There are two critical professional services every business will need from early on and throughout operations: an accountant and a lawyer. Typically, most business owners easily understand the immediate need for hiring an account: you require someone to help review your numbers periodically, organize your books and prepare all the necessary tax returns.
However, the reasons for hiring a business attorney may not be so obvious. Many business owners disregard the need for a business lawyer upfront, leaving the business vulnerable to problems down the line.
A good business attorney will provide vital assistance in almost every aspect of your business, from basic startup to operations and reporting. In the beginning phases, this includes basic zoning compliance, copyright/trademark advice, contracts, formal business incorporation and advisory on potential lawsuits and liability.
Early is better
It is important to remember that in most cases if you are being sued, it’s already too late. Unfortunately, most small businesses hold off on hiring a lawyer until they’ve already been summoned or slapped with a lawsuit. Once you have been formally served with the summons and complaint, the problem has already occurred and it’s now just a matter of how much time and money you will have to pay in court costs, attorney fees, settlements and other expenses to resolve the problem.
With this being said, the best time to connect with a business lawyer is well before you are being sued. Being proactive about legal matters can help identify liabilities and potential lawsuits in your business model, allowing you to address the shortcomings early on before they become a major, expensive issue for your business.
Ignorance is not a defense
As a business owner, you can’t expect to understand every facet of the law and how it applies to your business. But that doesn’t mean the judicial system will give you a free pass if you accidentally break the law. In fact, ignorance is specifically not considered a defense to legal action. The complexity of law’s verbiage means that you will likely require an experienced attorney to help you from making costly mistakes.
Strong contracts, strong foundation
Forming strong contracts will form a strong foundation for your business. Sure, you can operate based on verbal or a back-of-napkin contracts. But that doesn’t mean you should do it. You don’t need to hire an attorney specifically for all the contracts. However, the main contracts that you’ll use to conduct business should be drafted or reviewed by an attorney. An attorney can help ensure your interests are protected. Furthermore, you should have an attorney review any contracts that come your way such as from a landlord or vendor.
Gain the benefit of their experience
Attorneys are suspicious by default. This is not because they want something bad to happen but because they know it can. Because of their extensive experience with the law and seeing how legal issues can damage businesses, they can identify liabilities and also recognize the warning signs related to legal issues. When you have a lawyer in your corner, you should treat them like a business adviser and make it a point to engage with them on a regular basis. If your attorney sees a problem waiting to happen, you will get advance notice so you can correct the issue and avoid costly legal hassles.
Where to start
The Meadowlands Chamber has several law firms as members. Please check the business listing directory.