Today’s question comes from Tony. I’m working on some patent applications and I’ve narrowed it down to two lawyers: one with a big firm in Silicon Valley with lots of experience and one local guy who seemed interested in working with me and spent time explaining things to me that the other guy did not.
It can be easy to get drawn in by the big box legal firms in the big cities that focus on working with startups. But there are also a lot of one-man shops that can provide you with an intimate relationship that you wouldn’t have with a big company. But a lot of that comes down to personal preference.
Look at pricing. When you are an early stage startup, price matters. Given the choice between someone who is $1000/hr or someone who is $200/hr you should go with the one who is $200/hr because from one hour you’ve lost $800 in opportunity cost. Determine your budget and you can easily pare it down from there.
Do they care about your company? You want someone who will go to bat for you no matter if you are their smallest or largest company. Legal matters can make or break your company so you don’t want to be put on the backburner even if you aren’t spending as much as the next client. Make sure they understand how small you are and that you’re trying to grow. Talk to their other smaller customers to see how they truly treat the little guy.
Where are they located? I generally like to hire someone who is a short drive away. You want to be able to meet when needed if something big comes up. Even if you never need to do that, it gives you peace of mind to know that you can always meet face-to-face at a moment’s notice.
Do you need an attorney? Do you need one on retainer? You may need one for one-time items and don’t want to use LegalZoom or something like that, then that’s fine. But unless you have a specific need, there’s generally not a reason you should need an attorney on retainer in the early stages.Unless you have a specific need, there's generally not a reason you should need an attorney on retainer in the early stages of your startup. Click To Tweet
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