Individual attorneys may have expertise in specialized areas, so a single attorney may not fit all your business or personal needs. But, a relationship with a good general attorney can be invaluable, because that individual can become a trusted confidant and provide you with sound advice and direction.
An attorney will be able to help you make sound decisions at the start of your practice and as your business grows. He or she will be able to advise you on everything from taxes to the structure of your business.
If you don't already have an established relationship with an attorney, ask other professionals in the community for recommendations. Even with a strong recommendation, you will want to evaluate several factors.
Look for the attorney's credentials such as where he or she attended law school and his or her professional designations. You can find listings of attorneys at www.martindale.com, a national directory of practicing attorneys, or your state's bar association.
Check to see if there have been any complaints filed against the attorney or if he or she has any licensure issues pending. Check with your state's bar association or the judicial branch of your state's government.
After you are comfortable with an attorney's credentials and reputation, make an appointment and meet in person. It is very important if you are to build an ongoing, lasting relationship that you are comfortable talking with the attorney. Evaluate how the attorney communicates and whether you feel comfortable with him/her representing you and your practice. As with dentists, professionalism is extremely important, so note your first impressions of the attorney, office and staff.
When possible, engage the services of an attorney in the community where you practice. Keep in mind that it would be preferable if your attorney has experience in these areas:
- tax and estate planning
- professional corporations
- retirement plans
These will be the general areas above and beyond the day-to-day legal questions where you might need legal expertise.
Because your attorney is an important member of your "team," he/she should get to know you and your accountant. If the attorney and the accountant are compatible, you will have a good match allowing them to work together on your behalf.