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Your "Corporate Counsel": Part 1- Finding the one

Large companies reach a benchmark at which the company adds a full-time lawyer. But should you have an attorney before you get “big?" If so, how do you find that attorney? This blog addresses finding the best attorney for your business. My next blogs address:

  • Responsibilities of your business attorney before start up?
  • Responsibilities of your business attorney on an ongoing basis?
  • How to determine if your attorney is still the best for your business?

If you do not think that you need an attorney, talk to a successful CEO in a similar field. Ask that CEO if the business has an attorney and what that attorney does. If you believe that you need an attorney, the following steps may lead you to the right attorney for your business:

1.)    Look for firms or attorneys who represent similar businesses. Years ago, I represented a friend’s bar. When I walked in, the bartender would introduce me as the “bar lawyer.” The mixed compliment aside, within two years I obtained four bars as clients. I got to know the system and my clients benefited from this knowledge. I have a friend who is a “babysitter lawyer.” She knows exactly what it takes to set up a child care facility and keep it moving. Attorneys who represent multiple restaurants understand the compliance and HR issues that are unique to food service. Attorneys who represent multiple ag producers know environmental law and the changing legal landscape facing farmers. Attorneys who represent multiple cosmetologists are familiar with the applicable Iowa regulations. 

2.)    Get an opinion from your tax advisor. You want your "trusted advisors" to work well together.

3.)    Interview at least two attorneys. You would not hire a receptionist without an interview? You want a lawyer who is with your business for the long haul.

When interviewing a potential attorney, look for someone who is genuinely interested in what you do and wants to help you reach your objectives. An attorney does not have to ride to represent a motorcycle shop, but that attorney better know that a Hog is not a Kawasaki.

- Christine Branstad

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