Do you know that consulting with a lawyer when starting a business will save you pain down the road? When you’re starting up a business, you’ll need the assistance of some outside professionals to help you succeed. You never want to start a business, only to find that, months later, you did something wrong at the beginning which has come back to complicate things. You need to consult with an experienced lawyer when starting a business. If you’re wondering what to talk to them about, here are some very important questions to ask a lawyer when starting a business.
1. What Should I Be Aware of When Choosing the Name of My Business?
Before you order business cards and signs, you need to make sure the name of your business won’t bring any legal problems in the future.
There are federal and local laws regulating business names.
Each locale is different.
A reputable lawyer will be familiar with those laws and can give you the assistance you need to eliminate mistakes.
Naturally, you can’t take a business name that is taken.
However, there are other things to consider.
If you are going to trademark your business name, or even choose a logo for it, you’ll have to first meet certain criteria before you proceed.
The right attorney will familiarize you with the laws and present you with all of your options.
This is the best way to ensure that you won’t get anything wrong in this all-important step.
2. What Do I Need to Include in My Bylaws or Operating Agreement?
LLC operating agreements and corporate bylaws are crucial.
They provide guidelines that make operating your business more efficient and legit.
The documents explain all about shareholder meetings, LLC ownership changes, how shares of stock are issued, and how all major decisions will be made.
The last thing you want, therefore, is to omit something in this part of your legal documents.
A good lawyer helps you make the right decision for your particular business.
Most importantly, he or she makes sure nothing is overlooked or forgotten.
3. What Type of Contracts is Necessary for My Business Needs?
In business, few things are more important than a well-written contract.
Contracts are more than just pieces of paper.
- Contracts protect your business in numerous ways
- Reduce the number of disputes that arise
- Describe in detail all rights and responsibilities assigned to all parties
- Make sure everyone gets paid for the work they do.
In other words, contracts make sure that everything about your business is spelled out clearly so that there are no misunderstandings among your business stakeholders.
The right contract can
- Protect confidential information
- Describe all employment relationships
- Make sure everyone understands leases, routine transactions, and any other major transactions.
Knowing which contracts you need ahead of time ensures that nothing will be held up and that things can proceed in a timely manner.
Furthermore, once you choose a business lawyer, you can count on this person for most or all of your contracts.
- Basic reviews of the contracts
- Preparing new contracts
- Making sure you understand everything these contracts spell out so that you experience no problems with them in the future.
Contracts are important to businesses of all sizes and types, and checking them out with the right lawyer can make all the difference when it comes to the success of your business.
This is definitely one of the very important questions to ask a lawyer when starting a business.
4. Which Business Structure Will Work Best for Me?
Deciding on your business structure can be one of the most important decisions you make.
This decision can affect future business decisions like few other things do.
The main types of business structures include a sole proprietorship, which has only one owner, a general partnership, which has two or more owners, or one of the types of entities that allow you to limit the liability that the company itself is responsible for.
In most cases, you and your business are the same person.
This means its debts are your debts, and you are legally liable for them.
If you choose to limit this liability, you can choose to be set up as a corporation, limited liability partnership, limited partnership, or a limited liability company.
With these types of companies, you don’t have to worry about losing your personal assets if you are sued.
Instead, it is the company that will lose, and this is certainly better than losing all of your personal belongings as well.
In many instances, you may have the option of being a non-profit corporation.
Weighing all of your options is a lot easier with the help of a competent lawyer.
The decision is not to be made lightly.
Choosing carefully is important your business structure is going to affect the way your business is managed, taxed, and owned.
5. As an Employer, Can I Do Anything to Minimize My Risks?
As an employer, you have many responsibilities that are spelled out by federal and local authorities.
Ignorance of the law is never an excuse not to follow it.
You can even be fined or penalized if you do something wrong.
Staying in compliance with all applicable laws is a must.
Your lawyer can help familiarize you with these laws so that there are no problems later on.
These laws have to do with numerous topics, from health and safety regulations to anti-discrimination laws.
You may also need certain handbooks, procedures, or training to make sure you don’t violate the laws. Of course, there are also laws regarding minimum wage, which vary according to which area you live in.
Immigration laws are also important to comply with, especially if you have employees who are not citizens.
An experienced lawyer can help put you on the right track by educating you on the laws associated with your business.
This is definitely one of the very important questions to ask a lawyer when starting a business.
6. What is the Best Way to Protect My Intellectual Property?
Items such as your business name, labels, slogans, logos, and even packaging are all considered the trademarks of your company, and you can’t just assume that no one will steal them.
If you are serious about your business’s success, you should always register your trademark with the proper national authorities.
Your business may also have copyrights for documents such as brochures, photographs, and websites.
Especially if you are in some type of creative field, it is important to protect copyrights as well.
The right business lawyer can help identify which items are considered intellectual property so that you can protect it.
Lay out everything that you consider important to your business.
The lawyer can give you legal advice as to what you should do next.
Bring samples whenever possible, and the right lawyer will go over everything so that you receive the most accurate and helpful advice.
7. Are There Other Risks I Need to Know About?
Bear in mind that your list of questions for your lawyer may not cover everything.
There may be other areas that you aren’t aware of.
Fortunately, your lawyer should be.
Depending on the type of business you have, there may be other risks that you need to minimize, and the right lawyer will know what they are.
You may need to take proactive steps to protect yourself in ways such as taking out an insurance policy.
Ask your lawyer what your risks are and how you might alleviate them.
The right business lawyer will be familiar even with risks that only apply to your type of business, and, as a result, you are guaranteed to have steps in place to take care of these risks.
This will allow you to move forward with confidence because you’ll know that you are being thorough about the potential risks to your business both now and in the future.
This is one of the very important questions to ask a lawyer when starting a business.
8. What Can You Do From Now On to Help My Business?
Although you’ve resolved the questions you have today, you will definitely have more of them in the future.
For this reason, it is crucial that you hire a lawyer who can answer most of the questions or concerns that will undoubtedly pop up from time to time.
A lawyer who will potentially work with you for the long term.
A good business lawyer is truly invaluable, and most will allow you to pay an annual fee so that you can contact them anytime you need them.
You can ask them questions about employees, paperwork and documentation, risk-management issues, personnel issues, and even concerns about your board members.
The right business lawyer will be able to assist you in all of these and many other areas.
It is vital that you have someone like this that you can contact when you have a problem or question.
9. Do You Have Experience Specifically Related to My Type of Business?
In addition to business-specific questions, you’ll also need to ask your lawyer questions relating to how he or she bills, their experience level, and so on.
Questions along this path could include:
- How much do you charge, and how do I pay for your services?
- How much experience do you have regarding my type of business?
- Are you available anytime I need to have a question answered or a concern addressed?
- What is your focus? What area of the law are you specifically focused on?
- Have you worked with companies similar to mine?
- Do you have experience with modern technology that can help me get answers faster?
- How long have you been working as a legal professional?
- How do you handle conflicts and conflict resolution?
- Do you use paralegals, and if so, how much experience do they have?
None of these questions are unimportant.
These are all questions to ask a lawyer when starting a business.
Much like when you’re interviewing employees, it is important to ask your business lawyer the right questions.
You need to evaluate the answers to the questions and see that you are comfortable with them.
You should also consider interviewing the lawyer in person and not over the phone.
This will help you feel confident in the choice of lawyers you make.
10. Do You Make Referrals to Other Lawyers?
Every now and then, it is possible that a legal issue will come up that has to do with an area of the law your attorney may not be an expert in.
When this happens, you’ll want to know that your lawyer will consult with another attorney in that area so that the issue can be resolved.
If it is a tax issue, for example, or a patent issue, it is good to know your lawyer will either consult with or refer you to a tax or patent lawyer so that you both get the expert advice that you need to move forward.
Some lawyers are wary of consulting with other lawyers for fear of losing the client’s business.
This should never be the lawyer’s top concern, however.
A good business lawyer will feel confident in allowing you to consult with another lawyer when an issue arises that he or she is not an expert in.
11. Is It Possible to Reduce Some of the Costs for Your Services?
This may sound like an odd one.
The fact is, most lawyers try to help you save on the fees you’re paying them.
Ask your lawyer specifically if there are ways to save money on the legal services he or she provides.
If the lawyer is adamantly against offering this option, it could be a red flag.
You should be able to save money on your lawyer’s services and still get the professional advice and assistance you need.
Some lawyers even allow you to write a summary of events for a legal case or round up some documents yourself.
This saves you some money that you can then use on other things.
This is one of the great questions to ask a lawyer when starting a business.
12. Do You Have Any Conflicts of Interest?
Check to see if your lawyer works with any of your past business partners or investors or even one of your competitors.
If this is the case, you may not feel comfortable sharing confidential information with the lawyer.
Yes, there is a lawyer-client confidentiality agreement, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Even if you are certain that your lawyer will never discuss any details regarding your business with a competitor, you might feel uncomfortable sharing that information in the first place.
The one thing you want to feel about your lawyer is trust, and you may not feel this way if you know that your lawyer is also representing one of your competitors.
Make sure you get an answer so you can know what to do next.
Regardless of what you decide in the end, it is always better to know these things up front.
Do Your Due Diligence
Of course, the fact that you’re asking questions and getting answers you feel comfortable with doesn’t mean you can stop there.
You have to do your own due diligence, which means a lot of research.
If the lawyer agrees to give you a list of references, check them out thoroughly.
You can use the internet to research some of the lawyer’s previous cases and how they were handled.
Ask around for word-of-mouth recommendations.
Use the library if you have to in order to view some of the lawyer’s cases or any documents he or she has filed.
Anything you can get your hands on about this lawyer should be thoroughly investigated.
The more you know about this person, the better you’ll feel once the business gets underway.
Business owners have a full plate day in and day out, but your legal concerns will not be insurmountable if you find the right lawyer.
Take your time, make a list of questions, and, most of all, be prepared for the questions the lawyer might ask you.
Working together with your lawyer, you can create a successful business that is profitable for both you and your employees.
Legal advice when starting a business will save you pain in the future.
It takes a little planning, but it is worth it in the end.
This is the only way you can be sure that your business will be taken care of the way it deserves, at least, from a legal perspective.
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