Let’s Work Together

Never Alone

Apr 30th, 2013

Never aloneI’ve heard a business owner or three tell me that they set up their corporation online. My first question after hearing that is almost always “do you have an operating agreement?”

Most of the time, the owner in question says something along the lines of “No, its just me. I don’t need that.”

The other common scenario I hear, over and over again, is “I just downloaded my contracts from the internet when I started. Do you think it covers __________?”

With the availability of many online legal services, prepaid legal plans and a number of self-help sites, it’s easy to think that you can do it all yourself. But what if you need a more customized approach? How do you know?

Here are five things a lawyer can tell you, that you might or might not find the right answer to on the Internet:

  1. If your corporation or LLC has all of the paperwork and agreements in place to protect you from personal liability for actions of the business
  2. If your corporation or LLC is the recommended structure for your business
  3. Are your contracts binding in your state?
  4. Do your contracts protect or even enhance your cash flow?
  5. Are your ideas properly protected?  Or can a competitor sweep in a steal your catchy slogan, graphics, process or technology?

Finding the right person to help you can be daunting. Ask for referrals – from the ISBDC, from your banker, from your real estate agent or leasing agent, from your professional association, from a trusted colleague or mentor.

Decide if you want to work with the lawyer. These are some good questions to ask:

1. How are you going to take care of my case?  

You aren’t looking for a guarantee of an outcome. What you are looking for is a definitive understanding of what your questions and needs are and what the attorney’s plan is to address it.

2. What is the best way to reach you?

Phone? Cell Phone? Email?

3.  Who returns your calls?  How long does it usually take?

This lets you know if you will mainly be talking to an assistant, junior associate or paralegal, or the attorney personally. The time question lets you know if you should expect a call the same business day, or the next, or just within the same week.

4. How do you charge?

You need to know up front on this one: hourly? flat fee? contingency? Is there a retainer? The attorney needs to address the details of payment with you in the first meeting. The last thing you want is to form a relationship with a $500/hour attorney — and then realize there is no way on this earth you will ever be able to afford him.

5. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

This one will tell you a lot about the person you are hiring to help you in your business. The lawyer’s reasons don’t need to resonate with you as the client. But they do give you insight in to the motivations of your attorney, why they do what they do, and possibly even some of the best ways to communicate with them.

  Kathy can be reached at 317-721-5290 or at kathy@kjdlegal.com.