There are many occasions in the life of a Small Business where a lawyer is needed. . .a rental lease. . .a royalty contract. . .an employment contract. . .a business partnership. . .an investor, a lawsuit, etc. Small Businesses rarely have a full-time lawyer and staff, so the CEO hires one for the specific task needed. Here are some things to think about when hiring a lawyer.

  1. The lawyer works for you because you pay them. Some attorneys can be very intimidating and want to make your business decisions for you. Don’t let them. You set out what you want them to do for you and if they cross the line, call them on it.
  2. If any negotiating is required, decide early who will do the negotiating. I always preferred to do my own negotiating and then have the lawyer make sure the legalese represents the agreement accurately with no loopholes. If you feel that your lawyer is a better negotiator than you, then by all means, let him/her do it, but with you setting the parameters.
  3. Always set a timeline for the lawyer. Often they take too long, particularly if they are on an hourly fee compensation.
  4. Never let a lawyer ask for more in negotiations with 3rd parties, without your permission. This will only delay the agreement and the other party will then take off the table, some of their concessions given to you.
  5. Keep in mind the mindset of many lawyers (not all) some tend to think there is only winning or losing. You should only focus on the key things you want from this agreement. You also need to understand your leverage position. Even if you can dictate the points in an agreement, let the other party have their way on some  of their key desires that are not particularly important to you. You want the other party to feel they’ve been treated fairly. You may be dealing with them in the future.
  6. Stay involved with your lawyer on the whole process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  7. Do not hesitate to negotiate fees with your attorney. They are negotiable. Also try to establish a maximum fee which can be difficult. Try to set out stages of your lawyers work and cost of each. They should lay out their strategy and tell you the odds of your success. Going to trial can be very expensive, and you may feel it is cost prohibitive for you to proceed to that stage.
  8. Check out the credentials and specialty of your lawyer before engaging them and be sure to know and meet the lawyer who will be handling your case. Many times you meet a partner who will then assign a fresh hire, just out of law school, which may or may not be okay.
  9. Make sure you interview the lawyer that will be working with you and not the one that is selling you on the firm.

Remember, don’t be intimidated.