Four things to understand before you hire a lawyer for your business

Thinking about hiring a lawyer for your business? Here are four things you need to understand first.

Being a business owner means being ready for unexpected events. There may be a time when you will need a lawyer, for example, if your client suffers from childbirth injury or if one of your clients decides to claim legal damages from your company.  

Start-ups could get the advice of a lawyer for things like legally forming their businesses and leasing office space, while established businesses could need a lawyer to handle lawsuits, should they occur.

Whatever stage your business is at, and whatever your precise reasons for needing a lawyer are, it’s essential that you understand certain things before you go ahead and hire a legal expert. Here are four of the most pivotal things you need to know.

Lawyers vs paralegals: what’s the difference?

In basic terms, a lawyer is licensed to practice law whereas paralegals are only permitted to perform work like conducting legal research, drafting court documents, and reviewing records. Paralegals are only able to perform tasks that have been delegated by a lawyer.

While your business may only require tasks that a paralegal can do, it usually makes sense to hire a lawyer instead. After all, a lawyer can do everything a paralegal can, and a lawyer has much more expertise. Many people think paralegal services are less expensive than hiring lawyers, but in fact, you can find freelance lawyers for the same cost as paralegals.

Free consultations are not usually a good thing

As a business owner, you’re sure to understand that time equals money. So, it’s not usually a good thing if you can find a lawyer who is willing to give free consultations. Why? Because if a lawyer has the time on his or her hands to provide consultations for no cost, it’s typically a sign that the lawyer is less experienced and is somewhat desperate to get clients.

On the other hand, when a lawyer charges for his or her time, value is placed on the consultation and you can ensure you’re in the capable hands of a professional who will take your needs seriously and approach things in the right manner. You should certainly compare the services of different lawyers and ask questions before you hire, but you should forget about looking for free consultations.

Have a good idea of the lawyer’s costs and know whether a retainer is required 

Lawyers typically charge by the hour. That can include activities such as completing paperwork, showing up at court, and calling you on the telephone. The only problem with an hourly rate is you won’t know how much the final bill will be. So, it’s worthwhile looking for a lawyer who offers a flat fee.

Alternatively, you could ask for an estimate before you hire the lawyer; just remember that an estimate is just that. The actual cost could be higher. You also need to know whether your lawyer requires a retainer. That means you pay a certain amount before work is completed. If you’re required to pay a retainer, ask whether it’s refundable if you don’t use all of it, and make sure you know the precise related terms and conditions.

Ensure the lawyer is experienced in business matters

There are many reasons why you may want to hire a lawyer for your business, from helping to set up a business structure for start-ups to assisting in litigation issues for established businesses. When you look for a lawyer, it’s essential you make sure he or she has the relevant experience.

The more knowledgeable and experienced your lawyer is in the world of business, the more effective he or she will be able to help your company. It’s recommended that you ask what precise experience the lawyer has had, such as whether he or she has worked in your industry before, so you can find the right lawyer for your exact business needs.

Photo by Kristin Wilson