Putting it bluntly, if you’re being sued it’s too late. There are countless times I’ve received a frantic call from someone who is in urgent need of legal advice.  While we endeavour to do everything we can to get people out of the predicament they find themselves in, metaphorically speaking in most instances the horse has already bolted and we need to do the best we can to mitigate as opposed to prevent.

 

Prevention is better than cure.

Things a GOOD lawyer should be doing for you (before problems arise):

  • Asking you about your business and finding out how you operate
  • Making sure you’re compliant with relevant laws
  • Considering if you need to protect your intangible assets
  • Making sure you are complying with relevant employment law
  • Working with your business structuring, including making sure your shareholders agreement suits your needs
  • Considering where you might incur liability and risk and making suggestions about how to manage both
  • Ensuring you have adequate measure in place regarding privacy and data protection
  • Advising you on advertising standards – such as the SPAM act, social media, use of images
  • Assisting you with Lease or Licence negotiations

Just to name a few.

As the saying goes “It’s easy to get to Court, but very difficult to get out.

We get it – no one likes to pay legal fees and in fact you may not like dealing with lawyers’ full stop. But, speaking from experience we know that a fee to keep you out of trouble is a small fraction you’ll pay if you do – think of it like life insurance. Once you’ve been served a summons, received a complaint, breached some part of an Act you didn’t know existed – it’s too late.

 

So, what should you look for in a GOOD lawyer?

 

1.Big or small?

Bigger the firm, generally, bigger the fees. They have more overheads to cover and fancier offices to pay the upkeep on.

One advantage of a firm with multiple lawyers is specialisation. There is usually a lawyer within the team that has a deep understanding of a specific area of law. This is crucial when it comes to legal matters; as the laws in certain areas can be incredibly complex.  So rather than you bouncing around from law firm to law firm, your matters can all be kept “under one roof” – so to speak.

Look for a firm that has lawyers who specialise in multiple disciplines; but not so big their fees are through the roof. A medium sized firm can also offer just enough clout that correspondence sent by them (on your behalf) will carry enough weight to get a response.

If dealing with a larger firm always ask who will be actually working for you – often who is meeting with you, and who is doing the work are two different people.

 

2. Specialisation?

Like doctors, lawyer are and can be specialists in their field. There are all types of lawyers out there:

  • Family lawyers
  • Criminal lawyers
  • Estate and trustee lawyers
  • Intellectual Property lawyers
  • Personal injury lawyers

The list goes on…

Suffice to say choosing the right speciality is important. A family lawyer for example isn’t going to be much help advising on business compliance matters.

The lawyer you are engaging to act on behalf of your business should have the following skills:

  1. Negotiation: You need a lawyer who has mastered the art of negotiation and can sit on the other side of the table and powerfully negotiate on your behalf, with a clear understanding of what you want out of the negotiation.
  2. Contracts: you need a lawyer is well versed in reading and understanding business contracts and agreements; explaining the areas of risk to you.
  3. Business Structure: you’ll need a lawyer who is experienced in advising on and setting up different types of business structures. As you grow this will become critical to your success.
  4. Leasing: entering into a commercial or office lease will potentially be one of the largest investments you’ll make in your business. It can lock you in for a 5 to 10 year period – so it’s a decision that needs to be made with lots of consideration. You need a lawyer who knows the ins’ and outs’ of lease negotiation.  Leases are often highly complex and always drafted to the benefit of the landlord.
  5. IP and Trademark: Your business is worth more than just its physical assets. A good lawyer will help you protect your IP.

 

 

3.Networking:

Communication is key. A good lawyer will be well-connected and have lots of fingers in many pies.  Your lawyer should be able to diagnose your legal needs quickly, trouble shoot any immediate issues and work with you on longer term plans to ensure you are on the front-foot regarding any future issues and setting yourself up for success.

Your lawyer should be able to communicate your options to you clearly. They should be well connected to other lawyers who they can engage for specialised services, so you don’t need to go out looking for a new specialist lawyer every time something crops up.

 

4.Advice:

Your lawyer should be a good teacher. They should take the time to educate you and your staff on legal issues impacting your business and take the time to explain these in a way that is understood. The right lawyer will provide information to you that you don’t always have to pay for and considers their relationship with you to be the most important aspect. Not just the bottom line.

A good lawyer will charge a fair and reasonable fee for the services they deliver.  They will also be happy to quote a flat fee for standard requirements – such as drafting an employment agreement.  In all matters, your lawyer should be able to provide a clear estimate of costs and keep you up to date on current fees. A good lawyer won’t ever leave you wondering what they charge or what your bill at the end of the month will be.

 

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