What Kind of Lawyer Do You Need?
The answer depends on too many variables, so let’s assume you’re a high-tech early-stage company looking for capital with realistic prospects of doing say $50 million or more in revenue in five years (i.e., VC material).
First, you’ll need a good securities attorney. These are the folks that make sure that you have the right corporate form (usually a C corporation), get you set up in the right state (often your home state, but possibly a place like Delaware or Nevada), draw up the incorporation documents, review or create nondisclosure agreements, review or create contracts with early partners, create employment agreements for the founders (in a way that doesn’t scare off investors), establish your employee stock option plan, advise you on how to keep appropriate records, help you prepare to raise capital in a way that doesn’t violate state and federal securities laws, and much more. Your securities attorney, in short, helps make sure that you keep a clean house. Well-connected securities attorneys can introduce you to potential investors. Finally, a prestigious securities attorney may make investors more willing to invest – sometimes for no better reason than name recognition.
Second, you’ll probably need a good intellectual property attorney. These are the folks who help you register your trademarks, protect your copyrights, prepare and file patent applications, and develop a sensible intellectual property strategy.
Legal matters are complex, and you’re almost always better off by consulting qualified attorneys. If you are cash-strapped, go ahead and do the groundwork and prepare initial drafts, but make it sure that you get a pro to check your work.
When selecting attorneys, be sure to check references, interview at least three of them in depth, and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Finally, be sure to choose somebody that you “click” with and really feel that you can trust.