Sound legal advice is essential for building a successful business. Whether you’re an established firm or you’re just starting your small-business journey, you need to be able to get good advice from a business lawyer or from free online business and legal resources. Research has shown that business owners who use good legal services for their PR business are much more likely to succeed because they are reducing the chances of incurring unnecessary future legal issues.
Legal decisions relating to a new business need to be made from the start. For instance, you need to decide the business structure for the firm. Defining the business structure is the foundation for all future work and policies of the business. This also affects future tax payable by the business and the extent of any personal liability you might incur in a possible future lawsuit. Therefore, the first decision to make is about registering the business, such as a:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability company
You will be helped in making this decision by developing a mission statement for your PR firm. This can be accomplished quickly by using this article as a guide to writing a great mission statement.
How to write a super-quick mission statement for your new PR firm or corporate PR department
To put yourself on the path to success, ensure you have the right lawyer or services at your side. Here’s a list of some of the things you should consider when you start looking for legal services for your business.
Know what you need
Most business lawyers handle things like contract writing, business information and more. However, in many fields of law, attorneys tend to specialize in certain fields. For example, you may find a lawyer handling:
- Employment law – issues regarding employer-employee relationships, health & safety, termination of employment, and issues like possible future discrimination claims
- Real-estate – selling, buying, or leasing property
- Litigation – when a dispute turns into a lawsuit. This includes wrangles resulting from media relations activity.
- Taxes – dealing with tax agencies and planning for taxes
- Protection of intellectual property through trademarks, copyright, or even patents.
- Late payments. Generally, about 30% of business invoices are paid late, which can cause cashflow problems, especially for small firms with tight cash reserves. You need to determine the best process to follow up clients for late payments. Legal advice is literally valuable for this.
When it comes to choosing a legal service, the first thing to do is find one that can handle your current and possible future needs. For example, if you’re looking for help on hiring employees, you’ll need a different type of counseling than if you’re planning to lease a new office. Larger law firms can offer a wider range of legal services, but their fees usually higher.
Ask other business professionals for recommendations
When looking for a good legal service, a great place to start is to ask your network of contacts for recommendations. They will be able to give you their honest opinion on the legal services they’ve used in the past. They will be able to tell you if these were reliable, if they had good customer service, whether they were expensive to use and if they would use them again in the future.
Make a list of potential candidates
Once you’ve got an idea of the type of legal service you require and you’ve obtained some recommendations from your contacts, make a list of potential candidates. Then go to their websites to gain an initial understanding of their services and any fields of specialization. Also, obviously, you are more likely to find good legal services for PR within legal firms who have already acted on behalf of PR clients, and therefore know the business better.
Consider using Incfile or LegalZoom
Incfile and LegalZoom are two brilliant online business information websites. Both sites offer reliable business formation services at a tiny proportion of the cost of hiring an attorney for your business. The main difference between Incfile and Legalzoom is that IncFile specializes in simple, fast, and affordable business formation and compliance help, while LegalZoom offers complete legal solutions. LegalZoom will not only help you to launch your business, but it will also help you to remain compliant and offers a range of attorney level services such as contracts, family law, intellectual property, and legal planning. If you’re looking for a good legal service for your business, then consider trying one of these options.
Meet with or contact potential legal services
The next step is to meet with, or at least talk to the legal services on your list before choosing one to hire. Before attending a meeting, it’s a good idea to make a list of the key qualities and attributes that you require. For example, you may require a legal advisor to give you up-to-date information on business regulations. Also, when you contact several law firms, you are likely to learn further questions you should ask.
You also need to provide background about your business to a law firm’s representative/s, including details of your perceived need for legal services, and whether their services would be required on a continuing basis or just for a single project.
During the meeting you should ask them a range of questions. This will help you to ensure that you choose good legal services for PR requirements. Here are some of the questions you should consider asking during a meeting with a potential lawyer:
- How long they’ve specialized in this type of law – this will tell you how much experience they have.
- Have they experience in representing PR firms.
- How will they keep in contact with you?
- Who, and at what level, would be the lawyer appointed to manage your account? You don’t want senior lawyers meeting with you, only to find the account would be managed by a junior or less experienced lawyer.
At your first meeting with the law firm, or early in their appointment, you need to address the question of their costs. Matters to resolve include:
- How much do they charge for each aspect of their service, and what kind of activities would be conducted for you?
- You have the right to negotiate with your lawyer about the terms of a costs agreement including the rate at which your lawyer and their associates will charge for their services.
- You have the right to receive a bill of costs from the law firm before you pay for legal work. The bill may summarize the work that has been done and the total cost of this work (lump sum bill), or a bill detailing each item of work, the amount of time doing that work, and the relevant hourly rate. All bills, or an accompanying letter from the law practice, must be signed on behalf of the law practice.
- Your right to be notified of any substantial change to the estimate of costs and other matters disclosed to you when retaining the law practice.
- Your right to progress reports. You have a right, on reasonable request, to a written report of progress on the relevant matter, and a written report of the legal costs you have incurred to date or since the last bill (if any) in the matter. The law firm may charge a reasonable amount for progress reports, but not for the time spent in preparing a report on the legal costs you have incurred.
Almost all businesses require legal advice at some point, even before they begin trading. For example, advice may be needed if you intend to employ new staff, or if you’re taking over an already established business. Obtaining legal advice can be crucial to the success of your business.
Many business owners find it difficult to find a legal service they can trust and rely on. However, by following the advice in this article about how to hire the right lawyer for your business, you can feel confident you have engaged good legal services for PR requirements.
Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. His wide-ranging career includes roles as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer and business manager. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.