Legal help can be essential in business
- January 29, 2009
Businesses need the help of lawyers sooner or later. Don’t wait until you’re in trouble to find one. It’s better to spend some money for legal advice during the startup phase, than a lot later to clean up a legal mess. The sooner you find a law firm that matches your needs, the better. You might be better off finding a law firm that has lawyers with a variety of specialties. Businesses often need lawyers with expertise in three areas of law.
Business lawyers typically can help you with a variety of matters, including selecting the structure of your business, forming that entity in compliance with statutory requirements, assisting you with startup financing transactions and drafting your contract forms and legal documents. You might want to consider financing from the U.S. Small Business Administration. These transactions are fairly sophisticated, so you may want to look for a lawyer experienced in SBA loans if you seek that type of financing.
Litigators may be needed if an outside party brings legal action against you or you decide to bring legal action against a third party.
Employment attorneys will be needed if your company has employees. It is important for you to understand labor laws.
Finding an attorney
Word of mouth might be the best way to find an attorney or law firm that fits your needs. Trade associations and other organizations tied to your industry may also have suggestions. The Virginia State Bar has a referral service at http://www.vsb.org/site/public/lawyer-referral-service
Once you have a list of attorneys or firms, meet face-to-face with them. Find out whether the firm has experience with businesses similar to yours and ask whether they keep abreast of statutory changes and judicial decisions.
Make sure you discuss costs and fees ahead of time. Most law firms charge on a per-hour basis, but some charge a flat fee. Many law firms will ask that you sign a fee-arrangement letter so that both parties fully understand the cost and fee structure ahead of time.
\Court isn’t the only way to settle disputes that arise during business transactions. One option is mediation, where a neutral third party meets with the two parties to find a resolution without the expense of a court trial. A mediator can be found through your local chamber of commerce. Some law firms also have lawyers who specialize in alternative dispute resolution.
Another method is arbitration, which is essentially like a private court. The two parties present their cases to an arbitrator or an arbitration panel. Arbitrators’ decisions are binding, and they often hand down decisions more quickly than a judge does. Arbitration is another legal method that is cheaper than a court trial.