Using lawyers in business

The use of lawyers for business purposes is something that can be expensive and confusing, but in certain situations it is imperative. There are many instances when one should seek the advice of a lawyer, too many for me to list all of them so I will just touch on a couple of common and very important scenarios when it is necessary.

First, when you are thinking of dealing with a product or service that is pushing the legal envelope then, that would be a reason to talk to a lawyer. Many products and services can have ramifications to your company and sometimes you personally if things go sour, even though the product or service may be completely legal and legitimate. A simple example would be if you sell an over-the-counter pharmaceutical product or alcoholic beverages. A lawyer will help you understand how best to protect yourself and your company. This includes more than the obvious proper insurance and package labeling, I’m talking about things like how to avoid and deal with lawsuits that will inevitably arise if you become successful and what risks this business will present you with which you need to know before hand so that you know if it is something you are willing to deal with. By the way, you should find a lawyer that you trust and is knowledgeable about business and hopefully knows something about the type of business you are in or thinking of going in to. That’s useful advice for all businesses.

The second top reason in business where you should talk to your lawyer is in contract negotiations. I would first advise that you hammer out as much of the terms as possible before you see your lawyer. The less your lawyer has to do the cheaper it will be for you. In many cases, especially when the stakes are high you will have to agree to take on some level of risk. This is often where lawyers have earned the reputation in business for being deal killers. A lawyer’s objective is to protect his/her client as best as possible and that means avoiding risk whenever possible. This would also be the best thing for you ideally, but in reality when you negotiate a business deal than the opposing party will usually not be happy assuming all the risk and leaving you free of any potential pitfalls. Therefore, you need to think and talk to your team or trusted people about what risks you are willing to assume under this agreement and which you are not willing to take on. Once you have established that you should make that clear to the party you are negotiating with. Keep in mind they may be willing to accept more risk than you think so unless you will earn more for it, there is no need to assume risks that you don’t actually have to. Regardless, once you have established who assumes what risks, you need to tell your lawyer that you understand that you are taking these risks and that you are ok with it. You can’t let your lawyer dictate how your contract will look, especially after you’ve begun the negotiating process because after all, you are the business person, not your lawyer. Your lawyer’s main purpose is to make sure that what you agreed to in negotiating is correctly stated in “legalese” and also to inform you of other issues that you may not have thought about that need to be addressed. Your lawyer is not there to negotiate for you because that is the job of the business person. This advice should help you foster successful negotiations and also keep your legal expenses for it as low as possible.