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Getting Past Stereotypes To Find A Lawyer You Love

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Tamara Schwarting is the CEO of 1628 LTD., a curated coworking community of independent professionals and the professionally independent in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is also an executive level consultant in business processes and supply chain purchasing. Read more of Tamara’s articles here.

Getting Past Stereotypes To Find A Lawyer You Love

By: Tamara Schwarting

Women@Forbes We share our expertise on leadership, business skills and more.

Small business owners have a tendency to begrudge the need for a lawyer. Images of lawyers in popular culture reinforce our need to question their motives. We are told that lawyers are manipulative and that they’re rarely on “the up-and-up.” We must be guarded around them, as they will try to take advantage of situations. This is further reinforced by their billing structure – we are not used to models in which we are charged in fifteen-minute increments. At some point, every business owner finds themselves admitting: I need to consult a lawyer. This admittance may fill you with dread. But why?

Though complicated lawyers are engaging to watch on television, this is not an honest archetype for real-life legal professionals. Stereotypes can be overwhelming, but if we can get past these, we’ll all learn the value of making a trusted lawyer a key business partner.

Learning to love your lawyer.

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work with both in-house and external counsels. I’ve hired and fired law firms. I’m a trained negotiator. Basically, lawyers don’t intimidate me. So, I’ve never been afraid to welcome them into my professional life to deliver their unique value to my business ventures. In doing this, I have found that we often underestimate the value of a lawyer when we use them only as emergency-case-scenario counsel.

Investing in a relationship with a lawyer now can reduce your energy and stress when an issue arises. When you establish a relationship with a lawyer early in a business endeavor, you can engage them in your business goals and not simply call on them for reactionary measures. Including them early allows them to tailor solutions for you based on long-term needs.

Regardless of whether you are a freelance writer or a multimillion-dollar organization, having access to a legal resource is an absolute necessity.

How to find legal representation you can learn to depend on.

The first step is to find a lawyer or law firm that meets your business’s needs. You need to do a proper vetting process, as you would with any other service provider. Ask questions about their billing philosophy and procedures, their other clients, and their values as a company. How long will it take for them to return key documents to you? How easy will they be to get hold of in an urgent situation?

Consider identifying a smaller piece of work or contractual situation you can outsource to them. This will give you the chance to see them in action, understand the dynamics of the firm, and gauge how well they will work with you in the future.

Do your due diligence and pick a lawyer that understands where you are in your business life-cycle. They should want you as a client as much as you want them as a lawyer. Get past your fear of asking too many questions so both parties know what’s expected. Remember: You’re the customer, so you are in control.

Perhaps money is an issue, and that’s why you’ve been hesitant to find a lawyer. This is not a place to scrimp. Although you may feel you have the option to go without legal counsel and instead read a book or pay for cheap legal forms online, no outside options compare to real-life legal counsel.

It’s your prerogative if you want to try to navigate legal issues yourself, but be honest with yourself about the limitations of going it alone. If you need help and cannot pay, seek legal help via local business school entrepreneurship clinics or law schools. Business attorneys also donate time for pro bono consults.

If you need a recommendation for a lawyer, ask other businesses who they use. Your professional peers will likely be willing to share their legal contacts. By asking around among people in your industry, you can find firms that specialize in your particular kind of legal needs.

Your professional peers may also have once doubted the value of securing legal counsel for their business. But, like you will, they’ve since learned to love their lawyers for everything they contribute to strengthening their business.

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