Every small business or large company must have two professionals at the start: a lawyer for business (i.e. business attorney or corporate lawyer) and an accountant.
To begin with, you need an accountant to help set up your accounts, review your finances, and prepare all tax returns. However, the reasons behind hiring a business lawyer are not so clear.
But you need one. A business attorney provides help in almost every aspect of your business. This help ranges from copyright and trademark advice to lawsuits.
Given this, what does a lawyer for business exactly do? How do they help you with your business? Is hiring a business lawyer expensive?
In this post, we will walk you through the things a business lawyer does and why you need one. We will also answer the most commonly asked questions about them.
What Does a Business Lawyer or Lawyer for Business Do?
There are two different areas within business law: litigation and transactional.
Business attorneys that focus on litigation represent you in court. Of course, this will only happen if you have a lawsuit. In general, these lawyers pick up where transactional lawyers leave off. For instance, this happens when a contract or another legal document gets disputed or violated.
On the other hand, a business lawyer focusing on transactions gives advice about how to manage your business. If you have a startup, a lawyer for business also helps get you on the right track.
Once you expand, a business attorney also helps you buy other businesses. They make sure that you comply with current laws and prepare the necessary documents.
Moreover, a business lawyer guides you through complicated regulations. They also draft and review your business agreements, helping you run your business smoothly.
For instance, you own a bakeshop that sells minimalist cakes and cupcakes. You made original designs. However, a competitor exactly copied your minimalist cake designs and cupcake design ideas. By hiring a lawyer for business, you can easily sue your competitor.
How Do I Know If I Need a Business Lawyer or Corporate Lawyer?
Whether you’re just starting or transferring a business, hiring or consulting a lawyer for business is a smart idea.
But how exactly do you know if you need a business attorney? Here are the things business owners usually need that business lawyers can help with:
- Business agreement drafts
- Company documents
- Compliance with laws
- Tax returns
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Business formation
- Copyright and trademark
- Leasing and licensing property
- Employee management
If you need any of the above, you must hire a business attorney.
How Much Will a Business Lawyer Cost Me?
Business lawyers usually charge by the hour.
However, your potential lawyer should give you a flat rate to make pricing transparent. The lawyer can also give you an estimate so you can predict the cost.
In addition, the cost varies depending on where you live. The cost also depends on the experience of the lawyer. More experienced lawyers usually charge more.
Hence, you should have an agreement with your lawyer upfront. This helps set what the costs will be.
What Can I Expect From a Business Lawyer or Corporate Lawyer?
A lawyer for business will ask you about your business and your goals. They might ask questions about you as well.
Since business owners get closely tied to their businesses, your lawyer must know you.
Once your lawyer gets a full picture of your situation, they will give you advice. This includes legal risks and opportunities.
You can also expect to have an agreement in place. This outlines what your costs will be and what things your lawyer will deal with before you work together. After this, your business attorney will begin taking care of your legal matters. They will give you also update you regularly on legal matters.
Business Lawyer vs Corporate Lawyer
If you have a business, there are at least two types of lawyers you can choose from: a business lawyer and a corporate lawyer.
Business lawyers give legal advice to your company. This allows clients to make sound decisions for their businesses.
In general, a business lawyer becomes responsible for the business’ compliance with rules and regulations in the country. They also help create company policies. Moreover, business lawyers protect you from lawsuits.
In addition, they can help make business plans, partnership agreements, and contracts. They also deal with the police and other government entities.
On the other hand, corporate lawyers work for larger companies.
More often than not, people call them transactional lawyers. It’s because that’s basically what they do.
Corporate lawyers take charge of corporate transactions. These include writing contracts, preventing lawsuits, and taking care of legal papers.
They also often operate within the legal department of a business. On top of that, they help monitor the sale and distribution of goods. They also work with other departments to help the corporation make safe business decisions.
What to Look for In a Lawyer for Business
Truth be told, not every lawyer knows everything about the law. They specialize in certain areas because of this.
So when your business has other legal needs outside your business or corporate lawyer’s scope, your lawyer must contact another one. After all, it doesn’t make sense to have a new lawyer every time things happen.
Due to this, bigger law firms are more predictable than smaller ones. They usually have a lot of lawyers under one roof with different specializations. If you are looking for a lawyer in the Philippines, Fortun and Santos can help.
Your lawyer must also be familiar with the business industry. More points if they are familiar with your industry. Think about this: You have a baking business. Would you rather hire a lawyer with experience in auto dealerships or the baking industry?
Remember, it’s always better to hire a lawyer with clients that are in the same industry as you. On the other hand, your lawyer must not represent any competitors.
Great lawyers always have the patience to explain things to their clients. They must also explain things to you clearly. So, always go for a lawyer that informs and educates you in a manner you easily understand.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hiring a Lawyer for Business
Still not sure about who to hire? Here are some questions you can yourself before hiring them:
Is their office conveniently located?
You will need to visit your company lawyer frequently, especially in the first few years of your business. Hence, you must hire one located near you.
After all, you don’t have to waste hours or a day traveling to and from your lawyer’s office every time you need legal advice. When in doubt, choose a lawyer close to your house or office.
Does this person communicate well?
The famous JP Morgan once said, “I do not pay my lawyers to tell me what I cannot do, but to tell me how to do what I want to do.”
The right lawyer for your business will not answer your questions with a mere “That’s okay” or “No, don’t do that”. They will explain your options and tell you what other companies in your situation usually do.
Do I like this person?
Don’t hesitate to follow your feelings and instincts. You must openly and freely communicate with your lawyer at all times.
If you feel you can’t trust an attorney, expand your options. The same thing applies if you two have different perspectives.
Where to Look for a Lawyer for Business
A great place to start looking involves your family and friends. They might know someone they worked with. You can also ask your business contacts to look for lawyers. If not, you can start by looking online.
Then, read reviews and ask questions. If you can, ask people who worked with them what their experience looks like. You can also call their firm or office to ask probing questions.
Tips and Tricks
Whether your lawyer charges an hourly rate or a fixed one, here are some tips and tricks to take control of your bill:
Ask the lawyer for business to estimate the charges in writing.
The cost of each matter must in writing, so you can decide if you must pursue the lawyer. In addition, if the cost goes beyond the estimate, ask the lawyer why.
Take note that some business attorneys also offer caps. This guarantees the maximum fee they can charge you. A cap helps you budget. It also gives you more certainty and clarity than an estimate.
Know what increments of time the lawyer uses to calculate the cost.
Lawyers usually keep track of their time in increments. These increments can be as short as six minutes or as long as an hour. For instance, a lawyer charges $100 per hour. Will a thirty-minute phone call cost you $100 or $50?
Ask for monthly, itemized bills.
Some lawyers wait until the bill becomes large before sending a client an invoice. Don’t let a lawyer do this to you.
Instead, ask for monthly invoices. Then, carefully review them. The most obvious red flag is hidden fees. This means too many people or at least the wrong people are working on your case.
It’s also possible that you are mistakenly billed for work done for another person. So, review your invoices carefully all the time.
Before you meet your lawyer for business, have the necessary documents with you. You must also know exactly what you want to ask or discuss. If possible, send the needed documents before your meeting. By doing this, your attorney doesn’t have to read them during the meeting. You can then get right down to business.
Meet with your lawyer regularly.
At first glance, this may not seem like a great way to keep the bill low. However, you’ll be shocked at how much it reduces the endless rounds of phone tag that mess with busy lawyers and entrepreneurs.
More importantly, a monthly five- or 10-minute meeting saves you a lot of money. Doing this also allows you to stop minor legal problems from growing.
Frequently Asked Questions
A business lawyer assists business owners with legal matters. They ensure everything your business does is legal. They also help with mergers and acquisitions, business deals, employee management, incorporations, and more.
Yes, every company needs a lawyer. A company needs a lawyer not only for their primary purposes (e.g. take care of legal matters). Business lawyers can also be helpful in terms of connections for partnerships and investors. So, choosing the best lawyer for your business is a must.
Businesses need lawyers because they guide them on regulations, codes, and laws related to the business. The right legal representative also prevents possible lawsuits including discrimination, mistreatment, or breaking local and national laws.
Lawyers are people who went to law school. They took and passed the bar exam. On the other hand, the term attorney has French origins. It comes from the word that means to act on the behalf of others. In addition, the term attorney is an abbreviated form of the formal title “attorney at law”.
A company lawyer is called a business lawyer or corporate lawyer. Company lawyers have gone to law school. They also have taken and passed the bar exam.
The cost of hiring a lawyer usually ranges from $100 an hour to $500 an hour. The hourly rates increase depending on the specialization and experience of the lawyer.
Businesses need lawyers not just to take care of legal matters. A lawyer for business also helps entrepreneurs grow their companies. They do this by helping them make safe and sound decisions.
In addition, a lawyer for business bridges entrepreneurs with potential investors. They also have connections that can help a business scale.
So, if you are asking whether you need a lawyer or not— we got the answer for you. You certainly need one.
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- About the Author
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Sarah Abraham-Manalo is a force to be reckoned with. Sarah is currently a partner at Fortun and Santos Law Offices. She obtained her undergraduate degrees from De La Salle University-Manila, where she majored in international studies and legal management. Sarah then went on to earn her law degree from San Beda School of Law- Alabang in 2010, and was admitted to the Philippine Bar in the same year.
Sarah is known among her colleagues for her wit and sharp legal mind. She has represented numerous high-profile clients in court, and has a proven track record of success. When she’s not in the courtroom, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children.