As a small business owner, you know your business often encounters legal issues. Unfortunately, as a business lawyer in Washington, DC from a firm like Brown Kiely, LLP can explain, facing such problems are almost a foregone conclusion with any business. On the other hand, your business may not be large enough to warrant hiring a full-time lawyer. What to do?
For many businesses, the answer is to put a local experienced business lawyer on retainer. Often called outside counsel, such an arrangement can ensure that you have a competent lawyer already familiar with your business available to you virtually 24/7/365 whenever you require legal advice, counsel or representation. It will also likely ensure that the lawyer will give your business priority whenever you call or email him or her.
How a Retainer Works
In a nutshell, when you put a lawyer on retainer, you pay an up-front legal fee on a monthly or annual basis. The lawyer, in turn, places this money into his or her trust account, not his or her regular business account. He or she then draws down the legal fees as he or she earns them, returning any excess retainer amount to you or billing you for any legal services he or she provides you that exceed the retainer amount.
Different business lawyers charge different retainer fees. Often a young lawyer just starting out will offer lower retainers than a long-time, more experienced lawyer. In addition, you can expect to pay a lower retainer if you hire the lawyer to perform only specific legal duties for you, such as drafting and reviewing your contracts.
If you decide to retain a business lawyer, you should definitely have a signed, written retainer agreement with him or her. It should set forth the types of legal services for which you’re engaging him or her, the amount he or she charges for these services, how often you will pay the retainer, and how the actual legal fees will be deducted from it.
Perhaps the major advantage of having a lawyer on retainer is that you and he or she quickly establish a trust relationship. If this is the lawyer who helped you set up your business, so much the better. Having the same lawyer involved from the get-go ensures that he or she will have a full understanding of your company and its goals and objectives. It will also ensure that he or she can quickly and competently address any issue that may arise, from contract or employment disputes to representation if someone sues your business for personal injury or other reasons.