If you’re a startup founder, chances are you’ve encountered a lot of lawyers in your travels. Law firms often organize or sponsor events aimed at providing guidance to early stage companies, and many startup hubs have co-working spaces where you can attend office hours with lawyers in a variety of practice areas. These resources provide lots of great opportunities to meet attorneys who specialize in working with companies like yours. But how do you know which lawyer is right for you? What characteristics should you look for when embarking on that relationship? Knowing how important these relationships are to these companies, we thought we’d offer some pointers:
- You should pick a lawyer you like – It’s really easy to assume it won’t matter whether you and your lawyer get along. However, you’re looking for a lawyer to support your company and work with you through events that may be difficult at times. If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to this person, you’ll be less likely to keep the lines of communication open, and this can cause problems down the road.
- Your lawyer should be your coach – A good lawyer, like a good coach, should be able to look across the field, guide their team through the work at hand, and anticipate some of the other side’s moves. While you will take the lead on certain elements of your company’s legal activities, like negotiating with your investors when it comes time to raise outside funding, your lawyer can help by escorting you through these milestones.
- Your lawyer will end up being your therapist – No matter what you’ve seen on TV, no one really takes an “it’s all business” approach anymore, particularly early stage companies led by people who are risking a lot to get their companies off the ground. When unexpected issues arise—like a founder leaving the company—things can get emotional, and a lawyer who can coach you through these trying times will be a great asset.
- Your lawyer should know their stuff – Having this recommendation on the list may seem surprising, but I assure you, there’s a good reason. Finding someone with experience working with startups is an easy box to check but, if your lawyer hasn’t worked with a lot of companies like yours, you may want to find someone with more experience in your area of focus.
No two lawyer-client relationships are alike, and hiring a lawyer to represent your company can feel like a daunting task. Hopefully we’ve made you better equipped to make the decision as to which lawyer will be the best fit for your company.
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