However, if you don’t feel like you are getting everything you need out of your lawyer, or any of the below red flags arise in your relationship, then you should perhaps consider other options.
Here are some scenarios where it might be worth considering changing lawyers:
We at Linkilaw believe that business founders in particular should receive a personalised and friendly service from their lawyer. If your lawyer can’t relate to your problems or ambitions or doesn’t call and email you directly (but instead uses a PA or colleague to handle your work), then it begs the question, what are you paying them for? If it’s technical legal advice, there are plenty of other lawyers out there who can provide this. The lawyer-client relationship is ultimately a personal one, so find a lawyer you actually enjoy working with and the relationship will be more fruitful and long-lasting.
Your legal budget for specific matters should be agreed at the outset, and if your lawyer has been made aware of your budget, they should not be racking up enormous bills. At the very least, you should not be surprised when a bill has gone over the agreed budget, because your lawyer has a regulatory duty to notify you with cost updates on your matter. On some occasions, matters will take longer or involve more resources than originally anticipated, such is the nature of legal services. However if you are seeing a trend starting to occur, then perhaps you should start looking at more cost effective lawyers.
“A good business attorney will provide vital assistance in almost every aspect of your business, from basic zoning compliance and copyright and trademark advice to formal business incorporation and lawsuits and liability.”
– Cliff Ennico
Lack Of Responsiveness
In today’s connected world, every lawyer should have a smartphone and never be without the ability to connect to the Internet. Furthermore, if your lawyer wants to work with startups and small business clients, they need to be online, available, and tech savvy.
Your solicitor doesn’t need to be there for you around the clock and on weekends, so be wary of asking too much of your lawyers. However, we would argue that there is no excuse to sitting on an email from a client beyond a few days, or at absolute most, for over a week. If this is the case, your solicitor is plain ignoring you, and if your friend was ignoring you, you would call them out on it. So you should with your lawyer.
If your solicitor is on leave, they should let you know beforehand who will be covering your matters in their absence. If they don’t have capacity to deal with your work, they should discuss this with you and seek to come to a solution which works for you and means your deadlines don’t suffer. While you can’t expect to be your lawyer’s first priority at all times (unless perhaps you are a multi-million pound client), you can expect a common level of responsiveness.
A Matter Hasn’t Gone The Way You Had Hoped
This is NOT necessarily a reason to change lawyers. In fact, it will quite often be the case with legal matters. However, if you genuinely believe that the outcome of your matter was unsuccessful due to your lawyer’s input, you should consider changing lawyers to avoid this from happening in the future. You should definitely have a conversation with your lawyer to discuss why the desired outcome wasn’t achieved. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face by just changing lawyers when you don’t get your way – it really pays to have a long-lasting legal partner who understands you and your business so you should try to.
“A business can get into all kinds of trouble if this area is not handled properly, so my advice would be to retain a professional in the field and follow his or her advice.”
– Robert Goldstein
Your Issue Is Not Their Area Of Expertise
Not all circumstances where you should change lawyers need to be negative, and as your business grows, legal matters will arise that differ to those that you originally engaged your lawyer for. Whilst it is preferable and less of an administrative nightmare to be able to deal with a single point of contact as your legal advisor, it may not be best for your business in the long term.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ lawyer, and whilst your lawyer may be an expert in dealing with startups and small businesses, they still may not have the necessary expertise on specific niche employment matters or tax considerations. Your lawyer should be honest with you when something falls out of their area of expertise, and if they are really sensible, they can refer to you a good lawyer who can deal with your particular matters.
Your Business Has Outgrown Your Lawyer
Sometimes, businesses achieve rapid high growth and their legal obligations and requirements escalate along with the profits, creating new issues in different areas of law. Congratulations are in order! While your lawyer may have provided you with a fantastic service to date, there may come a point, particularly if they are a sole practitioner or a small firm, that they do not have the capacity or expertise to best serve your business’ needs.
There are several ways around this. Firstly, you could look to hire your own in-house lawyer or legal team whose work would solely be on your business, which might reduce your overall legal costs and enable you to build a long-term legal strategy. Alternatively, you could look to hire a law firm with several areas of expertise in the high-growth startup sector, giving you one key contact to liaise with on things like overall legal spend, strategy, etc; but a team of different experts to deal with different specialist matters.
Finally, you could keep using your lawyer in an advisory capacity for the things they do or aspects of your business they understand best, and then find different specialists for specific tasks such as your IPO (enabling your shares to become publicly traded), data protection law or litigation.