For entrepreneurs (or any human), working with an attorney may not be the most exciting aspect of business. But instead of viewing working with your attorney as a waste of resources or time, the best entrepreneurs view an attorney’s guidance as an opportunity to enhance their security and improve their chances of achieving long-term growth in an inherently volatile business climate.
An experienced business attorney can offer a wide range of benefits to entrepreneurs in all stages of the business cycle. From helping to select the best entity type to effectively allocating equity and stock options, to advising entrepreneurs through the sale and turnover of their business, attorneys have valuable skills to offer all types of entrepreneurs.
10 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Maximize their Attorney Relationship
- Trust your attorney’s guidance. Do not modify their work:
Your attorney has both personal and financial interests in your success. A good attorney will provide thorough guidance tailored to your specific needs. Modifying your lawyer’s work could not only diminish its efficacy, but could also impact the attorney’s ability to provide effective counsel in the future. If you have a question or concern about an aspect of your attorney’s guidance, it is vital that you tell the attorney before simply changing a document or ignoring their advice.
- Keep your attorney updated as changes occur:
Running a business is a fast-paced endeavor in which entrepreneurs frequently experience rapid, and sometimes drastic, changes. In order for your attorney to help you navigate these changes, it is crucial that you keep them informed as much as possible. Don’t go overboard and inundate your attorney’s email with every minor change that goes on. Instead, tell the attorney about significant events such as expansion and contract plans, issues regarding funding and ownership, intellectual property concerns and emergency events that arise.Think of your attorney as an asset in terms of helping you prevent significant legal issues from arising and helping you to manage events after they occur. In order for the attorney to provide the best counsel, you must keep them updated with significant anticipated changes and changes that have occurred.
- Treat your attorney as part of the team. Do not hide important information from them:
Your attorney is not someone who can, or desires, to take your ideas, creations, intellectual property or other business capital. Your attorney is bound by ethical obligations to protect your business’ privacy and inform you of conflicts of interest. Hiding important information from your attorney makes his or her work more difficult and reduces his/her ability to tailor the representation to your business’ specific needs.
- Speak the same language:
It is imperative to find an attorney who understands entrepreneurship and is willing to learn about your field. Along with appropriate legal experience, your attorney should also have a strong background in the business cycle, specific entrepreneurial needs and forms of financing.Likewise, if you do not understand a legal term or your attorney’s advice, it is important to ask them to explain it to you and describe why it is important for your goals. Only when both the attorney and entrepreneur are on the same page in terms of business and legal terminology can the attorney provide the most effective representation.
- Give your attorney time to work:
Realize that attorneys often have to do research or consult experts before they can provide you with answers and guidance. Although they may not always respond to your question immediately, good business lawyers will let you know that they have received, and are working on, your inquiry in a timely manner. Providing your attorney with time and space to analyze and research legal and business issues increases the attorney’s ability to provide effective counsel that is tailored to your needs.
- Pay your attorney on time:
Paying your attorney on time is an important aspect of the relationship. Attorneys experienced in working with early stage businesses will understand if funds are tight and will do what they can to give you need extra time to pay. Simply avoiding your attorney (or any vendor) while you are trying to come up with funds to pay is not a good strategy. By failing to contact your attorney when you are unable to make a payment, you will also develop a reputation of financial mismanagement that could hinder your ability to succeed. Instead, simply communicating upfront about the issue and working out a payment plan will greatly diminish the effect of the nonpayment on your future relationships.
- Organize your expected legal needs:
Attorneys should realize that entrepreneurs are often bootstrapping funds and that legal fees are not always the highest item on the list of fund allocation. Therefore, it is important that you ask your lawyer to help you organize a list of legal needs that you can prioritize together. This process will not only help diminish legal costs and increase legal efficiency, but will also help you to determine the most vulnerable and essential aspects of your business.
- Be responsive to your attorney’s calls and emails:
Your attorney may occasionally need to call to inform you of changes that may affect your business. It is important treat your attorney’s calls and emails as if they were as important as those from a client. Failing to respond could mean that a legal deadline passes or a potentially lucrative opportunity is missed.
- Understand the billing process:
Traditionally, attorneys have used the billable hour as the predominant payment structure. Under this method, attorneys are paid based on the time they spend on a given task. However, other strategies, such as fixed cost payment may be more beneficial in many circumstances. This method allows attorneys to specify a fixed sum, upfront, that they charge for a given service. Fully understanding the billing process will help entrepreneurs allocate their funds in the most efficient manner and mitigate the chances of a fee dispute after services are rendered.
- Make the most of your attorney’s non-legal relationships:
It is important to recognize that your attorney likely has skills and relationships outside of his legal expertise from which your business may benefit. Attorneys are frequently well-connected with experts in other fields such as finance, accounting and marketing. Utilizing these relationships may provide beneficial contacts and services that will help your business grow and diversify your client base.
About Fourscore Business Law:
Based in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, Fourscore Business Law serves entrepreneurs and businesses in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, Charlotte and throughout the Southeast. We also represent venture capital funds and other investors who invest in companies located in New York, Silicon Valley and everywhere between.
The idea of delivering maximum impact in a simple and succinct manner is what we’re calling the Fourscore Principle. And that is what Fourscore Business Law is based on. Our clients operate in a broad range of industries including tech, IoT, consumer products, B2B services and more. Questions? Shoot us an email or give us a call at (919) 307-5356. Your first call is on us.