Every entrepreneur should know when it's time to call a lawyer. Unfortunately, the legal industry encourages and sometimes requires business owners to hire counsel even for routine tasks that shouldn't require an attorney.
Patents. Patent work is highly technical. It often requires as much engineering and drafting acumen as legal skill. The application must be submitted with specific drawings and depicitons of the invention. Not surprisingly, patent attorneys are often engineers with law degrees. If you're not both a lawyer AND an engineer, hire someone who is.
Bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code is like a lite version of the IRS Code. It's dense and uses a lot of highly technical terms. Bankruptcy bars can be cliquish; it's the same group of lawyers working in a highly specialized subfield often speaking in terms only they really understand. Trying to handle your own bankruptcy is like appearing in court in a foreign country where you don't know the language. It's a bad idea and won't end well.
Complex Transactions. You don't need a lawyer to get a basic NDA or promissory note. But when it comes to most transactions - acquisitions, mergers, services agreements - a lawyer is indispensible. Short, seemingly unimportant clauses hidden away in contracts can have major consequences. Attorneys help you understand not only your rights and obligations, but also whether the risks of doing the deal outweigh the potential benefits. Better to spend a little money up front getting the terms you want than a lot more when you're unpleasantly surprised.
Tax. Have you ever tried to read the entire tax code? And if you're one of the few masochists who has, did you even begin to understand it? Fear not. There are a few people out there who've not only carefully studied the Internal Revenue Code but who actually . . . gulp . . . enjoyed and built entire careers it. If you get a letter from the IRS, call one.
Criminal Charges. There's a well known adage that "a person who represents himself has a fool for a client." That is truest for those who appear pro se to answer criminal charges. Even if the accusations seem so ridiculous that no one could take them seriously, get a lawyer. Otherwise, you might find yourself spending some time in a government involuntary housing program. No one wants that. Most of all you.