What questions should I ask an attorney I might work with?
Law & Taxation mentor Chip Morse responds to the following question from an inc.com user:
I'm interested in starting a corporation. Do you have any suggestions for finding a small-business attorney? For example, do you have a checklist of suggested questions to ask attorneys I'm considering?
Chip Morse responds:
Engaging an attorney, like choosing a doctor, architect, or any other professional, is an inexact science and not very conducive to "checklists." Rather than being prepared with a list of questions to ask a prospective attorney, consider evaluating the relationship you'd like to have with him or her.
Ask yourself these questions when interviewing prospective attorneys to ensure that you have the right fit for you and your business.
- First and foremost, do you feel confident that the attorney is competent and experienced in business law and not just a jack-of-all-trades who does business law when he or she is not in court or drafting wills or selling residences? Certainly, it is possible to be competent in more than one field of law, but the general field of business law includes corporate law, securities law, and corporate tax law, as well as other specialized fields. In other words, business law can be quite complex and requires a good deal of hands-on experience.
- Will the attorney give you advice in language that you can understand and act upon? While interviewing the attorney, did you understand what he or she was saying, or were you bowled over with a lot of jargon?
- Is there good "chemistry" between you and the attorney? If the client and lawyer cannot be candid with each other, or the client does not have confidence in the lawyer's advice, it will not be a good relationship -- no matter how qualified the attorney.
- Are the attorney's ethics and professionalism clear? That is, does the lawyer seem competent, diligent, responsive, and trustworthy? Will others who may deal with the attorney, such as the company's officers and other employees, trust this person's counsel?
- What is the attorney's track record with other businesses similar to yours? Speak with some of the attorney's clients. Make sure that the clients have worked with the attorney over an extended period of time (at least several years) with good results.
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