At one point or another, every business needs to represent itself legally or handle some sort of court proceeding. When that time comes, you don’t want to be scrambling to choose an attorney at the last minute, as your selection will probably be rushed for the sake of getting the issue resolved as quickly as possible.
When you’re operating based on a panicked need instead of patiently and thoroughly comparing prospective attorneys, that’s when you’re prone to making rash decisions. Ultimately, you’ll be more likely to choose an attorney that is an optimal match for your company when you’re more informed about what to look for in a business attorney. With that said, here are seven factors to consider when choosing a go-to attorney for your business:
1. Achievements and Credentials
Any attorney can tell you that they’re the best person for the job, but their portfolio is what you really want to look at. A strong history of successful cases and a long list of achievements are usually good signs that you’re dealing with a prestigious expert. Beyond the accolades that are readily apparent on the attorney’s website or social media profiles, you can also find press releases related to their accomplishments by typing the attorney’s name followed by the terms, “achievement” or “award.” Alternatively, you can check out curated lists from organizations like America’s Top 100 Attorneys – you can learn more here about them and their lifetime achievement awards.
2. Determine Which Type of Attorney You Need
Having a one-size-fits-all attorney on standby is not necessarily a bad thing. However, when you need someone with a certain set of skills and experience to represent your business during litigation procedures, you’ll want a specialist who is familiar with industry-specific processes and requirements. Thus, other than keeping an eye out for awards and other accolades, determining which type of attorney you should have on-call will be the second most important factor to consider.
3. Look for an Attorney that Specializes in Your Niche
Once you know what kind of attorney you need, try to get even more specific about the work experience of your prospective attorneys. Have they represented clients in your exact niche before? Can they help you prepare and interpret documentation that revolves around an uncommon lexicon specific to your niche? In essence, you shouldn’t have to explain your business model and what you might need to your attorney. In fact, a competent attorney should already be somewhat familiar with how your business works and what you may require as soon as you tell them what kind of business you operate.
4. Choose an Appropriately Sized Firm
Choosing the largest law firm isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes, small or medium-sized firms can provide a more personalized approach at a more budget-friendly cost. Larger firms are typically busy with many clients and some would even say that high business volume makes a firm less likely to value each client individually. In other words, a major firm may not even care if you decide not to utilize their services any more, whereas a smaller firm or independent attorney will be more likely to accommodate your needs without hesitation in order to keep you as a client. Still, if budget and responsiveness aren’t your highest priorities, larger firms can be ideal for companies that need reliable guidance or on-call legal services.
5. Additional Social Perks and Skills
Let’s face it: legal services aren’t necessarily cheap. Thus, it makes sense that you should take steps to get the most for your money. Look for attorneys that are members of trade groups or other associations. Also look for an attorney who has an extensive social network that they might be able to leverage in times of legal need. Some law firms will even provide webinars, live networking events, and other online resources to keep clients informed and in touch.
6. Fee Structure and Billing
Sooner or later, price has to come into play during any comparison of a professional service. Most attorneys will bill you by the hour for their services, but some have begun to charge set amounts for predefined service packages. If they charge an hourly rate, you may need to deal with them for a little while to get a feel for how they bill for their time. Some attorneys are more generous than others in terms of the minimum time they will bill you for. One lawyer might nickel and dime you and charge a minimum of an hour for every single consultation or inquiry, while another may charge as little as 10% of an hour’s rate for short discussions.
7. Friendliness and Support Quality
Finally, don’t forget to take the attorney’s personality into consideration. After all, you don’t want to be dealing with someone who is hard to get along with, as you’ll be entrusting the fate of your business with this individual. Likewise, the firm that the attorney works with should have solid customer support and you should always be able to easily reach someone.
Choosing a Lawyer That Will Do the Job Right
There are plenty of lawyers who will come running to assist you with any business problem you may have, but not all of them will provide the same level of service and expertise. In fact, many attorneys rely on the fact that most clients don’t take the time to do their own due diligence in order to do the least amount of work possible per case. Look for a lawyer who has the “win or nothing” mentality.
You’ll often see law firms promising that they take no compensation unless your case is successful, and some will even take cases pro bono – with no money upfront – if you have a worthwhile case that will probably go in your favor. Regardless of which attorney you decide to hire, it’s always best to participate in an initial consultation as soon as you feel you might be facing court proceedings of any kind.