In all the excitement of setting up shop, it is easy to be a starry-eyed optimist – and ignore any foreboding. While a positive outlook is to be revered and cherished, don’t wait until something bad does happen to call on the services of a small business lawyer. It is the smart thing to do.
A small business attorney will provide essential counsel in just about every facet of your business – correct business incorporation procedures, zoning compliance, copyright and trademark guidance, liability and small business insurance. A startup lawyer focuses on setting up the legal structure which allows your startup to raise capital, issue equity to key employees, and scale quickly.
Who do you need?
Attorneys are increasingly specialized on specific aspects of the law. Choosing a firm that covers all, or at least most, of you needs is an important consideration from the outset. Some of the areas of law which are commonly needed by startups include:
- Preparation and review of contracts between you and your customers and suppliers.
- Analysis of the best way to organize your business – a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) – and the relevant paperwork.
- Negotiation of leases for your commercial space.
- Assistance with trademark and copyright protection.
- Liability and small business insurance
What to look for in a small business lawyer?
- The best place to start when selecting a lawyer is usually within your network. Asking for a referral is a reliable way to find a lawyer with whom you can relate, feel comfortable, and trust.
- You want a lawyer who has the patience to explain the law to you so that you and your team can avoid legal issues ahead of time.
- Competent law firms are experienced with the types of issues you may face. No one lawyer knows everything about every area of law. For specialized instances, your attorney should have a working relationship with a network of various law specialists.
- Your attorney should be somewhat familiar with your industry and its legal environment. Ideally, though, your lawyer doesn’t have said knowledge from representing your key competitors.
- One of the reasons small business owners are wary of hiring a lawyer is the costs involved. While an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, there are ways to reduce unnecessary expenses. Ensure that the law firm you go with assigns the right seniority for the job. While you don’t want a rookie to be negotiating on your behalf, you shouldn’t pay for a senior partner to prepare the documents.