You’ve heard it before. Maybe you’ve said it. Business owners who almost snarl when they say they don’t need [insert service of choice]. Because I help protect the legal rights of businesses and provide them with consultative services, attorneys are what I’ll focus on today.
“Hold up! I really don’t need an attorney. I haven’t used one in the past, and I don’t plan on needing one in the future!” Really? Let’s examine that statement. We can break it down into three parts (you can use the links to jump to an answer):
- I really don’t need an attorney
- I haven’t used one in the past
- I don’t plan on needing one in the future
If you find yourself agreeing with any of the above, then you need to read further. We’ll take each of these ideas and see whether they’re accurate, why you may feel that way, and what you should do moving ahead from this point forward.
This is a mistake. It’s totally inaccurate. It’s flat-out, unequivocally, undeniably wrong. I can’t be more emphatic about this. If you’re in business, you need an attorney. Scratch that. You need attorneys since no one attorney can develop enough expertise in all areas of law that affect your business (I discuss this in more detail here). Thus, you really need a law firm, one with seasoned lawyers who’ve honed their skills by beating on their craft every day (to paraphrase Will Smith). In this article on FindLaw.com, the author lists a number of things a business owner can do on his own, and things no sane person should undertake without help. Note, however, the reason for listing those things a business owner can undertake without attorney assistance: “Attorneys charge high hourly rates and many small businesses don’t have much, if any, extra capital with which to pay lawyers….There are certain matters that are fairly straightforward and/or not unduly difficult to learn and therefore do not require the services of an attorney who charges at least $200 per hour.”
That highlights the main reason why so many business owners feel that they don’t need attorneys. It’s because they cost too much. Therefore, most business owners are not accustomed to using them. Thus, a more accurate statement is “I can’t afford an attorney to consult with on all the matters that affect my business.”
Sadly, this is likely true. In fact, because of the cost involved in using attorneys in the traditional way, quite a few owners went through the process of incorporating or setting up their sole proprietorship on their own. Hey, if you can save $500 -$1,000, you’re all over that! I feel your pain. With more people seeking to start ventures of their own, we’re seeing a rise of cash-strapped businesses popping up. I’m not against bootstrapping a company. Heck, I’ve done it! I’m sure there are quite a few of us who can contribute meaningful entries to a cookbook entitled “101 Ways to Prepare Ramen Noodles.” Cost-cutting is a natural result of this situation. However, there are costs to not using an attorney, and those often are even more devastating. That’s a real Catch-22: You don’t use an attorney because you don’t have enough money to spend on one and still run your business. However, if you don’t use an attorney, you’ll likely find yourself in situations requiring you spend more of the same money you don’t have on attorneys. Logically, you should therefore spend the money upfront – but you don’t have the money to spend on an attorney. Shades of Joseph Heller!
Because of the reasons laid out above, you may not have used an attorney in the past (unless your back was against the wall, making the experience even more unpleasant). Therefore you fully expect you won’t use an attorney in the future. But is it really true that you don’t plan on needing one in the future?
That statement is also completely and unequivocally wrong. Why do I say that? I’m sure you want your business to grow. That means expanding in size, and possibly in your scope of services. You’ll chart new ground, enter into new alliances, and begin using new methods of reaching people and/or delivering service. I’ll let you in on a secret: All of the above can benefit from the advice of an attorney. One of the first things I did when starting this blog was consult an attorney about copyright infringement to make sure I didn’t overstep my bounds when using material written by others. I know I’ll consult with one again as the blog grows and I include new features. As you grow, you’ll forge agreements with other people and organizations. To protect everyone involved, you need to document the terms of those agreements. That means a contract. Guess who should review all your contracts before you sign them? You got it! An attorney should. The fact is, whether you just need simple advice or full-blown representation, attorneys are essential to your business growth. So yes, you do plan on needing attorneys in the future!
Where Do We Go From Here?
In considering the three basic premises most business owners (possibly you) use to justify not using an attorney, we’ve examined whether or not they are true and what may prompt those feelings. In most cases, the premise is false. It’s clear we do need attorneys. Yet the reality remains that most of us can’t afford to consult with attorneys at $200+ an hour. So what can we do moving forward?
If you could pick up the phone, speak with an attorney, and not worry about receiving an hourly bill at the end of the call, would you use attorneys more often? Would you use them even for those situations mentioned in the FindLaw.com article (since you no longer have to worry about paying $200/hour)? The obvious answer is “yes!” But seriously, where can you find that?! Even a less-than-reputable lawyer (read “shyster”) expects to get paid!
Thankfully, at LegalShield we provide a service that not only gives you access to attorneys, but to business consultants as well. You get top-rated legal consultation, help with human resource issues, marketing and advertising advice, investment rationale, help finding tax breaks, and so much more. Best of all, you get this for a flat monthly fee of $75 or less for business with up to 50 employees in most states (slightly higher for organization with 51-99 employees). How does it all work? I’ve included a clip that gives you a brief overview of our legal service plans for businesses. Check it out, then give me a call at 646-340-8087. Let’s talk about your needs and match them to the plan best suited for you. This way, you don’t have to snarl at anyone the next time you hear “attorney” mentioned!