We all know the cliche – the suited-up, mean-muggin’ lawyer who uses complicated language, costs more than you can afford, and can be pretty intimidating. The truth is, most lawyers are none of those things (although we can rock a slick power suit from time to time). Marlene started Trellis Legal LLC with a passion for, and on the premise that, small businesses should have someone in their corner supporting them (get it? Like a garden Trellis?) and helping them make informed decisions. But what is most important is that you find a lawyer that is right for you, so the following is a list of tips for potential clients and things to know before you make that call or send that email so you can get the most out of your experience.
1. Come as You Are
The first important tip is to be yourself and be honest about where your business stands. When you’re working with your lawyer, there are no game faces required. We won’t judge you or make you feel inadequate for not calling us right away. In fact, we work better when we have the full picture of your situation, and we’re able to help you better with the more complete information you provide. Be honest with your lawyer, and you certainly don’t need to wait until you have all of your ducks in a row to call. That’s what we’re here for.
Know too that conversations surrounding legal counsel with your lawyer or potential lawyer are privileged communications. A privileged communication means that in the event you or your business are sued, we can’t be made to share anything you told us in the course of our legal representation of you. This means you can share your situation candidly and comprehensively knowing it will be kept strictly confidential, and we can better help you run your business with the full picture in front of us.
2. Ask Questions
It’s important that the information provided to you helps you get a good grasp of your potential options, their ramifications, and their benefits. What good would advice be if you don’t know what it means or how to follow it? Even then, some of these issues are complicated and confusing. That’s why we will always be on Team Ask Big Questions. Lawyers are here to help you get clarity and make sure you understand. (Also, check out our blog post about specific questions to ask your lawyer when you first meet with them.)
A note about legal fees. Some lawyers charge for calling them or emailing them, so it’s important to understand your lawyer's pricing structure. Ask if they charge only by the hour or if they charge flat rates. Also, make sure you know if you’re getting charged for each call/email or only in certain circumstances. Don’t be afraid to feel confident about knowing what you’re being charged for.
At Trellis, we won’t charge you for just reaching out. After you reach out and give us a brief rundown, then we give you a quote. Some things we can give you a flat rate for, such as a contract review or entity formation. Others will be subject to our hourly rate, but even then we will give you an estimate of how long it will take. You’ll know how much services will cost, and you can make an informed decision based on your budget. We always want you to view contacting your lawyer as a first option. (Check out our post, The Low-Down on Legal Costs in which we break down how to allocate your legal budget.)
3. Be Proactive
It is always a good time to call your lawyer, but the best time in business is right from the beginning – before you make that real estate purchase, negotiate that lease, hire that assistant, sign that contract, etc. Being proactive about seeking help can give you the most options for protection and peace of mind. Having that relationship from the get-go means your lawyer can be your advocate through the entire process rather than at the last minute when costly mistakes may have already been made or time is extremely limited. (See our free resource on working with an attorney.)
4. It’s Not Too Late
Sure, it’s great to be proactive and seek our counsel prior to needing help, but don’t let that hold you back if you didn’t. A lawyer should be there for you every step of your business journey. So even if you have been operating for a few years by DIYing it, you can still always form a relationship with an attorney later. It can be helpful to have a lawyer review existing contracts, formational documents, etc. to make sure they are properly drafted and work for your business. Remember, your lawyer is there to help you!
And when it comes to Trellis, whether you need a contract template, general legal counsel, or you are just taking the first steps, we are here! When in doubt, reach out, and don’t forget to check out our free resource library for more specific tips for your business.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is meant for informational purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Readers should discuss their specific situation with an attorney.