Information on legal and business topics from Canadian business lawyer Shane McLean

Do I need to hire a lawyer for my business?

Posted by Shane McLean on May 20, 2009

Short answer:  Yes.    I know what you are thinking.  I’m a lawyer so of course I think you need a lawyer for your business.  There may be some truth to that, but I’m not saying you need to use me as your lawyer (although that would be great!), just that it is important that you get good legal advice throughout the various stages of your business.  Let me explain.  

There are times  in the life of your business (and not necessarily bad times) where you will need your lawyer on speed dial.  You may even have multiple lawyers / firms working for your business at times.  For example, you may want one law firm for your corporate work, another for your patent work and another for any employment matters that come up.  You should feel free to shop around.  

As an aside, for those of you familiar with the theory of the Long Tail, my take is that the Long Tail manifests itself in legal services in the way that the evolution of communications technology has allowed users of such services  to choose to buy services from multiple niche law firms specializing in specific areas in sometimes far off locations as opposed to going to the nearest and largest general practitioner in your town.  But I digress…

Benjamin Franklin is sometimes attributed with having said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and I think that holds true for legal matters and this is the main reason why I think it is important to use the services of a good lawyer.  It is usually cheaper to retain the services of a lawyer up front to make sure that something is done properly from a legal perspective than it is to hire a lawyer at the end to fix the problems created by doing it improperly.  Trust me on this one.

Among the many other benefits you receive from a good lawyer is their experience.  This may be your first time forming a business or your first time with a particular type of deal, but your lawyer has probably worked with countless startup companies and will hopefully allow you to lean on their experience to help you understand if your deal terms are “market” terms or if you are being taken.

I know one of your concerns.  Legal services tend to be expensive.  However, you control (or should take control) of how much time your lawyer devotes to your file and you should that your lawyer continually updates you on how much things are costing and how much he or she expects it will cost to complete.  Don’t be afraid to ask for fee quotes and be sure that your lawyer understands that you expect them to live up to their quoted price.  Except in litigation or in some unusual or highly complicated matters, if your lawyer won’t provide you with a quote that can be a red flag and you should think about how committed they are to the relationship.

Now that I have thoroughly convinced you that you need a lawyer (I’ll wait until the laughter dies down…)  my next post will deal my take on how to choose the right lawyer(s).


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