Picking the right legal advisor for your small business is a critically important decision. Here are some reasons you might have the wrong business lawyer. Hopefully they will also help you on the front end: when you are trying to find the right lawyer for your business.
So, in Jeff Foxworthy style, you might have the wrong business lawyer if:
10. The advice you receive is always too conservative.
Being naturally risk averse, some lawyers, with no business sense, tend to give advice based on a goal of eliminating risk from the transaction. This can render business decisions unwieldy and impossible. Ultimately, the only way to avoid all risk is to shut down your business. If you are always getting advice that is too conservative to make business sense, then maybe you have the wrong business lawyer
9. Your lawyer knows lots about the law but very little about business.
Many lawyers claim to be jacks of all trades unfortunately we all know what they say about such “jacks” – they are experts at none. These are the same lawyers who (wrongly) think that all they need is a set of templates and a general knowledge of legal entities to be a “business lawyer.” When choosing your small business advisors, you can and need to do better. You need a lawyer who has a pretty good understanding of how to run a business. Even if a lawyer is highly experienced in areas other than business, and especially if the lawyer is highly experienced in just litigation, then be careful. Often this can lead to an over-reliance on litigation avoidance which will lead, among other things, to the problem detailed in Number 10.
8. Your lawyer speaks a different language (i.e. so-called “Legalese”).
I don’t mean that your lawyer is from a different culture, rather that your lawyer likes to use the eloquent, complicated, and overly redundant jargon that most lawyers learned in law school when communicating with you. There is a trend in more progressive law schools to abolish this by the way. Legal jargon is still important in contracts, but has no place in your lawyer’s communication with you. If your lawyer talks way over your head, then maybe you have the wrong business lawyer.
7. Things are often much more complicated than they have to be.
You hire lawyers to help you clarify things and solve problems right? Unfortunately some lawyers forget this and are very good at making simple things much, much, more complicated. If your lawyer always makes things more complicated than they have to be, then maybe you have the wrong business lawyer.
6. Your lawyer has no knowledge or acknowledgment of social implications of legal strategies.
Law doesn’t exist in a vacuum and legal advice shouldn’t so exist either. If your lawyer doesn’t understand that many legal strategies can have social implications for your business and factor these implications into the strategy evaluation process, then maybe you have the wrong business lawyer.
5. Your lawyer is overly analytical.
As an entrepreneur, you know that keeping up with the speed of business often means ready, fire, aim. Of course the traditional lawyer’s perspective is something more like ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, fire. If your lawyer can’t bridge the gap and respond in a manner commensurate with the urgency of business problems, then maybe you have the wrong business lawyer.
4. Your lawyer hasn’t embraced technology.
Lawyers who have not embraced technology do you a dis-service on two different levels. First, it is virtually impossible to start any business, even a brick and mortar storefront, without leveraging technological tools. A lawyer who doesn’t understand technology therefore cannot give you “big picture” advice for advancing your business. Second, a lawyer who has not embraced practice related technology is going to be well behind the curve in many areas of practice management and it will impact the quality or responsiveness of your representation. Things such as sending you legal advice by email (an unsecured communication medium), inability or refusal to send you drafts of documents in PDF format (so that it is universally viewable by you and your team) and the inability to understand and incorporate key facets of new technology in contracts, are all indications of this problem.
3. Your lawyer says “no” on a regular basis.
Do you ever feel like your legal advisor is a roadblock? If so, then maybe you have the wrong business lawyer. Your lawyer’s job is to advise you on the “how” and you, as the client are responsible for the “yes” or “no.” You are the one with a business problem or a desired destination. Every problem has a solution and every destination has a path. Even of the solution or path has ridiculous risks, your lawyer’s role is to tell you how it can be done and what risks are involved. You, as the client, are responsible for the “yes” or “no” decision. If your lawyer has decided it is his/her job to tell you “yes” or “no” about your business decisions, then maybe you have the wrong business lawyer.
- and 1. I’m leaving these up to you. What do you think are the top reasons why you might have the wrong business lawyer? I look forward to hearing about your experiences and perspective.
Overly conservative lawyers, and the advice they like to give, kill entrepreneurism.