The summer is a good time to start thinking about starting your own business, although unless it is a seasonal business, any time is a good time to start your own business. July has brought a variety of entrepreneurs to my office to assist them with starting up their companies. Usually they are referred by their friends or other small business owners who they know are represented by me. The first question is almost always:
How can a lawyer help me start my business?
That's a general question that could be answered over hours of discussion. But I try to summarize it best for the folks who come to see me:
- Incorporation: Most people have heard all the commercials on tv and the radio and understand the need to incorporate their business. A lawyer can help you put the proper paperwork together and get it filed with the appropriate state.
- Corporate Form: Depending on what state you will be incorporating in, your lawyer can help you choose what corporate form (i.e. an LLC, a Partnership, a Sole Proprietorship) would be best for your business. It's also important to talk to your accountant (or find an accountant to talk to) to work in conjunction with your lawyer to ensure that you are utilizing the best corporate form for your tax purposes.
- Operating Agreement: Especially if you are going to be opening a business with a partner or partners, you'll want to make sure you have some type of agreement in place to detail out your working arrangements and how to deal with conflicts in making decisions. This is probably the most important document that a lawyer can prepare for you when starting a business.
- Copyright/Trademark Searches and Registration: When selecting the name and preparing promotional materials for your new business, you'll need to make sure you aren't infringing on anyone else's trademarks or copyrights. And if you aren't, then make sure you get your intellectual property copyrighted and trademarked as appropriate.
- Employment Agreements: If you are going to be hiring employees, you'll want to make sure that your employment agreements comply with the law and are going to be upheld in case there is a dispute between you and an employee down the road.
- Vendor/Customer Agreements: If you are going to be selling goods or services to clients where agreements are necessary for terms of delivery and payment, your lawyer should be involved to make sure that you have the appropriate language to make sure you are getting paid and are protected in the case of any dispute.
These are just a few of the ways that a lawyer can help you when you start your business. In addition, my clients also value that I have started my own business and understand the stresses and responsibilities of what it takes and we can all take as entrepreneurs about ideas for how to grow their businesses.
When selecting an attorney to assist you with starting your business, as with any other matter, the most important factor in my opinion is to ensure that you have a strong working relationship with a lawyer you respect and trust.