Financing Your Small Business

Attorneys and Accountants

Most likely, your first two professionals will be an attorney and an accountant. Attorneys and accountants serve at the pleasure of their clients and you can replace them at anytime. You will probably find that you will

Be spending more time with your attorneys at the beginning of your business

And through the funding stage, and more time with your accountants once the business stabilizes.

/ Figure 10.1: EVALUATING PROFESSIONALS

In evaluating your choice of professionals, particularly attorneys, the fol­lowing questions might be helpful.

□ Does your firm specialize in small and emerging businesses?

□ Do you have experience in structuring corporations? LLCs?

□ Do you provide advice on the choice of entities?

□ Do you have tax expertise in the firm?

□ Do you have securities expertise in the firm?

□ Do you have experience in preparing securities offerings?

□ Do you carry professional liability insurance with securities coverage?

□ Do you handle IP work in the firm?

□ Do you have expertise in dealing with angel investors and venture cap­italists?

□ What type of support can I expect on an ongoing basis?

□ Who will I be working with in the firm?

□ Can I obtain bios on the firm and its members?

□ What is your normal turnaround time for this type of work?

□ What is your pricing structure for fees?

□ Do you have payment options for your fees?

□ If you quote a fixed fee, what is included?

□ Are you willing to take a portion of your fee in equity?

□ Will you serve on the advisory board of the company?

The questions in Figure 10.1 are a few of the diligence questions you should ask when making your decision. Most attorneys and accountants will present you with a written engagement agreement that describes the fee structure and the scope of work. Many law firms prohibit their attorneys from serving on the board of directors of their clients because of possible conflicts between being a director and an attorney advocate.

Many law firms conduct a large portion of their business via email and the Internet. You should make it clear how you prefer communications to flow between you and the firm. Firms that are more progressive may even have extranets associated with their website where documents can be posted and reviewed confidentially by clients.

Most attorney and accountant relationships are the result of referrals by clients or colleagues. You can browse on the Internet at Www. Martindale. com for attorneys and their biographies. Martindale-Hubbell is the leading ref­erence source for locating attorneys in the United States. Martindale also has a rating system that rates outstanding attorneys based upon peer review. The highest rating assigned is AV followed by BV. Ratings appear with the attorney's name on the website and in the published version of their books. Martindale sponsors another lawyer locator site called Www. lawyers. com.

Business lawyers can be a bit less visible than divorce or personal injury lawyers and do not tend to advertise as frequently. You can often meet them at venture capital conferences and entrepreneurial seminars in your area of the country. Many of the websites of business law firms contain a wealth of free information on entrepreneurial topics, as well as the biographies of the attorneys and their area of specialty.

Build from Your Resources: Accountants are

A good source for attorney referrals and attorneys are a good referral source for accountants.

The decision to retain a professional should be based on a variety of fac­tors, of which price is only one—and not the most important one. Other more important factors are competence in the area of specialty, team resources available, accessibility to the team, timely delivery of services, and amiable but professional relationship to the client. The choice of your pro­fessionals is a primarily value-based decision. New businesses need a legal counselor as much as they need a legal technician.

There are a number of excellent attorneys and accountants in this coun­try. If you are satisfied with the experience and competence of the profes­sional, then choose the ones that you resonate with personally. You have plenty to occupy your time with a new company—harmony among the team members will make your life much calmer and productive.

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