Hiring the right business lawyer is important. Your attorney can advise you on a variety of matters from the type of business you form at the start to how to handle complex legal situations. They’re there to support you through any conflicts or incidents that arise.
As time goes on and your lawyer gets to know you and your business better, they will become one of your most valuable assets.
Business lawyers are not one-size-fits-all. As with all important relationships, it’s paramount to make sure you’re professionally compatible. Take your time in finding the right legal support for your specific business needs.
First, find a business law firm that has experience dealing with companies in your sector. Knowledge of your industry means they’ll be better able to protect your business against the types of issues that affect it.
Researching lawyers can be daunting. The sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. Online reviews are amazingly helpful. Look past online ratings and take time to read actual client reviews, especially those in the same industry as you.
Ask other business owners about their experiences with their attorneys. Referrals from others in your industry are helpful. Ask other business owners how they resolved conflicts or tough situations. Knowing that a lawyer has been successful in representing other business owners is a good indicator that they can fulfill your needs as well.
Make a shortlist of candidates and sit down with each one. Ask questions and follow up on their responses. The conversation should leave you feeling confident in their abilities.
Find out about their experience in your specific industry. Get them to share why they think they would best represent your business. Explain what your goals are as a business owner, and ask them how they can help you achieve them.
Trust your instincts. While knowledge and experience are important, you need to feel that you can communicate comfortably with your attorney and that you trust their judgment.
Over time, your business lawyer will prove useful in many ways. They’ll learn about you and your business’s needs and direction. They will be able to make recommendations to improve the areas of your company. It’s smart to get your attorney involved as much as possible.
It’s best to use your business lawyer’s guidance and expertise even before your company gets off the ground. Creating your company with a strong legal foundation can protect you in the long run. This investment will likely save you money for years to come.
Deciding on the type of business that you form is complicated. The most common choices are a limited liability company (LLC), a sole proprietorship, a partnership and a corporation. Each structure has varying degrees of liability and tax implications. Choosing the right option will protect you in the long run, save you money for years to come and potentially shield you from personal liability.
All business relationships with your customers and suppliers are governed by contracts. Your lawyer can make sure that such agreements provide your company with the highest degree of protection. They can also check over suppliers’ contracts and give you advice on whether or not you should sign them.
The right contract is particularly important if you’re going into business with a family member or friend. You can avoid ugly situations later by getting the terms of your agreement in writing. Your attorney can create a contract to protect the interests of all parties involved.
Your lawyer will create a contract for your customers outlining what you will provide to them and how and when they pay you. Depending on whether you are a service company or selling a product, what you need in your contracts will vary.
You also need a contract to deal with consultants and contractors. Your attorney can draft a contract that clearly details the work they will perform for you as well as when they get paid.
Complying with tax law is one of the most complicated parts of running a business. Your business lawyer’s expert advice can prevent future issues with taxation. They can also find credits and deductions to potentially save you cash come tax season.
Your business lawyer can guide you in developing a proactive recordkeeping system to make prepping for tax filing simpler. They will keep you updated on due dates and filing deadlines. You can concentrate on running your business while your lawyer ensures your tax compliance.
You need a business lawyer to make sure that your business’s cash and assets, including your intellectual property, are properly protected. Attorneys can also help you with trademark registrations and copyright applications.
For example, if outside consultants and contractors handle sensitive proprietary information when working for you, your attorney can add in a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to their contract of work. The NDA can cover everything from product plans to client lists – everything that’s valuable to your business. They can also advise you when you might need to enforce the NDA.
They can draw up a liability waiver to shield yourself from prosecution if a customer injures themselves on your premises. This would be particularly useful for bars, restaurants and more – any business that welcomes the public into its premises.
Employment law is complicated. You’ve got to consider both federal and state legislation when hiring, handling and firing members of staff.
Underpinning all employer-employee relationships should be a clear employment contract that outlines what is expected of both parties. It should state without ambiguity how their work will be compensated and what benefits they receive.
Ask your attorney to write an employment contract that addresses other concerns like:
Your lawyer can also create an employee manual containing common employee concerns like dress codes and paid time off.
Make sure you keep lines of communication with your attorney open at all times, especially when a dispute arises and in cases of employment termination. Your lawyer can protect you from claims from and suits brought by disgruntled past employees. Be sure to consult with them before firing an employee to make sure that you’re doing it properly so you’re not vulnerable to claims of unlawful termination.
Sharp downturns in the economy or unforeseen circumstances happen. They can put your business in a situation that you simply can’t recover from. However, this doesn’t have to mean the end of the road for your company. Your attorney can guide you through the bankruptcy process so your business can recover and even flourish.
Such hard times can be overwhelming, but your business lawyer is an expert at navigating them. They will help you decide on the right course of action. Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy can help you reorganize your business. With the guidance of your lawyer, you can develop a plan to make things right with your creditors. You may even be able to discharge a portion of the debt you own. Your lawyer will present the plan to the bankruptcy court, and with their approval, you’ll be on the road to financial recovery.
Your attorney’s job is to keep you out of court. If you file a business lawsuit against someone or they file one against you, your lawyer and the other party’s lawyer will do everything possible to settle before the case reaches a courtroom. Doing so costs everyone less money and takes a fraction of the time.
But, if an agreement with you and the other party can’t be reached, your attorney will be with you every step of the way to help guide you through the legal process. They can also help you propose a settlement if necessary to remediate the situation at a lower cost.
A business lawyer is a valuable addition to your team. They’re there for the big moments, but they’re also available to support you day to day. Making decisions is a tough task for a business owner. Having a knowledgeable expert on your side can help. They can offer immediate advice and provide guidance through everything from transactions to terminations.
Your business lawyer can be a trusted advisor and fierce advocate. Developing and fostering your relationship with them can provide you with useful resources and help your business grow and prosper.
Doron Hafner contributed to this article.