Before, during, and at the close of your sale, you’ll need an attorney to help you protect your business secrets, navigate offers, and make informed decisions. In this guide, you’ll learn how to find experienced attorneys, review their qualifications, and select one with the skills and know-how to help you sell your business.
Who do I need?
When you’re selling your business, you'll need a small business attorney who can review brokerage contracts, navigate buyer requests, and negotiate offers for acquisition. If you need help navigating basic contracts, working through price negotiations, or reviewing offers, you could work with a legal generalist who's skilled in contracts and contract law. Or, you could choose a lawyer who specializes in small business mergers and acquisitions to help you through the duration of your sale.
Whether you choose a generalist or an attorney who specializes in small business needs, commit to seeking counsel from a person who has both the knowledge and experience required to help you sell your business.
How do I find an attorney with these qualifications?
You may already have an attorney you've worked with on other business matters. Your attorney may be able to help here, or they could refer you to a colleague who's more experienced with small business exits.
You could also connect with our network of attorneys. Click the button below to get started:
How do I select the right one?
Your attorney will play an important role in your sale, so be diligent in choosing a great one. Start by locating multiple attorneys who have experience with acquisitions and arranging a free in-person consultation.
When you meet, ask questions that’ll help you learn about their experiences, strengths, and styles of communication. You can work through the following questions to gauge their knowledge and expertise with small business issues:
- What is your experience in small business sales?
- Do you have experience in reviewing letters of intent and sales agreements for acquisition?
- Do you have experience in leading price negotiations with brokers and potential buyers?
You might also ask questions, like the following, about each attorney’s practice, availability, and style of communication:
- Who are the members of your legal team, and who will be handling my requests?
- Would you be able to refer me to another lawyer if we uncover an issue outside your realm of expertise?
- Will you have any conflicts of interest in taking on my business?
- Will you be willing to communicate with me through my preferred medium (in-person meetings, phone calls, or emails)?
- How much time should I expect to allow for a basic contract review?
- What is your fee structure?
Pair what you learn with online reviews, verification of licensure, a review of the attorney’s website, and web searches to ensure that you have enough information about your attorney candidates to make an informed decision.
What about payment?
Legal fees can vary greatly among lawyers, practices, and regions of the country. Be sure to ask any attorneys you consider about their fees and preferred payment arrangements, as well as whether they offer any of the following payment structures that could help you manage or defer your upfront legal costs:
Your attorney may offer you a flat rate for reviewing contracts and standard legal documents. This arrangement can be helpful for budgeting some of the costs that’ll be required for selling your business.
Discounts for multiple services
Your attorney might offer you a reduced rate for committing to using the firm for the full suite of legal services you’ll need to sell your business.
Your attorney may be open to receiving payment upon the successful completion of a sale rather than upon completion of their services.
The attorney you choose might require an upfront payment or retainer. The retainer can be refunded if the value of the service provided is less than the retainer value, and you may be billed for additional costs that exceed the value of the retainer.
Can I sell my business without an attorney?
Some business owners complete their business sales without the help of an attorney. But for many, working with an attorney is a smart choice. Here's why: An attorney may be able to help you to navigate unclear terms, avoid the assumption of unnecessary risks, and negotiate a better price for your business than you could have alone.
When you're planning your sale, securing an attorney’s services is a great place to start. You should also consider hiring the following professionals to help you navigate your exit:
- A highly qualified accountant who can help you to review your financials and make forecasts
- A valuation specialist who can help you to set the right price for your business
- A broker who can help you to list and market your business
- A wealth manager who can help you to manage the proceeds of your sale
Would you like us to connect you with these professionals? Use the search tool at the bottom of the page to get started.
With your team in place, you can begin working through the essential steps of preparing your business for sale. We can help with every step of the process. Log into your owner’s portal for checklists, articles, and advice you can use to connect with buyers, secure offers, and negotiate the terms of your sale with confidence.