Get a Lawyer -- that "gets" the business.
When starting out with a great or even disruptive idea, emerging businesses will call upon legal counsel to handle the typical issues associated with the start-up phase -- such as company formation, contractual matters, and other mundane legal tasks.
Most often startups will choose such attorney’s based off the best priced, a friend or family recommendation, or worse they do it all themselves.
This is the wrong pick -- these emerging businesses need counsel that gets the business, puts solutions and strategies first, and can effectively bring good judgment that will be of tremendous value in getting the company to the next level.
You want that lawyer who can be a "game changer" for your business, and with that should possess the following attributes-
1. Understanding Lawyers -- That lawyer must understand your business, and with that have represented successfully businesses in your particular sector. If the lawyer is downplaying their inexperience in your sector as not important to the process, this is a key warning sign to run and not walk. Understanding not only of your sector, but alignment with your vision, thought process and growth strategy.
2. Chuck the legal processor lawyer -- that is a given. What you need is a lawyer with a keen sense of how to work along with management to develop the company. That means a lawyer with a rolodex that can, at least, make investor, or strategic introductions. This is what we call, searching for the out-of-the-box and in the know attorneys. They make sure they can pivot just as quickly as you.
3. Judgment is everything -- that is something you do not learn in law school -- a lawyer either has it or lacks it -- like a natural actor that does not need years of study to pop to the top. Another area that you must align when choosing such a firm to protect your most valuable work you invest your time in.
4. A goal and solution oriented lawyer -- No clock watching here! A lawyer who can, with management see the goals, and work against the normal problems that are inherent in growing a business with credible and tested solutions. This alone is what keeps most startups away from bringing on the proper legal protection, you’ve been pre-conditioned to believe every firm bills for every single email, phone call, fax and nanosecond that you connect. It’s time to redefine your understanding of how to develop such strategic alliances with attorneys.
5. Shared risk -- Finally, you want a lawyer that that is willing to put a little "skin" in the game meaning convert a meaningful portion of his or her fees into an equity position. This will be a big indicator of that lawyers belief in your dream. This is just another sign the lawyer is out for protecting their model and not yours. Another run, don’t walk warning sign.
This is really how the new wave of legal alliances and partnerships amongst the startup and mid-market community needs to move towards. It brings the balance back to protection, and in many cases aligning their fiduciary responsibility to your mutual goals.
Of course, not every attorney adopts to this philosophy, yet you can see why this process should come closer to your formation and certainly before seeking Venture Capital or funding from outside sources.