How to Choose a Legal Advisor

A small business guide to choosing the right and cost effective source of legal advice

How to Choose a Legal Advisor

It is difficult to find a good law firm. Even the most knowledgeable businessman can still struggle to make sense of legal jargon and billable hours. This, coupled with the fear of what might happen if you don’t have all the right documents in place, can make the process extremely daunting.

Over the years we’ve learnt from our experience and wanted to share a few top tips when it comes to sourcing a solicitor.

Use your network

A great way to start is with recommendations from within your network. This way, you are getting a first-hand review – rather than navigating your way through endless Google generated results.

Make sure though that the reference comes from a business similar to yours. They will have incurred the same legal issues you are trying to resolve. Meaning they are tried and tested for what you need.

Remember, they’re your supplier

It’s important to recognise that solicitors are suppliers. Pure and simple. They are supplying you with a service – one that they should make easy for you to understand.

So if they are blinding you with legal jargon, tell them. Law is not a dark art or a foreign language. Your advisor should be able to explain in layman’s terms to allow you to understand. It concerns your business after all.

Negotiate you legal package

When we first started, the time honoured tradition of billable hours caused us lots of headaches. It was impossible to forecast spend at a time when cash flow was especially tight.

Today though a lot more firms are offering fixed price packages – and you should definitely talk to your solicitor about what they can do for you. For example, in the first few months you’ll probably need a raft of basic contracts drafting. Therefore it might be worth negotiating a fixed price plan that offers you unlimited access to their expertise. Once you have all the basics in place, you can then talk to them about a limited-hours plan that will cover any basic jobs that crop up, keeping the firm on your books as a low-cost retained supplier.

Create a template – then amend as you go

Employee contracts, supplier agreements, NDAs and health and safety documents are all essential as a start-up. But once you have templates for all of these in place, you (rather than your solicitor) should be able to tweak as required.  As long as legislation doesn’t change.

Use free of charge services

And on that note…

For what you need, a small independent high street firm is probably perfect for ensuring you’re legally fit for purpose.

However it’s worth signing up to regular newsletters from bigger national firms who offer legislation updates free of charge.

Your small firm probably won’t have the resource to do this. But firms like Pinsent Mason, Brilliant Law, Addleshaw Goodard, Clifford Chance do. These are great tools for finding out changes to HR law as they happen, meaning you’re in an informed position and can decide whether you can keep using the templates you have in place – or need to commission something completely new.

Ian Cowley is the Managing Director of

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