Not everyone will need a solicitor for their business, but you might like to consider the following to decide if you do – and if you need one, how do you choose one?

If you plan on setting up a partnership you will need a solicitor to draw up the partnership agreement to make the arrangement fair and equitable. A solicitor might also be needed in helping you form the business, especially if you are looking to become a limited company for example.

However, there are many instances where a solicitor might also be needed, ranging from employing staff (employment contracts), contracts with suppliers and customers, matters concerning new products, such as intellectual property or patents, financing your business, franchising and even bringing a legal action on your business’ behalf, or representing you should an action be brought against the company.

In this article we look at:

  • How to find a solicitor
  • What to look for in a solicitor for your business
  • Hiring a solicitor

How to find a solicitor

Hiring a solicitor for any work requiring specialist legal knowledge is sensible. Unless you have legal training and are comfortable with the legal machinations, you should take on a lawyer as soon as possible.

There may also be specific legislation or regulations relating to your product, service or business sector and therefore obtaining legal advice will help you understand and ensure you comply.

So, you think you might need a solicitor, how do you find and select one?

You can search for a solicitor online, or look in your local business directory or telephone book, where it should be possible to find any number of solicitors’ firms local to you, since most can provide legal services for general matters related to running a small business, although most have a specialism such as employment law, tax and health and safety etc.

However, there are other considerations you should think about first, before contacting a solicitor.

You could speak with other small business owners and even those who run a similar company to yours and see if they can recommend a good solicitor suitable for you. It might sound obvious but you should also check they are qualified and have a practising certificate, issued by the Law Society of England and Wales (for England and Wales of course). There are also Law Societies for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

What to look for in a solicitor for your business

Solicitors that have a number of small to medium-sized business clients may be ideal for your business too, so ask any prospective law firms if they work with SMEs. It’s likely costs for hiring such a solicitor will be less too – in comparison to hiring a large, City firm for example!

Trade associations you may be a member of, or federations such as the Federation of Small Businesses, might also be well placed to put you in touch with a suitable law firm.

As mentioned above, when choosing a solicitor you might want to approach those who are specialists in the field related to your need. The Law Society of England and Wales has a service entitled, Lawyers For Your Business. This is a network of law firms offering specialist services to small and medium-sized companies. The service provides a free initial consultation; however, it is still incumbent upon you to check estimated legal costs for such services.

Hiring a solicitor

You should contact a number of solicitors’ firms and obtain quotes and, like selecting an accountant, you should try and meet all of them and make sure the solicitor you talk with is the same lawyer who will be working for you. Again, these initial consultations or meetings should be free.

When you meet them, ascertain what other services or expertise they offer, since they may be able to help you with other work, especially as many individuals and businesses maintain long-term working relationships with their solicitor.

It is important you get on with the solicitor before hiring them but before you do so, make sure you obtain from them an idea as to the eventual cost of the work you wish him or her to do for you, or what their standard charges are.

Solicitors’ fees vary depending on the seniority of the lawyer and other factors too. They should explain to you right at the start how they will charge you and in some instances a fixed fee might be agreed at the outset.

Once hired and as your working relationship develops in the longer term, continue to evaluate whether they offer a good service and good value – especially when compared with other law firms. In other words, work with them exactly as you would any other professional or supplier.