I need help lawyering up.
February 4, 2015 12:21 PM   Subscribe

I find myself in need of a (small business?) lawyer, in the Portland, Ore. area.

YANML, but I sure would like you to be!

I'm being courted by a couple of folks (whom I've worked with for years, and feel pretty comfortable with), to start a small business together. I've got a good grasp on the business at hand, and my place within the organization and all that. Its a pretty solid move for me if the parameters of my participation work out. My comfort for the project is relatively high, and I have no qualms with backing out at any point before papers are signed. However, I am not the source of capital in this endeavor, but have a high degree of experience in similar projects. I'll be most active operator in the business. My question isn't really "should I do this, or shouldn't I do this." I'm trying to assess exactly how much risk I'm taking on in a legal and financial sense, based on the partnership documents that we're starting to draw up.

Business agreements are starting to be outlined (with nothing set in stone yet) and I'm getting to the point where I want to lawyer up with representation completely unrelated to the other partner's lawyer to look things over before I'm officially committed to the project. Its not that I don't trust them, or their representation (I do, in fact!), I'd just like another set of privately funded eyes on the whole situation (this is a good call, yeah? I've been told this is a good call.)

The problem is, I grew up in a lower-middle class family where lawyers were something for really rich people, or criminals. I've never even talked to a lawyer in a social setting. Zero exposure. I don't know how to pick out a 'good' lawyer from a 'bad' one, and I don't know how to double check that this lawyer is keeping my best interest at heart. Come to think of it, I don't know if a lawyer is a better choice here over an accountant….so…feel free to point me in the appropriate direction.

Again; zero exposure. I'm not sure what questions I even really need to be asking (which, when is the case, AskMe is the first place I stop).
posted by furnace.heart to Law & Government (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I live in the other (the first!) Portland, so I can't be of particular help.

But AskMe has a good Get a Lawyer wiki that includes basic information about attorneys; finding an attorney who practices in the area you need assistance in; finding a qualified attorney; legal representation on a contingency basis; and low- or no-cost avenues for receiving legal assistance.

I'm sure others will jump in with information that will be more pertinent to your specific situation, but this is a good place to start. Good luck!
posted by virago at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Start with the other partner's lawyer. Ask them for names of lawyers they would hire if they were in your shoes. Call each of them, tell them who recommended them and why, ask them about their experience advising similar business people, ask if they can put you in touch with any of their previous clients, ask which other lawyers they would choose if they were in your shoes (try to see if certain names start coming up more than once).

Once you've developed a short list of names, check to see whether any of them have been disciplined by the bar.

What I would look for is someone who feels comfortable telling you upfront about what the various trends are that are typical for contracts of the type you are looking at, and who seems to get it when you explain your concerns. Once you hire them and they see the contract, if they have concerns, they express them to you calmly, and they clearly explain the possible implications and how likely each of them is.

It's not necessarily that such a person would be a "better" lawyer than someone who has a different style. But personally I prefer that style to an anxious lawyer who can't tell you anything at all period until they see the contract and then freaks out over nitpicky details and unlikely scenarios, or an aggressive lawyer who is overly eager go to bat for you in a way that could unnecessarily sour your good working relationship with your partners.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:55 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Call the bar association in the area for a list of lawyers who deal with your type of situation.

After you have sorted through them using the already listed methods, set up appointments and go consult with some of them. Most lawyers will consult with you the first time for no fee.
posted by charlesminus at 2:12 PM on February 4, 2015

1. Before you talk to an expensive lawyer, consider talking to a SCORE volunteer. They are retired business owners who give you free advice. In my experience they can be hit or miss but then so are lawyers, and SCORE is free.

2. We hired a lawyer for my husband's small business a couple years ago. We were in the same situation, not really knowing where to start. However, after asking around for recommendations, as well as simply searching online, we narrowed it down to three candidates who were available to take our case on (not every lawyer will take you on given that you are a rather small client). Then once we talked to them during our free consult, we were able to narrow it down to just one. It was an easy decision - the first lawyer was rude, shallowly opinionated and gave us a hard sell, the second lawyer was barely alive, and the third lawyer was professional, insightful and did not oversell. I suspect that if you get those initial consults, you may find it that there is really just one candidate that you can picture hiring.
posted by rada at 2:32 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I currently work in Portland in the legal field. You want to visit the Oregon State Bar's public website and get a referral. It is $35 for the initial consultation, which will give you a good idea of what the lawyer thinks.

The lawyers in the referral program *choose* to be panelists because they are looking for clients like you. If you have other questions, memail me.
posted by tacodave at 2:39 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

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