12/07/11

By Gary Yantin

1.Agree fixed fees

Be aware there are over 10,000 law firms out there — you can afford to shop around, and don’t have to go to the one down the road. In particular, small businesses should avoid lawyers charging hourly rates. Most firms are happy to agree a fixed fee for routine work. Even the most experienced specialist lawyers will now accept fees based on value as opposed to time billing.

2.Stay on top of changes in the law

The Law changes all the time. Even lawyers like me struggle to keep up with everything. It’s hard to make sure that your business is compliant, especially if different areas impact on you (for example, almost every business has to deal with employment law and property law at some point) and getting caught out by a sudden change in the law can be horribly expensive. I’d recommend businesses consider an annual review of your key contracts to make sure it never happens to you.

3. Use the law to solve problems before they happen — lawyers are always cheaper than lawsuits.

By using contract terms properly, you can do a tremendous amount to limit your liability. For example, if you run an e-commerce website getting your Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) right can be absolutely crucial to your business. The difference between a T&C guaranteeing delivery in 14 days and one guaranteeing delivery in 28 days can be enormous! The same applies almost everywhere — employment contracts, leases, shareholder agreements — if they’re written properly.

4.Have a lawyer on retainer, rather than going to one in a crisis

For plenty of businesses (for example, property developers), ongoing legal costs are unavoidable. If you’re in one of these businesses, setting up a monthly bill means that you are not going to be hit with a massive legal fee payable in one go. Lawyers want to control cash flow too so offering to pay by direct debit monthly will help negotiate better rates with your lawyer.

5. Get rid of the notion that law is complex & expensive

Too many small businesses have the perception that lawyers are expensive, and that law is always hugely complex (I blame the television). In fact, most legal issues are relatively simple and routine. Employment contracts, Commercial leases, shareholders agreements, and terms and conditions can and should all be purchased on a fixed price basis.

About The Author

Gary Yantin is the founder of www.HighStreetLawyer.com - A solicitor of eleven years experience, he started his career in a small high street firm in St.Albans and he understands the pressures of working in a small firm. He founded High Street lawyer to enable top quality small independent firms fight off “Tesco law” by developing nationwide competition on fixed price products, primarily benefiting consumers and small businesses that currently rely on undifferentiated local firms.