Five Essential Qualities For Your Outside General Counsel:
1. Has a broad range of applicable experience to assist a growing business
Businesses encounter a variety of legal issues on a day-to-day basis. When you look for a lawyer to be your outside general counsel, you want one who has experience in a variety of practice areas to assist you. For example, the attorney should have experience in commercial contract drafting and review, intellectual property, employment law, privacy and cyber-security, corporate governance, corporate compliance, succession planning, and insurance, to name a few areas.
2. Well connected in the community
Running a business is not a solo operation – even when there is only one owner! Entrepreneurs rely on multiple service providers. Does your attorney have contacts in various industries that you will need – finance (accounting, bookkeeping), insurance, payroll, IT, marketing, banking, merchant services, staffing? A referral to a top-quality and experienced service provider is always preferable.
3. Willing to work with your other service providers
Once other team members are selected, does you attorney play well with others? All of your advisors have key roles to play, and your attorney should help support and strengthen others rather than undermine them. For instance, if your attorney is unwilling to work with your CPA, you have the wrong attorney.
4. Respects your budget
Your attorney deserves to be compensated for his or her services. However, many attorneys today have become creative in their billing practices in order to help with client budgets. For example, your attorney should not only charge by the hour, but be open to flat-fee arrangements, expense caps and the like. Like any commercial transaction, there must be benefit on both sides.
5. Has a personality that is compatible with yours
In the end, we do business with people we like. Interview your attorney and learn more about his or her personality. A start-up has a far greater chance of succeeding when an attorney is involved from the beginning; don’t avoid your attorney because of personality differences.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should conduct your own due diligence on any attorney you with whom you want to work.
- You should check independent sources such as www.martindale.com and www.avvo.com. While there, see what the attorney’s rating is, if they are peer reviewed, and if are there client testimonials and endorsements by other attorneys.
- Go to the attorney’s profile on www.linkedin.com. There you can see different job experiences, history, endorsement and reviews.
- Check with NYS to see if the attorney has any disciplinary actions at http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/attorney/AttorneySearch, you can also see how long the attorney has been admitted to practice.
- Check out the attorney’s personal website and learn more about his or her background, interests and skills. A good attorney website will have client and attorney testimonials, descriptions of the work he or she performs, and a blog with helpful information.