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Do you remember the Tae Bo fitness videos? Before P90X became popular, Tae Bo fitness videos were all the rage. The founder, Billy Blanks, created the routine for Tae Bo all the way back in the mid-1970s. Blanks sold over a million copies of Tae Bo videos back in the 1990s. Why am I sharing this with you? Well, despite his success, Blanks lost millions because he didn't hire the right business lawyer. Blanks has said that he didn't learn how it important it was to hire the right lawyer until AFTER his law firm committed malpractice and cost him millions. So how do you hire the right lawyer for your business and avoid the same mistake?
First, lawyers have become highly specialized. Hiring an attorney that does primarily non-business work is probably not best for your business. A business attorney will likely have a better understanding of contracts and business organizations. In the beginning you will need a lawyer that can help you understand whether a corporation or limited liability company is right for your business.
Second, does your lawyer understand intellectual property issues? With the Internet, intellectual property is becoming increasingly important. Your business lawyer should at least have a basic understanding of these issues. Intellectual property is also a highly specialized area of the law but a good business lawyer should have a close working relationship with an intellectual property specialist or have one available in the firm.
Third, your lawyer should be able to understand and negotiate real estate leases and other related contracts. Having a business lawyer review your lease can pay big dividends. Many business owners assume leases are not negotiable but most landlords are willing to negotiate in some manner and often on key points.
Fourth, how experienced is your lawyer? Do not be afraid to ask your lawyer direct questions about their experience level. Has the lawyer previously peformed the work you need completed?
Fifth, is the lawyer and the law firm well-situated to handle many type of business law issues? Because of specialization no lawyer is able to handle every issue that comes up in your business. Your lawyer should be able to get you to the right person when different legal issues come up. You should not have to go looking for a new lawyer with each different issue.
Sixth, has the lawyer worked in your industry? It is helpful if the lawyer has worked with other businesses in your industry. At the very least the lawyer should be willing to learn about your industry. Better advice will come from attorneys that understand your industry.
Seventh, is the lawyer willing to educate you? Part of lawsuit prevention is education. Your lawyer should be able to train you to spot issues and enable you to implement preventative practices to avoid lawsuits and other problems.
Eighth, is your lawyer fair with billing practices? For routine business and contract matters is your lawyer able to quote flat fees. If not this may be an indication the lawyer does not have appropriate experience. In litigation situations the lawyer may not be able to quote flat fees but should be able to give you a range of the expected costs. If you are asked to pay money up front please make sure that lawyer first deposits the money into a trust account for disbursement to the lawyer only when the work is done.
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