Q: I need an attorney who works with startups who don’t have a ton of cash

If you need an attorney because you want to initiate a lawsuit, please consider the opportunity cost very carefully before proceeding. The time to hire an attorney is before you sign an agreement, not after.

I need an attorney who works with startups who don’t have a ton of cash

I need an attorneyQ: Our startup recently encountered a problem with our landlord for a short term lease. Their lack of transparency and clarity on information related to the use of the space we leased caused our business damages that we would like to recoup.

Can you recommend an attorney that’s good for startups without a ton of cash (thanks to the issue at hand)?

A: I am not a lawyer, so what I can offer is business advice, not legal advice.

Every hour you spend on this is an hour you are not working to improve your product and grow your business.

Take 30 minutes and write down everything you will do next time to detect and/or prevent the same or similar problems from recurring.

Save that document and let everything else go.

Some rules of thumb for working with attorneys

I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice.

  • Prepare a written summary of the situation you can communicate in advance. This minimizes the time you are asking your attorney to listen to you recite what could have been written down: note that this is different from answering their questions in a face to face meeting or on a call. This will save you one to three hours of billed time because it’s faster to read than listen, and you will be more organized in your written presentation than off the cuff.
  • Discuss fee structure up front. Put a budget on any risk analysis or other legal work you are asking an attorney to perform. I would be less guided by hourly rate and more by the specific project you want to see completed, although you are likely to pay in the $400-$1,00 range per hour range in Silicon Valley.
  • If you have a limited budget for the work, be clear up front. Ask the attorney to determine the best way to allocate efforts, where senior staff or specialists may be required and where junior staff or paralegals should be adequate. Please note that a limited budget is not the same as wanting to pay as little as possible.
  • It’s much cheaper to stay out of trouble than to get out.  The time to pay for a legal review of a contract is before you sign it, not when you realize that you made a mistake and want out.
  • A rule of thumb for risk management: spend 1% of the contract value for a risk assessment. Depending upon what risks are uncovered, you may need to spend more to modify the contract to address or ameliorate the risks.
  • Do not rely on a contract alone to manage counter-party risk. Be careful who you do business with, especially when doing business for the first time with a stranger or firm you don’t know. A good agreement starts with a plain English document that outlines the key points, common and distinct goals, and any issues the parties will need to manage. It’s legitimate to ask for some payment up front and to create a phased or milestone-based payment schedule depending upon the nature of the business relationship. It’s vital to react to slow payment and to any changes in scope or the failure of either party to meet its obligations.

If you need an attorney, here are six that we recommend

Here are five that we have worked with in Silicon Valley that we can recommend–listed in alphabetical order:

If you are based in England or Wales I recommend Adam Tucker https://atucker.co/

The advantage of these attorneys is that they are very familiar with startup issues and they are comfortable working with small firms and entrepreneurs.

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