You’ve recently launched an online startup, maybe even a mom and pop shop dealing mainly with locals and neighbors.
You’re probably wondering, “Why do I need a business lawyer?” Fair enough question.
But have you considered that, in this day and age, you need a contract or “agreement” for almost any transaction you undertake.
The days of sliding by with a mere sales slip and a handshake are long gone.
So, how do you know if your agreement completely and clearly spells out the service you’re providing and has your back if a potential problem should arise? This is where the need for a business lawyer comes into play.
That’s just one instance of where even the smallest of business’s would need legal counsel. There’s many more.
Startups and local small businesses alike need a business attorney for everything from following government regulations to possible contract disputes. You must protect your business from day one.
Understanding where, how and when to find a business lawyer is extremely important. Here are three factors to consider.
1. Find the right business lawyer
Hiring a lawyer can be confusing. There is no “one size fits all” approach. If you run across a local lawyer who claims to practice practically everything under the sun—run for the hills, they’re probably no good.
The other common misconception among new business owners is that if you have a family attorney who handled things like grandma’s estate, they can also help out with business stuff. However, it just doesn’t work that way.
There are over 50 practice areas of law which can then be broken down into a number of sub practice areas. The sheer complexity of law requires that skilled attorneys specialize in specific practice areas. Therefore, you need to find a business lawyer who can handle your specific business needs.
2. Find a business lawyer before you need one
Hopefully you’ll get lucky and never need a business lawyer, but that’s not likely. At some point you probably will and the issue can be large or small. However, when you do run into challenges that require a business lawyer, you’ll want to have one in mind beforehand.
These days it is easy to find a local business lawyer for practically any need. For example, if you’re opening offices in Canada, you may need a business lawyer in Toronto to help with formation, tax efficient transaction structures, etc. You can also use a legal platform that connects businesses to trusted lawyers. Priori Legal, for example, provides hand-curated, data-driven attorney matches for in-house counsel and entrepreneurs.
You don’t want to scramble at the last minute to find an attorney when you receive notice of an impending lawsuit.
3. Build rapport and gain a powerful business ally
Once you find the right business lawyer, build a rapport from day one. You need a business attorney you can turn to at a minutes notice without having to schedule a meeting to describe your business at length.
When you first meet, build rapport by matching and mirroring, a “skill of assuming someone else’s style of behavior to create rapport. When you match and mirror, you don’t only listen with your ears, you listen with your entire body. You are present to the other person.” This simple skill builds trust.
Also, ask questions and then listen closely. “[T]he best way to get your point across is actually to listen. In fact, listening is the most powerful way to build rapport and trust; listening creates understanding.”
Once you’ve built trust and gotten to know someone a simple phone call or quick email won’t go unanswered. By taking the time to build a relationship, over time, rapport translates into a more powerful ally at the table.
By taking the time early on, when you first startup, to find the right business lawyer you will save yourself time and headaches down the road.
This article has been edited.
Simon Crompton is a freelance journalist and entrepreneur running several online businesses including his marketing firm, Threecolors.blue. Simon spends the majority of his time blogging about business startups and consulting on web development. He has launched multiple online companies. He is also a dedicated follower of fashion, and has written for the Financial Times and GQ. Connect with @PermanentStle on Twitter.