A big part of running a small business in Canada effectively is choosing the right professional advisors to work on your behalf. When a legal need arises, whether by an issue arising that requires resolution, or through day to day activities of your small business, choosing the right lawyer is a lot like picking a medical specialist.
Six Points to Use Each Time You Need a Lawyer
Here is a six-point checklist in order of priority to follow each and every time you need to use a lawyer:
- Experience in the area you need help in:
- You don't need to be a training ground for him/her in the technical areas of the law you need help with;
- Knowledge of your industry is preferable, but not a necessity, a good lawyer can get up to speed on this quite quickly (covered in items 2.-4. below);
- Time to help you:
- If they're too busy, move on, you need their full attention;
- Interest in helping you:
- You'll figure this out quite quickly during your initial discussion(s) with them before they are retained for their services;
- Why add anyone to your team that isn't interested in you and your business?
- Personality that meshes with:
- Your culture and style; and
- The desired outcome of your need to use them;
- This is surprisingly very important, and almost always ignored.
- Choosing a legal service provider should be like buying clothes:
- First for function; then
- For comfort.
- Rate structure that is market based and meets the specific needs of the issue:
- Make sure before signing up that the billing rates make sense on both counts; and
- Get referred:
- It's always good if there's a referral source.
This might seem like simple and obvious checklist, and it is, it's just that it is very rarely, if ever followed.
The Wrong Choice Can Be Costly
Our experience has been that in almost every case where outcomes:
- Were disappointing;
- Were more costly than they needed to be;
- Took more of your time, energy, and emotions than should have been expected; or
- Took much longer than necessary to reach a resolution.
one or more of the above checklist items were not used.
Legal issues, and needs are an everyday occurrence in Canadian small business life, and incorrect choices of legal advisers takes quite a toll on business results, not just in terms of fees and financial loss, but also on lost productivity and focus on the business while dealing with these issues.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Another, frequent error made is that entrepreneurs have a tendency to use too few lawyers by number, thinking that this saves costs, and delivers better results. Nothing could be further from the truth; each file needs to be assessed on the above 6-point checklist in determining who should be on the team. Using a law firm with multiple lawyers on staff can be a convenience, but not necessarily a natural solution. Again think about the 6-point checklist above.