Month: September 2019

Before You Hire a Lawyer, Answer these 4 Questions

The life of a business owner or business executive is typically filled with big decisions. And no decisions loom larger than whom to work with. Working with the right people will propel your business forward, while making the wrong hire will negatively affect your company’s culture, efficiency and ultimately, your bottom line.

Hiring the right lawyer is just as important as hiring the right employees, and when you’re hiring a lawyer to represent your business interests, there’s a lot to consider.

As a General Counsel to multiple companies, I’ve hired a lot of lawyers.  I’ve made some great decisions, and some that I’d rather not think about too much… But here are four questions that I found helpful when I was hiring outside legal counsel for the companies I worked for.

1. How well does the lawyer communicate?

A lawyer’s communication skills, more than anything else, will positively or negatively impact your relationship.  If you and your lawyer can’t communicate well – for whatever reason, be it style or substance, your relationship will be a failure.  Whomever you select needs to have superior communication skills and understand the importance in building a solid client-attorney relationship.   And, they need to be able to communicate however you like to communicate – be it over the phone, in person, email or text – you’re the client. And, they need to be able to adapt to your style or the relationship will be a failure. Before you hire a lawyer, you’ll want to make sure your communication styles are a good fit.

2. What is the lawyer’s style?

Are they aggressive?  Deliberate?  Inquisitive?  What is their risk tolerance?  In order to make informed decisions, you need to hear and embrace opposing viewpoints. But, you won’t have a good relationship with a lawyer whose style differs greatly from your own – that will only lead to frustration and confusion.  In particular, finding a lawyer who understands your risk tolerance is a key to being on the same page, but don’t underestimate other “personality” driven factors as well.

3. What is their experience level?

Assuming you’ve found a lawyer you “click” with, now it’s time to get into substance.  Ask yourself if you need a generalist or a specialist?  Are you looking for a long-term partner that can understand and work with your business on a variety of issues, or a specialist that can help fix a significant, pressing issue that you’d already identified?  Both can be business-savvy partners. But, you’ll want to make sure the lawyer you hire has significant experience in the role you’re looking to fill.

4. What is the best type of service agreement and fee schedule for my company?

There’s a lot of options for procuring legal counsel, and there are no right or wrong answers here. Here are four common solutions.

  • Hourly rate – probably the most common attorney fee arrangement on the list. The lawyer will track his or her time in fractions of an hour (usually six minute increments) and bill accordingly. These kinds of arrangements may result in a mis-match of incentives, since your lawyer gets paid more the longer they take, which is why other fee arrangements are gaining popularity.
  • Flat retainer agreement – This payment structure is ideal for businesses that have on-going legal needs, and the retainer can cover almost all your legal needs, or only specific subjects, like employment law. Having a dedicated attorney on-call will help you reduce risk and stop legal disputes before they even begin. It is often the most cost-effective way to procure convenient, expert legal assistance.
  • Flat fees – this is more common with attorneys who handle large volumes of a specific kind of case. Flat fees may be offered for will preparations, tenant evictions, mortgage foreclosures and more – each individual matter is a fixed fee, no matter how long it takes. Flat legal fees can be an attractive solution, but keep in mind litigation will almost never fall into this category.
  • Risk Sharing– most people have heard of contingency fees in litigation, where a lawyer might get 30 percent of 40 percent of the recovery if the client wins, but nothing if the client loses. However, they are gaining in popularity for other kinds of matters as well.  For instance, many firms will handle a merger or an acquisition on a similar arrangement, taking a smaller fee if the deal fails to close, and a larger fee if the deal is successful.  These types of fees help to align the lawyer’s incentive with your own.

Once you decide on the best fit for your company, it’s critical to make sure to clarify expectations. Ultimately, the client is in charge and the client-attorney relationship works best when there is a clear understanding about services rendered and the associated costs.

To learn more about how to hire a lawyer, contact us here.

How to Hire a Lawyer – About the Author

Lawyer Rob Macklin


Rob is a business attorney with Epiphany Law. He has over 20 years of experience offering businesses top-notch legal service and practical, actionable advice. Rob has served as General Counsel to several successful companies, ranging from $5 million to $1 billion in global revenue. In addition, Rob took time from his legal career to serve with the US Navy as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, running intelligence operations for SEAL Team 8. As a trained lawyer, small business owner and Department of Defense certified interrogator, Rob’s diverse skill set can help you navigate any challenge your business may face.

Business Owners : Limit Financial Stress in 4 Simple Steps

By now, most of us understand how harmful stress can be to the body. It affects your heart health, breathing, muscles and even your brain function. But, according to the American Psychological Association, 26 percent of U.S. adults report feeling stressed about money most or all the time. And, for the average business owner, the stats around stress are even more surprising. Small business owners report that managing their business is at least 4 times more stressful than raising children.

One of the best things you can do to protect yourself from stress is to take a more proactive approach to your long-term planning. It’s been said that procrastination breeds stress and when it comes to finances, that’s certainly true. To help minimize stress, it’s essential to think about the long term.

Step 1 – Get a Trust-Based Estate Plan for Business Owners

As a business owner, you’ll have unique needs when it comes to estate planning. Proper estate planning is important in order to:

  • Provide continuity for the business, its other owners, and employees
  • Ensure adequate liquidity to enable transitions due to disability or death
  • Minimize transfer, gift, estate and income taxes
  • Reduce costs and burdens associated with settling affairs
  • Provide protection for the Business Owner’s spouse and family
  • Maximize likelihood that intended legacy is achieved

If you do not currently have an estate plan, or you simply have a will, you will need to take action. To protect your business and your own best interest, it’s important that you get a trust-based plan. Your will indicates who you want to have access to your assets, and how you want your assets distributed, but it does not keep your family out of Court. No one wants to go through Probate if they can avoid it. A trust-based plan allows your family to access your assets in the event you become incapacitated or pass away.

Step 2 – Get a Valuation

Understanding the value of your business is critical for proper business planning and achieving personal goals. Completing a Valuation on a regular basis allows you to manage and measure value growth. A quality report will also list your value drivers – the items on which you should focus to achieve value growth.  Even if you’re not considering exiting your business for years, knowing that the value of your business is the amount someone will pay for your business, will keep your end goal in mind.

Step 3 – Get a Succession Plan

Business succession planning is necessary for any business owner, especially those close to retirement. And, it is something you don’t want to put off. Planning ahead can help ensure you don’t leave money on the table. The vast majority of small business owners in the United States are never able to monetize the value of their business.  In other words, they are never able to “transition” their business successfully. Business owners can help avoid this problem with a well-designed business succession plan.

Step 4 – Consider a Business Succession Trust

If you have a transferable business with value, you will want to consider a Business Succession Trust. One of the key benefits of trusts is tax avoidance, specifically the federal estate tax. Another important benefit is creditor protection. Trusts can be used to shield the family and spouse from creditors or business-related debt.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s a good way to think about financial planning for the business owner. If you take some time to think about your long-term financial goals and your legacy now, you can avoid complications, like probate, in the future.

For more information, call Epiphany Law at 920-996-000 and we can set up a time to assist you with the estate planning process. Or, contact us here.

About the Author

Kevin Eismann, Business Law Attorney

Kevin L. Eismann brings a unique, multi-point perspective to his clients because he is a business owner, Certified Exit Planning Advisor, as well as an attorney. Kevin enjoys building comprehensive strategies with his clients that allow them to reach their personal and business goals. Kevin has provided business owners practical, cost-effective solutions for over 20 years.