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Business Lawyer costs for small business

Houston, TX |

I want to start an online business, I will need NDA written for the web developer, Terms and Conditions (special ones as the website is very special, cannot find any template), and many questions to be answered. I do not know what are the lawyer rates in Houston but so far one lawyer offered $190/hr and the other $628/hr. I will use this lawyer for at least 40 hrs in 30 days period and my budget is tight, can anyone advise me where should i start?

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Attorney answers 5

Posted

You should set up a free initial consultation with my friend and frequent colleague Andrew Weisblatt. He finds ways to make his services cost-effective in both the short and long term, and he can almost certainly help you avoid problems that would cost you many, many times his fees. His profile here on Avvo.com is linked just below.

Asker

Posted

Thanks so much. I did not know there are lawyers who give free initial consultation, the Lawyer who was $190/hr asked for $500 for initial consultation.

William J. Dyer

William J. Dyer

Posted

Good lawyers, in my opinion, don't charge prospective clients for the time spent satisfying the client that the client has found the right lawyer. You wouldn't take that kind of treatment from a car mechanic, why would you take it from a lawyer? Clients who get surprised by their bills are NOT repeat clients. Andrew's in business for repeat clients.

Posted

You'll need to budget your start-up costs wisely, but you can enlist your lawyer's help on that. It helps a lot that you have a good idea what you need.

Not all lawyers do free initial consultations. What some do is see if the lawyer-client match is a good fit through an introductory phone call or brief meeting, but then that time is chargeable if the client does hire the lawyer and executes a written fee agreement. and that time is only free if the conversation doesn't result in engagement.

Lawyers shouldn't charge for purely administrative tasks like getting these fee agreements done, but when the conversation veers into substance, you should expect that time to be chargeable. Social conversations also shouldn't be billed. Ask your prospective lawyer if they charge off time, and if so, when, and ask to see another similar client's bill to get an idea of what you can expect.

Your risk is that if only hiring a lawyer for 30 days, you'll be expecting a lot of work in a short time and won't have the chance to see the lawyer's monthly invoices, and you'll also be expecting your lawyer to to prioritize your work at the expense of their other clients. Your website work doesn't seem time-sensitive, so re-think how fast you need things done, and give the lawyer-client relationship more time to develop so you cna see how a lawyer performs and how they bill.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your detailed answer. I think you are right on the 30 days thing, i should reconsider the time setting, I was thinking of the initial meeting, the fees of doing NDA with my web developer, then the legal documents i have to put on site like: agreement, license, disclaimers.. the website will be dealing with money flow so I thought of all aspects of potential 'claims' from clients and i need to set many things out straight with them.. imagine the time i have to spend explaining to the lawyer what i want, then the discussion time, and then the time for the lawyer to put that in writing. Your kind answers are giving me more light on the whole issue however, so i am grateful to your help and I feel i have more confidence and orientation. Thank you

Posted

Good answers here. You can also try to find an attorney who offers flat rates on a per-project basis like my firm does for business clients. Getting quoted flat rates up front for services, especially document drafting, allows you to budget for services accurately.

Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on since each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. A lawyer experienced in the subject area and licensed to practice in the jurisdiction should be consulted for legal advice.

Asker

Posted

This is an option that I was considering, do you think this can be laid fair and square or would the firms back up and say they 'did not expect' this much demands? if you still recommend it, Mr. Donaldson, can you recommend me a firm in Houston that does that? Many thanks in advance.

Jordan L. Donaldson

Jordan L. Donaldson

Posted

It's hard to say whether you would have issues with a firm working more than it anticipated, however, the agreement should quote fees and costs up front so you don't have to worry about such an issue. You could also split the work into milestones with a separate quote at each stage. Sorry I don't know of any firms in your area at this time.

Posted

Even with all of the search tools available today to assist in locating a lawyer the best way to find a lawyer who is a good fit is personal referral. Ask those whom you respect in your industry whom they use. Most business lawyers are looking for an ongoing relationship, not a "one off" project. You may do yourself a disservice if you convey that this will be a one-time relationship or that the lawyer will be bidding against other lawyers every time you contact him/her. The really good ones don't need to work that way.

DISCLAIMER: This is not specific legal advice and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.

Asker

Posted

I guess you are right, I expect the project to have many legal issues and interpretations, I have to be prepared with a good attorney for a long lasting legal coverage. Thank you

Posted

It sounds like you have some good responses. I work with many start up companies and face this issue often. The $628 is rather high for a small business--even here in DC small, boutique firms like hours are about 50-60% of that. You definitely should engage someone who has done a lot of the work that you need and who is vested in nurturing your business. Some lawyers have paralegals or younger associates who can help keep costs down. As a broad generalization with the caveat that I do not have details, I suspect you could get the work done for $5000 to 7000 total. I am happy to discuss without cost or obligation. The most important consideration is to retain an experienced business lawyer and not a general practitioner.

Asker

Posted

Thank you Mr. Sprang. I am still doing the business plan, I believe the legal part will be the most costly after the site developer fees. I think you mean $5000 to $7000 for the whole start up which includes terms and conditions, disclaimers, privacy policy, etc.. + 40 hrs of counseling. if it is, then it really worth considering. I do not know if lawyers in DC can practice in TX or not.. I am new to the states after all :-) Thanks

Kenneth Allyn Sprang

Kenneth Allyn Sprang

Posted

That is correct. For those of us who do a lot of this work, these matters should be pretty routine. I am assuming it may not take a full 40 hours, depending on your needs. I have clients in Texas. Generally for corporate work and things tht are federal in nature one can cross state lines. In fact I have a client currently moving from Texas to California and incorporating in Delaware. Feel free to ring at your convenience. 202-683-4090