Tips for getting the most value out of your business lawyer

If you have to ask yourself if you need a lawyer for your Oregon, Washington or California business, chances are you do. Business lawyers are not only helpful in times of crisis, they are essential at every stage of business ownership, such as:

  • Setting up new businesses correctly and ensuring clarity as to shareholders, officers, and partners' rights and responsibilities
  • Choosing the best corporate forms for start-up companies
  • Drafting and reviewing contracts
  • Avoiding and resolving internal and external disputes
  • Negotiating for purchases and sales of assets, goods and businesses themselves
  • Establishing business guidelines and best practices
  • Advising on tricky employment matters before they become problems
  • Assessing and minimizing personal and business risks and liabilities

While there are many law firms and lawyers, picking the best one for you and your business takes a little research. In order to get the best value from your business attorney, review these tips:

  • Choose wisely: Selecting a lawyer for your business is similar to picking a doctor. If you break your arm, a dentist is not your best choice. If you are attempting to enforce a business contract, a criminal defense attorney will not be much help. Choose a law firm that focuses on business law - and a lawyer experienced with clients who are similar to you - when you are dealing with business matters. You should choose a firm that can handle your business transactions as well as litigate them when disputes arise.
  • Don't wait until it's too late. You will pay a lot less avoiding legal problems than you will solving them. If a disagreement arises between co-owners or a dispute with a client or an external party is not quickly resolved, seek counsel for advice regarding how best to resolve the situation before a lawsuit is filed. An experienced litigation attorney can help guide you to a resolution before it escalates.
  • Obtain clarification about fees and costs at the start. During your initial consultation, ask how the law firm will bill you for services rendered. Chenoweth Law Group, P.C., in Portland, offers creative fee arrangements for certain types of business transactions as well as litigation - including fixed-price, contingency and performance-based rates. Understanding your costs up front will help you budget for your legal needs.
  • Ask probing questions. During your initial consultation, use the time to ascertain if this lawyer is able to provide for your unique business needs. Ask if the law firm has the resources necessary to defend your interests in court should a lawsuit be necessary. Request and check references.
  • Hire a lawyer and a law firm you like and that likes you. This factor is one of the least discussed but one of the most important. Most experienced lawyers possess the technical know how to advise you, but do they really understand you and your company? Pick someone who listens to you and doesn't just talk at you, thinking they already know the answers. The attorney-client relationship is unique in that your lawyer will come to know things about you that very few people know. Throughout the lifetime of your company, you will have to spend a lot of time and navigate some complicated issues with your business attorney. Ask yourself whether this is a person or firm you will enjoy working with and can trust to have your back when it comes to your personal and business interests.

It is never too early to develop a relationship with an experienced business and commercial attorney, but it can be too late in certain circumstances.