Tips for Effectively Using Your Business Lawyer

Clint M. Hanni

March 2017

Savvy business people understand that lawyers play an indispensable role in the successful execution of a business plan. Here are seven keys to get the most from lawyers for your business.

1. Call sooner rather than later. Problems are more expensive to solve than avoid. Call your lawyers before you get served with a lawsuit. Call them before you sign a lease or a loan or any other contract vitally important to your business. An hour or two of your lawyer’s time to review a document could save multiple hours down the road trying to unwind or modify a bad deal.

2. Understand the fees upfront. When hiring a lawyer, you should ask for a document (sometimes called an engagement letter or retainer agreement) to describe how your lawyer will charge for their work. Not all projects need be billed by the hour. If you are looking for more certainty as to cost, ask for an alternative, such as a cap on fees or a hard quote on the total cost. Alternative fee structures don’t automatically lower total legal fees. Getting certainty in your fees may come at a cost.

3. Be prepared and do your homework. Prior to meeting with your lawyer in person or on the phone, spend time getting prepared. Read in advance any documents or contracts you would like the lawyer to review and have specific questions. Spend time to get a clear understanding of the deal you want to do and the goals you hope to accomplish. In short, use your lawyer’s time as efficiently as possible.

4. Keep your lawyer in the loop. As your business plan unfolds and new developments arise, touch base with your lawyer through a quick email or phone call to apprise them of what’s going on. They may see issues that you haven’t thought about, and it could end up saving you thousands of dollars in legal fees down the road.

5. Don’t hide the ball. Be totally honest with your lawyer. Your discussions will be protected by the attorney-client privilege and kept in strict confidence (assuming you don’t plan to commit a crime). Legal issues are driven by facts, and the more detail you provide your lawyer, the better they will be able to serve you.

6. Get the right lawyer. Don’t ask a patent lawyer to review a loan agreement. The legal system is complicated. Like most professions, law has become incredibly specialized in the last few decades. Before your hire a lawyer, make sure they have experience handling your type of project. The lawyers at RBMN have deep expertise in business litigation and all aspects of business transactions.

7. Treat your lawyer like a business partner. Unlike the caricatures in lawyer jokes, most lawyers are dedicated professionals with the knowledge and experience to safely guide you through the legal risks of running a business. Treat them as you would a business partner. You’ll find the value they add to your business far exceeds the cost.