How to Pick Up and Work with your Legal Counsel
Most founders and entrepreneurs think of an outside lawyer / legal counsel as an operating expense. Nevertheless, when you use your outside counsel’s services properly and wisely, legal services can be a powerful tool for scaling the business. The keyway for achieving this is based on two factors: (i) finding the right lawyer(s), and (ii) engaging with them in the right way.
In this article we intend to assist founders in accomplishing these factors.Selecting the “Right” Counsel
First, one needs to find a lawyer or a law firm that has experience in representing companies like the one founded by him or her, with emphasis on the following:
- Type of law – One should look for a lawyer who has experience representing companies in industries similar to the one it is in , and not based on other characteristics, such as being cheap, a friend or relative, or a leading lawyer in an irrelevant field. This is mandatory in order to get the relevant advice and make the right decisions.
- Geography – even though it is not a must, there is an added value in having your counsel visiting the company’s offices and work there from time to time. This way the outside counsel can get to know the team,the company’s business needs and join meetings and negotiations. In order to achieve this, one should make sure that the counsel is geographically close to the company’s offices.
Engaging the “Right” Way
- Firm Size – different work should be done by different lawyers. In some cases, - for example, an important negotiation -, one needs to engage with a big well-known firm, as the reputation of the firm or lawyer is is crucial for influencing the matter, while in other cases, an independent experienced lawyer or a small / boutique firm would have a deeper knowledge on the matter , not to mention that it will be much cheaper. Accordingly, one should understand the nature of the work and choose the “right person for the job”.
Second, selecting the “right” lawyer or law firm is only one piece of the puzzle. How you engage with them is not less important.
- Keep it Simple – Keeping things simple is the golden rule. It does not mean you won’t be well protected. On the contrary. Keeping things simple allows you to maximize efficiency for both parties.. It minimizes your legal spend, and leaves each party to deal with its business.
- Being Respectful – one must remember that lawyers are people too, and therefore, deserve to work in a reasonable environment with reasonable turnaround timelines. Demanding all responses and outcomes in an unreasonable and tight schedule, will not only make the counsel unhappy, but will also make him / her doubt the actual urgency when it is real. Treating the lawyer respectfully will assure that he/she will be the company’s ally and shield.
- Be Specific and Clear – one should be specific and clear with respect to the lawyer / outside counsel needs and the main business goals and guidelines. If there are a few matters that are important, one should prioritize them and set clear timelines with respect to each of them. If possible, one should also set a predefined budget, or cap of fees or hours.
To sum up, getting the “right” outside legal support is a sophisticated issue that needs to be thought in advance about. Once you chose the “right” outside counsel or firm, legal services will be much more than solely a cost…
Adv. Edo Bar-Gil is the CEO of LawFlex