Putting the right attorney on your "team" should help you better structure your business and have advice at the ready.

Alan Newport, Editor, Beef Producer

January 3, 2017

2 Min Read
Find an attorney before you need one
Finding an attorney to be a "member" of your management team can be an important strategic decision that puts your practice on strong legs.Thinkstock Photos

Sooner rather than later you will need the expertise of an attorney as you operate your veterinary business.

It's common for business owners delay adding an attorney to their business team, but that is a mistake, says Glenn Muske, rural and agribusiness enterprise development specialist for North Dakota State University. Typically, business owners think they will know when they need that sort of help.

Muske says, however, that line of thought has two problems.

First, you may be making decisions now that are costing you money and will take more money to correct later. For many small-business owners, the first time an attorney's advice might be valuable is when selecting their business structure.

"The attorney, along with their accountant, can outline the pros and cons of the various alternatives. Yet business owners often make that decision without any consultation," he says.

Second, Muske says, the time to look for an attorney is not when you are sent a notice to appear in court. Under those conditions you pick at attorney out of desperation and may not find the best fit for your business.

Instead, you want to find one whose expertise and personality fit you and your business.

"Attorneys specialize," Muske says. "Thus, your attorney should be someone who has expertise and knowledge of assisting small-business owners such as you. In an ideal world, the attorney you select would have experience in your specific industry."

Finding such a professional takes time. You should use all the tools at your disposal, perhaps including an online search, networking, telephone books and reference guides.

Identify your needs and any specific questions you can imagine. This list of questions might indicate that, in addition to a general business attorney, you need a second member for your team with a specific set of skills, such as in business structure or veterinary medical law. However, an attorney doing general business work is probably a good first step.

"Then, like hiring an employee, you need to do interviews and reference checks," Muske says. "Who else do the attorneys work for and how do those clients feel about the services received?"

Don't hesitate to ask the attorneys about their charges and policy for response times, he says. You want someone who will respond to you on a timely basis. This is a question to ask the candidates as well as other business owners when doing your reference checks.

The goal is for the attorney you select to be a team member for a long time, Muske says. Bringing this person in early should help you make better early decisions and get him or her grounded in your vision and goals. All these things should help build your bottom line.

About the Author(s)

Alan Newport

Editor, Beef Producer

Alan Newport is editor of Beef Producer, a national magazine with editorial content specifically targeted at beef production for Farm Progress’s 17 state and regional farm publications. Beef Producer appears as an insert in these magazines for readers with 50 head or more of beef cattle. Newport lives in north-central Oklahoma and travels the U.S. to meet producers and to chase down the latest and best information about the beef industry.

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