Hiring a lawyer
While small businesses often need some legal advice, they can’t always find a professional with the right expertise at a budget the small business can afford. Since small businesses usually don’t need lawyers that often, when it comes time to review a contract, buy out a partner or protect their brand and trademark, they often don’t know where to start. The purpose of this article is to give executives a business owners a guide on how to ask a prospective lawyer the right questions to get the service one needs at a price that one can afford.
To get answers to questions about hiring a lawyer, please select one of the links below.
- How do I hire a lawyer?
- What can a lawyer do for me?
- How can a lawyer help me in setting up a business?
- How can a lawyer help when my business is up and running?
- If I decide to get out of business, how can a lawyer help me?
- When do you need a lawyer?
- How do I contact a lawyer?
- How do I find a lawyer?
- What should I ask a prospective lawyer?
- How can I help my lawyer?
- How do lawyers calculate their fees?
Lawyers are highly-trained professionals who counsel individuals and businesses in a full range of personal and corporate legal matters. Many business transactions have legal implications, so you should try to find a lawyer whom you can treat as a trusted advisor. These questions are designed to help you choose the right lawyer for your situation.
Lawyers provide legal guidance. This doesn’t mean that they can make your business decisions for you. A lawyer should identify legal issues of concern to you or your small business, tell you what the law says about these issues, and advise you on how to address them.
A lawyer can:
- Explain the advantages and disadvantages of a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation;
- draft a partnership agreement or incorporate your company;
- review financial documents for your business such as a loan;
- review leases of premises or equipment;
- act for you in the purchase of property;
- review franchise agreements;
- draft standard form contracts for use in your business;
- advise you how to best protect your ideas, trademarks, designs and know-how.
A lawyer can:
- help you negotiate contracts and put them in writing;
- advise you on hiring and firing employees;
- advise you about doing business in other provinces and countries;
- help you collect unpaid bills;
- defend any lawsuits against you;
- advise you about taxes.
A lawyer can:
- help you sell your business;
- help you sell you ownership interest if you are one of several owners;
- arrange for the transfer of the business to your children;
- dissolve a corporation or LLC.
The recommended approach is to seek the advice of a lawyer whenever a legal issue arises that involves your business. Since it is not always clear when that happens, many problems are solved without resorting to lawyers. When an issue arises, you must first decide whether you need a lawyer at all. In order to know if you should solve your problem on your own, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the consequences if you are unsuccessful?
- How complex is the law in your situation?
- Do you have the time and energy?
If you are still unsure, some outside professionals, advisors or para-professionals may be useful:
Check with your Board of Directors or Board of Advisors; they can provide information about the steps they went through and the resources they used in solving their problems. Contact government and non-profit organizations for income tax, legal aid, consumer protection, employment standards, etc.
Check with other professionals: accountants, bank officers, insurance agents. For some routine matters, legal assistants, para-legals and notaries public are useful. While not allowed to give legal advice, they can provide added value in familiarity with standard corporate forms and filing requirements.
Also, don’t forget public libraries, legal aid services, student legal services, small claims courts, reading self-help books and other resources such as books, pamphlets and videos.
Give him a call. Most lawyers are happy to steer people in the right direction and calm fears about the legal process. There are several advantages to this approach. The main one is that a lawyer can quickly cut to the heart of your problem, distinguish between legal and non-legal problems. Another advantage is that you usually will not be charged for this phone call. Finally, a lawyer will not only keep your problem confidential, but has the ability to assess it from a less emotional perspective.
Please feel free to call us at (866) 734-2568 should you have any questions.
First, try to identify the areas of law in which your problems fall so that you can find a lawyer capable with dealing with all these areas. Some of the main areas of legal practice linked to business are:
- Corporate/commercial/securities law (incorporation, buying/selling a business, drafting shareholders/partnership agreement)
- Labor/employment law (negotiating and interpreting collective agreements, resolving disputes, explaining obligations, advising about restrictive covenants, dismissals)
- Civil litigation law (suing, being sued, collecting debts, negotiating and settling)
- Real Estate law (buying or selling land or property, negotiating a lease, solving landlord/tenant disputes, mortgaging property)
- Wills and estates (drafting or challenging a will, probate)
Some questions you should ask a prospective lawyer are:
- How many years are you in practice?
- How long have you been with your current firm?
- What areas of law do you practice?
- Are you a partner or an associate?
- Time and accessibility
- How quickly can I expect a resolution?
- When can we meet?
- How much can I expect top pay?
- How do you charge for your services?
- Do you provide your clients with a detailed written statement of fees?
- Do you charge anything for the first meeting?
- Do you communicate via telephone, cell phone, fax or email?
Ways you can help your lawyer include:
- Be honesty and open
- Tell the lawyer all the facts, even the ones that you think are “bad”.
- Keep your lawyer up to date on any events or any changes relating to your file.
- Ask for advice in plain language and summarize how you understand it.
- Ask to be directed to any reading that you could do to better understand.
- Ask for a description of the steps your lawyer plans to take and think about the way you could help at each step.
- Stay informed and keep track of what transpires on your file.
- Take notes at all meetings and list tasks to be completed.
- Ask for copies of all correspondence on file.
- Have confidence in your lawyer’s advice and follow his/her instructions.
- Do not harass your lawyer. If you need more attention, discuss way in which he/she can keep you informed.
- Be prepared to accept both positive and negative advice.
- Never do anything concerning your case without consulting your lawyer.
- Provide information to your lawyer as soon as possible after he/she requests it.
- Pay your bills on time and be available if your lawyer needs you.
Depending on the complexity of the issues, the services required, and the degree of experience of the lawyer, fees can be charged in different ways:
- Billed hourly: charged a rate for the time they spend working for you (e.g. the time spent reading a letter or talking on the phone).
- Flat Fee: charge a flat rate for a particular matter, usually when they can predict how long the work will take: incorporations, trademarks.
- Contingency Fee: in some matters, the lawyer’s fee will be a stated percentage of the amount of money collected from the lawsuit.
- Retainer: provide a range of specified services for a fixed monthly or annual fee.
In addition, lawyers will also bill for disbursements such as long distance phone calls, photocopies, document filling fees, experts’ reports and travel expenses.
Safeguarding Ideas, Relationships & Talent®
Executives face an often confusing and changing set of challenges trying to ensure that their business remains legally compliant. Yet few can afford the highly-qualified and versatile legal staff needed to deal with today’s complex and inconstant legal and regulatory environment. Adler & Franczyk is a boutique law firm created with a specific mission in mind: to provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in a way that drives innovation and increases the overall value of the business.
We approach our relationship with each client as a true partnership and we view our firm as an extension of their capabilities. Our primary value is our specialization on relevant and complex issues that maintain the leading edge for our clients. We invite you to learn more about the services we offer and how we differ.
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We look forward to the opportunity to discuss any questions you may have regarding the range of business, technology and intellectual property services we offer. Please feel free to call us at (866) 734-2568 should you have any questions.