When meeting with a small business attorney it is important to have a number of key questions to ask your attorney at the first meeting. This article attempts to provide some essential questions to ask.
It is important to know whether or not your business is classified as a “small” business. The answer to this ultimately depends upon your jurisdiction, the type of business, the net valuation of your business and number of employees working in your business among other things. The Bahamas Business Licence Act defines small business, for purpose of that Act as a business whose annual turnover is more than $100,000, but less than $250,000.
An attorney is a legally qualified practitioner who has been called to a professional Bar of a jurisdiction. Attorneys defend actions or bring claims on behalf of their clients. Additionally, some attorneys deal only with transactional matters and do not appear in court, they help prepare contracts, attend to mergers and acquisitions, company formation, etc. Most of the time, people worldwide use the terms lawyer and attorney interchangeably. In The Bahamas the words are used interchangeably and bear no difference.
Who is a Business Attorney?
A business attorney (also known as a corporate attorney), represents businesses in legal matters and ensures that all business dealings comply with applicable local laws and regulations. The corporate attorney’s work involves liability issues, patents, intellectual property, business formation or dissolution, mergers and acquisitions. A business attorney might research the law, draft and revise legal documentation, and negotiate contracts daily.
There are two times in which one should meet with a Bahamas attorney. Firstly, before starting a business in order to guide the client on possible business structures, due diligence requirements and developing and review pre-business contracts, and secondly, during running of your business. Prior to commencing a business, there are many matters that one must attend to such as creating your business plan, developing the services and goods that you will provide, and securing or managing your business finances. It is therefore critical that business developers work with an attorney with a strong business acumen who will relieve the developer from having to attend to matters of legal regulatory nature and structuring the business.
A business attorney can provide professional guidance on how to achieve the business structure that is appropriate for your business goals, help you navigate and meet the requirements of regulators and prepare or review contracts necessary for the running of your business such as lease agreements, employee contracts and vendor contracts. An attorney can also assist in identifying and reducing risks a sole proprietor or a business may face. Our attorneys can assist with helping you navigate all your legal needs and can be reached at telephone number 242 677 5265 or email@example.com.
Questions to Ask a Business Attorney
It is helpful to have questions prepared to ask your attorney on your first meeting. We have provided some questions below which you should ask:
Do You Have Any Experience With My Industry
It is important that your attorney has knowledge of your industry or similar industries as this will assist in your attorney understanding any nuances that may be significant. You will want someone with relevant experience. An attorney with relevant industry experience can add more by being able to assist with other needs such as service contracts or franchise agreements. Consult with prospective attorneys whether they have clients in your industry or one that is similar.
What Kind of Business Structure Should I Choose?
Before starting a new business, the most important things are “Business Structure.” Your company will either be a sole proprietorship, with just one owner; or a general partnership, with more than one owner. If your business structure is a sole proprietorship, you and your company will legally be considered the same “person,” which means that you are responsible for any debts or legal liabilities incurred by your company.
What are the Things I Should Have in Mind for Choosing a Business Name?
The Bahamas has laws that govern the names one can use for their new business. One such provision of the law provides that you cannot select a name that another company uses. Choosing a name that might conflict with another company’s registered name will create some legal issues. An attorney can assist you through the laws and help you in evaluating your options.
What is Your Communication Way/Style?
There is no common method of communications between attorney and client. Each firm or attorney has their own policies regarding how and when to communicate with their clients. Good client care involves responding to emails in a timely manner and returning phone calls as soon as possible. It is important at the start to determine the communication policies of the attorney you work with and if their policies do not align with your desires, it may be time to consider working with another firm or attorney. Some firms will provide alternative ways for you to reach your attorney or the office such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Teams Chat, telephone, email. Learn more about their communication style and determine whether it’s a good choice for you. This can be done prior to engaging the attorney or firm by asking upfront what the firm’s policy is with respect to communicating with clients and have it written into your engagement letter/agreement.
Is there any Chance of a Conflict of Interest?
Attorneys will typically run a conflict of interest check. If there is one, they will tell you before starting that there is one and will either direct you to other counsel that may not have such conflicts, or they may explain that there is a firewall within the firm that will ensure there is no crossing of your matter with any conflicting matters. If the attorney also represents rival companies, previous partners in business, or former workers and you are not at all comfortable with this arrangement then it is important that you evaluate your concerns and make a decision quickly whether you intend to proceed with that firm or chose another.
Who Will Manage My Work?
Attorneys work with a team of professionals in the office. In some firms, depending on the complexity of the matter, two attorneys may work on your matter with the senior attorney acting as lead and a more junior attorney assisting. While this may initially seem like a lot of time, money and effort having two or more attorneys work on your matter, you may not be aware that there is a need for many different tiers or work to be done where each attorney has a particular specialty. If, however, your matter is a simple matter the firm may place one attorney on your matter. Professionals in the office such as paralegals and legal secretaries also play a crucial role in ensuring your matter is properly dealt with. Some firms will charge for only special administrative services outside of the ordinary and this is at a fee below the attorney’s fee. It may therefore be beneficial to the client to have an administrative level staff dealing with matters that are administrative in nature, to avoid an attorney billing the client for work one of the support staff can take care of.
What will be Your Charges/Bill?
It is important to know the firm’s or attorney’s fee structure and costs of any other services prior to agreeing to engage the firm. There are various methods of billing in law firms, the methods are hourly or by flat fee. In certain regions like The Bahamas contingency fee structures are prohibited. Attorneys will often require a retainer amount prior to commencement of work. The retainer amount is usually a set deposit that is governed by the firm’s or attorney’s internal policies based on the experience garnered by the firm or attorney, concerning the costs to get matters on the way and other expenses that may arise. From the retainer the firm will draw down for payment of services rendered and any other charges. As the retainer begins to deplete you may be asked to add more funds to your retainer deposit account with the firm.
Having a small business can be a very rewarding experience. There are however minefields that business owners must navigate to avoid potential legal fallouts. The small business owner should be thinking about developing its products and getting it to market, and leave the fulfillment of the legal requirements of starting their business to a skilled business attorney. If you have any concerns about your small business, a small business attorney at Capital Law Associates could be a safe choice for you to assist in such a sensitive matter.