Legal opinion as a useful tool for entrepreneurs

When should you use/order a legal opinion?

Lawyers love to sell legal opinions. It sounds good, and it’s nice to research topics and write papers about them. But when should you, as a business manager or entrepreneur, order a legal opinion?

  1. there must be legal uncertainty or a question that cannot be answered quickly and correctly;
  2. this question relates to an issue that is material to your business and has commercial value;
  3. the opinion will help you eliminate the uncertainty and focus on growing your business.

How do you order a legal opinion?

When ordering a legal opinion, you should be clear about your intentions and what you want to achieve with the legal opinion. A competent attorney should explain to you upfront whether such an opinion is plausible and whether it will help you achieve your business goals.

What you put in, you get out.

You must provide your attorney with structured and clearly labelled relevant information and documents. If you provide your lawyer with irrelevant, lengthy documents and information, they will spend a lot of time going through it and will charge you extra. On the other hand, you should also not withhold relevant information from your attorney, as you are responsible for full disclosure for the opinion to have a meaningful impact.

Engage

Your attorney may not know or fully understand the business behind the legal issue. Therefore, you should engage, actively communicate, and try to explain all relevant information. This will help you achieve the desired result and add value.

Negotiate the price

In most cases, legal opinions can be agreed upon entirely, or at least largely, on a flat fee basis. It would be best to ask your solicitors to provide you with an estimate before confirming the assignment.

Do not wait for the draft

Discuss the outcome of the expert report with your solicitor beforehand. Don’t wait until the draft is ready. Attorneys should research before drafting and usually already know what the outcome will be. You may not want to end up with an opinion that is unfavourable to you.

Ask for an executive summary

If the legal opinion is complex, it will be lengthy. Ask your lawyers to write short, clear and useful opinions, but sometimes that is not possible. In such a case, ask them to put a summary at the beginning of the opinion. The person to whom you submit the opinion will most likely not read all the legal jargon but will only be interested in the conclusion and a brief description of the relevant elements. And that’s what an executive summary is for.

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Nejc Novak, LL.M. (UCL)

Nejc Novak, LL.M. (UCL)

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A lawyer and a geek. Busy cracking the EU venture capital space. Founder of Nlaw.