Legal Guide

How to Find and Work with a Business Lawyer

Small business owners often complain that it is hard to find and work with attorneys. Here are three tips to make it easier to find a business lawyer for your new or existing business.

(Related Guides:  How to find an accountant   |   How to find an insurance broker/agent)

 

1. Finding an Attorney in Kansas City

The best way to find a business attorney is to ask for a referral–especially referrals from other business owners that have businesses similar to yours. That’s the best way to find a lawyer that is competent, works the way you want to work, and knows your industry. If you can’t get a referral, search the internet or contact your local bar association for help.

Once you’ve found some options, here are a few things you might consider when evaluating them (in no particular order):

  • Relevant Experience: You should usually seek an attorney uniquely experienced with your specific legal needs. A “general practice” lawyer that lists 20 practice areas in their bio is probably not the best pick. Similarly, asking a criminal defense attorney to file your trademark is probably not the best approach. 
  • Industry Knowledge: Your attorney doesn’t have to be an expert in your industry, but it certainly helps if they have a good understanding of your industry in general. For example, the software industry is very different from construction industry.
  • Work Style: Lawyers are just like other people in that they all practice differently. Ideally, you will find a lawyer that works the same way you do, whether that means phone over email or paperless over paper. The point is you don’t want to work with an attorney if he or she doesn’t mesh with your daily operations.

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Business

Legal knowledge to maximize your chances of success.
Download Now

2. Paying an Attorney

When engaging an attorney you need to make sure you understand their rate and how they bill. You don’t want to get upside-down with your lawyer.

Here are a few general thoughts about legal fees:

  • Most business lawyers charge by the hour. Hourly rates in Kansas City are normally between $150 and $450 (but they are sometimes higher).
  • If your lawyer bills hourly, always ask for an estimate and closely monitor their time so you don’t get a big surprise the end of the month. Additionally, you might ask that the lowest billable person with the right experience work on your project to reduce your bills.
  • Even though most lawyers charge by the hour, more and more are offering fixed fee services. As an example, check out our pricing page.
  • If your lawyer uses fixed fees, make sure you understand what is (and what is not) included in the fixed fee.
  • Generally speaking, the larger the firm, the more you’ll pay (but some small firms charge the same as big firms).
  • Whatever you do, don’t pick your lawyer solely based on their fees. Their rates should be a factor in your final decision, but it definitely shouldn’t be the only thing you consider.

 

3. Working with Attorneys – Setting Expectations

It is always important for you and your attorney to have a clear understanding of what you expect from their services. Here are some things to consider:

  • Always talk about your goals with your attorney. Depending on the situation, they may not be viable options, but it is critical that your attorney understands your goals.
  • Determine the best way to communicate with one another. If you expect regular phone calls, tell your lawyer this. If you prefer email, tell your lawyer that.
  • Never skip the discussion over fees (see above).
  • Always ask questions if you are unclear on something. Your lawyer’s job is to help you, that includes explaining things that may not be obvious to you.

 

Two additional tips:

  • The right attorney at the right: The right attorney for your early stage startup is probably not the right attorney when you have 500 employees nationwide; and the right attorney from that time probably won’t be the right attorney when you have 5,000 employees worldwide. But thanks to technology, it is easier than ever to use multiple law firms and/or transition between them when needed. The important thing to understand when hiring an attorney is whether they will support your use of multiple attorneys or if they will try to keep you from leaving their firm.
  • You get what you pay for: There are a lot of free and low-cost legal resources out there. But always remember that you get what you pay for. Sometimes they will be a good fit for what you need (seriously, sometimes they are perfect for your situation). But other times they can cause more problems than they solve.

(This article is general in nature and is not legal advice.)

Free ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Business

Legal knowledge to minimize your risk and maximize your chances of success.

LLCs v. Corporations

Finance & Tax

Contracts

Intellectual Property

Hiring People

And More!

Get Your Free Copy