When your business is facing a legal need, it can be difficult to determine whether the free information or advice that you may be able to find online will be sufficient, or if your business is actually in need of hiring a business lawyer.
Getting Free Assitance or Hiring a Business Lawyer?
The decision ultimately comes down to what the exact legal need of the business is at that time and the pros and cons of hiring a business lawyer to help. For some issues, online research or free advice from a local business bureau can be enough and there may be no need to spend limited resources on a lawyer. But for more complicated matters, it is always a good idea to at least consult with a lawyer and to also consider hiring one.
Regardless of whether you decide to go with free information or to retain a business lawyer, it is worth taking the time to look into resources that can provide information about where to find quality legal information and lawyers.
3 Steps to Find the Right Legal Assistance Option for Your Business
1. Determine the Specific Legal Need of Your Business
In order to decide whether it makes sense for your business to hire a lawyer or pursue free options, it is important to first get a good sense of why your business is in need of legal help at all. Check out our post When do you need a business lawyer? to check the possible scenarios where it makes sense to get legal support and potentially hire a business lawyer.
If you have decided that your business is in need of legal assistance, it is wise to then consider what specific legal needs your business is facing. Doing so will make it easier to identify what kind of legal help you need. There are many different types of legal areas that a business can need legal assistance in, from deciding the structure of the business to launching a business by filing for a business license and other legal documents, to applying for a trademark or patent, to website privacy requirements, to filing or responding to a lawsuit or addressing other serious legal problems.
Once you have an idea of what type of legal help you need, you can then weigh the pros and cons of seeking free business advice vs. hiring a business lawyer for that particular matter.
2. Weigh the Pros and Cons of Free vs. Paid Legal Advice
Pros of Free Legal Information
The most obvious benefit of free legal information is that it does not cost money. Especially when a business is struggling to launch, reducing expenses can be important.
If a business lawyer is not necessary, accessing free legal information can also be a way for a business to prioritize limited resources for more urgent expenses such as hiring initial staff or building a product.
Free legal information found online or through business resources can be helpful to assist your business in getting started with its legal needs.
LegalZoom, for example, is a website that can assist you with many aspects of your business formation, like setting up a DBA or forming an LLC, simplifying the process form the comfort of your home or workplace, and without the extra cost associated with hiring a business lawyer.
Pros of Paid Legal Advice From a Business Lawyer
There can be many positive benefits associated with retaining a business lawyer for business legal advice.
Free business resources can be one size fits all and not able to address the particular, individualized legal needs of the business. Blanket business legal documents found online may not be appropriate for the circumstances of your business. There can also be an issue with generic forms found online not holding up in court.
With representation from a business attorney, your business can receive legal advice that is tailored to the needs of the business. Unlike generic legal forms and information, attorneys weigh many complex factors in advising their clients.
A business lawyer can also advise businesses about laws that are specific to the industry or state where the business is located.
If you are certain this a business lawyer is your best option, please check out our post How to get a business lawyer, plus free options.
3. Consider What the Circumstances Call For
After identifying the specific legal needs of your business and weighing the general pros and cons of free vs. paid legal advice, you can think about what different circumstances may warrant hiring a business lawyer.
When a Business May Want to Consider Opting for Free Legal Information
Some business owners who have a simple business structure are able to figure out the legal aspects of the business on their own through free resources and it may not be necessary to hire an attorney. Many essential forms that are needed to launch a business are available for free on the internet. If the business structure is rather standard, such resources and forms might be sufficient.
Whether it makes sense to opt for free legal information also depends on the access that the business has to such information. In some areas, there are business incubators, state and local government small business bureaus, and non-profit organizations available that will provide assistance to new or growing businesses. If a business can access these resources and receive adequate support, it may not be necessary to also hire a business attorney.
When a Business May Want to Consider Opting to Pay for a Business Lawyer
Perhaps one of the important times you may need a business lawyer is when significant and complicated legal problems come up. Also, if a business is dealing with complex matters such as raising venture capital and selling equity to investors, purchasing real estate, employment issues, and labor law compliance, creating contracts for independent contractors, and negotiating contracts with clients, it is wise to have a business lawyer to help.
When starting your business, a lawyer can help you figure out the best legal structure for your business whether it be a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), partnership, C-corporation, or S-corporation. After making the decision on the type of business you will have, a lawyer can also ensure that the business is set up correctly.
While some business owners who have a simple business structure are able to figure out the legal aspects of the business on their own, hiring a business lawyer can still make sense in some simple legal cases. Business owners have many demands on their schedules and must focus on non-legal concerns essential to the business such as making sure that the business has starting costs funded, is profitable, and can survive the competition. Having a lawyer can allow the business owner to focus on the business rather than having to learn the complex legal process.
Particularly if a business is well funded and can afford it, it may make the most business sense for a business owner to outsource legal aspects of the business to a lawyer. There are many forms and legal documents to navigate in starting and maintaining a business, which can be overwhelming to do on your own without a lawyer.
Finally, business owners should consider working with a business lawyer for preventative reasons to minimize risk. For example, sometimes a lawyer can help flag potential legal issues in the business that can be addressed affirmatively to avoid a bigger problem down the line. This could end up saving the business owner thousands of dollars and countless hours of time to avoid a lawsuit or to prevent the business from going under.
To sum up, depending on the legal scenario and circumstances of your business, it may or may not make sense to hire a business lawyer. When in doubt, it’s best to at least consult with a lawyer, even if your business ultimately decides an attorney is not necessary. Check out our post When do you need a business lawyer? for more information on how to determine when is an appropriate time to get legal support and potentially hire a business lawyer.
If you decide that your present circumstances don’t call for the help of a lawyer, check all the links provided in this article, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! Every week you’ll receive free tips and valuable resources to assist you in all aspects of your business, from management to accounting, technology, taxes, and more!