Starting a new business is complicated, expensive, and above all else, time-consuming. With a multitude of things to consider, it is no surprise that many entrepreneurs only consult with an attorney after they find themselves facing a serious legal problem. This can cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of your time.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of consulting a small business lawyer and how they can aid the long-term success of your business.
What Can a Small Business Lawyer Do For You?
Legal guidance is an investment for small businesses, saving time and reducing the possibility of legal issues later down the road. Most entrepreneurs rely on experienced business attorneys to provide guidance in areas where they lack experience, including:
- Compliance: Ensuring your business launches and operates in compliance with federal, state, and local laws.
- Risk: Establishing guidelines and procedures that limit your legal risk.
- Liability: Defining strong terms of service and contract language that reduces your liability in the event of a legal claim.
- Contracts and Agreements: Establishing formal legal documents that govern relationships across the organization.
- Taxes: Determining accurate taxes owed and lowering tax liability by identifying appropriate business-related deductions and reimbursements.
Topics to Cover When Consulting a Small Business Lawyer
When meeting with a business attorney for the first time, it is a good idea to have a list of questions prepared. Here are some topics you should consider covering:
- Determining Business Structure: It is important to decide early in the planning process how your business will be structured. A lawyer can evaluate the nature and size of your business and help you decide between a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation. They can also explain the associated taxes and legal pros and cons of each potential structure.
- Choosing a Business Name: An attorney can conduct research to ensure your business name is not trademarked or in use by another business. Choosing a name that is already trademarked can cause serious financial and legal problems. If you hope to trademark your business name at some point, it is essential to choose a name that meets the criteria for trademark protection. A lawyer can explain the rules and help you research options.
- Minimizing Employer Risks: A number of federal and state employment laws can apply to your new business, meaning you risk fines, penalties, and employment-related litigation if a violation occurs. A small business attorney can help you create policies and procedures, handbooks, and training materials that keep you in compliance.
- Creating Contracts: Contracts protect your business by describing the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved. They reduce the number of disputes that arise, ensure you get paid for work, and provide a clear solution should one party violate an agreement. Entrepreneurs should always have a lawyer draft or review routine agreements and all major contracts.
- Obtaining Licenses and Permits: Small business attorneys can help entrepreneurs identify and obtain the necessary licenses and permits needed before setting up shop and welcoming customers. Relevant documents might include general business licenses, trade-specific licenses, or zoning permits.
A Business Lawyer is an Investment in Prevention
While a business attorney is essential when dealing with serious legal issues, their real value lies in preventing these occurrences in the first place. By hiring an experienced attorney early, you can build a solid foundation for your business for years to come.