As you probably know from reading our posts, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself and your business. From drafting your own contracts to registering your own copyrights, you can pretty adequately be prepared. But sometimes you just need some help. Don't be intimidated (or ashamed!) if you need to find an attorney (or any other professional for that matter). Here are some tips to help you find and hire the right attorney to guide you.
Before we dig in, just a few things. First of all, attorneys are required to take and pass the bar exam in each state in which they practice. Furthermore, for most things, the law can vary by state. What that means for you is that you're going to want to hire an attorney that practices in your state. Sure, your aunt who lives across the country can give you pointers or help you in certain ways but to make sure you're doing it right, it's best to stay local.
Next, keep in mind that attorneys tend to focus on specific legal specialties. So, for example, if you're looking for help registering a trademark, it's best to find an attorney that specializes in trademark law. There are some attorneys who focus on advising small businesses or general practice (like general practitioner doctors) who know about many different areas of law. So just keep in mind what you're specifically looking for when seeking an advisor.
Ok, so you know what kind of help you need and are hunting for the perfect attorney. How do you go about finding one? Here are some ideas:
How does payment work? Glad you asked. Most business lawyers charge by the hour and these hourly rates can vary. Generally in the US you can find a good attorney that charges $200 to $300 an hour. It's smart to shop around but keep in mind a "cheaper" attorney might be a novice that takes longer to get something done whereas someone with more experience will save you money by getting it done quicker. Another option is being charged a flat fee for a specific thing you need done. This is sometimes less than an hourly rate, but not always.
When hiring an attorney, always insist upon a written fee agreement up front. This will explain how the fees and costs will be paid.
Questions? Bring Them. Here are a few to get you started.
Most importantly, just remember to trust your instinct. If you don't feel comfortable with someone, don't hire them. Pay attention to how long it takes them to respond to your initial contact. See how they treat their staff. Are they efficient? These are all clues as to how you will be treated too.