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FIVE QUESTIONS A NEW ENTREPRENEUR SHOULD ASK IN SELECTING AN ATTORNEY

It's no secret that the entrepreneur who has just mortgaged his home to launch his business, tends to see the category "Attorney" as strictly on the liability side of the ledger.

But taking that view can be short-sighted. A lawyer with business experience can help a company grow and prosper - as well as avoid or mitigate legal risks that can derail success. This is true for all startups, but particularly in those areas that are highly regulated, like biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical devices. The big question is "How do you find such an attorney?" Many founders, researchers and other entrepreneurs tend to select attorneys by their hourly rate or on the basis of recommendations from friends and family who may have used a lawyer for a personal matter. How should YOU go about selecting the attorney who can help you improve your business?

The fee per billable hour an attorney charges is the easy place to start but it's not the best way. Before you select candidates to interview, I'd recommend two elements of due diligence. First, ask friends and colleagues who have had similar business problems or issues to those you face whom they have used for similar legal matters. Second, check out those leads and others through social media to find out how they present themselves. Then, select several candidates and schedule telephone interviews.

Here are some questions for attorneys and activities I recommend entrepreneurs act on:

  1. How long have you been in practice? Obviously, lawyers with greater experience are more likely to be able to provide better quality advice.
  2. What types of matters do you handle? In what proportion?But it's not just experience that matters. It's experience with the type of matters like yours. An attorney in general practice may provide services in a range of areas. If the majority of time and effort is spent outside areas related to business law, the value of the experience is diluted.
  3. Do you specialize in any types of matters or practice areas? Like any other professional, lawyers who specialize in an area are likely to be more expert than those who try to be a "jack of all trades".
  4. Describe your proposed matter. Ask the prospective counsel how familiar he or she is with the law and business issues in this area. Lawyers with a long association with a particular area of law or business can be very valuable sources of perspective and advice about creative approaches to problem solving and techniques that appear to be "best practices."
  5. What is the lawyer's rate per hour and what flexibility does the lawyer have about the payment of fees? In the current environment, many lawyers are willing to delay receipt of fees for a time for cash-strapped businesses with good prospects. You need to ask the question to find out whether a particular attorney offers this flexibility.

That should give you enough to consider for this time.

If you need help with any of the issues described there, use the contact form to describe your particular situation and request a free telephone consultation.

The foregoing is intended as a useful summary of some basic approaches to the legal areas covered. It is not intended as legal advice. The application of the materials to your unique situation should be made only with the guidance of your counsel.

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