A lot of small business owners think lawyers' fees are too high and many small businesses don't have much, if any, extra capital with which to pay lawyers. As a result, most small business owners only hire a lawyer when confronted with a serious legal problem (e.g., you're being sued). However, legal help is a cost of doing business that often saves you money and helps your business in the long run.
While you certainly don't need an attorney for every step of running your business, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. We can help you with:
* Incorporating your business or forming an LLC
* Trademarking your business name and logo
* Creating a legal partnership agreement, limited liability company (LLC) operating agreement, or shareholder's agreement
* Applying for an employer identification number (EIN)
* Applying for any licenses and permits the business requires
* Advising you on interviewing and hiring employees (there are federal and state antidiscrimination laws which regulate the hiring of employees)
* Submitting necessary IRS forms
* Documenting LLC, shareholders', directors', or partners' meetings
* Drafting agreements for independent contractors and vendors
* Drafting contracts for use with customers or clients
* Creating a buy-sell agreement with partners
* Updating any partnership, LLC, or shareholder's agreements under which you are currently operating
There are also times when a business faces issues that are complex, time consuming, or fraught with liability issues. Those are the times when hiring are lawyer are absolutely necessary. A few examples include:
* Former, current, or prospective employees suing on the grounds of discrimination in hiring, firing, or hostile work environment
* Local, state, or federal government entities filing complaints or investigating your business for violation of any laws or regulations
* You want to make a "special allocation" of profits and losses or you want to contribute appreciated property to your partnership or LLC
* An environmental issue arises and your business is involved (even if your business didn't cause the environmental problem, you may be penalized)
* Negotiating for the sale or your company or for the acquisition of another company or its assets
While you certainly need to hire a lawyer for the serious issues above, your emphasis should be placed on preventing such occurrences in the first place. Prevention does not necessarily involve hiring a lawyer, though consulting with one wouldn't hurt. By the time you or your business is sued, the preventable damage has been done and the only question that remains is how much you'll be paying in attorney's fees, court fees, and damages.
For example, by the time a prospective employee files a lawsuit claiming gender discrimination based in part upon questions posed at the job interview, all you can do is hire an attorney to defend the lawsuit. If, on the other hand, you had done your own research on anti-discrimination laws, or you had consulted an attorney beforehand, you would have known not to inquire as to whether the applicant was pregnant or planned on becoming pregnant. The small effort at the beginning of the process would save you an enormous headache later.
To prevent unnecessary attorney costs at the inception of your business as well as tremendous costs after a lawsuit has been filed, you might consider a consultation arrangement with an attorney. Such an arrangement would entail you doing most of the legwork of research and the attorney providing legal review or guidance. For example, you might use self help and online sources to create a contract with a vendor and ask an attorney to simply review and offer suggestions. Or from the previous example, you might research types of questions to ask during an interview and then send the list to an attorney for his or her approval. This way, you prevent the potential headache later and the cost to you is minimal because you've already done most of the work and the attorney simply reviews the document.
Over the past 20 years, we have served nearly 100 small businesses and their owners. If you're a small business owner and want legal advice to help start a new business or keep your current business running smoothly, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to make an appointment today.