When selecting an attorney for your startup venture, experience and knowledge are only part of the big picture. Ensuring that you and your new counsel agree on the approach and share the same goals are just as important. Below are a few questions to ask your potential counsel in order to ensure a successful partnership from the start.
1. How many startups have you handled?
Like everything else, startup and entrepreneurial law is part skill, part art, and part gut instinct. Getting that formula right takes lots of experience. It’s a fair question and is often the first one I am asked.
2. How do you charge?
Law firms have to be willing to invest some time into their startup clients. If a firm is truly going to be a partner, and not just a vendor, the firm has to be willing to learn about the client, its industry vertical, and where it fits – all off the meter.
3. What non-legal contacts do you have?
Angel investors, venture capitalists, academics, economic development professionals, other service providers, and industry advisors are all among the resources you will need to access. Your lawyer should be a part of that ecosystem.
4. What should I do first?
How to allocate your executive and legal time is one of the most important recommendations your lawyer can make. You know that you want to deal with only the most important and fundamental legal issues – your lawyer should be able to define and prioritize them for you. The resulting list should be very short.
5. What’s your philosophy on startups?
Lawyers view their roles and their functions in different ways. Some see themselves as draftsmen, others as advisors, others as risk managers. Decide what you realistically need and then find the person who naturally fills that role.
Richard E. Honen is a partner with Phillips Lytle LLP. He focuses his practice in banking, corporate and venture capital law, and commercial litigation. He provides corporate counsel to a broad spectrum of companies with a particular emphasis on emerging growth and startup companies. He can be reached at [email protected] should you have any questions.
Editor ‘s Note: The 43North team is tapping into key sponsors, like Phillips Lytle LLP, to offer up tips for entrepreneurs and startups.