What to Ask: Hiring an Attorney and Incorporation | Usman Shaikh, Esq.
Starting a new business? UpCounsel attorney Usman Shaikh explains what every startup should be asking their legal team about hiring an attorney and incorporation3 min read
What are the estimated legal fees?
It's imperative to know the legal costs associated with anticipated work, especially for cash-strapped startups.
Does your firm only do transactional work, or can it also handle litigation matters?
It's important to know if you will be using a particular firm as corporate counsel only or if the same firm can also handle litigation if the need arises.
What is your experience in handling these types of matters?
A business owner should feel comfortable that his/her attorney has handled these types of matters in the past, isn't "learning on the job," and has the experience to competently handle a particular matter.
What are your practice areas?
Again, it's important to know the depth of your legal team's practice and if, for example, you will need to find another firm to handle other types of matters (e.g., IP, litigation, etc.).
Will you be handling the matter, or will it be a junior attorney?
There should be transparency to determine if a particular attorney will personally be handling your matter or if it will get delegated to a junior attorney at the firm.
What is the best way a small business owner can protect personal wealth and assets from business risks?
Properly forming an entity through which to conduct the business, and making sure such entity has the required corporate governance documents in place and follows all corporate formalities, to ensure no piercing of the corporate veil.
What specifically are small business owners most confused about when you first meet with them?
What types of documents are needed to accomplish their business goals (e.g., what corporate governance docs are needed for C corp. formation)
How can quality legal services help a small business grow?
By mitigating legal risk with quality counsel, an owner can focus on growing the business and not be worried about legal consequences from business decisions.
How can quality legal services help small businesses save money?
Legal services would be "quality" if they are cost effective and are not an undue financial burden on the business.
How can small businesses maximize the value of their legal team’s services?
By having clear communication channels with its legal team (responding to emails in a timely manner, etc.), and providing as much information as possible to the legal team's requests for information as so not to run up unnecessary billable time.
Should business partners have the same amount of equity in a company? Why or why not?
I'm assuming your use of the term "partners" does not mean this question is limited to partnerships. My answer is "no," because equity distribution should correlate to the capital (cash or sweat equity) contributed by each founder.
What are the top three things a small business owner should be aware of when purchasing an existing business?
Accurately determine the value. Due diligence reviewing customer lists, sale records, advertising materials, and employee contracts. Find out if there are any human resources issues or outstanding lawsuits pending against the company.
Do you have any other essential legal guidance for startups that you haven't already included in this survey?
Choose an attorney who is flexible with his or her legal fees and is willing to offer alternative fee structures (e.g., weighted defer payments, monthly flat fees, etc.).