Any business that is planning to stay open and protect what assets they have earned through their own hard work needs someone to turn to in times of crisis, or to help plan correctly to keep the wolves from beating at the door. There are more jokes about lawyers than just about any other profession. Retaining someone in the legal profession is no laughing matter. Just like fishing lures, there are different types of lawyers for different types of legal issues.
How do you find a lawyer for your business and what factors should you consider when you are choosing one? First, realize that the lawyer you choose to give you advice is much like picking a partner for your business. He or she needs to understand you, your business and the laws for your area.
How do you find the right attorney for you and your business? Ask other local small business owners whom they use. Ask them also why they use that attorney or law office. Some areas will have more options than others – if you have to look outside of your town that is okay as well. Finding the right lawyer for your business is worth the extra travel if needed.
Narrow your list down to at least three to five attorneys that have been suggested to you by your fellow small business owners. Contact each attorney and see if they will meet with you, and discuss with each one what you are looking for. They should not charge a fee for the initial meeting since no legal advice will be given. If they ask for a fee to be paid, consider crossing them off your list.
When you meet with the lawyers, you should be prepared with a list of questions for them. Here are some areas you may want to question them about.
How Experienced Are They?
They may have been practicing law for years, but how experienced are they with small businesses, especially fishing tackle retailers? Do they understand fishing and the industry you work within? Are they able to handle tax issues, liability issues, or problems that may arise with seasonal staffs?
Are They Available?
Just because they took your appointment doesn’t mean they have the time to take you on as a client. How much time do they think they will need to devote to you, and do they have that time? When they go on vacation, will there be someone available to assist you if needed?
Do They Fit?
Is this someone you can trust with your business and discuss your business issues with? Do you feel as though they listen to you and are able to understand what you are talking about? Can you understand him or her as well, or does he or she throw out large legal terms just to confuse you? Would you take him or her fishing? This is important – you need to make sure, because this is someone who will be part of your business for years to come.
Do They Have References?
They may have been recommended to you, but do they have references from other clients who own businesses your size? Can you call their references? If they say no, you may question why. While attorney/client privilege is one thing, giving references or referrals to a business is another. Be leery of any lawyer, or any business for that matter that refuses to give references.
Who Would They Recommend And Why?
The legal field isn’t that large in most communities and most lawyers know each other from various associations they are in and from their time representing clients in court. Ask the attorney which local law firm they would recommend to you and why. What qualities does this law firm have that they do not? If you ask each law firm the same question, one firm should rise above the others by the end of your search.
What Are Their Fees?
Do they charge a monthly, quarterly or yearly retainer fee? How many hours of their time does that assure you each month? After that fee is used up, how much do they charge an hour? An unknown fact is that you can negotiate legal fees – don’t be afraid to ask them about it.
When they bring up their rates, ask how they bill you. Are contracts a flat fee, do they charge hourly, do they charge you for every phone call they receive or letter they send on your behalf? You will be paying for their time, so ask ahead how you will be billed.
Weighing It All
In the end, hopefully you have found at least two law firms you feel comfortable with and will need to decide who will get your business. Do not base your choice on price alone. Younger, less experienced and less expensive lawyers may take more hours to complete a project, or miss a loophole costing you even more. Just because a law office is large and has been in business for years doesn’t mean they are the best either. You need to weigh your options and go with what feels best to you. If you get a good feeling about one firm, and all of your questions are answered to your expectations, then go with them. Remember, you can always change law firms if it isn’t working for you. Don’t ever hesitate to shop for a new lawyer if you feel you are not getting the service you need.
Where do you stand with your local legal beagles? Do you keep a lawyer on retainer or do you only turn to one you can trust in times of need? Share your experiences and thoughts with your fellow fishing tackle retailers on our Facebook page or in our LinkedIn group.