How to Choose a Lawyer: Questions for Startups to Ask

November 17, 2010 - Get free updates of new posts here

I don’t know about you but certain things are hard to differentiate. For me with AppSumo an annoying challenge is finding a lawyer or law firm. People have asked me before, “How do I choose a lawyer?”. Of course, there are some things like personality that are true for anyone you hire whether it is a marketer or a lawyer. In trying to find the right one to work with I started ask lawyers what are the best questions to ask. Here’s how to interview a lawyer.

Here’s the list. Hope it helps.

1- What’s your expertise?

2- What do you do outside of work? Personal questions to see if you like them.

3- How much do you cost? Are you able to defer fees?

4- What relationships do you have that could be beneficial to us?

5- What companies similar to us do you represent? Can you intro me to X?

6- Who would you use if you were looking for a lawyer / law firm?

7- What are the most useful questions to ask when choosing a law firm?

Any others you like?

This is part of a Series on Startups:

Startup Tips: Accounting Help

Startup Advertising Spend Calculator

Death of a Startup: Online Video Sharing Website

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7 responses to “How to Choose a Lawyer: Questions for Startups to Ask

  1. Josh Reply

    3- If your company is in the infancy stages, an important question to ask in terms of money is how much they want for retainer. The real test is if your company is young and has a limited budget: are they willing to lower their initial legal fees because they believe in your product or management.

  2. BT Reply

    – how quickly will you respond to my questions? (lawyers can be out of touch forever – one of the biggest reasons for formal complaints against them)

    – specify how you want to be contacted, via email or phone, and specify what type of work product you want: a long memo, a quick phone conversation.

    – have you done this type of work before, for the same type of client as we are? (you’d be surprised, even at big law firms)

    – how do you bill and for what tasks? (most lawyers bill in 6 minute increments) would you be willing to negotiate a flat fee?

    – what types of clients do you have? (knowing the mix of institutions they serve will help you assess both their expertise and contacts)

    – who will be working on my projects? (Partners don’t do all the work themselves, they give it to associates and bill accordingly.)

  3. BT Reply

    Noah, for you re: AppSumo, one way to find an excellent lawyer is to call top tier firms and ask which of their associates have recently left to go out on their own. Top firms won’t often work with small clients and are happy to refer you

  4. John Greathouse Reply

    Hey Noah,

    Great blog. I am going to recommend your site to my UCSB entrepreneurial students.

    I worked with some great startup lawyers over the past 15+ years. I found that one of the most important elements in such a relationship was a lawyer who was willing to tech me the “why” behind an issue.

    I also found that a good startup lawyer never says “We can’t do that.” Instead, they say, “Here’s how we can do that and these are the risks involved with that approach.”

    For anyone interested, here is an essay I wrote which describes other things to look for in a startup lawyer: http://www.infochachkie.com/legal-eagles/

    All the best,

    John