It's a question many people ask during startup of a business: When do they need a lawyer? Do they even need a lawyer? Can they start without one and save some money, then get one later if and when 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 type of business you're starting. The simpler your business, the less you'll need a lawyer.

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business form. It doesn't require that you register your business with the state. 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.

Partnerships and LLCs must register with the state. Documents must be prepared, such as a partnership agreement or 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.

C corporations and S 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 corporation starts as a C corporation then elects S corporation status with the IRS. If it sounds complicated, it is. You might need help.

The most common reasons for needing a lawyer are:

* Navigating the many forms and requirements of legal documents, like incorporation documents, that are involved.
* Assurance the startup is being done right.
* Enabling you to focus on other aspects of the business so you don't have to spend time learning the legal processes.
* Support 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.

If you're starting up a new business, either by yourself or with a partner or two, and you have legal questions, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.