Lawyers are known to over complicate things. Consulting in-house counsel in corporate entities is often perceived by senior management as unnecessary ‘red tape’ and only results in delays. The fees of external attorneys are often scrutinized and viewed as a cost that should or must have been avoided.
This begs the question, is there really need for lawyers in business transactions? Do lawyers still have a role to play in business transactions? I would answer this question with another question, can entrepreneurs handle business transactions without involving lawyers? Of course yes.
Leveraging off their experience, entrepreneurs (depending on their level of experience) can assess and calculate the risk inherent in a particular transaction, negotiate the commercial terms and conclude the deal without necessarily involving a lawyer.
Lawyers may argue that you need legal expertise to ensure that the risks are highlighted and adequately mitigated. To counter that, an entrepreneur may argue that most of the time the likelihood or probability of the risk event occurring is very low, making it unnecessary and futile to incur legal costs in that transaction.
Entrepreneurs do not only need someone to ‘highlight the risks’, interpret the relevant legislation or be told about the worst case scenario that in their view although plausible is unlikely to occur, they need a business partner who understands their business, an extra ‘pair of eyes’. Someone who will bring a different perspective to the business and help it move forward. Someone who can help the business to proactively avoid legal risks without hindering its progress.
I would argue that such a person should equally be an experienced business person who understands the commercial intricacies of the business environment and is able to turn the disadvantages posed by legal complexities into commercial advantages.
So how do you choose or identify such a lawyer? Instead of only searching for a lawyer or legal specialist look for someone who also has the attributes and know-how of an entrepreneur over and above the required legal skills. A lawyer who is an entrepreneur in their own right. In other words, an entrepreneur with a legal background.
According to Allon Raiz, founder of Raizcorp, entrepreneurs have three major things in common, they see an opportunity, take a risk and in so doing create value. The best way to confirm if you are dealing with such a lawyer, is to look at how creative, innovative or successful they are in their own business.
Partnering with a lawyer should bring or create value for the business.
Moroke Phajane is an entrepreneur with a legal background and Head of Legal Services at First-Line Consulting (www.first-lineconsulting.com).