How to find the right lawyer for your business

As a startup, basic legal advice and good practice will usually suffice. However, as you scale, so does your legal to-do list. To safeguard your business, you need a lawyer – and one with the right expertise.

But where do you start? And how do you find a solicitor who specialises in exactly the areas you need?

We cover the basic steps to finding the right lawyer for your business.

What kind of lawyer do I need?

A Google search might seem like the obvious option, but beware – it will often direct you to review sites which are hard to verify, and may be out of date. Looking too close to home also has its problems, as small, local firms are unlikely to have the range of expertise that your business needs, especially if you’re a larger business.

That being said, going to the other end of the scale might mean encountering the opposite problem – a city firm with a global client list might not be specialist enough (as well as having eye-wateringly expensive fees).

Somewhere between these different types of law firm is the ideal starting point. But once you’ve narrowed things down, what else do you need to consider?

  • Think ahead

Unless you’re very lucky, needing help with a legal issue is unlikely to be a one-off. Bear in mind that the issue you need help with now is unlikely to be a one-off. It’s worth finding a ‘full-service’ law firm that can help you with a range of issues at different times.

  • Establish when it’s not cost effective to hire a lawyer

If your issue is minor (like chasing a small debt) the small claims court might be a better, cheaper route. There are also several DIY options like templated documents,  online, but do weigh up the risks of using these carefully – it could cost in the long-run.

  • Consider whether you need more specialist advice

Sometimes you may need more specific expertise, which automatically narrows down your options. Perhaps you need advice on intellectual property, or employment law, or if you operate internationally you might need a lawyer fluent in a specific language.

Whittling down your options

A ‘full-service’ firm will generally be the logical choice for growing businesses. The problem is, there’s a lot of them out there to choose from, on the surface appearing broadly similar.

A sensible place to start is by checking the legal lists and rankings of the Top 200 law firms. There are two main directories, Chambers and The Legal 500. They cost a few hundred pounds each, but they do require a bit of time to get to grips with. It’s simple to rule out the global firms who are too large in scale, however when you move down into the lists of smaller firms it’s not as simple as looking at who is highest in the rankings – things are a bit more complicated here.

Things to ask yourself about a firm include:

  • Do they have corporate and commercial departments, and lawyers who work with smaller businesses within these?
  • Do they have employment law teams, and (if needed) lawyers with experience in international business?
  • Do they have the right experience, both in helping growing businesses in general, and in your specific sector?

Most full-service firms claim to be ‘experts’ in areas like Employment Law, and may have services listed on their websites that tick all the boxes issues you’re dealing with. But these are not always their main areas of expertise.

With patience and detailed reading of the directory data, it might be possible to see what percentage of a firm’s income actually comes from working on areas relevant to your business. However, it’s no substitute for the kind of knowledge of firms’ reputations gained from working in law for a while – that’s where talking to an advisor can really save you time.