In my prior posts, I have stressed the importance of mindfully creating a sound infrastructure for your business, to ensure that it is protected from predictable disasters. I discussed using Non-Disclosure Agreements, employee restrictive cove-nants, key man insurance, Shareholder agreements and Cost of Collection vendor provisions.
While it is essential that you thoroughly understand each functioning part of the infrastructure of your business, you will not be the person who actually creates all of the legal documents necessary to bring the infrastructure to life. That is the role of the attorney for your business, commonly referred to as Corporate Counsel.
But choosing a Corporate Counsel must be done with great care and caution. This attorney will be your first and last line of defense. He/she must be capable of effectively protecting your business and vigilantly keeping it out of harm’s way. In short, your Corporate Counsel must be a wise legal confidant and business strategist who understands your business and whose judgment is sound and keen.
So, in this post, I will discuss how to wisely choose an attorney to serve as the Corporate Counsel for your business.
While every attorney has his/her own background, education and experience, I believe that those attorneys who are in the top ten percent (10%), all share three essential qualifications:
1) Competence: The attorney must have a thorough understanding of the important aspects of your unique business and must possess a complete command of those areas of the law that directly relate to your business. Nothing short of this high level of competence is acceptable, since it is this fundamental legal expertise that will serve as the basis for all strategic pre-emptive plans and tactical decisions.
2) Honesty: While seemingly obvious, this qualification is essential. Your attorney’s integrity must be non-negotiable and you must be able to trust both his advice and loyalty without hesitation.
3) Care: The attorney who acts as your Corporate Counsel must be committed to you and your business. He/she must truly care about vigilantly protecting your interests.
Now, most people blur these three credentials by choosing an attorney based on their “gut” feeling. For example, they might select their golfing buddy, who just happens to practice law, since there’s already a relationship between them. Or, a likable neighbor may seem like the perfect attorney to bring on board.
I’ve found some people assume if they have an attorney who has a couple of the above three qualifications, that this is sufficient. But it’s not. I regularly explain to people that two out of three is a wicked marriage. If you hire an attorney who cares and is good at what she does, but isn’t honest, you’re in trouble. Similarly, if you hire an attorney who feels a responsibility to you and values honesty, but has no idea what he’s doing, your business is going to suffer. And the attorney who is competent and honest but is indifferent to the safety of your business will provide you with a false sense of security.
You need an attorney who embodies all three of the qualities I’ve described. Anything short of this complete list could spell disaster for the castle you’ve worked so hard to build.