Updated: May 13
An entrepreneur faces many challenges when starting a business. One such challenge is picking a startup or small business lawyer. Many attorneys list themselves as startup or small business attorneys, but not all of them have the requisite knowledge, experience and expertise to be effective in handling the many types of business transactions that confront a startup. Here are some things entrepreneurs should look for when hiring a business attorney:
Does the attorney have significant experience with your particular type of business or commercial transaction? The larger the number of transactions of the type you’re involved in that the attorney has handled the more likely it is that the attorney can handle your situation competently.
Does the attorney have the expertise you need for your transaction? You may need sophisticated income tax, securities law, real estate, finance or other advice. No one attorney can accumulate all the training and experience necessary to handle all types of sophisticated commercial transactions. Often one attorney will have a great deal of business experience, but will bring in other attorneys with technical training and expertise needed for a particular transaction. Take the time to determine what areas the attorney knows well and what areas he does not, and determine whether he has knowledgeable colleagues available to him who may assist him in those weak areas.
Does the attorney have domain experience appropriate to your transaction? For a lawyer to properly advise clients in certain industries, like in the technology or entertainment industries, he should be knowledgeable of the practices, jargon, and norms used in such industries. Just as you would be ill-advised to choose an orthopedist to perform brain surgery, you would be likewise be foolish to use a securities lawyer to negotiate a music publishing agreement.
Does the attorney have good business sense? Some commercial attorneys have extensive knowledge of technical and legal areas, but don’t often don’t have enough hands-on transactional experience to be an actual "business advisor." Ideally, your business attorney should have extensive experience as both a business and legal advisor.
Does the attorney’s personality and approach to business transactions match your own? If you are a hard negotiator who wants to get the last penny out of a transaction, you will most likely need an attorney who shares your approach. On the other hand, if you are a person who looks for win-win outcomes from negotiations, you will do best with an attorney who approaches transactions the same way you do.
Does the attorney have the ability to not only negotiate a deal but get it closed as well? You may be a skilled negotiator who doesn’t need an attorney to negotiate for you. Or, you may prefer to have an attorney negotiate for you for a variety of reasons. Just as not all attorneys are competent to taka a case to trial for you, not all attorneys are experienced, effective negotiators.
Does the attorney have connections that can be helpful to you? Successful transactions often depend on having connections to people or access to resources that you can’t access yourself. As an entrepreneur, you may need an attorney who has connections with people like angel or venture capital investors and who can get you meaningful introductions to those people.
At Spiller Law we have significant experience with many types of business situations and transactions faced by entrepreneurs and startups. From start-up to the sale of your business, we aim to be that trusted advisor who can help you each step of the way as you grow your business.
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