Should I Hire a Lawyer to Help with Starting a Business?
Starting your own business can be an enormously rewarding experience, but it is also an enormous undertaking. Perhaps you have a business plan and the capital to get started already. All that's left is to sign a few papers, and you will be on your way to entrepreneurial success. This is where most new business owners hit a road block. The legalese in the many documents, financing, licensing, employee relationship policies and more, may be beyond the scope of your expertise.
Hiring a lawyer to sort through the contracts and agreements can streamline the process in a major way. If you think hiring a lawyer is too expensive, consider how expensive it will be to correct mistakes you might make on the paperwork. Some say, If you're being sued, it's too late to hire a lawyer. Making the investment to have everything done right the first time could actually save you money and get your business up and running in a fraction of the time.
Lawyers are a dime a dozen these days, so start by identifying exactly what sort of attorney you need. Because the field is so competitive, lawyers are becoming increasingly specialized. You will need someone or a large firm of someones who can deal with contracts, real estate, taxes, licenses and perhaps corporations to cover all of your bases. If you plan to retain this attorney for the duration of your business, experience with employment law is also a necessity. Media and design firms will also need someone familiar with intellectual property to secure copyrights and trademarks.
You are more likely to find someone to cover all of your needs at a large firm, but these are more expensive to hire because they have greater overhead. If you have already made headway toward getting your business off the ground and you only have very specialized needs left to handle, consider a smaller shop with a good reputation to keep your costs low. If your inner circle includes other business owners, ask around for recommendations. Before you commit to an attorney's services, set up a consultation meeting--standard for most lawyers--to talk about your needs and fees.
Using Your Lawyer Wisely
Attorneys bill their clients hourly, so use your time wisely. During the initial consultation, which is usually gratis, the lawyer will tell you what materials she needs to determine whether she will represent you. Before your first billed meeting, do some research so you can get right to business. Knowing all of the licensing requirements and financing needs you have to get started will further streamline the process.
First, gather your business plan. A well-constructed plan will give the lawyer the necessary background information so you don't have to talk it out on the clock. Next, research the form of business organizations you can pursue. Limited liability companies, corporations and partnerships all operate differently and have different benefits. You can save time in your meetings by being familiar with these and forming an opinion on your best option.
Much like a will, business owners need an exit strategy. If you die or become disabled, what happens to the company? If the company goes bankrupt, how will you meet your financial obligations to investors, vendors and franchisers? Questions like these can be sorted out from the start by hiring a qualified lawyer to keep the business running smoothly from start to finish.
Consider legal fees a requisite cost of doing business. A lawyer can get you off the ground and keep the business afloat over time. Starting a business is too much work to flub because you lacked legal counsel.
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