Having legal counsel for your business helps you avoid many common legal and HR errors. Your attorneys will help you structure and run your business in a way that you remain compliant with local, state, and federal laws. Working with a law firm also ensures you are as prepared as possible if your business is hit with accusations or needs to go to court.

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Whether you’re just starting your own business, or you’ve been around awhile and are on the market for new counsel, consider the following question when researching and speaking with potential law firms.

What is the firm’s previous industry experience?

Many law firms have industry-specific practices, which is relevant if you are in a niche or highly regulated industry. For example, if your business is in the food industry, you will want a law firm that has a number of similar clients. If you run a marijuana business in a state with legalized medical or recreational marijuana, then you need a firm that is up-to-date in this area.

Has the firm worked with businesses your size before?

Small, medium, and large businesses often face distinct legal issues. If you are a small business, you need a firm that is used to working with small enterprises. If you would classify yourself as a startup, then you need a firm that understands startups’ needs and objectives. If you are a sizeable business that works throughout multiple states or countries, you need a firm experienced in interstate commerce and international matters.

Can the firm help with all of your needs?

As a business, your legal needs are diverse. You might need a lawyer to help you set up appropriate hiring and employment practices, draft employment or client contracts, negotiate commercial real estate transactions, and ensure you minimize your tax liability. While most of your initial needs may be transactional, there may also come a time when you face litigation.

“You should seek counsel that has broad experience with different types of transactions and disputes,” says founding member and attorney Rich Mains of Rose Grasch Camenisch Mains PLLC. Carefully consider all of your current and potential businesses needs then look for firms that can provide you with a team to handle them all.

Can the law firm scale?

You may not need all hands on deck, all of the time. However, if something goes wrong, you might suddenly need a lot of help. If you expect there may be times that the business will face an increased workload, ask firms about their ability to scale up on projects and workers. For example, if you are facing complex litigation, you can expect an in-depth discovery process. Some firms rarely work on large scale projects. However, other firms have processes in place for hiring additional staff.

What are the law firm’s technological capabilities?

Depending on your industry, business, and legal needs, you may be interested in whether the law firm uses the most advanced legal tech or not. This is particularly important if you anticipate complex litigation and need a law firm to handle discovery. You will need a firm experienced with and prepared to handle e-discovery. Another technological issue is cybersecurity. Ask potential firms how they keep your information secure.

What is the law firm culture?

When it comes to choosing the right firm for your business, you can do more than look at experience. You can learn about the firm’s culture. Does the firm champion diversity? Is it a great place for working parents? Does it promote pro bono and volunteer work? You can look for a firm that matches your own values.

Is the law firm cost-conscious?

There are many things to consider when looking for the right law firm for your business. As a practical matter, you need to review your budget and ask potential law firms about their fees. You should also ask the firms how their strategies for keeping clients’ costs down and avoiding going over budget on projects. It is unlikely that your business can bear unlimited legal expenses, and it is important to work with a law firm that will respect your budget.

How does the law firm approach problems?

Not all firms handle transactions, disputes, and potential litigation in the same way. Mains states it is equally important that businesses find “a lawyer that takes a practical approach to achieving their objectives.” You should look for a law firm that can develop strategies that minimize risk and promote your business’s goals, budget, and values. 

Whatever your needs are, or if you're unsure of where to start, an experienced business organizations or employment attorney will be able to answer your questions.