Regardless of size, every photography business should develop a relationship with an attorney, so he or she knows your business and is prepared to assist you before problems arise. Part 1 of this PhotographyTalk.com articlepresents a number of reasons why a designated attorney is so critical. Part 2 provides specific tips about how to interview and select an attorney.
The best business strategy is to be prepared to ask any attorney you may be considering a series of specific questions, such as the examples below. There are many others to ask, so do some homework and make an attorney prove that he or she can serve you best.
Qualifications: Ask the attorney to explain his or her educational and legal background. Ask him or her to describe the client base he or she serves. This will help you determine if he or she has clients similar to you and your business and any possible conflicts of interest. For example, you wouldn’t want to select an attorney that also represents your landlord.
Specific Capabilities: Ask the attorney about his or her specialties, if any.
Know Your Business: Don’t expect an attorney you are interviewing to know the photography business, specifically. If he or she does, then that is a big plus. You can quiz him or her, however, about their knowledge of the legal issues that are most apt to occur in your business.
Matching Case Studies: Ask the attorney for examples of current and past clients for which he or her was able to identify problems before they occurred and help them avoid those pitfalls.
Referrals: Ask the attorney for at least three referrals of similar clients that you can contact.
Fees: Now that the attorney has some idea of the kind of legal advice you need, ask for a detailed fee schedule. Will he or she charge you for every phone call? Will he or she charge you for various expenses, such as travel, photocopies, etc? Pick a specific legal need, such as reviewing a property lease, and ask how much he or she would charge for that service. Choosing an attorney based on price can be a bad idea.
Technology: Ask the attorney what communication methods and technologies he or she uses to contact clients and do research for their issues. Most modern technologies save time, which if used by your attorney, will save you money.
Being Responsive: Ask the attorney how fast he or she will return your calls or e-mails. Having to worry about legal issues for days or weeks because your attorney is not responding promptly can disrupt your focus on your business and customers, and potentially cost you money.
Professional Connections: If the attorney is a “one-person shop,” then ask him or her if he or she works with other attorneys with complementary specialties that could be useful to you. If the attorney is a member of a larger firm, ask what other types of law his or her colleagues practice.
Your Value: Ask the attorney if you are a typical client of his or her, or will you be considered a smaller client. You want to determine if the attorney has the time to serve you properly. If he or she will always be busy with higher-paying clients, then that attorney is probably not a good choice.
A Good Listener: You can only determine if an attorney will listen to you with genuine professionalism and care as you work together. Those that don’t seem to listen or forget what you discussed previously should be avoided or dismissed.
Maybe, the best advice when choosing an attorney is to remember it is a partnership. Don’t expect him or her to do every little task related to your legal issues. You can do some of them; and it will be a good learning experience. You want him or her to help you set strategies and policies, and assist when you are facing a critical legal challenge.
Finally, don’t hesitate to discuss unsatisfactory service and dismiss your attorney, if necessary. Often, the sooner you do, the less it will cost you and you’ll find the right attorney for you and your business that much quicker.