A good lawyer is like a business partner who will help you understand everything from government regulations and trading restrictions to shareholder and employment agreements. That’s why you need to put in the legwork to find your best match. “You want this to be a long-term relationship,” says Jim McPherson, an attorney with Toronto-based Aylesworth LLP, who has written on the topic. Here’s how to find the best lawyer for your business.
Identify what you want. Make a list of your requirements, suggests McPherson. “Consider the responsiveness rate and the breadth of knowledge you expect from your lawyer.” Do you need to be called back right away or can you probably wait a week?
Ask around. “Recommendation is key,” says McPherson. Talk to lawyers you already know or to people who have a business lawyer of their own. Consider asking others in your industry — perhaps even friendly competitors — who counsels them. “There is a commonality to problems in certain sectors,” says McPherson.
Do some reading. Trade associations and publications are a direct link to industry-specific attorneys. “Look for ads,” says McPherson. “These show the lawyer’s interest and expertise.” Check the websites of relevant law firms to get a sense of attitudes and specialties. Note whether they’ve published material about how the law relates to your industry.
Interrogate. “Interview at least three different law firms,” McPherson advises. Usually initial consultations are free, so sit with a few members of the firm to explain your needs and discuss how they’ll be met. There are no specific questions you must ask or precise answers to look for, McPherson believes; rather, it’s about your impression of the lawyer. Says McPherson: “Follow your instinct.”
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© 2003 Cathy Gulli