Picture this. You layoff an employee for not abiding by company policy, and he in turn sues you for wrongful dismissal. He even goes as far as to say that he was fired because of his religion, gender or race. In such a situation it is probably easy to determine exactly what type of lawyer you need to hire to see off such a charge.
Another scenario, is when a female employee sues you for wrongful dismissal and at the same time claims that you sexually harassed her. She may have misinterpreted your good or kind gesture for something else, or she may simply be on a revenge mission. In such a situation, it may not be so clear what type of lawyer to hire to help represent you. Should you hire an employment lawyer, or a sexual harassment lawyer? Gladly, more often than not, the same lawyer or law firm would cover both areas of the law.
There are many circumstances similar to the above mentioned where things are not so clear cut, and where it becomes a tad bit more difficult for a business owner to determine exactly what area of law his situation falls under.
Given the high percentage of lawsuits that businesses face yearly, it is not impossible that a sizeable number of these lawsuits will include two or more areas of the law. Such scenarios are not only physically and financially draining for the business owner, but can also cause emotional distress, and possibly lead to the collapse of the business.
While any type of business can be affected by such a scenario, perhaps the most vulnerable are startups and new or young businesses. Firstly, they may lack the experience to deal with such issues, and secondly, most don’t even have the finances to deal with them, not to mention how complex the law can be.
It is a given that hiring a lawyer doesn’t come cheap. It is exactly this reason that makes it doubly challenging for a business that faces such double legal situation that cuts across two different fields of law.
Having said that, here are some reasons, generally speaking, as to why a business owner would want to hire an attorney:
- Interpretation of the Law: The law is perhaps as diverse as it is complex, not to mention ever evolving. What may be deemed correct or applicable in one jurisdiction may not be considered so in another. For instance, what may be considered tax avoidance in a certain territory might be called tax evasion in another.
- Displeased Employees: Laying off or retrenching employees is part of running a business. It is often a cost-saving measure or tactic which is adopted by many businesses. So while you may believe you have followed the letter of law in laying off an employee, you actually may be in violation of the law with regards the applicable provisions of the employment act. This is exactly what a competent attorney will help you understand. Where your firing decision stands in relation to the law.
Unfortunately, many employees won’t take it kindly and may sue you for damages, wrongful dismissal, loss of livelihood, breach of contract and more. This, again, is something which a good business or employment lawyer should be able to help see you through.
- Discontent Customers: Defective products, personal injury, or class action lawsuits against a business are not impossible. This is more so in an era where customers are more knowledgeable, informed and demanding than they ever have been. Having an attorney in your corner can sometimes prevent these issues from cropping up, but more so can help you manage them when they do arise.
Other areas where an attorney can greatly help a business include things like taxation, patents, copyrights, growth and expansion, takeovers, mergers and more.
As previously mentioned, dealing with any one of these situations individually is simple enough. What do you however do, when you are faced with two or more such situations at the same time?
One possibility, of course, is to hire two separate attorneys to handle each situation independently, or perhaps even in collaboration. But is this really advisable? The high or double cost of hiring two different lawyers, the problem of possibly commuting between two different law offices, a potential conflict or clash happening between the two different lawyers or law offices while working with the same client, and the consequences that may have, are just some of the potential problems that is likely to arise for the business owner while trying to manage the two legal issues.
To that end, it very possibly might be a better option to hire just one lawyer or law firm who can handle both areas of the law that you are having issues with. This is likely to be be easier to manage from a cost and administrative point of view.
Advantages of Hiring One Attorney Instead of Two
- Time-saving: Legal cases can drag for a long time. You or other company representatives may be required to make numerous appearances in court or other legal proceedings. Now, can you imagine having to deal with two cases simultaneously? Or even worse, if these two cases happen to play out in two different courts or locations?
Drawn out or extended legal issues simply mean more billable hours for the lawyer, but it means more time spent away from your business, and possibly other negative effects. Having to deal with one lawyer instead of two is much more likely to allow you better manage the situation under the direction of your attorney.
- Cost Effective: As previously mentioned, hiring an attorney can be an expensive affair and if not careful, it may result in a deep hole in your pocket. Unfortunately, in today’s business environment, there are many unforeseen legal issues that can catch you unawares, and consequently necessitate the hiring of an attorney.
So while the need for a lawyer might be a given, an experienced and competent attorney who straddles several law fields (including the ones you have issues in) might be preferable, and he or she should be able to fully represent you in both cases you have issues in. While very possibly charging you a single fee, or at least lower than you would have paid, if you were dealing with two different lawyers.
- Possibly Better Representation: Each attorney is different in their experience and methods of handling their legal cases. And while the saying goes that two heads are better than one, that saying usually infers two heads focused on the same matter.
Provided that the lawyer has the capacity to handle two different but related legal matters, unless it is a law firm with several lawyers or departments, having the same legal team focus on the different legal issues your business faces can provide certain other advantages, such as the synergy and the cohesiveness that may be required to stay focused on the task at hand, instead of the potential bickering between two different lawyers or law firms.
The role and importance of a business lawyer is perhaps as important now more than ever. The increasing complexity of doing business coupled with equally complex laws, the ease with which information about you and your business can be obtained by anyone, information which could be damaging to your business or its reputation, are just some of the situations that could lead to you facing one type of legal issue or another. Or worse, multiple legal issues simultaneously. So for that reason, it makes business sense to always have access to a business lawyer whenever the need arises, or better still, before it does.
Tony Crighton is a practicing New York business lawyer who specializes in all legal matters related to business & commercial law, property law and contract law. He has been a practicing attorney for over 15 years and has a diverse and broad range of experience. Connect with him on on Twitter and Facebook