Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Small businesses look for skilled lawyers

Posted on April 26, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

Candice Isaac

By Candice Isaac, Free Press Staff

The student organization Maine Law’s Business Law Association held its final panel of the academic year last week, titled “What Do Small Businesses Expect from Their Attorneys?” The panelists helped to reinforce the need for the entrepreneur and legal professional relationship, while law student attendees learned about yet another avenue in which to use their legal degrees.

John Kaminski, an attorney at Drummond Woodsum, whose practice focuses on transactional business and tax law, moderated the presentation. Panelists included both attorneys and small business owners, as well as those who are a combination of the two. Panelists engaged attendees by discussing the needs of the entrepreneur and the point at which legal counsel is often sought.

Sage Friedman, co-founder of Theobroma LLC and a second-year law student at the University of Maine School of Law, suggested that some new entrepreneurs may not always know what small business owners look for in a lawyer.

“Entrepreneurs should think about their business interests and their personal interests,” he explained. As a business consultant, Friedman often counsels small business owners to ensure that “everyone in the deal has their own lawyer.”

Owen McCarthy, president of MedRhythms, added that it was important for new small business owners to reach out to other business founders for attorney recommendations. McCarthy also advised that when interviewing potential attorneys, small business owners should look for client-focused attorneys.

According to McCarthy, client-focused attorneys are sincerely interested in growing with one’s business and are attentive of where a business is headed. Kaminski also remarked that “competence, chemistry, and fit” are important in selecting an attorney.

The role of the attorney is often not one that operates in isolation, so small business owners should also look for attorneys who are well-rounded and who can see the gaps in the business’ overall plans.

Tamlyn M. Frederick, a partner at Frederick, Quinlan & Tupper LLC, said that she often takes on the role of educator when new entrepreneurs first come to her. Frederick said her role as an educator in assessing risks for new clients is integral in helping them make the right decisions for their businesses. Additionally, knowing how to adapt  to different situations, and prior work experience, can go a long way with clients.

Helen Sterling Coburn, a transactional associate at Bernstein Shur, concurred with Frederick’s remarks, adding that in the legal field customer service is highly important. Sterling Coburn added that addressing client concerns upfront and providing clients with information on free community resources like SCORE can help to build and gain client trust. SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.

Jess Knox, president of Olympico Strategies, concluded by saying that attorneys should think beyond themselves and look for opportunities to help the larger business community by offering free advice via blogs. For Knox, regulatory support is another hurdle that many small businesses need to overcome.

She also suggests that attorneys “look for things that are key barriers for growth” and step up to assist their clients. He further advised that attorneys not wait for the perfect question from clients, and if they see a red flag, they should raise the question themselves.

Overall, small business owners need a good relationship with an attorney that can advocate for their businesses. Knox concluded his statements by saying that companies should engage lawyers around the contract phase, which ensures they have a successful start.