We are all about seeing you succeed and grow a healthy fitness business! Here are 7 tips for finding an attorney for your gym or fitness business!
Make sure you understand what type of attorney you are looking to engage
You wouldn’t go to a heart surgeon if you need your foot examined. The same goes for lawyers! Most gyms are going to need to find a business attorney who has some experience with the fitness attorney. Ask for recommendations from fellow business owners – but be aware that an attorney who worked well with a friend needing something for their product related business may not always be the best fit for your service-oriented fitness business!
What state are you based in/which state is your business entity formed as a domestic entity?
In the US, state-based law requires an attorney who is licensed by the Bar Association and/or admitted to the Supreme Court of the state in question. Not all legal advice you are going to be likely seeking is about state law. For example, both intellectual property and tax law are federal areas of law – which means the attorney you seek out does not necessarily need to be licensed in the state you are located. What this means is that you may end up with more than one attorney working with your fitness business, just like you have a medical team that helps you take care of different parts of your body depending on the level of detail in the care that you require.
Ask for Recommendations – but exercise your own judgment.
Ask for recommendations from your accountant or your banker, as they may have good working relationships in place and are more likely to have a sense of areas of expertise. Ask about why they are making the recommendation. You can also ask your business associates for their recommendations, but be aware that if you have a contractual relationship with that business associate, their attorney may have a conflict of interest and may not also be able to represent you. You can also search the directories of the American Bar Association or your State’s Bar Association or make use of their referral services (not all of them have a referral service).
Have an initial meeting or consultation
Much of the advice online suggests that you should set up an interview with the top five attorneys you are considering and that you should request this initial consultation for free. Two things: it is highly possible many attorneys will indicate that they have a set rate for their initial consultation – this is a matter of protecting their time, just as you protect yours. Secondly, arranging meetings and actually meeting with five different attorneys is a large investment of time. Perhaps, overkill. Consider starting with setting up meetings with 2 or 3 at most, and let their staff know that you are wanting an initial consultation because you are interested in building a long-term relationship. They will indicate up-front if there is any cost for the initial consultation.
At this initial meeting, it is not just about personality fit. You may be asked to describe your business, your perception of your legal needs, and your ongoing expectations in terms of a relationship with the attorney. They will want to do what is called a “conflict-check” – to make sure that they are not already representing someone whose interests would be in conflict with yours.
Ask Questions about their experience with the fitness industry
Although it is not absolutely essential to find an expert in the fitness industry, it absolutely makes sense to seek out an attorney who specializes in small business law, or intellectual property law, in the context of the fitness industry as opposed to someone who specializes in beverage companies, or international law. Ask them what types of businesses related to the fitness industry they have worked with – be aware that they may not share more than a simple sketch about those clients (for ethical reasons). You can ask if they have a client or two you can speak with or an unrelated attorney who would be willing to provide a reference about their work.
Are they interested in your-sized business?
Ask if they are willing to take on small problems, for example, if you are trying to prevent a competitor from using an unregistered image of you in their advertising or if you’re trying to collect an invoice that is relatively small, is that the kind of work they would be willing to do? Are they willing to partner with you as you grow? Do they have experience working with startups who have gone through a scaling journey?
Do they have time for you? How quickly can you expect calls and emails to be returned? Do you get the sense that they can explain things in a language you can understand? Are they willing to learn about your business and the fitness industry?
What are their fees?
Attorneys charge anywhere from $100 to $1000 or more an hour. Sometimes they offer flat-rate pricing for certain types of letter writing or document preparation. Be careful comparing one attorney with another simply on the basis of fees alone, if for no other reason than because an inexperienced attorney may take much longer than an experienced attorney to complete the same work.
Finding an Attorney is the first step…
Just because you like an attorney you have spoken with doesn’t yet mean they are your attorney. You will need to sign an engagement letter prepared by the attorney which will detail your relationship and will detail the billing rate and method. The agreement will also likely specify the expenses you will be expected to reimburse.
Your fitness business needs a legal advisor you can trust!
Finding an attorney is an essential step in putting together your dream team. You want to make sure you have advisors around you and your business who will give you advice that will give you the tools and the impetus to move forward and be successful.