Small business lawyers are too often an afterthought when it comes to business expenses. For struggling businesses and startups, that’s somewhat understandable. However, cutting out your legal protections is an ill-advised cost-savings measure.
That’s because all businesses need expert legal advice to save money, mitigate risk, and operate independently with peace of mind. In the following article, we’ll be discussing the major components that can influence what you might pay for a small business attorney.
We’ll also be talking about some ways that you can afford the expense no matter where you are in your business journey. Let’s begin!
1. Amount of Experience
Before hiring a small business attorney, it is always a good idea to identify how long the individual or firm has been practicing. Longevity can tell you a lot about an attorney’s competence. It also affects their pricing in terms of hourly or flat rates.
Costs aside, the amount of time that the attorney has spent in experience will create a trail of reviews and referrals. These can add to your peace of mind and offer a great deal of insight as to whether the attorney is worth the price you pay (i.e., will they win your case or obtain a settlement on your behalf).
2. Field of Expertise
Another important factor influencing what you will pay for a small business lawyer is their field of expertise. Time in practice may speak to longevity, but it does little to tell you how well an attorney does with your specific type of case.
You would not want an attorney representing your business interests if their previous experience is strictly in family law. They might do a good job, but it is a gamble that your business does not need, especially when you need to watch every dollar flowing through your company.
3. Type of Case
There are a variety of reasons why you may need the services of a small business attorney. Starting with a consultation is always a good idea to get a sense of cost as well as whether the attorney is equipped to handle it.
Some cases are harder to handle than others. A lawsuit-with-cause is going to drive up costs more than things like creating a business plan, applying for permits, and building simple agreements, which you can probably handle on your own.
4. Market Rates
A fourth factor to consider before paying the sometimes expensive rate of corporate lawyer hours is the existing market in your area. This may require more than a single meeting. You will want to take many consultations and talk to business owners in your area to see what kind of market rates currently exist.
You will also want to make sure you are specific in the scope of what you are pricing. Be as focused as possible, or you could end up paying for services that will never prove valuable to a business of your size and expertise.
5. Payment Terms
Most attorneys will charge in one of two ways when it comes to small business legal help. They either charge an hourly rate for billable hours or a flat rate based on specific needs.
Many attorneys offer packages detailing what they’ll include in a flat-rate cost. This can be helpful considering budgeting purposes. However, as we’ve already mentioned, legal needs can grow more complex and specific.
Make sure you are clear on what is covered and what is not. Unclear communications can lead to unexpected billing and create tension between you and your representation.
Paying for It
Keeping all the above factors in mind, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 or more per hour (or the equivalent) regardless of whom you hire or what their area of practice is. That can be difficult to handle.
This especially holds true when you consider the average American earns a median salary of just under $50,000 per year. To help pay for it, you will need to take some proactive measures. Here are some suggestions.
Once you have established the services you will most likely need a small business attorney for, you may want to build that into your budget. Of course, this could take a great deal of data and knowledge of how your daily operations are going before you’ll have a reliable number. Still, knowing your budget brings a certain degree of peace of mind to the whole operation.
Look at Small Business Loans
Many industries operate with razor-thin margins. Unfortunately, they are not averse to unexpected legal trouble. If you can’t afford to pay for an attorney out of your day-to-day earnings, consider seeking a small business loan.
Terms will vary depending on whether you go with an online source, crowdfunded source, or a traditional bank. They will also depend on the business itself and (possibly) your own personal credit history.
Credit cards are not the best way to pay for anything. However, it does provide quick access to funds when you need them, and the high interest will still be worth it if you get a small business attorney who knows what he or she is doing to fight for your case.
Attorneys operate differently when it comes to when, how, and what they are willing to negotiate. In this arena, it helps to do a lot of research on the front side.
Many attorneys offer flexible payment plans, especially if it means they will be representing your business interests long-term. You may even be able to negotiate a reasonable retainer fee that will help you better plan and budget the expense moving forward.
Small Business Lawyers Help Protect Your Interests
As you examine the small business lawyers that are available in your area, we hope you will keep the above factors in mind. Doing so will enable you to shed your intimidation of legal costs and see the true value that lies behind the numbers.
Good luck as you work on your business. If you need immediate or ongoing legal support, consider scheduling an appointment for a free consultation today.