Starting a Business? You’ll Need a Good Lawyer
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Large or small, well funded or working on a shoestring, corporation or nonprofit, there’s one thing that every new business venture has in common: the need of a good attorney. A business attorney is an asset from the get-go, assisting new business owners with everything from zoning compliance to incorporation.
Types of Attorneys
As in many industries, attorneys specialize. Just because your niece went to law school doesn’t mean that she can necessarily help you with your new business. When you’re starting a new business venture, look for the following sets of skills:
1. Super familiar with contracts. Your lawyer will need to understand your business quickly, be able to prepare the standard form contracts you will need with customers, clients and suppliers, and help you respond to contracts that other people will want you to sign.
2. Know the ins and outs of business organizations. Your lawyer should be able to help you decide whether a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) is the best way to organize your business, and prepare the necessary paperwork.
3. Understand real estate. Leases for commercial space, like offices and retail stores, are very complex and are always drafted to benefit the landlord. Because they tend to be "printed form" documents, you may be tempted to think they are not negotiable. Not so. Your attorney should have a standard "tenant's addendum," containing provisions that benefit you, that can be added to the printed form lease document.
4. Knowledgeable about taxes and licenses. Although your accountant will prepare and file your business tax returns each year, your lawyer should know how to register your business for federal and state tax identification numbers, and understand the tax consequences of the more basic business transactions in which your business will engage.
5. Can protect your intellectual property. Creative types will need their lawyer to register products and services for federal trademark and copyright protection. If your business attorney doesn’t have this capability, not to worry. Ask about connecting you to a specialist, as this is something that tends to stand apart from general business law.
If you’re concerned about the cost of hiring a lawyer, remember to weigh it against accidentally getting into legal trouble because you were uninformed. And then:
- Be prepared. Before you meet with or call your lawyer, have the necessary documents with you and know exactly what you want to discuss. Fax needed documents ahead of time so your attorney doesn't have to read them during the conference and can instead get right down to business. And refrain from calling your attorney 100 times a day.
- Meet with your lawyer regularly. This may not seem like a good way to keep costs down, but it actually will help reduce endless rounds of phone tag that plague busy entrepreneurs and attorneys. More importantly, a short phone call can save you plenty of money by nipping small legal problems in the bud before they have a chance to grow.
- Ask your attorney to estimate the cost of each matter in writing, so you can decide whether it's worth pursuing.
- Request monthly, itemized bills. Some lawyers wait until a bill gets large before sending an invoice. Ask for monthly invoices instead, and review them thoroughly.
- Find out if you can negotiate prompt-payment discounts. Request that your bill be discounted if you pay within 30 days of your invoice date. A 5-percent discount on legal fees can add thousands of dollars to your yearly bottom line.
Contact us today for an initial consultation. We’ll help you get your business off to a great start.
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