Why You Need a Small Business Lawyer
Lawsuits are time-consuming and expensive, not to mention that they will damage the reputation of your new business. But they are easy to prevent with the help of a business lawyer. By being legally compliant with policies and contracts that protect your business.
"As a small business, a business attorney is a valuable asset for the expertise and advice they can offer," according to California business lawyer Brad Nakase. "On top of legal assistance, they will be able to provide information on how to set up your business and what steps you need to take, said Brad Nakase." In many cases, they will be able to offer contacts and resources or guides to help you set up your new business and establish yourself. The most important reason for hiring an attorney for your startup is to avoid having to hire a civil litigation lawyer for the many issues a startup business may face.
A business lawyer will help you with the following common business tasks
- Incorporating - It can be difficult to choose the best entity for your business. This decision will have implications for your taxes, personal liability, and the structure of your company. If you have a partner, it may even affect how your company is run and how it is divided in the event of a split. Your business lawyer can walk you through how each one will affect your company and help you to prepare the paperwork.
- Founders' agreements - Founders agreements are vital to the smooth running of a partnership. They clearly lay out the rights and responsibilities of the partners and how profits and company shares will be split.
- Raising capital - Securities laws can be hard to navigate without legal help. A business lawyer will be able to help you raise venture capital in a legal manner.
- Contracts - Contracts are vital to your business's success. A well-written contract will prevent legal issues and protect your business interests.
- Intellectual property protection- Your business's intellectual property will set you apart from your competitors, so make sure you protect it. Patent, copyright, and trademark applications need specific wording to be successful. Incorrect wording can result in incomplete protection or a rejected application.
- Employment issues - Employment issues can be costly to your business, not just financially, but in terms of your reputation and employee productivity. A labor law lawyer will help you to set up policies and contracts to head off the majority of employment issues. They can also help you to create inclusive and legally compliant hiring and firing policies. If there is a need for litigation, having a lawyer who knows your company inside and out will make the process easier.
How to Find a Business Lawyer
Before you start looking for a business attorney, you need to know the full extent of legal help you require. Write down as much as you can about the aspects of your business and where you need a lawyer's assistance. For example, do you need to patent your technology? Do you plan to have many employees? Are you are B2B business and therefore need iron-clad contracts?
If you know exactly what type of law you require assistance with, then you will be able to narrow down your search to business lawyers who have those skills.
2. Create a Shortlist
There are a number of ways you can find business lawyers to consider for your shortlist. A good place to start is online legal directories. Your state bar association will have an up to date list of practicing lawyers, but there are also some industry-specific legal directories too.
Perhaps the best way to find a business attorney is to ask people you know who their business lawyer is. Talk to friends or family who own businesses or other small businesses that you frequent. Ask about how their lawyer helps their business and why they would recommend them to you. This gives you the chance to hear an honest review and be able to ask questions about the attorney's skills and work ethic.
3. Book a Consultation With Each of Your Shortlist
Think of this as a job interview of sorts. You need to determine if the lawyer is a good match for your company. Do they align with your company values, your communication style, and the experience you need your attorney to have? Speak to everyone on your shortlist so that you can make an informed decision.
We recommend clients prepare some questions in advance and bring them to the consultation to ensure they use the time wisely and receive all the information they need to make a decision. Most attorneys offer free consultations so that they can meet with prospective clients. Start with asking about the following things as well as questions specific to your company.
- What is your experience?
- Have you worked with businesses similar to mine in terms of size or structure?
- Have you worked with businesses in my industry?
- Tell me about your team and the people who will be working on legal matters for me
- Do you have a good network of legal specialists?
- What are your fees and billing structures like?
- Have you dealt with XYZ legal issue in the past? How was it resolved?
- What is your preferred method of communication with clients?
- Do you foresee any conflicts of interest?
Remember that a lawyer's personality is just as important as their experience. Your business attorney will guide you through stressful times, so you need someone who is easy to work with. Look at if the attorney takes the time to explain things to you and give you plenty of information. They should respond to "silly questions" with patience and not make you feel embarrassed for asking what may seem like simple questions.
4. Don't Call Your Business Attorney With Every Single Question
You may be really excited to have a lawyer and be keen to seek legal advice on everything, but that will run up steep legal bills very quickly! One of the best things you can do is set up clear categories of things that you can find out online and things that you should consult your lawyer about. You could even discuss this with your attorney when you hire them; they will not want to be peppered with emails for simple queries. Many business lawyers will have a wealth of information on their website to discuss basic laws and frequently asked questions. Check there before you contact your lawyer as a rule of thumb.
However, for complex situations and things that you feel may turn into a dispute, it is good to err on the side of caution. Pick up the phone and present the situation to your attorney and find out if they have a simple fix or think it is best to get involved.
Always speak to your business attorney about:
- Employment policy changes
- Hiring and firing decisions
- Workplace conflicts like sexual harassment or discrimination
These are situations where it is best to run things by your business lawyer at the very least.