Finding a legal professional for your small business

Legal issues don’t stop because of a pandemic. Even if you are under a shelter-in-place order or quarantine, you can still talk to a lawyer and get the legal assistance you need for your business.

When choosing an attorney to represent your business, consider the following:

Consider your small business legal needs

Why contact an attorney now? What is specific advice you need from an attorney, or specific projects you want the attorney to work on? When do you need these questions answered or projects completed?

Here are some common issues that small businesses engage an attorney to help with. Some are issues you can handle on your own, and others require legal representation.

  • Incorporation questions, shareholder and director queries, ongoing legal requirements, and creating a separate corporate identity to avoid personal liability.
  • Registering a trademark, patent, or copyright for creative, technical, or unique ideas, logos, brands, and products.
  • Enforcing protected intellectual property, collecting delinquent payment for goods or services delivered, and defending lawsuits against the business.
  • Drafting employment contracts, independent contractor agreements, service agreements, and liability waivers.
  • Tax considerations, closing a business, and complying with relevant federal, state, and municipal codes.

Use multiple search routes

Once you know what you want to speak to a small business attorney about, cast a broad net.  Ask fellow entrepreneurs, friends and family, and professional contacts to recommend local attorneys.  Check online directories, such as FindLaw's Lawyer Directory, to find attorneys in your area that specialize in business issues and visit their websites.

Choose your top picks

Whether your list is short or long, begin calling or meeting potential small business attorneys through initial phone or in-person consults.  Describe your business and the legal assistance you seek.  Shorten your list to include a handful of attorney candidates who have worked on cases like yours, have experience in working with small businesses, and have a good track record.

Ask about fees

Check up front that the attorney charges reasonable fees that you can afford.  Ask fellow entrepreneurs, friends, and family what they have paid for similar work to see if the potential lawyer’s fees are in line with market rates.  Ask the attorney what services are included and how they expect to be paid (lump sum, installments, etc.).  Don’t be afraid to ask if fees are negotiable.

Check those references

 Don't shy away from requesting references.  Attorneys are often happy to oblige.  And since legal fees can add up, you want to invest in legal representation wisely.

Do the "like" test

Since you will likely communicate with your attorney multiple times, may meet for follow-ups, and may contact them for future legal matters, make sure you like your potential new attorney.  Are you comfortable telling them honestly and completely all the facts they need to resolve your legal issue?  Are they easy to talk to and understand?  Are they accessible?  Do they return your calls and respond promptly?  Are you treated professionally?  Before you make your final pick, do a simple "like" test to ensure a smooth working relationship.

While the process will require a little time and follow-up, finding an attorney you trust and who meets your small business needs will make your search and selection efforts well worth it.

For additional information, leverage FindLaw’s helpful resources:

Next steps

Contact a qualified attorney to make sure your business and interests are protected.

Last Updated: 5/7/2020