Stephen Newman, managing partner of Baxter Caulfield Solicitors, gives advice on taking on a solicitor.
Stephen Newman, managing partner of Baxter Caulfield Solicitors, gives advice on taking on a solicitor as a small business.
Choosing the right solicitor for your business is no easy task. You need a legal representative who is right for you and your business, but every legal practice has its own culture and range of expertise.
Above all, you need to be able to feel that you can trust your solicitor to give you sound advice. Your solicitor should be your confidante. You need a solicitor that you can work with and who will deal with the legal issues you face – whether, for example, they involve employment law or incorporating a company – as smoothly and as painlessly as possible.
There are many solicitors available to choose from. How do you choose the right one for you and your business? Here are some key points that you might like to bear in mind:
• Many people assume that a solicitor has expertise in every field of law, but that is not the case. Remember to choose a solicitor who is a specialist in the area of law in which you need advice. Choosing an expert will mean your case is dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible. Some solicitors have accreditation with certain professional associations as a sign of their expertise. A law firm is a grouping of solicitors who together have a range of expertise aimed at serving the needs of a certain type of client. Most law firms will have a website that will give some indication of the type of work they do. Take the time to ask around and do a little research.
• Recommendations are a great way to find out exactly what working with a particular law firm is going to be like. Personal recommendations come from friends, colleagues, business contacts or family. Your accountant, insurance broker or bank manager may be willing to make a recommendation when it comes to choosing a solicitor for you and your business.
If you belong to a networking group or club, it could be worth asking around those members of the group who have worked with a solicitor recently. There may be a law firm that belongs to the same group and that may be willing to give you some initial advice.
• The cost of legal advice is always an important issue. Solicitors must give you information as to how their charges will be calculated and an estimate of the likely cost of carrying out the work at an early stage in your discussions. Comparing estimates is always advisable before you instruct a legal firm to act on your behalf. Prices can vary from firm to firm and from place to place, so getting an estimate of the likely fees to be incurred will help you decide which firm to choose.
• Of course, the law firm offering the lowest price is not necessarily the best choice. You are buying a service, not a product. Whilst it may be tempting to choose a solicitor on price alone, you should be aware that there is a cost to providing every service, and legal services are no exception. A cheap price may reflect a lack of experience on the part of the lawyer delivering the service or a level of service that will not meet your expectations. Your business needs sound advice and, like many things in life, you often get what you pay for.
• Don’t be shy of asking a lot of questions during the selection process. Even at an early stage, if there is anything you don’t understand, ask your would-be lawyer to explain it. His or her response will help you to assess how knowledgeable he or she is on the matter in question, his or her level of professionalism and also whether (s)he can meet your expectations in terms of the time that it will take to deliver the service you require. If you call up to ask some basic questions initially and those questions are not answered to your satisfaction, how likely is it that the position will improve over time?
Choosing a solicitor is something that requires quite a bit of research and a bit of thought before making a decision. At the end of the day it is vitally important that you are happy with your choice. After all, you want a high level of service and sound advice whatever your business needs. Hopefully, the points above will guide you in the right direction.
See also: Choosing your business identity