Who’s On Your Team: Attorney

Today we wrap up our series on how to properly recruit a strong team of professional advisors to support your business as it grows. To start, we talked about the importance of having a solid accountant on your team that can help keep your business’s financial statements and tax returns looking healthy and strong. Next we discussed how an experienced insurance advisor can ensure your business is covered in the event of an unforeseeable loss. Last month we highlighted the value that financial advisors bring to the table and why you need more than one asset in your portfolio when you are ready to retire. Finally, to close out our series we will discuss the importance of having an experienced and talented attorney on the roster of your business’s dream team of professional advisors. 

Our society and entire economy is built on our legal system. It governs everything we do, including how we conduct business and enter into business transactions. Unfortunately for small business owners, the law governing business operations and transactions has become quite complex, making it challenging to navigate today’s business environment. Given this complexity, it is crucial that you, as a small business owner, have a trusted attorney walking with you as you grow your business, ensuring you are complying with the law and protected from unseen liabilities.  

Although it is not always instantly apparent upon the consumption of legal services, an experienced lawyer and/or law firm can add tremendous value to your business in numerous ways. Attorneys can assist in developing, structuring, launching, growing, expanding, or exiting your business and can ensure you are aware of the potential legal and business risks that may arise along the way. Furthermore, if you ever find yourself staring at a summons and complaint, an attorney is the only advisor that can walk you through the litigation process and secure an outcome that is as favorable for your business as possible. 

Given the value that an attorney can add to your business, it is important to be proactive about finding a lawyer that is a good fit for your organization. When selecting an attorney and/or law firm to represent your business, be sure to consider the following: 

 (1)    Communication – one of the first items you should discuss with an attorney you are considering recruiting for your team is communication style. This goes beyond stating your preference for receiving correspondence via phone, e-mail, or traditional letter; you also need to understand how quickly the attorney will get back to you after you send an inquiry and how you can get in touch with the attorney if you have an emergency that needs prompt attention. Not all attorneys communicate in the same way or respond in what you might deem a timely manner. Thus, set your communication expectations upfront so you are not frustrated down the road if the attorney sends an e-mail instead of calling or takes two days to respond when you expected a response within two hours. 

(2)    Fee Arrangement – when recruiting an attorney for your team, make sure to talk about how they bill for their services. Although many attorneys charge by the hour, there are situations where a lawyer may be willing to work for a fixed or flat fee or on a contingency or success fee basis. Make sure that you have an understanding of how the attorney is going to bill for their services and that you are comfortable with the fee arrangement. If you feel the fee arrangement is not a good fit for you, do not be afraid to ask the attorney if they would consider altering their billing approach. If asked, most attorneys are willing to work with clients to find a fee structure that works for everyone involved.   
(3)    Law Firm – when looking for legal representation for your company, make sure to consider recruiting an entire law firm and not just a single attorney. For some businesses, a solo practitioners or small law firm may be a great fit; however, there are definitely advantages associated with having a large firm like Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge on the roster of your team of professional adivsors. For example, if your business engages Smith Haughey as its legal counsel, you will be getting an entire team of attorneys spread across the whole state that are able to take care of all of your business’s legal needs. Whereas smaller firms or solo practitioners often have to refer clients out for specialized legal counsel, firms like Smith Haughey are able to handle just about any issue right in house. If your business needs help protecting its intellectual property, our intellectual property attorney, Sheila Eddy, will take care of you. Are the Affordable Care Act employer mandates making your head spin? Smith Haughey’s Gabe Marinaro will ensure your business is in compliance. If your business is looking to acquire commercial real estate or enter into a long-term commercial lease, Robert Parker, Dan Morley, or Brian Pearson will walk you through the process. Considering making a strategic acquisition or exiting your business? Eugene Franks, Jeff Wonacott, and Scott Harvey will get the deal closed. Did a summons and complaint land on your desk? Craig Neckers, Adam Tountas, Kristen Guinn, and a slew of other experienced and talented litigation attorneys will zealously advocate on your behalf and work to resolve the dispute efficiently. This paragraph could go on and on with examples of other Smith Haughey attorneys that provide specialized, top-notch legal services (including estate planning, employment law, plaintiff’s litigation, family law, etc.). You get the point: if your business recruits a large firm like Smith Haughey, you can rest assured that all the bases will be covered in regards to your business’s legal needs.

 When it comes to engaging an attorney, you need to be proactive, not reactive. When an incredible deal comes across your desk that you want to jump on or you have a major problem that needs to be cleaned up, in that moment, the last place you want to be looking for a lawyer is the yellow pages. Take the time to find an attorney and/or law firm now so you know who to call when you need legal counsel. And if you are in Michigan, consider choosing Smith Haughey; our firm is full of all-star attorneys that will knock it out of the park for you and your business every time.