What’s the difference between a bad lawyer and a good lawyer? A bad lawyer can drag a case out for years. A good lawyer can make it last even longer.
All kidding aside, legal fees aren’t necessarily the first thing entrepreneurs think of when they’re adding up the costs of doing business. As litigious as society is, though, you’re foolish if you don’t engage an attorney to ensure that you’re legit and covered in case of legal action. Don’t have the $350/hour lying around to consult a lawyer? Keep reading.
Here’s my secret for low (or no) cost legal aid. Head to a local university and talk to the head of the legal department. Offer your business up for use by students (under the professors’ supervision, of course) as a real-life example. Your business and its legal needs become coursework for up-and-coming attorneys. There aren’t many situations in business that are truly win-win, but this is one of them. Students benefit from concrete experience, rather than boring hypotheticals, and you get your legal work done for free. Professors love it; students benefit; you save big bucks.
Rather than trying to do it yourself with old legal documents that you dug up online (and which might be completely outdated,) you’re going to get cutting edge, custom work. Students can draw up your incorporation paperwork, make sure your legal disclaimers are airtight, draft your employment contracts, and basically ensure that you’re covered and are in a position to head off most legal problems that could arise.
You’ll literally get thousands of dollars of work for free, and I strongly recommend thanking the classes who work on your case with pizza or coffee from time to time.
One final benefit from offering your business up to a college department is that you get a preview of the talent that’s emerging from your local universities. In fact, one of the times that I approached the head of the legal department at my local college, the professor recommended that I work with his best student who was about to graduate. The student prepared my contract, and the process served as a great extended interview. I hired him after he graduated, and he ended up being one of my most valuable employees.
Now think a little bit bigger…let’s see how this little secret can work in other areas as well. Are there marketing students in your area? Students of web design, graphic design? Think about all of the exciting, creative work you can cash in on while at the same time providing local students with exciting, valuable real-life experience – experience that they can use to get an edge on the fierce competition they’ll face once they’re out looking for work. Don’t pass up a chance to get a great deal on the services your business requires, while fostering closer ties to your community and helping better prepare the workforce of the future.