Q: What is the best way to find a lawyer specializing in homebased business? I also want to know about sponsors as well as getting a loan.
A: Finding an attorney to help you with starting a business is not only wise, but fairly simple as well. A great place to start is with the American Bar Association. The ABA's Web site has a wealth of information for consumers and professionals alike who have legal questions.
There is a lot of do-it-yourself troubleshooting advice on the ABA site, but you can also use the site to locate an attorney. In the "Hire a Lawyer" section, you'll find information on public service lawyer referral programs, wherein you are interviewed to have your needs diagnosed and then provided with a referral to a lawyer or to helpful community resources.
There are also commercial lawyer referral services on the Web. Go to FindLaw, for instance, and you have instant access to thousands of lawyers. You can search by city and state, and several results come up within the area you specify, with details of each firm's background, areas of practice, published works, attorneys on staff and so on. There are other similar services listed on the ABA site.
Finding an attorney you like and trust, however, is a different matter. It's not enough just to find someone who specializes in your area of interest. You can, of course, visit with individual attorneys to get a gut feeling of those you like or dislike, but it could cost you a number of consultation fees.
A better first step is to ask around rather than blindly visit dozens of lawyers. Check with business owners in your area for recommendations. They will often have strong opinions, good or bad, about attorneys they have dealt with in the past or whose services they currently use. Once you have a few names, then it's time to check references and make an appointment with those attorneys to get a feel for whether you like him or her.
For a fee, you can also request a search of the ABA's National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank to see if any disciplinary action has ever been taken against the lawyers you are interested in. To request a search, call (312) 988-5299, or, if you know the jurisdiction in which the lawyer is practicing, call the appropriate office listed on this page.
Now for the second part of your question. I'm not sure what you mean by "sponsors"; if you mean investors, we have search tools on the Entrepreneur.com site for finding either angel investors or venture capital. Bank loans aren't easily had if you only need a small amount of money, but there are banks that are considered "small-business-friendly"; our listing of the Best Banks for Entrepreneurscan help you with that. And you can also check with the Small Business Administration, which has a number of microlending programs. Good luck to you in all your searches.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.
Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.