Find a Los Angeles Business Attorney

By  //  September 13, 2021

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You want to find a business attorney for your startup. Great, but there are a large number of great lawyers in California. How do you narrow down your search? Keep reading for an actionable checklist that will help you to find the best business lawyers in Los Angeles.

Understand What You Need From Your Business Lawyer 

Every business is different, and business law covers a large number of fields. Generally, Los Angeles business attorneys will specialize in one or two complementary areas of law, like IP protection or tax law, but they will not have the expertise to cover every single area of law you might need.

This is why you need to prioritize. Work out what areas of law your business may need the most or what type of specialities will help you. If you have legal needs outside of your lawyer’s expertise, they will generally refer you to a colleague of theirs. 

Here is a brief list of some of the types of law your business may require: 

  • Employment law 
  • Securities laws 
  • Contract law 
  • Intellectual property law 
  • Tax law 
  • Real estate law 
  • Litigation 

The above list is not inclusive; it is meant as a starting point for considering what you need you’re your business attorney. You might also consider if you need the help of a business lawyer in your particular industry or who is skilled in handling a particular business model (like franchises). 

Understand What You Don’t Need Legal Help With 

A business lawyer is a great sounding board and can remind small business owners or startups of things they need to do outside of legal matters. They work with a large number of businesses and understand the process of starting a business and what it takes to make a business successful. 

However, “Business owners should be careful not to rely on their business attorneys for non-legal matters. Their time is very expensive, especially in comparison with other professionals like accountants and business coaches,” according to labor law attorney, Brad Nakase.

There are also a number of things it is easy for business owners to do themselves, like write their business plan or applying for business licenses, that they should not contact an attorney to do. 

Most business attorneys will have a number of resources they can provide clients to help them with simple tasks. By using these guides, you will reduce the costs of your legal bills considerably. 

Know How the Fee Structures Work For Business Attorneys 

Before you begin looking for a business lawyer, you need to know how they might charge you for their services. These are called fee structures, and a lawyer might choose a different fee structure depending on the nature of the work they are completing for you. Here are some of the common fee structures: 

  • Hourly rate – The business lawyer will charge you for the time they spend on a task. The longer a task takes, the more you will be charged. A business lawyer might also have minimum charges, where if you ask them to do something simple, they will charge you for at least an hour, even if it takes them 10 minutes to do. Before taking on a task for you, your business lawyer will give you an approximation of how long it may take. This is not a guarantee because sometimes external factors might impact the amount of time it takes. 
  • Retainer – You are still charged an hourly rate, but you can prebook a certain amount of a business attorneys time by paying on retainer. This is the best way to receive quick responses and shorter lead times on a lawyer completing tasks for you. Many businesses will pay their business lawyers on retainer to ensure they are there when they need them. 
  • Flat fee – A flat fee means the rate is set for a particular task, like incorporation. These tasks are often routine tasks that do not take too long to complete. There is little to no dependency on another party to turn around information or complete negotiations. 
  • Contingency fee – A contingency fee is used during litigation when the client is set to receive compensation if they win the case. Instead of paying the attorney upfront or being billed for time and expenses, the attorney takes a percentage of the compensation if they win the case. 

Search For Local Business Lawyers 

Look for a best attorney who is local to you, first and foremost. While you definitely need a business lawyer who works in the same state as you, many California cities have additional business laws. It is also beneficial to have your attorney nearby so you can visit their offices if you need. 

One of the best places to search for business lawyers is online legal directories. There are a number of these set up online that list licensed attorneys in particular areas or in particular industries. It is often best to cross-reference a few to create a shortlist of business lawyers who have the skills and expertise that you need and located close by. 

While searching for lawyers, also pay attention to the industries they have worked with and the matters they have handled for clients. Look at the write-ups they receive in industry news and the press releases they issue. Also, look at their online reviews from clients. A little bit of research will help you to create a strong shortlist. 

You should also consider talking to other business owners about who their business attorney is and why they would or would not recommend them. Getting a referral means that you can ask some questions and get reliable first-hand information about the business attorney. 

Meet With Each of the Business Lawyers on Your Shortlist 

Once you have a shortlist you are happy with, call each of the lawyers and book a free consultation. Most lawyers offer free consultations because they know that clients will want to meet them to determine suitability before hiring them. The attorneys also want to get to know you to determine if they want to work with your business. 

Think of the consultation as a mini job interview and prepare a number of questions to ask the business lawyer so that you can judge if they are a good fit for you and your business.

Having a prepared list means that you are asking each lawyer on your shortlist the same questions and able to make a decision about which is the most suitable. Do not be afraid to ask the questions you need to; focus on their skills and way of working as well as gauging their personality.

Remember, this is someone you will be working closely with; their personality is important. Figure out if you want someone who will put you at ease with jokes and light small talk or someone who is serious and will get straight down to business. Your personal preference is what matters here. 

Your questions should touch on the following topics: 

  • Skills and experience (general and specific to your anticipated needs) 
  • Communication style 
  • Conflicts of interest 
  • Fees and fee structure 
  • Their network 
  • The size and scope of their law firm 

The lawyer should answer all of these questions happily and without being rude or condescending. There are a number of questions they may not be able to give specific answers to because of client confidentiality, but they will be able to describe scenarios and the action that was taken. 

Also, pay attention to the general service of the law firm. How was the receptionist when they booked the consultation? How was the receptionist when you arrived for the consultation? If you meet other people from the law firm, what are they like? Working with a business lawyer includes working with the whole law firm. You will be talking to the receptionist a lot, so their efficiency and politeness matter just as much as the lawyers. 

Evaluate Each of the Lawyers and Pick the One You Want to Work With 

Jot small notes while you are in the consultation if you need, but write your general impressions or thoughts down immediately after the consultation. Write a short paragraph or two about if you felt comfortable, if they seemed knowledgeable, if there were any answers that you didn’t like. This will give you notes to look at to jog your memory when trying to make your decision. 

Pick the business lawyer who is most suitable for your business needs and who you personally feel comfortable working with. Do not make your decision based on how flashy the office is or the fact that they gave you an espresso while you were waiting.

Trust your gut; if something felt off or you didn’t feel completely comfortable with one of the attorneys, then don’t work with them. This is someone you need to feel like you can call for anything, rather than putting off calling them.