There are a number of startups in California, and all of them need the help of a California corporate attorney to succeed. A corporate lawyer can help you to set up a company in a way that will prevent future issues. Find a California corporate attorney who will be a legal partner and helps get you through the first few years you are open.
Here are 5 steps to finding the right corporate lawyer for your new company.
Step 1: List your business requirements
Each business is unique and has specific strengths and weaknesses. Before you hire a corporate lawyer, identify these strengths and weaknesses, so you can find an attorney that works well.
A corporate lawyer can help your startup with the following tasks:
- Raising venture capital – Securities laws are complex, and an attorney can help you navigate them easily. Financial mistakes can cause serious issues for your company in the future.
- Incorporation – When forming a business, there are a number of tasks that must be done. One of the most important is deciding on a business entity that will benefit your business objectives.
- Employment disputes – Labor disputes can cause huge costs for your business as well as affect your company’s reputation. A lawyer can prevent labor disputes and help you deal with any that occur swiftly.
- Protecting intellectual property – Your intellectual property is what makes your company unique. A corporate attorney can help you protect your uniqueness through copyrights and patents.
- Contracts – Hire a corporate lawyer to review or draft contracts. The wording of contracts is vital to if they are enforceable or if they create unintentional obligations.
- Founder agreements – A founder agreement is a legally binding document that determines the responsibilities and rights of each business partner. It is vital to the success of a business partnership as it sets clear expectations.
Step 2: Determine what you can do yourself
To save money on legal fees, it is important to identify which aspects of law you can handle yourself. There may also be tasks that it is more cost-effective to seek the help of another type of corporate professional.
You can do the following things yourself:
- Writing a business plan
- Applying for an EIN
- Selecting a business name
- Choosing a domain name
- Payroll services
- Hiring employees or independent contractors
While an attorney might be able to offer advice on the above issues or offer related services, they will not be able to do these tasks for you.
Step 3: Find Los Angeles corporate lawyers
“Search for a local corporate lawyer in your area by asking other business owners for referrals and browsing legal directories,” recommended Brad Nakase, a Los Angeles corporate lawyer at the law firm California Business Lawyer & Corporate Lawyer, Inc. Even if your friend recommends an amazing attorney who delivered their baby and saved their life, you still need to do your own research. Check online reviews, find out what kind of cases they have worked on and learn as much as you can about them.
If the business lawyer comes highly recommended, ask some questions about why they recommend them. What does the attorney do well, and what do they not do well? How quickly do they solve issues? Are they easy to contact?
You want to create a shortlist of 3-7 business attorneys to choose from.
Step 4: Book a consultation and interview the business lawyers
The next step is to book a consultation with each of the lawyers on your shortlist and interview them to see if they are suitable. You need to prepare questions that are specific to your business. To get you started, we have provided some example questions:
What sorts of businesses do you work with?
Laws are often different for businesses of different sizes, and industries may have their own legal issues. According to the Nakase Law Firm wrongful termination lawyer in Los Angeles, if a Los Angeles company was sued by a former employee for wrongful termination, ask the lawyer what sorts of business issues they have worked with will give an indication if the lawyer is a good match. They may not be able to name specific customers, but they will be able to give you an indication of the size and type of business. If the lawyer works with startups and small businesses, their rates will often be priced for those customers.
Ask about specific legal issues
Talk to the business attorney about legal issues that you keep having or ones that you foresee happening. Discuss your concerns and ask about how they would prevent or address these issues. This allows you to judge if the attorney would be effective for your business. You need to hire an attorney that can address common issues and the biggest concerns for your company.
Do you work with clerks and paralegals?
Most law firms have teams of clerks and paralegals to do some of the legwork and preparation for the business lawyers. This ensures the attorneys can focus on the important parts of their work and also works out more cost-effective for their clients. The time of these paralegals and clerks is much less expensive than that of a lawyer or partner. Talk to potential attorneys about who may be working on your business matters and determine if it fits with your needs.
How do you communicate with clients?
It is important to know if your communication styles match or not. Whether you prefer emails that you can read in your own time or calls so that you can ask questions, find a business lawyer who will work the way you prefer. It is also important to know if the attorney returns calls quickly. Sometimes they may be in court or in long meetings with clients, but will their paralegal return your call to pass on updates, or will they call you back as soon as possible. There is nothing worse than hiring an attorney and having to constantly chase them for updates.
Do you have a good network?
Business law requires a lot of different legal specialties and one attorney cannot advise on every single situation that occurs. When something happens that requires specific expertise; an attorney will often refer their clients to a colleague with that expertise. Find out if the business lawyer has a good network so they can refer you instead of you having to look for a lawyer.
Do you have any conflicts of interest?
A conflict of interest can arise if an attorney has a client that might face you in a lawsuit. You should stay away from lawyers who represent your major competitors, suppliers, or vendors. If an attorney has a conflict of interest, they can only represent one client, so you might be stuck trying to find a lawyer last minute.
What are your fees?
Budget is important, and you want to work with a lawyer you can afford. You don’t want to be in a position where you are avoiding calling them because you are worried about paying their fees.
Step 5: Compare their fees
It is naïve to think that budget does not matter when hiring a lawyer. It does matter; it matters a lot. Therefore, speak to the lawyers about how they charge for different services and how much they charge. A business attorney will use one of the following fee structures.
Also known as a fixed price, there are no nasty surprises with this fee structure. The rate is set in advance, and it will not change. A business attorney might charge flat fees for a lot of startup services as long as they do not require negotiation or input from other parties.
A contingency fee means that you do not pay your attorney until they win your case. They will take their fee in the form of a percentage of the compensation they win for you. This is only used for cases where compensation is to be won. Often, a lawyer will be reluctant to offer these to new clients as they risk doing a lot of work for no pay if their client fires them before the case is over.
Many business attorneys will work on a retainer for clients who require a lot of legal assistance. This may be beneficial to startups who may need their business lawyer to be hands-on during the first year of business. You pay a retainer to pre-purchase a certain number of hours of your lawyers time. Anything above that time may be charged as a flat fee or an hourly rate depending on your business lawyer’s policy.
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