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When to Hire a Lawyer for Your Small Business

When to Hire a Lawyer for Your Small Business

The internet has become a useful resource center for information on almost every topic under the sun. The legal field is no exception. You can research information on many legal-related business matters and by-pass the need for hiring a business-savvy lawyer. For instance, you can easily create contracts for your small business and issue them to customers and suppliers. With loads of free contract and agreement templates available online, all you need to do is download and customize them for your business.

When Do You Need to Hire a Lawyer?

Going it alone when it comes to your business’ legal matters can save you big dollars, but relying entirely on online DIY resources is not foolproof. It’s essential to get a legal eye on some of the documents or information you gather online. Otherwise, the risk of running into a legal mess is still present.

While there are cases where you can get sufficient legal information online, other times, you need to consult a lawyer to review the information you gather and seal any legal loopholes. Other times, you may have no option but to hire a lawyer, like when you get sued.

Overall, every small business needs to form a consulting relationship with a lawyer right from the beginning. Legal suits are expensive, and once your business gets sued, there’s little you can do to run away from the costs involved – lawyer’s fees, court fees, and damages. Establishing a consulting relationship with a lawyer from the start also ensures you have legal guidance through crucial business processes. Consequently, you can avoid pitfalls that may land you into legal trouble in the future.

Below are instances when you should involve your lawyer in your small business.

Drafting Business Contracts and Agreements

Your business is engaged in different relationships at any given time. Whether it’s in customer/client, supplier/vendor, or employee relationships, you need to have contracts in place for each one of them.

Disputes ranging from suits by an aggrieved customer, a dismissed employee seeking compensation, or an exiting business partner, can result in a huge financial setback. Drawing the contracts may be cumbersome, but it helps protect your business in the future should any disputes arise.

While you may find agreement templates online for most of these contracts, they may not sufficiently address your specific business needs. There are two ways to go about solving this problem.

You can download the templates, customize them for your business, and then forward them to your lawyer for review. Alternatively, you can have your lawyer draft the templates for you to use whenever you’re entering a new relationship with a customer/client, vendor/supplier, or employee.

If you’re running your business with partners, it’s also important to draft a buy-sell contract and have your lawyer check it. Maybe at this point, everything is going well, and you don’t see yourselves ever falling out, but you can’t be sure about these things. It’s good to protect the business with a buy-sell contract. That way, when one partner decides to exit down the line, you can rely on the exit clause to release them without unnecessary drama.

Appraising Business Compliance

With some legwork, you can get your business compliant on your own. This means researching your business name to ensure it’s not taken, finding out zoning regulations from the local authorities, choosing your business structure, and fulfilling business registration, tax, and insurance requirements. However, you’ll be safer seeking the help of a lawyer, especially during your first year in business. The lawyer should guide you on compliance requirements for your specific type of business and give you advice accordingly.

Advising on Employee Recruitment

Many businesses have found themselves in legal suits sometimes for reasons that could be easily avoided. An oversight like asking a female jobseeker if she’s expectant or when she’s planning to get pregnant can get your business into the claws of anti-discrimination laws.

Your small business may not be in a position to hire a human resource manager to oversee the hiring process, but you don’t have to dig into every state and federal employment law to conduct legally-abiding interviews. Your lawyer can help you to seal the loopholes and remain compliant. You can also research and prepare your interview questions, then send them to the lawyer for review.

Conclusion

Hiring a lawyer for your small business is crucial to remaining compliant. Remember, once your business is slapped with a legal suit, either from a disgruntled employee, customer, or even the government for non-compliance issues, the costs thereof are inevitable. Having a lawyer who is well-conversant with your business and whom you can go to for legal counsel on crucial business issues is a necessity for every small business. From drafting business contracts and agreements to appraising your business compliance and advising on employee recruitment, hiring a business-savvy lawyer will help your small business stay away from trouble.


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by Lottie Pritchard // Lottie Pritchard is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.