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Hiring a Lawyer for Your Business - Questions to Ask

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Litigation involving your small business can be legally complicated. It can also be time-consuming and time-intensive for a small business owner. Litigation can hit a new business or a seasoned business.

In many cases, finding an attorney is the first time commitment. While you may already have a small business lawyer who helped you start up, they might want to go to trial. You might need to start looking for a new business lawyer.

As a small business owner, you will want to meet with any attorney you consider hiring. You need to see if you and the attorney can work together and then form an attorney-client relationship. You will be interviewing the attorney as if you were interviewing a job applicant.

Your attorney needs your input and cooperation to help with your legal issue.

At your first meeting with your attorney, you should be prepared to provide the following information:

Information About You

  • Your name, including your current name and any former names (this allows the law firm to run a conflict of interest check before meeting you)
  • Your phone number
  • Your email
  • Your mailing address

Information About the Business

  • Name of your small business
  • Any former business names the business has been known by
  • Any other business names the business goes by (known as a “Doing Business As" or DBA)
  • Description of what your small business does or what you want to do if you are a startup
  • Names of any members or partners of your small business, along with their contact information
  • Type of business entity and business structure (sole proprietorship, limited liability company, corporation, partnership, nonprofit)
  • Copy of your operating agreement (LLC), bylaws (corporation), or partnership agreement, if you have one
  • Copy of your business plan, if you have one
  • State of incorporation for the business
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN) given to your small business by the IRS
  • Business address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Website and social media handles, if any
  • List of current or previous lawsuits or other legal issues where attorneys were involved
  • Annual sales or income
  • If involving intellectual property, then a list of any federally registered trademarks, servicemarks, copyrights, or patents

Information About Your Opponent

  • Name (including business name if it's another business)
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Lawyer's contact information, if known
  • Any former business names the business has been known by
  • Any other business names the business goes by now (known as a “Doing Business As" or DBA)
  • Names of any members or partners of your small business, along with their contact information
  • Website or social media handles, even if it's an individual
  • A list of any litigation or lawsuit your opponent has been involved in

Information About the Incident: Why Is This Going to Court?

You need a client relationship with a business lawyer for a reason. Make sure to bring any information or documents related to that legal issue when meeting your business attorney.

  • Are you suing or being sued?
  • Have you talked to any other business lawyer about this incident?

If you are suing, bring:

  • Information about the incident that makes you want to sue your opponent. Make a brief timeline and gather any documents the lawyer should see. Examples of documents in a personal injury case may include photographs of injuries, medical records, and a list of witnesses. In a mergers and acquisition conflict, you should bring a copy of any emails, letters, or contracts between the parties. For wages due to an employee or independent contractor, a copy of your last pay stub, hourly rate, and proof of previous payments is helpful
  • An estimate of the damages you are suing for – it's okay if you don't know yet, but if it's for lost profits, have an estimate
  • A budget for attorney's fees
  • A list of any claims your opponent may have against you
  • A copy of any demand letter you have sent

If you are being sued, bring:

  • Information about the incident you need legal advice and legal help on. Make a brief timeline and gather any documents the lawyer should see
  • A copy of any demand letter or pleading filed against you, including the amount of damages
  • A budget for attorney's fees
  • A list of any claims you may have against your opponent

Paying Your Small Business Attorney

Most small business lawyers will only start working on your case with a retainer or flat fee for their services. You should bring a form of payment with you to your first meeting or be ready to pay soon after.

Find a Business Attorney in Your Area

As you can see, not all business attorneys are equally qualified for the different aspects of business law. After you've narrowed down your search, find a qualified business and commercial law attorney near you. When choosing a business attorney to help with your legal problems, remember to ask these questions.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified business attorney to help you address potential challenges a business can face.

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