Among the countless worries for entrepreneurs who are starting or are already running a small business is the question of whether they need a business lawyer. The perception is that attorneys charge high rates and many small businesses don't have much, if any, extra capital with which to pay lawyers. As a result, most small business owners only hire an attorney experienced with business matters when confronted with a serious legal problem (e.g., you're sued by a customer). However, legal help is a cost of doing business that often saves you money and helps your business in the long run.
While you certainly don't need an attorney for every step of running your business, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.
Here is a list of some tasks that business owners should bring in a business lawyer for:
- Creating a legal partnership agreement, limited liability company (LLC) operating agreement, or shareholder's agreement
- Interviewing and hiring, and firing, employees (there are federal and state anti-discrimination laws which regulate the hiring of employees)
- Creating your employee handbook
- Creating your safety handbook
- Documenting LLC meetings
- Hiring independent contractors and contracting with vendors
- Creating contracts for use with customers or clients
- Creating a buy-sell agreement with partners
- Updating any partnership, LLC, or shareholder's agreements under which you are currently operating
This is not an complete list of legal tasks which small business owners should not do on your own.
Get in Touch with a Business Attorney (Me!) Before You Need One
You won't need a lawyer for each and every legal issue that comes up in your business. But when you do, it's good to know where to find the right one. And -- more to the point -- you may not know you need legal help until it's too late, as attorneys can help you stay in compliance with the law and spot developing legal issues early.