Evan Labb is Head of Partnerships at Savings.com (savings.com). He shares tips for working with your lawyer as a small business. These tips will make it easier for small business owners when dealing with their lawyer.
- Understand all aspects of any form agreements
- Provide your lawyer with as much information as possible
- Be open & communicate as clearly as possible
- Listen & take any suggestions into consideration
I worked for a long time and met a lot of value in the process, but it's essential and really critical to understand how to manage and process so it's most effective for you and also ends up not causing a ton of money.
So I think there are really three areas that I focus on most. The first is, actually, before you even enter into a negotiation or a deal, you need to work closely with your lawyer to understand all of the agreements that you're putting together, all the forms, what they look like. Really dig deeply to understand all the elements that are in there, why they are in there, what they mean and what are the points they have. This is going to allow you to spend some time, not only to be familiar and do better in the negotiations 'cause you'd be able to explain everything more, but it will also help you know which items are non-essential and which items are must have, which is going to be critical when you get down to the negotiation process.
The next thing that I think is often overlooked and is really important is you need to give your lawyer the tools to help, which is really specially important if you have an outside counsel who's not working in your business every day. So what you need to be able to do is explain to him very clearly all the attributes of the deal that you're working on, what the opportunity is, what the risk is, what you see the implementation is looking like today and in the future. What you wanted to do is present to them the business situation that you're looking for their help in solving. And they can come to the table and really add a lot of value and help you craft the contract and crafting the agreement that's going to let you achieve your goals.
And the final thing that's really important when working with your lawyers is communicating. Now, especially if your outside counsel is working with you, generally, you're going to end up taking the most conservative approach possible. And that's right, that's their job really. They're to be protecting you but you need to be able to do is tell them what you want from a business prospective because as the business owner, ultimately, that's your decision to make. You need to be able to communicate with them and say, these are the things that I'm willing to give on, these are the things that need out of this deal and help them craft that statement for you.
However, if you do find that you end up getting pushed back from your lawyer, it's really important that you stop and listen and understand why. The value that a lawyer brings specially outside counsel is the fact that they've done this before, they're working with multiple people in this space, and they’re probably doing many more deals than you're working on in any given moment. So they have a lot of experience that you may not have, and they can add a lot of value by helping you understand things that have gone wrong in the past or things that have worked in the past.
So while doing deals is important, I think one of the most effective things you can do to save time and money is manage your relationship with your outside counsel. It's really an essential skill that's overlooked. And I think what's important too is spend a little time making investment up front 'cause it's something that will pay off in the long run.