At your initial conference with an attorney you're considering hiring, take note of what the lawyer says and does, and look for the following qualities:
- Experience. Although it's not essential to find an expert in your particular field, it makes sense to look for someone who specializes in small business problems. And make sure the lawyer is willing to take on small problems-if you're trying to collect on a small invoice, will the lawyer think it's worth his or her time?
- Understanding. Be sure the attorney is willing to lean about your business's goals. You're looking for someone who will be a long-term partner in your business's growth.
- Ability to communicate. If the lawyer speaks in legalese and doesn't bother to explain the terms he or she uses, you should look for someone else.
- Availability. Will the attorney be available for conferences at your convenience, not his or hers? How quickly can you expect emergency phone calls to get returned?
- Rapport. Is this someone you can get along with? You'll be discussing matters close to your heart, so make sure you fell comfortable doing so. Good chemistry will ensure a better relationship and more positive results for your business.
- Reasonable fees. Shop around and get quotes from several firms before making your decision. However, don't compare attorneys based on fees alone. The lowest hourly fees may not indicate the best value because an inexperienced attorney may take twice as long to complete a project as an experienced one will.
- References. Don't be afraid to ask for references. Ask what types of businesses or cases the attorney has worked with in the past. Get a list of clients or other attorneys you can contact to discuss competence, service and fees.