When you think about running your business, what role do you imagine a lawyer playing? A lawyer is much more than someone who can get you out of trouble (though he or she certainly can). An excellent lawyer can become a trusted member of your business team.

Let’s explore what you need to consider when hiring a business lawyer.

Find a lawyer familiar with your industry

A lawyer who has experience – or is willing to learn – about the unique characteristics of your industry will make him or her an even better advisor. For example if you have a real estate business, finding a lawyer with real estate experience will make both your jobs easier. You may not always find a lawyer with exactly the experience in your industry, but a lawyer who is willing to learn is a great start.

Determine what type of lawyer you need

A business lawyer can help you with company formation and related tasks like contracts and partnership formation. Depending on your business you may need a lawyer who specializes in a certain kind of law. If you need help with copyright, or are looking for legal support for taxes, you may need to hire lawyers who specialize in those areas. If you retain a general business counsel, he or she can recommend when to bring in a specialist as needed.

Choose a firm that fits your company

When looking for prospective lawyers, also consider the type and size of firm. If you have a small startup, a giant firm may not be the best fit. With so many clients, your company may get lost in the shuffle. If you’re regularly engaging in complex legal matters, a solo practitioner may not have the expertise you need. It’s important to research and interview firms to find the lawyer and firm who will best support your business.

Start your relationship early

For your lawyer to be a key part of your business, you need to build a relationship. Don’t wait until you’re being sued to find a lawyer. Lawyers can help you with many tasks related to your business, including company formation, writing contracts, product liability and more. Having a lawyer on your team as you perform business-related tasks will help you avoid legal fees in the long term.

Look for a transparent fee structure

Hiring a lawyer can be a large investment. You want to ensure your hard-earned dollars aren’t being wasted on unnecessary fees. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the fee structure until you understand the cost. Agree on a structure that makes sense for the work you’ll need, whether that’s a flat fee for certain projects or an hourly rate.

Remember not all lawyers will be a good fit

As with any relationship, not everyone is a perfect match. If you already have a business lawyer but are unsatisfied with your working relationship, you have every right to look for a better fit. It’s your money and your business, and you need to make the decisions best for both.

For more information about how a business lawyer can help your company, contact a skilled business attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi PC, a full-service business law firm on St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands.