How Can A Lawyer Help Your Business
How Can a Lawyer Help Your Business?
Mark Wager interviewing Dasha Kovalenko-Gormack
In these uncertain times there is one certainly which is no matter what industry you are in business is going to be very tough. We are on the brink of a global recession businesses that were once on solid ground now find themselves deeply concerned about their future and in order to survive are looking at every possible advantage they can find which leads me to a meeting I had recently with Dasha Kovalenko-Gormack a Lawyer at Shieff Angland, the meeting started with us discussing Leadership but it soon turned to the current economic climate and what role could a law firm play in helping businesses through these difficult times. In this article I want to provide you with a summary of our conversation and in the process hopefully provide you with some useful advice.
People tend to view lawyers as a kind of “emergency service” someone who you contact when something goes wrong but in your experience can a lawyer assist with the growth of a business?
Dasha: Our preference as lawyers is to have someone come to us in the first instance to seek advice and guidance prior to entering into any kind of commitments. For example if someone is entering into a contract with another organisations, it is best to have that documents drafted correctly in order to consider any future events.
There are generally a couple of ways a lawyer can help someone to grow their business:
1. Helping client minimise legal risk to the business and in turn make more prudent/educated decisions; and
2. Law firms deal with a large network of professionals- they can put people in touch with other professionals which can assist with further minimising risk to the client i.e. tax consultants, accountants, financial advisers. In addition to that, what our firm often does is connects people/organisations together if we see similar synergies!
Do you think that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the relationship between businesses and the legal profession?
Dasha: In a way, I think the pandemic has made the relationship between businesses client and the legal professional more tight knit. The first few weeks after the initial lockdown it felt a bit like working in triage- we worked around the clock to assist our clients with urgent issues such as rent abatement in leases and defaults under contracts, and being able to exit legal documents through inability to pay/perform duties. I think I speak for many lawyers when I say that we were and continue to deal with complex issues that we had not come across in practice before. I have personally never been in a lockdown/experienced a pandemic. It is rewarding to be able to help people navigate the new normal.
If a business wants to talk to a lawyer - where can they find a good one?
Dasha: This is a hard one. I think that it is important to find a lawyer that is not just good at what they do but also cares and gets on with the client- think of your lawyer as your trusted “partner” and adviser. A good lawyer/client relationship is based on respect, good relationship, and well managed expectations- to that end, when choosing a lawyer, a decision can be based on the following: 1) Recommendation 2) Budget 3) Location (if relevant) 4) Relationship. I think the last one is very important- meet your lawyer in advance before you engage them. The right fit/personality is very important to the relationship between the lawyer and client!
When should a business consider contacting a lawyer?
Dasha: I am a big proponent of people who are skilled in the field doing that job rather than myself doing a mediocre job. For example, if I have a sore tooth I will not try to fix it myself- I will go to the dentist. So there is no reason the same should not apply in law. Lawyers are trained to think in depth about risk, they are taught to read legislation, to draft documents, to research, to give advice. The issues that lawyers may be able to think of may not be necessarily the issues that will easily come to someone who is not a lawyer. Even if the lawyer may not have an answer for you straight away they will know where to look for that answer (i.e. what legislation, guidelines or regulations).
We often encounter instances where people did not want to spend money on legal advice, and ended up having to deal with costly consequences- which end up being more than the legal costs would have been in the first place!
What are some of the common legal mistakes that you see small businesses make?
1. Not having the correct legal structures in place;
2. Incorrectly drafted documents that do not record the parties’ intentions;
3. Documents that were drafted poorly that create ambiguity;
4. Parties entering into arrangements without documenting them, on a hand shake arrangement and not being able to enforce these arrangements/having to litigate to enforce them;
5. Parties not being aware of their obligations under a document they have entered into;
6. Businesses not aware of their obligations under the law.
Dasha Kovalenko-Gormack, is an Associate at Shieff Angland (a firm specialising in commercial law, property and litigation) https://www.shieffangland.co.nz/
If you need any legal advice on the above matters, feel free to contact Dasha and her colleagues will be happy to assist you. This article gives a general overview of the topics covered and is not intended to upon as legal advice.
Posted: Friday 20 November 2020