How do you know if you’ve found the right lawyer?

It should be obvious. As in, you should know within the first few minutes of talking to them.

If, after a 15-minute conversation with a prospective lawyer, you don’t immediately see the potential benefits from that relationship, you should probably seek out a different professional relationship.

Why?

Because a good, experienced lawyer, with familiarity with the areas of law that matter to your business, should know them with a depth and profundity that no non-expert could ever have.

This is because of the sheer volume of data that an experienced lawyer has in his or her possession, which, at least in the realm of legal matters, vastly outweighs even the most experienced entrepreneurs. The most successful entrepreneurs, at best, rarely start more than a half-dozen businesses. Whereas a successful lawyer who works with businesses and entrepreneurs will often have worked with 50 to 100 times that many businesses.

That wealth of experience will be obvious from the moment you speak with an attorney who has that background. And that wealth of experience will help your business in ways that are both easy to quantify and harder to quantify.

The easy ways a good lawyer can help your business is by making sure you avoid the basic ways many businesses fail. Making sure you have the right entity structure for your business plan; making sure the documents and structure you create enable the company to achieve whatever goals matter most to it, whether that means raising capital, growing and selling the business, or just achieving financial independence. Making sure your contracts enable you to profit and thrive, rather than getting caught up in needless disputes or litigation.

The not-so-obvious ways in which a good lawyer can help your business is by knowing and anticipating the common patterns and pitfalls that befall entrepreneurs along the way. As someone starting a business for the first (or the second or third) time, you just don’t know what you don’t know. Having someone on your team who has a much larger sample size to draw from can help your business from spending dozens (or even hundreds or thousands) of hours paddling in the wrong direction.

Even when an entrepreneur has experience starting a successful company, there are still likely many things they’ve never experienced that commonly happen to startups. With good luck you can avoid these problems, but one or two successful experiences can often be misleading. Driving on a windy mountain pass with bad tires probably won’t affect you if the sun is shining, but you’ll notice your mistake without fail if there’s a blizzard. There are dozens of analogous situations for startups. And sometimes it’s just a matter of having someone on your team who’s been there before to tell you where and when you need to be careful.

All that’s to say, if you have found the right lawyer, you should know it right away. If not, keep searching.