Starting a business can be both an exciting and a trying time for the business owner. The owner is able to choose the business’s identity, products or services, customers, suppliers, employees, location, and more. Most successful business owners spend a considerable amount of time on these items often agonizing over making the right decision. Why wouldn’t that same business owner engage in an equally diligent review when considering and hiring a law firm to protect those business interests? The answer is that many business owners mistakenly believe lawyers are fungible, a belief that could cost the business owner significant sums and potentially the business they worked so hard to build. This article explores the characteristics of a good business law firm so that you can recognize such a firm when you see it.
Does This Law Firm Want to Form Long-Term Relationship With My Business?
Many business owners decide to hire a business law firm because of an immediate need for legal services as opposed to a conscious thought to form a long-term relationship with the law firm. But is that the best approach? Most lawyers charge for every minute of their time, but a law firm that wants a long-term relationship will invest their own time (and thus money) into learning your business. They should visit your operations on their own nickel. They should do their own research on their own time to learn your industry. In short, the right business law firm will invest in your business so they can better provide legal services and perhaps intercept and solve legal issues before they become costly legal matters. Many lawyers will not make such an investment. Accordingly, it is important to research your options and find a law firm as committed to your business as you are.
Can This Law Firm Do What I Need Done?
A business law firm is one that primarily serves businesses by providing legal advice in the areas of law that routinely affect business operations. These areas might include entity formation and governance; mergers and acquisitions; purchase or sale of assets; contracts with customers or vendors; employment issues and contracts; real estate and/or construction; collection of accounts and creditor rights; and litigation and other dispute management. Being able to have lawyers who are experienced in providing advice concerning these various legal situations should be the primary concern. This is one of the reasons it is better to consider a small law firm rather than a solo lawyer. Not only does the business owner gain the advantage of having lawyers available with years of experience in a particular set of legal issues, but a law firm that encourages collaboration by its attorneys on legal issues for clients will provide more effective representation. Of course, the law firm needs to be efficient in that process (meaning to bill appropriately only for value added by this collaboration).
Do I Trust This Law Firm?
In September 2014, Susan Fiske and Cydney Dupree published an article which included the results of a survey of various professions on a scale of warmth/trust and competence/capable. For those professions ranked as having high competence, lawyers were perceived as the least warm and trustworthy. Insert lawyer joke here. The reasons for this public perception may be too numerous to state. Regardless of the general view people have toward lawyers, it is paramount to a business owner’s interests to make sure that he or she can trust that the lawyer is always putting their interests first. Again, this is crucial to the business law firm more so than other firms because a long-term relationship benefits the business and creates a desire by the lawyer to become that trusted advisor. Lawyers that desire long-term relationships with their clients will do everything they can to avoid events that could tarnish the trust they have spent so long developing. Some questions you might ask to determine the integrity of a firm are: Does the firm have core values and, if so, what are they? Does the firm have long-term clients that are evidence of a strong trust in their abilities? Are the firm and its lawyers involved in the community? Does the firm treat its employees well? Is the firm or its lawyers peer-reviewed and ranked? When researching firms these questions may help you determine whether you can trust a particular business law firm.
Trust, available experience, and an emphasis on long-term relationships. Three simple requirements that should exist in any business law firm. By knowing what to look for, the business owner can identify firms that fulfill those requirements and find the right business law firm for their business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Kenneth M. Krock is a Shareholder at Rapp & Krock, PC in the Litigation group.
Rapp & Krock, PC presents the information in this article for general education purposes only. Although this article discusses legal issues, it is not legal advice. The law and the content of any linked website may have changed since this article was written, and Rapp & Krock, PC makes no warranty or guarantee about the continuing accuracy of the information presented. Use of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship, and Rapp & Krock, PC does not represent you unless and until we are expressly retained in writing.