Believe it or not, most lawyers are nice people, and a lawyer can help you start and maintain your small business. Any business — even a home-based business — needs an attorney on its support team.

What to Look For

Your goal is to find someone who's not only talented and affordable, but who also can grow with you and your company and become a long-term partner and trusted associate. Consider the following characteristics when you're interviewing attorneys:

  • Qualifications: Hire a lawyer who's as qualified and experienced as possible.
  • Accessibility: Make sure that your lawyer can meet your needs quickly, when you need them the most.
  • Price: Don’t be afraid to shop around for the best combination of skill, experience, and price.
  • Ethics: Your lawyer should have ethical standards that are just as high as the standards you uphold.
  • Compatibility: The ideal situation is to find someone who meets all your criteria and with whom you also get along well.

What an Attorney Can Do

What can attorneys do for your business? Here are some of the most common tasks attorneys take on for their small business clients:

  • Choosing a form (legal structure) for your business
  • Writing, reviewing, and negotiating business contracts
  • Dealing with employee issues
  • Helping with credit problems and bankruptcy
  • Addressing consumer issues and complaints
  • Outlining workers' compensation and Social Security Benefits
  • Advising you on your legal rights and obligations
  • Representing you in court

Things to Keep in Mind

Be sure to seek out an attorney who specializes in working with small businesses and startups. Any other attorney may not have the exact skill set that you need.

Do not be afraid to ask about payment options beyond the typical hourly fee arrangement. Experienced small business attorneys understand that the typical hourly fee arrangement may not be affordable for all clients.

Finally, use websites like AVVO.com to review the background, experience and ratings of the attorneys you are considering retaining.