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Choosing a solicitor for your business

October 11, 2011

When running your business, there may be times when you’ll need to obtain legal advice. Quite often, a solicitor will be called upon to review a contract, or to provide a legal opinion on a wide variety of business issues.

If things go wrong, or a potential legal problem arises between your company and a third party, hiring a solicitor could save considerable hassles (and costs) further on down the line.

This guide aims to look at what you should look out for when appointing a solicitor to your business.

What do solicitors do?

Here are some examples of the work a solicitor might do for your small business:

  • Help with late payers – drafting letters to “encourage” a client to pay.
  • Drawing up contracts between your company and suppliers / clients.
  • Drawing up company documents – such as your company terms of trading.
  • Help with buying, leasing or selling property or assets.
  • Drawing up contracts of employment for your staff.
  • Advising your company on any laws specific to your industry – what your legal responsibilities are, any trading laws which exist, etc.
  • Help with starting up – drawing up shareholders agreements, partnership agreements, etc.

How much do solicitors cost?

As with all professional services, solicitor’s costs vary according to the seniority of the staff working on your behalf, by location, and according to any specialist advice they provide. Unsurprisingly, a City partner will cost a great deal more than a provincial solicitor.

Before you hire a solicitor, you should be provided with cost estimates before any work commences. This is a Law Society requirement.

When you receive an invoice, it will break down costs into the number of hours worked and hourly charges for each member of staff. In addition, other charges will be listed separately – such as company formation fees.

How to find the right solicitor.

When choosing a solicitor, you should meet several firms first, and find out what their hourly charges will be. Try to arrange initial meetings with them all (which quite often will be free) – you can then have a chance to judge the prospective firms on what they are like as people, as well as how much they’ll cost you. Quite often your gut feeling will be a good guide – as it would be when choosing any professional firm to represent your company.

Probably the ideal way to find a solicitor will be via a personal recommendation. Small companies would benefit from hiring a firm which specialises in advising SME’s – costs are likely to be more reasonable, and you are more likely to receive the personal care valued most by start-ups.

Alternatively, you may be able to receive recommendations from other professionals you work with – such as your accountant, financial adviser, or even your bank manager.

If you have a specific requirement, or need specialist help – ensure that the firm you choose have the right experience before signing up. As well as providing general legal help, many firms will specialise in certain areas of law, such as corporate structure, litigation, employment law, etc.

Another good starting point would be the Law Society – Lawyers For Your Business is a network of 1,000 solicitor firms in England and Wales offering specialist advice to SME’s.

The service provides a free initial consultation with a solicitor in your area who is a member of the scheme. You can find contact details, as well as some handy small business legal guides here.