How will I know if I'm choosing the right attorney to help me purchase a small business?
Which lawyer you choose when purchasing a business is important since the experience, knowledge and negotiation skills of your attorney can have a major effect on whether your purchase is successful or not. Unfortunately, the average person chooses a lawyer too quickly, without sufficient investigation into the reputation of the individual attorney or the law firm he or she works for.
Necessary Steps To Assess Your Lawyer's Qualifications
In order to ensure that you are hiring a skilled and reputable attorney, you should:
Interview the Lawyer -- During the original meeting, remember that you are "shopping" for the best fit, legally and personally. Make sure the attorney you're interviewing is experienced with small business sales and acquisitions. An excellent personal injury or criminal attorney who dabbles in business purchases would not be a good choice. Make sure that the lawyer or firm you are considering has no malpractice suits pending. Most of all, make sure you feel comfortable with the attorney you're speaking to -- your lawyer should always be someone you trust and someone in whom you can confide.
Check References -- It is important when asking for references to ask specific questions of buyers who have used this attorney. You don't just want to know that the lawyer in question is pleasant to deal with, but whether the attorney did a satisfactory job in terms of:
- Understanding the purchase of small businesses
- Providing options and guidance without being overly persuasive
- Charging reasonable fees
- Meeting deadlines promptly
Any reputable attorney should be able to provide numerous references; if references are unavailable, this should be a red flag warning you off.
Negotiate the Fee
As a business person you have a tremendous number of attorneys to choose from and retainers are no longer necessary in today's marketplace. The attorney you choose should be willing to negotiate a fair price.
Try to Use Your Broker's Contract with Minor Revisions
You should be aware that a simple contract is usually best. Rather than staking out new territory, you will probably be able to accomplish what you want by using a successful template that has worked for thousands of purchasers before you. The contract should be clearly understandable to both parties, not laden with legal jargon. The more simple and sincere the contract sounds to your ear, the more likely you are that it will be signed by the seller. The attorney you choose should be able to help you form an agreement that bonds you and the seller, not one that is divisive and may create problems down the line.
No Matter What, There Are Always Risks in Buying and Owning a Business
Knowing this is true at the outset is important because it prompts you to choose an attorney who can assist you in evaluating which risks are reasonable to assume and which are too dangerous to be in your own self-interest. Remember that no legitimate attorney should be asking you to relinquish final decision-making power. Once you have chosen the right lawyer to help you purchase your small business, you should feel confident, assured that you are dealing with an attorney who truly wants you to negotiate the best deal possible.