If you own your own business, at some time or another, you will need a business lawyer, or in more intimidating terms, a corporate lawyer. Different businesses will have specialized needs. For example, media companies may need specialists in libel, slander and intellectual property whereas a biomedical company or other technology company may well require the services of a patent lawyer.
Regardless of your industry, there are multiple reasons to consult with a lawyer.
Entity Formation: The legal type of entity you select for your business has important implications for your tax burden, exposure to liability and the preservation of your assets. Corporate lawyers can help you pick the right entity and file articles of incorporation and by-laws so your business complies with the laws of your state and county.
Zoning: Your business may have to adhere to zoning regulations and a lawyer can help you determine this as well as obtain the necessary business licenses.
Contract Work: You may often do business on a contract basis. A lawyer can write and/or review legal contracts with your suppliers, partnerships and even your employees. They can also help you terminate employees when and if necessary.
Taxes: Tax lawyers can help you challenge, dispute and appeal against the Internal Revenue Service. If you’re being investigated by the IRS or have been accused of tax fraud, you should definitely contact a lawyer.
International: If you are doing business overseas, whether as a US citizen doing business abroad or a foreign national in America, you will probably need legal assistance in complying with the local laws, regulations, taxes and treaties governing the relationship between the nations involved.
The actual questions you ask a lawyer about her/his qualifications to represent you will depend on your specific circumstances, but in general you will need a lawyer accredited by the Bar of your state. If you’re doing business as a foreign national, your lawyer should probably also be accredited to the appropriate foreign bar as well.
If you’re looking for a business lawyer, you should ask with referrals from your business contacts and other businesses in your industry, as well as from your state or local chamber of commerce.. If you have a specialized issue, or there is a lot of money at stake, you should probably see a specialist. The law librarian at your local library may be able to help you find local lawyers who have written about your particular issues or needs If you use a lawyer referral service, ask about the criteria they use for including lawyers and how they screen them.
No matter how perfect a lawyer looks on paper, if you don’t develop a good rapport within the first few meetings, look elsewhere. However, although personal chemistry does matter, it’s not the only thing. You should know how to contact your lawyer and how and when s/he will return your communications. Lawyers are expensive so remember that you have the right to know s/he will work diligently for you in a timely manner. Likewise, you and your lawyer should be specific about what you want, what you need, and what it will cost. If you think you only need your lawyer to mentor you through the incorporation process for a certain fee, and it turns out s/he needs to do much more work than that, s/he should state so honestly, just as you should pay more.