Recently I have had several conversations with new and/or fledgling businesses looking for assistance in foundational legal needs such as forming a company, entering into the business’ first lease, and other relatively straightforward but important tasks. In working to guide those individuals to the right lawyer for the task, I have found myself identifying three types of options. This is, of course necessarily, somewhat of an oversimplification, but since I find myself regularly repeating this approximate breakfast, I think a useful framework.
- A larger law firm that is interested in working for smaller businesses. (Not all of them are.) Larger firms’ overall body of work will include work on very large and very complex matters, matters far larger and more complex than what the small business likely needs or could afford. However, the small business may wish to draw on such resources and specialized knowledge, especially if the small business sees itself as delivering that level of expertise itself. It depends on the project, of course, but I find myself often estimating $1,000 – $2,000 for projects for smaller businesses if our firm (a large firm) were to work on them.
- Next, I present an option of a smaller but sophisticated law firm or solo practitioner. Some of these are former colleagues who chose to work on their own. Others are smaller firms around Columbus I know from experience or firsthand reports to be very capable. I will often get specific estimates from these lawyers for the project that I may pass along. I find their estimates often to be approximately two-thirds of the estimate in category one. A small business might reasonably choose this option, thinking that this kind of lawyer, while not having big firm resources, is sufficient for the particular project.
- Finally, I say, there is always a cheaper option, and I can find you those options too. Most clients do not choose this option, but some are cash strapped and just want the cheapest options. Of course, there are many fine lawyers who are less expensive than those in the second category, and the client may know and be comfortable with one of them.
There is no single right answer, of course. Different companies want different things, and what the company needs will differ in individual situations. As I have written here before, a company should strive to have a lawyer it trusts that will help the company direct each legal need to the lawyer who best suits that task.
Barnes & Thornburg LLP is a large, full-service law firm that seeks to take a more entrepreneurial and cost-effective approach both to client service and its own business.