Growth5 Blog

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Startups: Choose Your Attorney Carefully

TheDeal.com posted this article on what to look for when picking an attorney for your startup.

My thoughts on the 4 C's discussed:

1. Competence: just because your aunt is an attorney, doesn't mean she knows the ins and outs of startups, financing, etc... Find someone who is an expert in the space, especially if intellectual property is involved.

2. Chemistry: very important. Have lunch with your prospective attorney, find out how you get along. Also find out if they will be "quarterbacking" your account with other members of the law firm, or if they will be doing most of the work themselves.

3. Collaboration: the relationship with your attorney often lies in how well you both handle the gap between business decisions (you) and legal issues (them). Remember, you run your business, your attorney can't possibly know all of the factors involved in your decision-making, so listen to their experiences, but stick to your guns when it comes to matters that you know need to happen a certain way. Similarly, let them be the expert on the legal issues. If you are not sure which is which, ask them, "is this a business decision with a small legal issue we can work out, or is this a huge legal issue where we need to change our business approach?"

4. Cost: DO NOT pick the cheapest attorney because they are the cheapest. Shop around. Find the attorney with the most experience in your industry that has dealt with startups. Ask them for references of firms they have helped that were once where your firm is now. If you can find an attorney/law firm that knows your space, has a track record of guiding startups from the beginning and is someone you think you can work well with, does it matter a whole lot how much they are per hour? I would argue you can't afford to NOT use them.

Not having a competent startup attorney in your corner as you get going is a mistake. They will help you avoid many of the pitfalls entrepreneurs experience when they get their businesses going. If you need a referral, let us know.

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