By the time your business is being served a summons, it may be too late. While an attorney can certainly help you get out of a mess, it’s better to have a lawyer assist you in preventing the mess to begin with. Every small business needs a business attorney and it’s important to hire one from the start.
The Value of a Good Business Attorney
As Cliff Ennico of Entrepreneur.com writes, “America’s judicial system is a lot like a Roach Motel – it’s easy to get into court, but very difficult to get out once you’ve ben ‘trapped.’” That’s why you need an attorney from the start.
While it can be expensive for a young entrepreneur to cut regular checks for the services of an attorney, the cost of preventing issues is much cheaper than the cost of trying to dig your way out of a legal problem. A good lawyer can help you in the following areas:
- Creating a legal entity. From the start, you’ll need an attorney to guide you through the process of setting up a legal partnership agreement, LLC, or shareholder’s agreement. As the foundation of your business, you can’t afford to mess anything up here.
- Drafting contracts. Whether you’re hiring full-time employees or independent contractors, you must be very careful, accurate, and articulate when drafting contracts. Money has a way of making people do strange things and you don’t want to find yourself in a battle over payments or work in the future. If nothing else, have an attorney review your contracts before implementing them.
- Corporate governance. Each state has its own requirements for how annual shareholder, director, and partner meetings must be held. Failure to follow the rules could jeopardize your corporate status and leave you with a liability issue. It’s best to have an attorney guide you through the process for protection purposes.
- Intellectual property. Are the intangible assets of your company legally protected? It’s best to protect everything from your brand name and logo to proprietary software and unique processes. While you may think everyone is your friend, you’d be surprised to learn that close associates often take ideas with them when they move on.
Finding the Right Attorney
When looking for a lawyer, attorney Justin T. Surginer suggests asking the right questions. In his opinion, the most telling questions are:
- How long have you practiced business law? You want an attorney who has multiple years of experience. It’s even better if they have experience working with business similar to yours.
- What resources and connections do you have? An attorney should always have a team of outside resources ready to go. If you have specialized needs, can the attorney properly attend to them?
- What does your billing structure look like? Some attorneys charge on an hourly basis, while others assign flat fees to specific tasks. Understanding how much an attorney charges will allow you to make educated choices.
While no business can completely protect itself from legal trouble, hiring a business attorney upfront can significantly mitigate large amounts of risk. Whether you’re a new entrepreneur or experienced professional, don’t overlook the importance of a business attorney.