If you're a small business owner, your lawyer is here to protect you by predicting future problems, and either steering you away from these situations or putting the necessary documents in place to protect you going forward.

PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS. Most partners forget that a simple handshake doesn’t cut it. At some point, you want to transfer everything that was scribbled down on that napkin into a more formal agreement. It could be called a Partnership Agreement or Operating Agreement (where you organize as a LLC). Whatever you want to call it or however you decide to organize, just know that having an agreement that reflects everyone’s rights and obligations is a must. Of course, you also want to plan ahead for when a partner leaves. Typically, your lawyer will include a break up provision in the Operating Agreement detailing the necessary asset or ownership split.

KEEPING TRACK OF ORGANIZATION DOCUMENTS AND PAYING ANNUAL FEES. This is probably the one thing you will profusely thank your lawyer for because keeping track of documents and annual fees is definitely a pain. Your lawyer can also act as your organization’s registered agent, and in the event that anything comes up (e.g., legal complaints or summons) that needs attention, you know that by having your lawyer as your registered agent, he or she will address the situation immediately. And in the event that you are still figuring out how your business is going to operate, your lawyer will advise you on which form of legal organization is best for your business based on your size, location, ownership, liability, tax, and financial concerns.

DRAFTING CONTRACTS. contracts are important! But it’s a good thing you thought about hiring a lawyer, because they are there to help you with any contract that might come up. Initially, this will include basic employment or freelancer contracts, as well as intellectual property agreements.

LITIGATION. This is probably the only time you will really want your lawyer to be a jerk. It’s because they know how to handle (read: get rid of) disgruntled customers, vendors, etc. Whether you are at fault or not, you probably want to avoid litigation at all costs and your lawyer will help with that. They will also advise you on whether settling is a good idea or not, and perhaps even be able to convince the other party to drop the lawsuit.

PROTECTING TRADE SECRETS OR CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION. Sometimes trade secrets or confidential information gets out and you may no longer have a business. That’s when a lawyer steps in and uses legal tools (aka the nasty letter) or an injunction to stop any further misuse. More importantly, in order to avoid confidential information getting out in the first place, your lawyer will draft a confidentiality agreement that will specifically prohibit misuse of confidential information.

ON-SITE. Lawyers can help you during conferences or other marketing events that require media release waivers, liability waivers, contests, etc. Remember the pages of waivers you signed before attending that last conference? Yeah, a fancy pants lawyer wrote those!

You may not have the budget to keep a lawyer on retainer to consult every time you need to make a decision, but small business owners often forget to consider the legal implications of their decisions. We're here to help. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today.