Questions many people ask during startup of a business: When do they need a lawyer? Do they even need a lawyer at all? Can they start without one and save some money, then get one later if a problem arises? Unfortunately, there's not one easy answer to these questions. Whether you need a lawyer to start your business depends in large part on what legal type of business you're starting. The simpler your business, the less you'll need a lawyer.

1. A sole proprietorship is the simplest business form. It doesn't require that you register your business with your state, so no, you probably don't need a lawyer to start this type of business. No specific paperwork is required other than local business licenses, and even that can depend on the exact nature of your business and your area's unique requirements. Same is true for partnerships, but it's always a good idea to have a written partnership agreement, which is where a lawyer can be tremendously helpful.

2. Limited liability companies must register with the state. Documents must be prepared, such as a Certificate of Formation and an LLC Operating Agreement. You might be able to register online with your state or use an online service to register your business, but it might be a good idea to use a lawyer if your business is at all complicated.

3. Corporations must register with the state as well. They must prepare bylaws and other documents, and they have a far more complicated ownership structure. You'll almost certainly need a lawyer to help you start any type of corporation. An S corp starts as a corporation then elects S corporation status with the IRS. If it sounds complicated, it is. You might need legal advice.

The most common reasons for needing a lawyer when you start a new business are:

* You need help navigating the many forms and requirements of legal documents that are involved with startup, like incorporation documents.
* Having a lawyer can be expensive, but you'll know that startup is being done right.
* Having a lawyer frees you to focus on other aspects of startup so you don't have to spend time learning the legal processes.
* An attorney can help with specific tasks like trademarking your name, reviewing lease documents, discussing potential legal structures, and preparing incorporation forms.
* Online legal form providers don't always do it right. Businesses aren't one-size-fits-all, so blanket legal documents don't always work.

We have over 21 years' experience representing small businesses and their owners. If we can be of service to you, your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.