As a professional contractor or small business owner, you may require legal guidance at some point. Typically, solicitors are able to offer advice on a wide range of issues, from checking over contracts to resolving disputes between you and clients – including late payment problems.
Of course, there is plenty of business law information available for free online but there will inevitably be times when you need to seek professional advice. A solicitor can take care of important paperwork and help save you time and can also make sure you don’t make the kind of mistakes that could prove costly to your business and/or harm your professional reputation.
What else can a solicitor do for you?
Some more examples of the type of work a solicitor can do for your company include:
- Draw up contracts between you and a client (such as a consultancy agreement if you’re providing services directly to a client).
- Checking provisional contracts created by a third party (such as a recruiter).
- Draw up contracts of employment for staff you take on in future
- Help with drawing up formal arrangements such as partnership or shareholder agreements
- Advise on lease agreements for premises or equipment
- Ensure you comply with the latest regulations, trading laws etc., relevant to your industry or sector
- Represent your interests in negotiations with clients, local authorities and other organisations
- Help to recover overdue payments by sending out formal letters
- Advise you on the branding of your products or services so you don’t infringe anyone else’s intellectual property rights or copyright
- Provide assistance and advice on trading abroad and dealing with international clients or companies regarding international law, export licences and partnerships
How much do solicitors charge?
It depends on what he or she does for you and how long it all takes. You can expect to pay more for specialist advice or if the matter is complex and involves more than a single solicitor working on your behalf.
On the other hand, drawing up standard contracts or issuing a letter for you is unlikely to cost very much. In any case, you should always be provided with an estimated cost for any work well in advance. This should include details of hourly rates, a breakdown of the estimated cost and any additional charges. This is actually a UK Law Society requirement and if you don’t receive an estimate be sure to ask for one, or look elsewhere.
As with any other service, the old adage of shopping around also applies when looking for a solicitor.
So, how do you find a solicitor that’s right for your size and type of business?
As with many other things, the best way to find a solicitor is to ask people you know for recommendations – including other professionals. If you’re contracting, for example, your accountant is likely to work with one or more legal firms who are likely to be well-versed in potential contracting pitfalls.
The Law Society provides a list of SME solicitors in all areas of the UK, most of whom will offer a free, initial consultation. If you’re looking for help with IR35-related issues, you should target one of the firms who provide specialist IR35 contract review services (although not all are law firms).
Get in touch with several solicitors before deciding which one to choose. Ask about their hourly rates and any specialist services they provide on top of general legal help that may be of interest to your company. Do they have specific expertise and experience of dealing with contractor or SME-related issues?
Ideally, meetings should be face to face so you can get a feel for how they are as people and whether you think you’ll be able to form a good working relationship or not. A good solicitor can help you and your business to prosper – so take your time and choose wisely!