The right business lawyer can have a significant impact on the success of your business.
But how do you know if you have the right person? Your business lawyer should be a trusted partner – someone who has active knowledge about all aspects of your business.
Here are 6 questions to ask yourself.
1. Does your lawyer know who you are?
When you contact your lawyer, does (s)he know: Who you are; What you do; Your goals; Your vision.
We think your lawyer should know these things. If he doesn’t, tell him. If he seems disinterested, that’s not great.
2. Does your lawyer answer the phone?
If you call your lawyer, who picks up? Can you reach him/her in your time of need?
Lawyers are busy, but what are they busy doing? They should be busy working on their clients; files. You’re a client. So they should be available to work on your files. Simply put, that means you should be able to communicate with them. Not a junior, not a paralegal, them.
3. Does your lawyer use or endorse your product or service?
This one’s a bit tougher, but worth considering. A lawyer may have a number of clients in the same field so it may be impossible or impractical for a lawyer to use all of his client’s products and services. But that doesn’t mean he can’t support you as you build your business. We believe (s)he should, whenever possible, use products or services produced or developed by his clients. Of course, confidentiality will always be a factor, so if you want your lawyer to endorse you, make sure you give him express permission.
4. Is your lawyer excited about your business?
This one’s easy. Is (s)he enthusaiastic, supportive, interested? (S)he should be.
5. Is your lawyer a family lawyer who incorporates companies or a business lawyer?
We cannot be jacks of all trades. We can be good at a few things. If your business lawyer also handles divorces and DUIs, we suggest that he probably doesn’t have the knowledge base to draft a software licensing agreement. This is not to say that you should not have a lawyer with a broad base of knowledge. You should consider the type of business you’re in, your budget (specialized experts can cost substantially more), and the experience of your lawyer. A good general business lawyer with an interest in technology may be better for some businesses than others. Others may need a business lawyer who deals with real estate. Perhaps you need a business lawyer who knows when to bring in a patent expert.
6. Does your lawyer say no?
Except in the rarest of cases, your lawyer should not tell you what you can’t do. A large part of your lawyer’s job should be to advise you on how to do what you want to do and the risks involved, so you can make your own decision. To paraphrase JP Morgan, you do not want a lawyer to tell you what you cannot do. You hire him to tell you how to do what you want to do.