A business of any size will encounter its fair share of legal issues. Having the best possible support on-hand is therefore indispensable
As a business owner, the last thing you want on your plate is a potentially crippling lawsuit. Whilst most entrepreneurs will conduct their business within the parameters of the law, completely dismissing the possibility of legal action occurring somewhere down the line is a dangerous game indeed.
Of course, it is a two-way street as far as legal matters are concerned. On the one hand, it is advisable to prepare for a person or organisation bringing a case against one’s enterprise, whether that be a supplier, customer or even an employee. On the other hand however, business owners may find themselves in a position where they have no option but to take a matter to the courts.
It goes without saying that in each of these circumstances, having a quality lawyer on board is an absolute must.
In fact, having access to solid legal advice from the very outset is nothing short of essential, despite the expense that it entails. “Sometimes entrepreneurs and business owners can fall into the trap of a false economy by not addressing legal issues properly and early enough,” explains Charles Glaskie, partner and head of the corporate group at law firm Gateley. “I recognise that, particularly for a start-up business, keeping constraints on any professional adviser fees is going to be important to begin with. But there will likely be legal issues to deal with and dealing with them properly will likely save money and improve the business in the future.”
Essentially, everything that an enterprise does comes attached with legal ramifications. Acquiring the services of a seasoned practitioner of law early on will therefore pay significant dividends. “Right at the outset, before any business has really been done, you should be thinking about the key legal aspects of the general set-up,” Glaskie continues.
“For example, if there are key contracts that the business is going to be entering into, they really should be taking legal advice and taking it proportionately according to the dynamics of the business at that time.”
Lawyers are typically used to high-pressure courtroom battles so one could reasonably assume that an interview with a prospective client should be a walk in the park. However, an experienced practitioner will fully expect to have to give as good as they get in bidding to win the approval of an entrepreneur. That is not to suggest that probing questions are the order of the day though. As Glaskie asserts, the inquisitive lawyer is the one who deserves to be taken most seriously.
“A lawyer who is simply intent on selling himself or herself and is quite happy to talk about themselves without much regard to the client’s business is probably not going to be a great bet,” he explains. “What the lawyer should be doing from the outset is asking lots of questions of the client to get that better understanding of his or her business. I think that is a very good indicator.”
Given the plethora of issues a business owner deals with on a daily basis, employing a lawyer with more than one string to their bow is advisable. Yet, Glaskie admits that a lawyer who specialises in more than a handful of fields is as rare as hen’s teeth. Therefore, in reality, it is not so much the individual, but the wider team of legal minds around that person, which is of significant interest. “It will be folly of me as a corporate lawyer to think I could give specialist service in relation to planning law if a client had a particular planning issue,” says Glaskie. “What we try to do is provide a service where the business will have a key relationship lawyer who they go to and will refer them to the various different specialist lawyers as and when required.”
The alternative to the above is to employ different lawyers on a case-by-case basis. And while one could easily take Glaskie’s dismissal of this approach with a pinch of salt, it’s hard to deny the pitfalls it presents. “There is a big advantage in going to a large law firm that can provide that all-round commercial service,” he says. “You get the continuity and the consistency that you wouldn’t get if you were going to one individual for one aspect and engaging with another individual somewhere else. I don’t think that is a satisfactory arrangement, especially for a new and fledgling business.”
Needless to say, there remains one last sticking-price: cost. The big guns certainly don’t come cheap, but as Glaskie reiterates, you get bang for your buck in this day and age. “To a certain extent, clients will get what they pay for,” he comments. “It is a very competitive marketplace and clients can play to that but at the same time they should want a quality service and I think lawyers are more likely to deliver that when there is a fair charging arrangement.”
Like all appointments, the final decision will ultimately rest with the business owner. As appointments go though, this is certainly one not to be missed.