How to get your money’s worth from your startup lawyer


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You will never know as much as your lawyers do about the legal services they provide to you. It is a classic asymmetry of information, where the party that knows less gets the worse deal. In this case, that is you, the startup founder.

As an attorney and a co-founder of a venture-backed startup that made it over the finish line, I have been on both sides of the table. Through that experience, I’ve adopted an approach for managing legal spend which you can use to help ensure that you get the most from the money you put toward legal fees.

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Overview of Common Fee Structures

There are really only three legal fee structures: flat, hourly and contingency. In addition to these, attorneys may charge differently for consultations (free vs. paid), may or may not require a retainer to be paid before starting work, and perhaps will entertain certain forms of deferred compensation, such as delayed payment or equity in lieu of cash (though most will not, knowing that odds are well stacked against your startup).

Flat fees. Always good for self-contained, relatively routine legal tasks, such as business formation

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