How a Lawyer Can Help Your Business

How a Lawyer Can Help Your Business

For a many entrepreneurs, hiring a lawyer feels a lot like going to the dentist.

It’s unpleasant. It’s expensive. And you’ve got better things to do with your time.

When you put off that teeth cleaning, small cavities turn into big ones. And when you don’t consult a lawyer about business issues, you can make expensive and time consuming mistakes that threaten the life of your business.

Just as it’s a good idea to see your family dentist regularly, small business owners should find a lawyer they like and trust and make that lawyer a part of their business team. Consulting a lawyer when problems first arise can help you handle them properly and avoid bigger troubles down the road.

A lawyer can provide valuable advice and guidance throughout the life of your business.

Legal Advice When You’re Just Starting Out.

  • Startup advice. A lawyer can discuss your plans for the business and identify legal needs. A lawyer’s startup advice might typically include:
    • Advice on the type of business entity that’s best for you.
    • Setting up your business entity.
    • Preparing bylaws or operating agreements
    • Identifying and preparing routine contracts your new business will need.
    • Advising you on issuing shares of stock if you form a corporation.
    • Tax advice.
    • Reviewing and negotiating contracts with third parties, including loan documents and office leases.
  • Advice on employees and independent contractors. Employees and independent contractors create a whole new set of legal issues, from anti-discrimination laws to concerns about confidential company information. A lawyer can:
    • Provide employment-related contracts you might need, including employment agreements, nondisclosure agreements, noncompete agreements and work for hire agreements.
    • Advise you on proper employment policies and procedures.
    • Advise you on the proper use of independent contractors.
    • Advise you on compliance with state and federal employment laws.
    • Prepare employee handbooks.
    • If you are hiring people who aren’t U.S. citizens, an immigration lawyer can assist with visas and other immigration issues.
  • Patent or trademark issues. If your new business involves a patentable item, you will need to consult a patent lawyer to prepare and file your patent application. If you want to trademark your business name, logo, label, packaging or other materials, a lawyer can conduct a thorough trademark search and prepare a complete and correct application.
  • When Your Business is Up and Running

    • Major contracts. When you’re negotiating a major contract, a lawyer with experience in your industry can advise you on terms that are fair and reasonable and can negotiate the contract for you.  Your lawyer can also draft the agreement or review a draft the other party has prepared.
    • Disputes with an employee or a third party. Seek legal advice as soon as you feel a dispute brewing. Without legal advice, you may make damaging statements or offer more than you should to settle the matter. A lawyer can evaluate your situation and recommend a course of action.
    • Expansion. Expanding your business can set off a host of legal issues. If you are opening a new location, you may need new leases and permits. If you are expanding to another state, you’ll need to register your business there. Buying another company raises contract and due diligence issues. Hiring additional employees may bring you within the scope of additional anti-discrimination laws. You may even need a new tax or business structure. A lawyer can help you identify and deal with any legal issues created by your expansion.
    • Succession planning. What happens when one of your business partners dies, divorces or leaves the business? Planning for the future now can ensure a smooth transition and minimize disputes later.
    • Environmental or other regulatory violations. Environmental and regulatory issues can be costly and complex to fix. An experienced lawyer can help you through the process.

    Using a Lawyer to Help Wind Up Your Business

    Every business has a lifespan, and when yours is near the end, a lawyer can offer invaluable guidance on everything from valuing your business to dealing with ongoing contracts and leases to handling employment issues properly.

    • When there’s financial trouble. If your business is failing, a lawyer can help you evaluate your options, including bankruptcy or dissolving the business.
    • When you want to sell the business. An attorney can help you evaluate purchase offers and negotiate and document a sale.
    • Retiring or closing the business. If you’re simply retiring or decide not to operate your business anymore, a lawyer can help you close down the business or sell it.