To Hire a Startup Lawyer or Not? That is the Question!

Updated: Jan 9

Why Do I Need an Attorney?

If you are looking to expand your business, find investors, or need to protect intellectual property, sooner or later you are going to need legal advice. Remember that old adage,

“The person who acts as their own attorney has a fool for a client.”

But, I’m Broke!

If you really are broke, you need to take a long hard look at why you are trying to start a new business at this moment in time. If, on the other hand, you are merely trying to be a good steward of your money, there are many great resources for getting information on your own.

  • SCORE: SCORE is a nation-wide nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses start, grow, and succeed nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and has been mentoring small business owners for more than forty years. SCORE has a local chapter serving Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, San Joaquin, Sutter and Yolo Counties.

  • The US Small Business Association (SBA): The SBA has a ten-step online guide to starting your own business.

  • Legal forms are available on the Internet. Nolo offers most common document types, which may be useful if your business needs are not highly specialized.

  • In Part 1 of this blog, Is Your Company Ready to be Accelerated we discussed the importance of incorporating as a Delaware C-Corporation. The Delaware state government has an information page regarding C-Corporations.

Keep in mind, however, some of the most important things you can do for yourself and for your new business is to protect yourself from liability issues and financial risk. Don’t wait until you find yourself caught up in litigation before you seek legal advice.

A business attorney can help you with:

  • Employment law

  • Business property ownership or leases

  • Contracts and business agreements

  • Tax advice

OK. But Why a Startup Attorney?

A startup attorney is a specialist who can offer advice in the areas mentioned above, and also provide expertise regarding:

  • Raising venture capital and seed funding

  • Negotiating partnership agreements

  • Negotiating a joint venture

  • Applying for trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual property protections

You can find a startup attorney in the usual way anyone finds an attorney: ask friends or other business owners, look at online legal directories, contact your local bar association, and so forth. But, make sure you locate an attorney whose expertise is the right fit for your needs!

Pam Washburn of CooleyGo, offers good advice for finding the right startup lawyer:

Focus and experience:

  • Does the lawyer/firm have a focus in my industry?

  • How many startup clients does he/she/the firm have?

  • What did the lawyer/firm do for these clients? (i.e., incorporate them, help with fundraising, represent them in a financing, help with licensing, represent them in an IPO or M&A deal, etc.)

Law firm culture and values:

  • Why is representing startups important to the firm?

  • How is the firm positioned to support my company through the full corporate lifecycle? At any point, will my company “outgrow” the law firm?

  • If I hit a problem down the road, how do I get access to specialists at your firm who can help me? How will I know whom to contact?

  • Culture is not an easy area for an outsider to assess, but ask the lawyer to describe the firm’s culture and how the culture benefits their clients (get specific examples)

Connections to capital

  • Does the firm have a venture capital practice? If so, how many funds have they formed? Where are they located (local vs. national vs. international)?

  • What are the firm’s relationships with angel and seed-stage investors?

  • What is the firm’s relationship with corporate and strategic partners?

  • If you have a list of investors that you are interested in approaching, share these with the lawyer. Does the lawyer/firm know the firms and specific partners in those firms? Can they recommend any others that might be appropriate for your company?


  • What sorts of fee arrangements does the lawyer/firm offer when working with startup companies?

  • What services does the lawyer/firm provide that are not charged to the client?

  • What does the firm do to create efficiencies in the client relationships?

Priyanka Prakash, JD, of Fundera recommends you also ask the following questions:

  • What’s the timeline for this work?

  • How will you communicate with me?

  • Do you have any conflicts of interest with representing my business?

Best wishes for your successful search for a lawyer who will best help your business to grow. Pam Washburn reminds us to:

“Choose a lawyer who is smart, accessible, interested in you and your company, easy to talk to, and is someone you can count on to be honest and forthright with you. You’ll be working with your lawyer during both exciting and occasionally difficult times – choose wisely!”

For more information on our Sacramento Accelerator Program, please contact Marsha Rogers (

#Startups #BusinessGrowth #Accelerator #Sacramento #Entrepreneurs

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