What do you look for in a lawyer?

What qualities do you look for in a lawyer for your small business?

Top voted answer
Terry Chadban

Terry Chadban Founder/Manager at

[1] One that doesn't call themselves a lawyer, we don't have them in Australia

[2] One that can demonstrate that they understand small business legal problems

[3] One that advertises their fees upfront.

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Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt Owner at Startup Chucktown

I think one of the most important things is looking for a lawyer that understands your industry and practices in that specific area. Next you need one that understands your specific business needs. Lastly, look for a lawyer that wants to be a part of your long-term business strategy.

If are constantly contacting different lawyers you will never have anyone that has a good history of your company. They will only be transactional. Look for one that wants to help you with your legal needs as your business grows and changes.

Don't waste time. If you need help with intellectual property seek a lawyer out that specializes in that field of legal issues. By going to a general business lawyer or a family lawyer you are just wasting everyone's time and your money. Ask others for a lawyer referrals before spending tons of time looking yourself. Perhaps someone in your network already knows a great lawyer for your needs.

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Phil Khor

Phil Khor Founder at

Great question Deborah!

I like lawyers whom I can trust and build a good rapport with. I hire lawyers who has my back, and who is able to attend to issues in my business, however complex those may be. He/she should be someone I wouldn't hesitate to pick up the phone and have a chat without worrying about how much is that call going to cost me!

I stay away from lawyers who charge by the minute, because I don't think they understand the needs of their clients. I don't want to be unreasonable, and I believe professionals should be compensated for their time equitably but that said, when professionals puts too much focus on their billable hours and percentage of utilisation, they tend to lose sight of their clients' needs and the bigger picture of what's at stake.

I need to be confident that they have the right experience, and whether they have the right expertise in my industry to take care of unforseen issues confidently. For example, our business is a unique marketplace that most lawyers would not have the depth of experience in. So I'd need to look at their portfolio of previous projects, the type of clients whom they work with the most, client references, and recommendations from people in my network. The problem is that it always take so long to gather all these data to make the right decision lol.

I'm also big on transparency, not just about scope, fees structure and processes but how we should handle issues ethically and with the highest integrity at all times. I don't like surprises so open and honest communication is key, which in essence is a pre-requisitie to building great rapport.
 
I don't believe in shopping for the lowest fee. I believe you get what you pay for, and I'm willing to invest in the right expertise and experience as long as they're competitive in their pricing. Again, I do look for some flexibility, and know that I won't incur extra charge each time I pick up the phone for a quick question.
 
Last but not least, I look for lawyers who are good cultural fit - a lawyer who is results driven and willing to go the extra mile, someone who would think of alternatives, someone who thinks ahead, and raise potential risks I may not have thought before, and generally is always looking out for my business. These are the only lawyers I trust.
 
Then, it doesn’t feel like just a service I’m hiring but more of an investment I’m making. Hope that helps.

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