuits can feel like a threatening environment for the modern small business owner. But you don’t have to navigate these waters on a hope and a prayer and blind optimism. Finding the right small business lawyer can help you navigate the course ahead for your business with confidence.