Forming a legal entity (part 2): Finding a lawyer

The first step I took in founding a startup was to find a lawyer. There’s a ton of very picky specific legal decisions to make, and I knew that I wasn’t remotely qualified to do it on my own. In fact, I didn’t even know where to start.

I began my search with a few recommendations from friends who are in startups, but, ultimately, I found someone through my accountant. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about law (nor, really, about startups) to judge professional competence, but there were a few other things I looked for:

  • they’ve worked with founding tech. startups before
  • they were interested in my particular business
  • I felt there was a good personality fit
  • the rates weren’t too outrageous ($300 to $500 / hour)

After talking with a few different options on the phone, I wound up going with Doty, Barlow, Britt & Thieman and have been very happy with them.

One extra lesson I learned the hard way… lawyers bill for absolutely everything (all of them: not just mine). Every minute on the phone, every email answered, every letter they have to respond to will cost you. I’ve had to become very conscious about dropping the polite small talk on the phone, and keeping the email questions down to those I absolutely need an answer to. Every time before I call, I remind myself: it costs you $1 to say “Hello, how are you?”

Forming a legal entity (part 1)

A while back, I founded a startup. I’ve since closed it and moved on to first one company, and then to another.  However, I learned a lot in the process I thought would be worth sharing.

One of the first things I had to learn when starting my company was how to actually start a company. There are a lot of choices which all have to be made before you can incorporate, and there’s a definite order in which you need to get things done. Here’s the sequence I followed:

  1. Find a lawyer who knows startups
  2. Choose a name for the company (but not the product)
  3. Purchase the company’s domain name
  4. File incorporation papers
  5. Open a business checking account
  6. Sign up for email / calendar services
  7. Sign up for other technical services (e.g., source control, hosting)
  8. Print business cards
  9. Get to work!

All in all, there was more waiting for things to happen than actual work, and a lot more reading about legal entity types, researching banks, and that sort of thing than I’d expected. I’ll write more about each step in separate posts.