By: Raad Ahmed
Every successful company needs a good legal team, but it’s a relationship just like any other. The best lawyer for another company might not be the right one for you. If you are founding a startup, there are a number of factors you should consider as you make this extremely important decision. First of all, you’ll want to know that they have experience working with startups, but don’t stop there. Be thorough, and don’t hesitate to ask detailed questions. Instead of “Do you have experience?”—to which the answer will undoubtedly be “Yes!”—ask them how many startup clients they’ve had in the past, and who they were. Ask what portion of their practice is devoted to startups. If you are heading towards litigation, ask for their win-loss record in cases like yours. If they balk at any of this, well, that gives you some valuable information.
Ask about their clients, and their client relationships. Do their clients tend to fit a certain mold? Does the firm start working with a client on day one and remain with the company for years? There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer here; rather, you should simply make sure that their track record aligns with your expectations of them in the future.
Those are the bigger-picture questions. If their responses are to your liking, try to get down to the nitty-gritty as well. Fees and billing practices vary widely from one attorney or firm to another, so just ask: How will you be charged? How often will you be billed? If you speak to an attorney on the phone for three minutes, what is it going to cost you? Ask if they have a standard agreement for representation, and read it carefully.
Depending on your situation as you start your company, you may be interested in reducing your fees: trimming some of the fat, as it were, since not all companies have the same needs. Ask the firm if there is any way you can reduce the amount you are charged. Your options here, if the firm is amenable to such an arrangement, could include eliminating certain services that you and your (potential) lawyer agree are unnecessary for you. Or, in some cases, there may be services that can be handled by lower-paid employees at the firm, reducing the cost to you.
So, you’ve asked the tough questions, but now consider: Have you enjoyed talking to this person? This might seem like a trivial consideration when you are looking for the best possible legal representation, but you will likely be spending lots of time communicating with your attorney. Try to get a sense of their communication style, both in person and remotely. Quite simply, can they hold a conversation with you? How would they prefer that you contact them—by email, phone, or (gulp) fax? If something about this attorney is going to grate on you every time you contact them, they might not be right for you, no matter how highly recommended they came.
Again, it’s just like any relationship: When choosing an attorney, it’s best to get any problems out in the open right at the beginning.#Lawyers