5 Keys to Hiring the Right Attorney for Your Business

by Michael Matasich.

Running a successful business is no small feat. You have myriad responsibilities and endless demands for your time and attention.  Why then risk hiring an attorney who adds to, instead of eliminates, your headaches?  A good attorney is your partner in business who helps you efficiently and successfully navigate legal issues so you can concentrate on running your company.  Read on for five key areas of focus that will help you in securing the right attorney for your business.

  1. Experience & Expertise.

Attorneys are like doctors, insofar as attorneys have practices that focus on particular areas of the law.  Some attorneys have a general practice covering a wide range of legal areas, much like a family doctor.  Other attorneys have focused expertise much like a cardiologist.  You must first determine which type of attorney would work best for your company.  Do you need a general counsel to weigh in on all legal matters?  Or do you need a bet-the-company trial attorney to handle complex litigation?  Once you decide what it is you’re looking for, find an attorney with both the knowledge and the experience to handle your specific legal needs.  It is entirely appropriate for you to interview two or more attorneys before choosing the right one for your business.

  1. Knowledge of Your Industry and Your Business.

It is tremendously valuable having an attorney who understands your industry and your business. (At the very least, you want an attorney who exhibits a willingness to learn.)  When an attorney is equipped with your business knowledge, understands your industry, respects your core values, and fits in with your corporate culture, he or she becomes an asset you can lean on no matter the circumstance.  I recommend you hire an attorney who will learn your business, visit your establishment, meet key personnel, and understand your challenges and goals, free of charge.  Only then can he or she become more than just your  legal counsel, and fill the role as an  effective business advisor.

  1. Proactivity.

Attorneys are expected to be a responsive when a legal issue arises. However, what most companies need is an attorney who is not only responsive, but proactive.  By taking the time to learn your industry and business, your attorney can make legal recommendations before the need arises, and keep you abreast of emerging legal issues and trends relevant to your business.  In this way your attorney becomes a member of your advisory team who assists you in avoiding issues, overcoming obstacles, and advancing you toward your strategic goals.

  1. “Bench strength.”

It is not always feasible or efficient for your attorney to personally handle every one of your legal matters.  Your attorney’s partner(s) may have more in-depth experience with a particular legal issue, or your matter may be handled more efficiently by an associate-level attorney with lower rates.  Choose an attorney who is in good company with other top legal talent so he or she can assemble a team that will have you covered in virtually any situation.  A legal service team also offers a diversity of viewpoints.  When interviewing an attorney, ask him or her about the “bench strength” at their law firm and how well their attorneys work collaboratively to best serve their clients.

  1. Alternative Fee Arrangements.

Attorneys generally bill their time by the hour.  However, there are many creative fee structures that exist when paying your legal counsel. Choose an attorney who will be up front about legal costs and work with you to create a mutually beneficial fee arrangement for your specific legal matters.  Alternative fee arrangements include fixed fees, capped fees, contingent fees, hybrid hourly/contingent fees, and “success fees.”  Alternative fee arrangements may create more value for particular types of legal matters, and they offer predictability in costs.

In today’s ever-competitive legal market there is no shortage of attorneys. It’s important you find the right one with the experience, business knowledge, customer service and drive that will help you and your business be successful.  Use these tips to ask the right questions and properly assess all your options so you can be confident in your choice of legal counsel.