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Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Small Business

One of the challenges facing the small business is finding the right lawyer. Unlike larger businesses, which may have one or more attorneys in their organization, or a general counsel charged with responsibility for all of the company’s legal matters, for the small business, the task of finding and hiring the right attorney can be intimidating.

Here are four things to consider in choosing the right lawyer.


1. Identify the Right Attorney For Your Business.

The best place to start in identifying the right attorney is a personal referral from another business that has faced the same legal challenge your company is currently facing. For example, if you are having problems with former employees stealing your trade secrets, speak to as many of your business colleagues who have faced similar issues and ask them who their lawyers were and what they thought of them. This will likely yield several good leads.

In addition, many of your current business associates, such as your banker, accountant, insurance agent and real estate broker, frequently deal with business lawyers and may be able to provide you with several good leads.

2. Choose Experience Over Price.

It is important to determine the experience of the attorneys you are considering and their expertise with your particular issue. Of course, if your matter is simple and straightforward, a less experienced (and less expensive) attorney may suffice. But if your matter is complex and financially significant to your company, finding an attorney with the requisite expertise is crucial. Many lawyers specialize in relatively narrow industry niches, such as software design issues and licensing, and therefore can become quite familiar with the issues relevant to businesses like yours. Although specialists may command higher fees, their expertise is often invaluable, providing far greater efficiency, and in the long run, lower overall costs.

When meeting with a prospective attorney, be sure to discuss his experience with your issue. Specifically, ask about the outcomes in other matters he has handled, and his most recent engagements involving your issue.

3. Make Sure You Have a Good Personal Rapport With The Attorney.

You should personally interview several attorneys to assess your personal chemistry and communication styles. An ideal attorney/client relationship is characterized by mutual respect, candor, and reciprocal trust. These traits can only be assessed by meeting the prospective attorney in person. Regardless of the attorney’s experience, if you do not feel comfortable with your attorney, a strong relationship is unlikely.

Be sure to discuss how you will communicate with your attorney as your matter progresses, how quickly he returns phone calls, and how he intends to communicate the progress and status of your matter.

4. Come to a Clear and Candid Understanding About Fees.

Finally, you should come to a clear understanding with the attorney regarding how you will be billed for his services. This understanding should be clearly documented in an engagement letter in order to prevent future misunderstandings. In New York, attorneys are required to provide new clients with a written engagement letter that sets forth, at a minimum, the scope of the legal services to be provided, the fees to be charged, expenses and billing practices, and the right to arbitrate fee disputes.


Frank Monteleone

Frank J. Monteleone

Monteleone Law
11 Broadway, Suite 615
New York, NY 10004
www.monteleonelaw.com
fjm@monteleonelaw.com