Where to find legal help for your small business
Small business owners like you can do a lot on your own to get your business up and running, including writing a business plan, applying for a license or permit and applying for an employer identification number. However, there are some legal tasks better left to professionals. Lawyers can review documents such as leases, employment contracts, equity and partnership agreements and assist with lawsuits and intellectual property protections. While a lawyer can seem like an expense you can’t afford, using a small business lawyer can save you money and headaches now and in the future. Here are some things to think about when looking for legal help and where to look for free or low-cost assistance.
Questions to Ask
The relationship between you and your lawyer is ideally long-term. That is why you want to find a lawyer that fits your needs and personality. Like with so much else in business, it’s important to shop around to get to know the market and your options. Lawyers will often provide a free initial consultation for just this purpose. When looking for a lawyer, make sure you ask questions such as:
- Are they licensed in your state and in good standing?
- How long have they been in business?
- Are they experienced working with small businesses?
- If your state has legal “specializations” or “certifications,” do their areas fit your needs?
- How do they charge, and how much? (Hourly or fixed fee?)
- Can they share testimonials, references and/or online reviews?
Free Legal Resources
If you’re not sure whether you need long-term legal support, there are many free legal resources that can help you with individual issues. They are often, but not always, for low-income business owners. Some good places to look for free legal help are:
- Legal Services Corporation—LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation.
- The American Bar Association List of Business Law Pro Bono Programs
- The American Bar Association List of Law School Pro Bono Programs
- Lawhelp.org—A nonprofit that lets you search your state for pro bono legal resources.
You can also look for specific areas of assistance, such as:
Lower your costs
If you need to hire a lawyer, there are ways to cut down on costs. Make sure you make the most of the lawyer’s time. When you schedule a meeting, create a list of points and questions you want to discuss. If you want the lawyer to assist with a contract, use online free contracts to create a draft for your lawyer to review or have the details already outlined for them to include in the final product.
You can also save money by using lawyers not attached to a large law firm. You can find legal support on an hourly or per-project basis on websites such as:
And don’t forget to get recommendations from fellow small business owners! While you can do a lot of the legwork yourself, there are times when it pays to seek out and use professional help.