Choosing legal counsel can be a new experience for many entrepreneurs.
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As your business grows, however, your legal needs will continue to increase. Real estate transactions require a very specific skill set, and it is advisable to get real-estate specific legal counsel as you lease or purchase space for your company. Here are few things to think about as you select legal counsel for your real estate transactions:
Just like any other business associate, you want to know the reputation of who you are dealing with. Your legal counsel will represent you in many negotiations that are too complicated and diverse to follow individually. So you want to know if your counsel is respected in the community. Ask for references and check them to make sure those who have worked with your prospective lawyer feel that he or she is honest and forthright.
Lawyers come in all personality types. If you are looking for a lawyer who will be low-key and get things done quietly then don't pick an aggressive lawyer who spends most of his time in the courtroom. Try to meet with a few potential lawyers and talk to them to see what their personality is and match it to your needs.
If you are looking for a smooth negotiation for an office lease, try to find someone who will be very pragmatic and not fight the small things. If you need a hard-charger then try to select a lawyer with a healthy ego and an aggressive style. Just make sure you pick someone who fits the task at hand.
During the selection process, and after selecting your lawyer, remember that they are glorified hourly wage employees. Many law firms have their lawyers accounting for their hours in 10 minute increments. This means that your 10 minute phone call with your lawyer could cost you up to $50!!!
In order to manage this it is essential that you use your counsel's time wisely. Come prepared to meetings, get straight to the issues at hand, and be ready to make decisions. If you need time to mull things over, don't do it with a $300/hr lawyer watching you. It may be more expensive than the issue you are deciding.
A great way to manage this as well is to work over e-mail. Since real estate transactions are driven by contract and lease documents, you can provide comments and reviews back and forth via e-mail. Take advantage of this to allow your counsel to work as efficiently as possible.
If you find counsel you like, be extremely loyal to them. There is nothing more valuable than having counsel who already knows what you are going to decide before they ask you. It saves time for everyone. In addition, lawyers love having long-term clients who provide them with steady work.
Try to use the same lawyer as much as possible to build that relationship. That way, when it comes time to renew your lease in 5 years your counsel will be able to help you even more efficiently than he did the first time.