KB BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT 56 images APRIL 2019 You need a good one W e’ve all heard the uncomplimentary jokes about lawyers, but love them or loathe them, we can’t do without them. In our complex, litigious society, even small business owners will need a good lawyer from time to time, and when it comes to choosing one, it’s best to go top drawer. Taking a chance with ‘cheap‘ is definitely not smart – the stakes are usually too high. A good lawyer with whom you can maintain a cordial, professional relationship can be an invaluable resource for your small business. Aside from reliably providing you with routine legal services, your lawyer will be your avenue to specialised legal resources in his or her firm when something extraordinary arises (and it will). Being an established client will give you an advantage and will save you time and angst when you need specialised help. First order of business with your lawyer Partnership and shareholders’ agreements are essential documents that should be prepared by a good lawyer. A properly prepared, comprehensive agreement, once signed, can be placed in secure storage until needed – and could be a business saver. I say that with the conviction of someone who could so easily have lost his business after just one year when my partnership had to be terminated. Without a clear, concise and watertight shareholders’ agreement, there almost certainly would have been a dispute that could have smothered the business at a very delicate stage of its young life. Ongoing routine business with your lawyer Throughout your small business’s existence, refer to your lawyer for certain routine matters that will arise. In addition to the most obvious Michael Best puts forward his argument for choosing the best lawyer you can afford by a spurious lawsuit, we spent a few sleepless nights courtesy of an associate in our industry we’ll call Screen System. We had been in conversation with Screen System about representing our products in their region of the country in exchange for representing their products in our region of the country. After extensive discussions failed to resolve some key issues, we received a fax from the principal of Screen System saying if we didn’t conclude a deal within 24 hours, he was going to cancel the examples of lease agreements, supplier agreements, joint venture agreements and franchise agreements, a variety of other business contracts and agreements could have adverse implications for your business should disputes occur in matters governed by these documents. Quite often landlords, suppliers and others will present agreements as a fait accompli, giving you the impression it’s all a matter of routine and you really have no choice but to accept them as presented. I know of many small business owners who were coerced into signi ng such agreements believing the y were powerless to question or negotiate. Never acquiesce in this way. Have your lawyer do what a good and experienced lawyer does well: go over the agreement or contract with a fine-tooth comb and identify those clauses that could haunt you later. Then, if necessary, engage your lawyer in the negotiations to arrive at a fair agreement. Never assume there is no room for manoeuvring or negotiating – there invariably is, regardless of how it’s initially presented. Spurious suits Over the years I have been astounded by how often small businesses are the targets of spurious lawsuits. My business was no exception. The first time your small business is the target of a lawsuit, particularly a spurious one, the legal process can be both disconcerting and maddening. The key, I learned, is to stay calm, engage your lawyer and trust that the truth will prevail. The first time we were targeted