There are two professionals that every small business needs: an accountant and an attorney. These are also the two things that most small businesses try to avoid. I have heard it before from small business owners: “I would love to hire an accountant or attorney but I just can’t afford it.” As any accountant or attorney can quickly tell you, by the time most clients contact them it’s too late and the cost to the client grows exponentially.
So how do you go about choosing an attorney that works for your small business? My advice is to shop around. The business law firm that you hire should not only be competent to handle your needs but you should also be comfortable with them. Your small business is most likely tied to your dreams. Either the business is something you have always wanted or is something you want to succeed so you can accomplish other goals. In either case, your attorney is going to be crucial in guiding you and your business to accomplishing those goals. Allowing someone to have that much access and control over your dreams, should not be a random name pulled out of the phone book. Talk to the attorney and get to know more about them and what they can do for you.
Another big question is do you go to a big law firm or a small law firm? Big firms allow you access to many highly proficient attorneys but because of the high overhead those attorneys generally charge more. Small law firms can be more financially friendly but may not have the access to the resources of a large firm. This is another reason why shopping around can serve you best. If a big firm can offer their services for a reasonable price then you might choose them. If a small firm can offer you the general business counsel you need then you might be best served by them.
The one thing to keep in mind is in recent years there has been a change in the legal community. Many attorneys are breaking away from larger firms. These attorneys are forming solo or small firm practices. Not only are these highly skilled attorneys but they also have connections to other specialize attorneys that have also broken away from bigger firms. Basically they have the financial benefit of a small firm and they have access to a network of resources that is comparable to that of a large firm. These small business law firms are also leveraging technology that allow them to work extremely efficiently with keeps their overhead extremely low and equates to low fees for their clients.
Small and medium sized businesses are unique. They face the same legal issues and a relatively comparable amount of legal issues as a large business but they do not have the resources to afford to hire in-house counsel. In reality you do not need in-house counsel but to have an attorney that is familiar with your business, knows where you want to go with it and can counsel you to get there can accomplish the same thing as an in-house attorney without paying the high annual fees. There are firms that are specialized in that service and many offer fees that are affordable or fit to your budget. Finding the attorney that fits you might take some time but in the end it will be worth it. Spending a few hundred dollars for a business lawyer now is better than losing a few thousand dollars later.