Three questions startups should ask a startup lawyer before hiring one

Finding a startup lawyer can be a daunting task for many startup founders. In my experience, legal fees remains a huge issue stopping many startups from even meeting up with a lawyer.

In this post, I’ll share with you why you really shouldn’t think this should be an issue at all. I also feel that there are some quick questions that you can ask to see if a lawyer may be a good fit for you.

1. “What type of startup work have you done before?”

Firstly, I should clarify that there’s no such thing as a “startup lawyer”. It’s just a way to suggest that startup is an area that the lawyer usually works with. This by no means that we are a subject matter expert in any area whatsoever.

Since there’s no really a good way to know if someone really does have any experience in advising startups, it may be best to ask for referrals from your existing startup founders network about the potential lawyer that you wish to engage. If you can’t get one, don’t be afraid to ask for one from the potential lawyer.

2. “What is your fee structure for startups?”

I said earlier that you shouldn’t be worried so much about speaking to a lawyer.

In Malaysia, the initial consultation with a lawyer is usually free. Honestly, I have not heard of any lawyer that charges for an initial meeting.

Also, many law firms nowadays have ‘startup-friendly’ package so it may be best to check if they can offer a discounted rate for you.

If you are still unsure on which lawyer to hire, you should not be afraid to tell a lawyer that you’re still “lawyer shopping”. Keep on talking to potential lawyers until you find someone that fits your budget and really understand your needs.

3. “Do I like this lawyer as a person?”

I cannot emphasise this point enough. You should hire someone only if you are comfortable dealing with the lawyer. I mean, running and scaling a startup is already a tough business in itself. If you find it hard sharing your fears or concerns to a lawyer, that may not be a good idea.

To illustrate, fundraising may typically take between three to six months. You really don’t want to get stuck with a lawyer that you don’t like (no matter how good the lawyer might be!).

Conclusion

Hiring a lawyer can save a lot of headache in the future. A good startup lawyer can help you identify legal issues and avoid costly mistakes.

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