All over the country and state businesses start and fail every day. Small business owners have a lot on their mind, what with overhead, startup costs, retaining customers, ordering inventory, etc. It’s easy to understand why the prospect of hiring a business attorney sounds like a needless and unwarranted expense if your business is small, or new, or both. The problem with this is that most business owners are experts in their chosen trade, not in business law. So when a crisis arises, such businesses often go under because they haven’t prepared in such a way as to protect their business legally the way only experts in the law can.
THE BUSINESS ATTORNEY’S ROLE
A business attorney is simply an attorney who specializes in and understands the law and other issues surrounding the owning and operating of a business. Such attorney’s generally have experience in a variety of business needs such as trademarks, copyrights, tax issues, employment contracts, etc. Your specific business or industry may require even more from a business attorney depending on the risk involved with and scope of your enterprise.
The bottom line with your business attorney is they provide that ounce of prevention that is proverbially worth a pound of cure. They help you protect yourself from and avoid what could be devastating issues for your business and team. However, as money doesn’t grow on trees, I thought we’d talk about a few issues you might be able to handle on your own before getting your business attorney involved. A good business attorney for small business owners is one who understands the constraints of your budget and caters their services accordingly. You don’t want one who is constantly busy with larger corporate clients as they likely won’t have as much time to dedicate and are not focused on the needs and issues small business owners face.
WHAT YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF WITHOUT HAVING TO CALL YOUR ATTORNEY
Now, depending on your business and industry, some of these things you may need to trust to your attorney, but when cutting costs, consider some of the following as issues you could handle yourself. A good compromise is putting these together and having your attorney review them rather than hiring them to draft them for you:
Creating your business plan. Why not at least do the first draft on your own?
You can save some cash by filing for trademarks and copyrights online yourself. It’s far cheaper to simply consult with the attorney about your filing than have them take care of the whole process for you.
Take care of domain names on your own.
Find a template for your LLC or other operating agreement. Fill it out as much as you can before getting your attorney involved.
Consider applying for your Employer Identification Number on your own, also consider applying for any other trade-specific licenses and permits.
File your taxes on your own. You can have your attorney prepare them for you as a compromise.
Document your LLC meetings on your own.
Use templates for contracts and buy-sell agreements from a reputable online resource
As you can see, if you are willing to spend a little time, you can cutout part of the work for your attorney to reduce the amount of time for which you need to hire them. Clearly this list is not exhaustive, but it still gives several ideas to help you understand the best way to utilize your attorney on a small business budget.
ISSUES WHERE YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST RELY ON YOUR SMALL BUSINESS ATTORNEY
Now, unlike the issues we already discussed, there are going to come times when you absolutely want your attorney involved and should not proceed without them. This is typically the case in any situation where the issues are just overly complex, or where it would take too much of your own time, or where the liability is too high. The higher the risk, cost, or amount of time an issue is likely to incur, the greater the chance you should trust your attorney with it.
Anytime an employee (former or current) may sue your business for a case of discrimination or an issue with a hostile work environment.
Anytime you want to make special arrangements with your LLC (to ensure you stay compliant)
If you receive any sort of complaint from an official government agency or notification of a pending investigation against your business.
Anytime you enter into negotiations to buyout a competitor or sell your business.
Any issue involving the environment and your business. Even if you are only indirectly involved and were completely unaware of the impact.
Again, this list is just a sampling and cannot be considered complete. The key is to notice the complexity, heightened liability, and heavy demand on your time addressing these issues requires.
PREVENTION IS ALWAYS THE BEST MEDICINE
The bottom line is that the costs of hiring a business attorney will always be far, far, far less than the costs of having needed one and not hiring them. So yes, you must retain an attorney as a small business, and you should utilize their aide to identify and prevent possible catastrophes. At the end of the day, protecting the investment of your time and money is too important to try to save a few dollars.
Just consider how much more you’ll spend on an attorney defending you in a discrimination suit for asking a question you shouldn’t have in an interview – even if you settle out of court – than you would have spent on one to consult about such issues and learn not to ask that question in the first place.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
Every business and business owner is different, but they all need protection. If you own a business or are starting one up and you have questions about how to best protect your business or need the aid of a qualified, experienced, and dedicated small business attorney, call The Law Offices of Yoel Molina today. Yoel has years of experiences helping countless business owners on all kinds of legal issues. He has the know-how, skill, and business acumen to help you protect your business.