We’re all about teaming up with great startups on a mission to help the startup community excel. Priori Legal is one of those awesome companies. This guest post provides some helpful tips for hiring a startup lawyer.
Priori Legal’s Guidelines for Finding the Right Lawyer
Priori Legal is an online platform for connecting start-ups and SMB’s with a network of vetted lawyers at below-market (and wherever possible) fixed rates. After our rigorous vetting process, we only admit a mere 20% of lawyer applicants. So, as you can imagine, we spend a lot of time thinking about what makes a good lawyer.
While we obviously can’t make the decision of choosing the right lawyer for anyone, we do think there are some general guidelines that can help businesses make informed choices about legal advisors. Below we’ve provided a detailed process that can assist you in the pursuit of the “right lawyer.”
Do Your Homework
Traditionally, almost everyone found lawyers by asking friends, family and colleagues for recommendations. Today, as is the trend in most consumer markets, an increasing number of individuals and businesses alike are turning to the internet to find a lawyer.
Even though all lawyers must attend law school, pass the bar, and possess general legal knowledge, as lawyers begin to practice they naturally begin to specialize in certain practice areas. In the same way you wouldn’t speak to an eye doctor about a heart condition, you wouldn’t discuss your startups legal issues with a lawyer whose practice focuses on criminal law.
So, however you do your research, here are some key factors to consider:
- Firm Recognition and Size
- Position within Firm
- Practice Areas or Areas of Expertise
- Industries and Clients Served
- Prior Work Experience
- Professional Awards, Publications, and Speaking Engagements
- Bar Membership
- Years of Practice
- Malpractice Insurance
- Verified Client or Peer Reviews
Doing your homework can give you a strong sense of whether a lawyer is capable of serving your legal needs prior to an initial meeting.
Create Your Shortlist
After you research a number of attorneys, it’s best to narrow down your list to a handful of attorneys with whom you want to schedule a meeting or call. The lawyers on your shortlist should meet most, if not all, of your criteria. Although clients vary on how they prioritize different characteristics, we suggest placing relevant work experience near the top of your list. In scheduling your meeting with your shortlist attorneys be mindful of whether they offer a free initial consultation.
Ask Lots of Questions
Whether your initial consultation is free—as with all Priori lawyers—or not, you want to make the most out of the first meeting. Your consultation is not only an opportunity to become acquainted with a potential attorney, but also an opportunity for the lawyer to get to know you and your legal issue. Prepare for your meeting by summarizing what you believe is your legal issue and compiling a list of questions to ask the lawyer. This will present you to the lawyer as a knowledgeable and professional client , and give you the requisite information to choose which lawyer is right for you. Here are some questions to consider including in your list:
- What type of work does the lawyer usually do?
- With what types of clients does the lawyer usually work?
- Does the lawyer have any relevant experience with clients in your industry and with matters similar to your legal issue?
- Who will actually do the work? Will there be associates working on my matter?
- How will the lawyer bill for the representation? Hourly rate or fixed fee? Some other alternate fee arrangement? How much do they anticipate your project will cost?
- What is the lawyer’s estimate of the ultimate cost for resolving your legal issue?
- Does the lawyer anticipate that you need additional legal work?
- How does the lawyer typically communicate with clients (email, phone, client-preference, etc.)? How quickly does the lawyer typically get back to clients?
- Does the lawyer have any references, client or professional, who you can contact?
- Does the lawyer have any personal interests that align with yours?
These sorts of questions will give you a better sense of the marketplace and who may be the right lawyer for your legal needs.
Compare and Choose
By remaining engaged and taking notes during your first meetings, you’ll be ready to narrow your shortlist down to the attorney that is right for you. Remember you’re not only looking for expertise, but a personal rapport as well. Consider the lawyer you can get to know your business and that you can foresee developing a long-term relationship. Having a relationship with a lawyer who understands your business is invaluable—whether helping avoid major legal problems or advising you on day-to-day legal issues.
Present Yourself as a Valued Client
Forging a business relationship is a two-way street. Once you’ve chosen the right lawyer set the relationship up for success. While you want to be confident of your attorney’s expertise and business ethic, lawyers want to work with clients who are active and engaged, who are responsive and clear about their needs, and who pay their bills in a timely manner. If you are happy with your lawyer’s work, let him/her know that you will be pleased to make referrals to your network, or serve as a reference on his/her website.