As a solopreneur, it may feel like you wear every single hat imaginable in your entrepreneurial effort. But one hat that you cannot (unless you also happen to be a licensed attorney) and should never wear, is that of legal counsel.
In your efforts to transform your vision into your success story, plan on expending some of your valuable time and energy on choosing the right attorney for you.
First, evaluate which of the following considerations are most important to you: affordability, communication, firm size, and experience.
Once you have determined your priorities, go to your personal and professional networks and ask for their referrals. Tell them what you are looking for as specifically as possible. Your ask might be something along the lines of: “I’m looking for a small firm that will work with me on a flat-fee arrangement and send me regular email updates on how my work is progressing.”
This will save you time and hopefully give you a more targeted list of attorneys to consider than Google and commercial lawyer referral services would.
If affordability is your key consideration in choosing the right attorney, you will want to consider smaller firms, which typically have lower hourly rates than larger firms, and firms that offer alternative fee arrangements, such as flat-fee, budgeted fee, or blended fee.
Consider what your legal budget is and plan to be upfront about it. Start your search looking at solo/small firm practice referrals that your personal and professional connections have shared with you. You can look for a website to see if it shares any price information before reaching out via email or telephone to set-up an initial consultation.
If communication is your top concern in choosing the right attorney, you should focus on your communication preferences and an attorney’s communication policies.
Think like with like when it comes to communication preferences. Ideally, for example, if you are a telephone call person, you should look for an attorney who will communicate with you via telephone rather than email.
So much of the attorney-client relationship is communication from you to your attorney and your attorney to you. When asked, attorneys should be able to tell you how they will primarily communicate with you and if there any cost advantages to you for communicating one way versus another.
For example, some attorneys, more likely solo/small firm than large, will bill for telephone calls, which will typically take place during business hours, but they may not bill for emails, which can be sent outside of business hours.
If the idea of working exclusively with a newer lawyer, practicing for 5 years or less, on your business makes you very nervous, experience might be the most important consideration for you in choosing the right attorney.
While newer lawyers will typically have lower rates than more experienced attorneys, you want to feel comfortable that no matter what your legal issue is, you will have an attorney with the appropriate experience level handling the matter for you.
The right fit for you might be a mid-sized firm that has 10-20 attorneys at various experience levels. If the matter is a simpler one, a newer attorney could handle it at a lower cost to you. If the matter is a complex one, a more experienced attorney could handle it or supervise a less experienced attorney.
If firm size is your most important consideration, it’s important to understand why. Are you looking for a large firm because it has the reputation you want or think you need?
Do you want a one-stop shop experience where one mid-sized firm can handle multiple areas of law – business transactional, litigation, intellectual property, tax, to name a few? Are you looking for a solo/small firm where you can get more personalized attention?
Choosing the right attorney for you can be a balancing act involving all of the above to some degree.
It helps to know what is more important to you before actively starting your search. Are you a CAE or an FEC or an AC? Once you have figured it out as best you can, use the people you know and trust in your personal and professional circles to get referrals.