- Corporate law, General

Business Attorneys – Points to Understand When Choosing Your Lawyer

When choosing the law firm to represent your business it helps to understand the types of law firms out there, and which ones are most appropriate for your business. Here are a few pointers to get you started.

1. Corporate Firms

Corporate lawyers, in the traditional sense of the word, usually work for medium to large law firms, sometimes called “law factories” by those in the industry. When someone refers to a case being descended upon by an “army of lawyers,” they are probably referring to a corporate law firm.

Many corporate law firms do defense work on behalf of their corporate clients. So if ABC Corporation gets sued by a consumer for $100 million for a faulty product that caused the consumer injury, the corporate law firm will swoop in to defend the company.

They also perform large quantities of transactional legal work for their clients. This particular type of work runs the gamut from bankruptcy proceedings to contract negotiations to merger and acquisition work and beyond. Corporate attorneys love to bill by the hour, and don’t expect them to give you a second glance unless you can demonstrate the ability to pay their often exorbitant fees.

If you are a small business owner, you’re better off searching for a smaller firm which can give you the attention you need, and is less concerned about cranking out billable hours to pay for their high priced associates. If you are a big company, you’re in business, because corporate law firms are dedicated to your cause.

2. Smaller Firms

While you may not find the extensive list of services that a large firm will offer, you will find that smaller firms tend to focus on certain areas and become quite proficient in their chosen specialties.

You’re also more likely to have consistent access to the upper level managers and partners in these firms, as the partners often do much of the legal work instead of passing it off to their legions of lower level attorneys. Expect to find many plaintiff firms in this realm. Plaintiff firms must be nimble, fast, and versatile. Their culture will likely match your culture more closely.

3. Boutique Firms

Boutique firms are smaller firms with a much tighter focus than their non-boutique brethren. They’re called “boutiques” because they do one thing and one thing only, like a hair salon. You will see many boutique firms practicing personal injury law and nothing else.

However, you’ll also run into boutique firms which focus on various aspects of business law, labor law, divorce law, estates law, and so forth. If you have a specific legal issue and are not looking for someone to represent your general interests and “whatever comes up,” consider a boutique firm.

Their focus on one particular specialty often means that they are really good at what they do. Instead of being a “jack of all trades, master of none,” they are the “masters” at what they do.

4. Solo Practitioners

Solo practitioners tend to either have tightly focused practices, such as personal injury work, or generalized practices in which they “do it all.”

If you are in need of very specific yet less complex work, such as incorporating your business, a solo practitioner may be just the person you want. Small business functions such as incorporation do not require an “army of lawyers,” and you can even do it yourself if you want to save some money.

If your business isn’t very large then consider a solo practitioner. The reason large companies need large law firms is because they are sometimes sued by many people at once, and all those cases create huge amounts of paperwork along with a lengthy list of people to deal with all at the same time.

5. Additional points to consider

As an attorney who has dealt with lawyers in each of the above categories, I recommend that you become familiar with attorneys in each category. Usually an attorney at the firm will be more than happy to speak to you to see if they can help you, and it doesn’t hurt to introduce yourself to various firms before you actually need help.

For example, if you anticipate making a sizable asset purchase in the next 90 days, call up a couple of business lawyers in your town and chat for a few minutes about your upcoming needs. Let them know you may need an attorney in the near future.

This approach enables you to gain some familiarity with the lawyers without time pressure. For example, if you have a contract sitting on your desk and that contract is only valid for five business days, then you MUST have an attorney review it promptly. That’s not a good time to begin your attorney search process.

I wish you the best in your attorney search. Remember that law firms are different in size and culture because of the services they offer and because of the clients they cater to. Also remember to gain familiarity before you need an attorney. With this in mind you should be off to a great start.