Originally published in the Worcester Business Journal by AiVi Nguyen.

Every business person needs a great lawyer. Sure, you can go to one of those legal websites and hope for the best. But those websites only offer documents and only give you the ones you know to ask for.

What about the things that you do not even know you need? There is just no substitute for a smart and dedicated lawyer on your team – an issue spotter, a problem solver and, ultimately, a trusted friend. But how do you know which lawyer is right for you? There are thousands of lawyers in Worcester County alone. While it largely depends on your personality, there are some universal characteristics that all great lawyers share, and those are the things you should look for in your lawyer.

  1. They understand your business. Whether you own a cookie factory, a brewery, or a tech start-up, your lawyer should know everything there is to know about your business. How can someone help you if they do not understand what you do? Moreover, just having general knowledge of how businesses in your industry operate only takes a lawyer so far. Your lawyer must know about your specific business and all its little nuances. Great lawyers keep up with developments in your industry, are familiar with your facilities, and know your product.
  2. They save you time and money. A great lawyer understands you are busy, and frankly, they are busy too. Efficiency is key. A great lawyer solves your issue in the most practical way possible, factoring in time and money into the decision. Why draft a five-page demand letter if a phone call can fix the problem? A lawyer who opts for the five-page demand letter when there is a faster and more cost-effective solution is one who is not busy enough, which is an issue great lawyers will never have. Great lawyers do not need to squeeze you for fees.
  3. They do not fake the funk. A great lawyer tells you when they do not know the answer to your question. They do not fake it or make it up as they go. Run from a lawyer who holds themselves out as a jack (or jill)-of-all-trades. No one lawyer can personally handle all of the legal issues that you will encounter. A great lawyer knows this and does not try to do things they are not qualified to do. Instead, they have relationships with other great lawyers who can help you with a specialized issue. A great lawyer is a well-connected lawyer.
  4. They are brutally honest. Sometimes what you want is ridiculous and impossible, and your lawyer should put you in your place. If your lawyer thinks marrying your new significant other after only knowing the person for 72 hours is crazy, your lawyer will tell you. If you want to give your new business partner, the foreign prince you met online, access to all your banking information, your lawyer should intervene. Instead of marching you to a trial where you will get slaughtered, a great lawyer will strongly advise you to settle. In other words, the best lawyers are a tether to reality and will not give in to your demands if doing so does not serve your best interests.
  5. You consider them a trusted friend. Your lawyer should ask about how your family is doing, about your recent vacation to Turks and Caicos, about how you are feeling after ACL surgery. It is unnatural to have a person play such an important role in the success of your business and have that person know nothing about you. You cannot trust people you do not know, so it is appropriate to get to know the people you need to trust.

Because a lawyer can play such a pivotal role in your business, do not settle.