Choosing the right RIA attorney for my business

Navigating the intricate world of investment advisory can be a daunting experience for businesses, both seasoned and new. 

With a plethora of regulations to follow, disclosure documents to maintain, and clients to keep informed, the role of a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) goes beyond just managing investments. 

And as with any critical business function, ensuring that you’re legally compliant and protected is paramount. Enter the RIA attorney.

An RIA attorney is not just another lawyer — they are specialists well-versed in the complexities of investment advisory regulations and operations. 

They play a pivotal role in ensuring that your investment advisory business runs smoothly, ethically, and within the bounds of the law. From handling regulatory audits to drafting crucial advisory agreements, these attorneys can be the cornerstone of a successful RIA business.

But as with any professional service, not all RIA attorneys are created equal. The stakes are high, and the wrong choice can result in costly legal missteps. 

This blog post aims to guide you in making an informed decision when choosing the right RIA attorney for your business, ensuring that you’re not only compliant but also confident in the legal standing of your operations. Read ahead to say goodbye to those My RIA Lawyer in Atlanta Google searches!

6 factors to consider when hiring an RIA attorney

Navigating the landscape of RIA attorneys can feel overwhelming, especially given the high stakes involved. However, by understanding and prioritizing 6 key factors, you can narrow down your options and find the best fit for your business needs.

Experience

  • Depth and breadth: When it comes to legal matters, experience often translates to expertise. Look for a compliance lawyer with a proven track record in the investment advisory space, considering both the number of years they’ve practiced and the range of issues they’ve addressed.
  • Regulatory insights: An attorney familiar with both state and federal regulations, and who has dealt with bodies like the SEC, can be invaluable.

Specialization

  • Focused practice: While many attorneys might claim to serve RIAs, there’s a difference between occasional service and specialization. An attorney who primarily focuses on investment advisory businesses is likely more up-to-date with industry-specific challenges and changes.
  • Continued education: Laws and regulations evolve. Check if your prospective attorney prioritizes ongoing training in their specialty.

Client testimonials & references

  • Past client insights: Testimonials can give you a candid view of the attorney’s strengths and potential weaknesses. While a few negative reviews are normal, consistent issues should be a red flag.
  • Direct feedback: Whenever possible, reach out to previous clients. Their firsthand experiences can offer invaluable insights.

Cost and fee structure

  • Transparency is key: A reputable attorney will be upfront about how they charge, whether it’s an hourly rate, a retainer, or a flat fee. Hidden costs or vague billing practices can be a warning sign.
  • Value over cost: While it’s essential to find an attorney within your budget, the cheapest option isn’t always the best. Prioritize the value they bring to your business.

Availability and communication

  • Open channels: In the dynamic world of investment advising, you need an attorney who’s available when you need them. Assess their responsiveness to initial queries as a test.
  • Preferred medium: Make sure they’re willing to communicate in a manner that’s convenient for you, whether it’s via email, phone, or in-person meetings.

Cultural fit

  • Alignment of values: Every attorney has their approach. Some are aggressive, while others are more conciliatory. Find someone who aligns with your business values and understands your vision.
  • Building a partnership: The relationship with your RIA attorney is more than just a transaction. It’s a partnership, and ensuring a good cultural fit can pave the way for a fruitful long-term relationship.

The interview process

Once you’ve shortlisted a few RIA attorneys, you’ll interview them to finalize one candidate. Here’s how you can make the most of it:

Preparing questions in advance

  • Clarify expertise: While they might have general experience as an RIA attorney, ask about their specific experiences related to your business’s unique needs or concerns.
  • Scenario questions: Present hypothetical situations related to regulatory compliance, audits, or other RIA-specific issues and gauge their responses. You can use any of your company’s previous legal troubles to frame questions.
  • Operational insights: Inquire about how they manage their workload, turnaround times for queries, and their preferred mode of communication.

Evaluating their approach

  • Proactive vs. reactive: A great attorney doesn’t just respond to issues; they proactively identify potential challenges and advise on avoiding them. Get a sense of their proactive measures.
  • Handling conflicts: It’s crucial to understand how they handle disagreements or conflicts. Are they combative, collaborative, or somewhere in between? Their approach should align with your business’s values.
  • Updates and continuous learning: The RIA regulatory environment is ever-evolving. Ask about how they stay updated with the latest regulations and industry best practices.

Discussing past case studies

  • Real-world applications: Encourage them to share previous challenges they’ve faced and the strategies they employed. This can give you a deeper understanding of their problem-solving skills and experience.
  • Client relationships: Ask about long-term clients they’ve had and what has kept those relationships strong. This can provide insights into their reliability and consistency.
  • Lessons learned: Every attorney, regardless of experience, has faced setbacks. What’s important is how they’ve learned and evolved from them. Encourage candid discussions about past mistakes and the lessons they derived from them.

Evaluating fit

  • Personal rapport: Beyond professional qualifications, it’s essential to have a good personal rapport with your attorney. This relationship can last years, and mutual respect and understanding are foundational.
  • Understanding of business goals: Your attorney should be genuinely interested in the broader goals and vision of your business, not just the immediate legal tasks at hand.

Remember, the interview process is your opportunity to peer beyond the credentials and get a genuine sense of who the attorney is and how they operate. It’s both an evaluative and a collaborative process, so take your time, be thorough, and trust your instincts.

Final words

Selecting the right RIA attorney is more than just ticking boxes on a checklist. It’s about establishing a partnership that will stand the test of time, one where mutual respect, trust, and understanding take center stage. 

By following the guidelines provided, you are not only securing legal counsel but also gaining a good strategic partner like My RIA Lawyer, someone who understands the nuances of the investment advisory world. Good luck!

By Carol Cooperman