Technology has become an essential part of our lives. It is weaved into almost every aspect of our human endeavours. The introduction of new technologies has birthed a new specialisation: a tech lawyer. Technology law deals with the intersection of business law, commerce and regulation and lawyers in this field are, in addition to a number of other things, responsible for helping startups and businesses use and implement technology in their businesses in a way that is compliant with the law. They provide comprehensive legal services that include commercial law, intellectual property law and strategic transactional advisory.
Lawyers are an integral team of any business. A lawyer will provide vital assistance to your business from basic formation to compliance issues and even lawsuits and liability. A good lawyer can help you grow your business while a bad lawyer can mar your business. How do you choose the right lawyers for your business? The trick to choosing the appropriate lawyers boils down to a combination of many factors. While we have explored three basic things you should know before you hire a technology lawyer, please note that this is not an exhaustive or one-shoe-fits-all approach to hiring a tech lawyer.
- Understand that speciality matters – Like professionals in every other field, lawyers tend to specialise. Depending on the particular need of your startup at a point in time, it is important that you hire a lawyer who understands and has advised companies a number of times around your legal needs. You want a lawyer who is competent, responsive, and experienced with the types of legal issues you will need help with. Referrals are often the best place to start. Be wary of a lawyer who does not seem to speak the language of your business. A general counsel may not be able to provide you with a boutique advisory for your startup financing when compared to a tech lawyer who has closed various venture deals. This knowledge that speciality is of utmost importance will guide you in hiring a lawyer that is most suitable for your company’s needs. There is no gainsaying that it is also crucial that you hire a lawyer who is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
- Hiring tech lawyers are expensive – Because the tech ecosystem is booming, the hourly rates of lawyers are high. Lawyers generally charge in one of three ways for their services – hourly, a flat fee, or contingency (percentage). Depending on your budget, it is important to keep in mind that the legal fees of tech lawyers are relatively high. There is a famous analogy making the rounds that tech is the new oil and consequently tech talents and related personnel are expensive given the demand. One factor that largely determines the cost of legal services is the complexity of your legal issue. It is extremely important to understand the fee structure of the lawyer you’ll be hiring, the time that will be spent on your legal issue and the expenses involved. As practicable as possible, it is advisable to hire a lawyer that falls within your budget and existing resources.
- Understand the scope of services that will be provided to you – Generally, a lawyer is often engaged to provide specific services to the client for a period of time. The only exception to this will be where the lawyer is retained as an in-house counsel – these are lawyers retained to handle a range of legal issues affecting the company. The engagement letter signed between the lawyer and the client is typically what determines and outlines the services the lawyer is required to provide to the client within a given period of time. Except for services specifically covered under your engagement letter, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when a lawyer quotes new fees for certain services.
Hiring the best-fit lawyer is essential to ensure you get the best result from your legal issue/need. These basic factors should be able to guide your choice and decision when hiring a technology lawyer for your startup.