As a small business owner/entrepreneur, you need to make the most out of your operating capital. Attorneys can be expensive and knowing when you need to make that call can be critical to the safe operation of your enterprise. There are instances when you definitely need to hire a business lawyer and sometimes there are things you can safely do on your own.
There are a number of things you can do without the assistance or advice of an attorney:
- Write a business plan
- Choose a name – Be sure to thoroughly research names that are already trademarked
- Reserving a domain name for your website – Again, be sure to do your research
- Writing or updating a partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or shareholder agreements
- Apply for an employer tax identification number (EIN)
- Securing licenses and permits
- Interviewing and hiring employees, independent contractors, and vendors
- Filing appropriate documents with the IRS and handling audits
- Documenting business meetings
- Developing contracts with customers or clients
Just remember that if you feel over your head on any of these issues, you can certainly hire a lawyer, CPA or other professional equipped to help you with the tasks. There are also times when you definitely need legal assistance:
- An employee (former, current or even prospective) filing suit on grounds of discrimination.
- Local, provincial or national governmental entities investigating or suing the business for violations.
- “Special Allocation” of profits and losses to appreciated property belonging to the business.
- Environmental issues, even if you did not cause the issue.
- Negotiating the sale or purchase of your company or another, or even just part of the assets.
Always try to prevent any of these actions before they happen. Once a lawsuit is filed, costs escalate with attorney’s fees, court costs and possibly damages. The fee for a legal consultation is considerably lower than a trial attorney.
A good example is appropriate research and study before the interview and hiring process begins. By knowing what questions you can and cannot ask, can save grief and money in the long run. You may want to consider a consultation arrangement with an attorney for issues that you may be uncertain about. If you have used online resources to create a contract, or appropriate questions to ask during an interview, you may want to present those documents for legal review. The price tag is considerably lower for a consultation than for a lawsuit.
Experience will guide you about when to seek legal counsel and when to trust your business sense. You may want to consult with an attorney early in the game to get a feel for how much help you will need and when you need it. A good idea is to identify a qualified small business law firm now.