How to find the right lawyer for your restaurant group

One of my first mentors said that before you start any business, “you need two things, a good CPA and a great attorney.” James Seitz Sr.  The law and business are so intertwined. Whether it’s a wage-an-hour claim, you’re buying a restaurant, lease negotiations, entering into a franchise agreement, or dealing with a dispute with a vendor, you are going to need an attorney.

Where to look for a business attorney

The best way to find an attorney is to start with your network. Talk to other restaurant owners within your network and ask them if they recommend their attorney. Don’t go online to find an attorney. You need to find someone who will be your legal counsel and, more importantly, a true resource for you and your business. A good attorney is valuable because he has seen 1000 of each transaction that you may only see a few of in your lifetime.  Once you have two or three referrals, start interviewing them. Start this now, not when you have a deadline or pending legal matter.

“Be sure to ask your connection when and how they worked with this lawyer to determine if they’re the right fit for your business.” [1]

What to consider when choosing a restaurant attorney

As a restaurant owner, you will have a multitude of legal issues that you will need help with. No one attorney is going to be an expert in all areas. When choosing a small business lawyer, she must have a good area of expertise that fits your general needs and the ability to leverage her network to other areas. She may be great a contract law, but, in the future, you could need an employment and labor attorney.

Here are a few questions  to consider in your search:[2]

  • How many years have you been practicing?
  • Who is your typical client in terms of industry and size? (Read: Are they like me?)
  • What are your primary areas of practice? What is the breakdown of the type of work you usually do?
  • How often do you handle issues like mine?
  • Are there other lawyers in your firm? What are their areas of practice? Who will be working on my matter?

Lawyers are expensive.

Yes, they can be and things can get upside down quickly. The one thing that makes most people reluctant to get a lawyer is the cost. Restaurants are not like their other clients. A restauranter is an amazing referral source. You can also trade services.

When you hire an attorney. You need to understand what is the fee arrangements are available to you: Flat, hourly, capped, contingency, other?

Is a retainer required?

What are the rates of everyone working on your matters?

For more information about the various ways, lawyers bill their time.[3]

Good questions to ask your Attorney

You are required to participate if you have a legal matter. Here are a few good questions you should ask:

  • What is involved in the project at hand?
  • How long will it take?
  • What information will you need from me?
  • How many times will we need to meet?
  • What is the projected cost of this matter?
  • What does a successful outcome look like?





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