A helpful post from Venture Beat recently touched on what all start-up owners should consider when choosing a business lawyer for their operation. Of course, choosing an attorney is a personal matter and at the very least you must be able to see yourself interacting with this person on a frequent basis. If you do not hit it off or simply cannot envision working well with the attorney, no matter what their background, you should look elsewhere.
But so long as you can hold a conversation with the legal professional and can envision a working relationship, what else matters? The article asks some questions worth considering.
Who will actually be working on your legal matter?
You may have a great conversation with one person only to learn later that someone hidden in a cubicle is actually doing most of your legal work. There are a wide range of firms and organizational structures. From the outset, you should talk with the actual person who will be providing advice and handling the actual legal matter for your company. There are too many high-quality legal professionals to not have direct contact with your attorney.
How do fees work?
It is cliche to state that fees shouldn’t be the main concern. And it is well known that picking any service for the price alone can lead to bare bones quality. But at the same time, it is naive not to assume that price does not matter. Of course it matters, and as a startup it is critical to get good value for every dollar spent, including on legal fees.
There is no right or wrong answer to fee arrangements except to say that they should be transparent. Understand from the beginning how things will work and exactly what services will be provided. Clarifying at the outset may prevent significant complications down the road.
Has the attorney worked with other start ups before?
Legal experience matters. While the lowest fees can likely be secured by the youngest attorneys, there is a lot to say for paying for past success. Like any profession, there are incredibly diverse skill sets between attorneys working in different areas. That might even mean different skills between those working with early-stage startups as compared to more “mature” companies. A lawyer who has worked with those in a similar position to your business is a tremendous asset. As the VB article suggests: “Look for a lawyer that understands the inception-to-launch process.”
Do they understand your industry?
This one is a little more specific than others, but it is certainly helpful if the attorney actually understands the specific of your industry–or at least is familiar with the basics. Legal principles as they relate to businesses generally apply to all, no matter what the industry. But that does not mean that any business attorney is fine. If they can relate to the specifics of your needs, then the more tailored legal help you will receive.