What do Business Lawyers Do?
Small businesses are almost always strapped for cash. They have to be smart in spending every cent of their money. Consequently, there is significant aversion among the owners of small businesses towards the prospect of hiring an attorney. Most of them simply operate under the assumption that they don’t need an attorney unless they have to fight a case in the court. However, that view couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Business lawyers can help small businesses in a number of ways, including saving them huge capital expenditure. In contrast to this, there are also some business owners who just won’t let their attorneys out of their sight. They regularly consult them on practically every matter of the business. This too is an unnecessary activity. There are a myriad things that smart business owners can get done by themselves. Likewise, there are also a number of instances when hiring an attorney is critical for businesses. Here, we will help you to understand when you should hire them, and when you can simply do without them.
Choosing a name for your business is not a legally intense decision. It is something anybody can do. You can check whether the name you are choosing, has been previously trademarked or not. If it is available, then you will not need an attorney. However, if the name has already been trademarked, and you want to buy it from the owner, only then you will need the services of an attorney to get a better deal.
Same goes with the domain name of your business. If it is available, then buy it yourself. However, if you need to purchase it from an owner, who has already bought it, then an attorney can help you get the best price on the domain. In fact, getting your brand name or company name trademarked is a fairly straight forward business, which you can learn by yourself after a couple of hours’ worth of online research.
To set up your business, you will need a partnership agreement, or an LLC operating agreement, or a shareholder’s agreement. Although they may sound like financial jargon, drafting them does not require the services of an attorney. But, it is a good policy to take advice from an attorney while drafting them. If you do not wish to spend hundreds of dollars an hour on their consultation fees, you can draft the documents and then hand it over to them for analysis. This will save you a lot of money too.
Every business has a defined set of legal requirements that it should conform to, if it wants to operate in a region. These legal requirements could be federal, state, or city council mandated. In the recent times, applying for business licenses and permits has become a fairly smooth process, which you can do without any assistance from an attorney. You will also need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN), for employee tax purposes. Moreover, you should also submit the necessary IRS forms. Now that you know what the things you should get done are, you can actually get them done all by yourself.
There is some disagreement even among seasoned businessmen, whether you need the assistance of attorneys for drawing up business contracts. You will certainly be needing contracts in order to work smoothly with your subcontractors, vendors, and, sometimes, even clients and customers. The reason some businessmen advice on taking an attorney’s assistance is because, an attorney will help you protect both yours and your contractor or client’s interests. By spelling out the exact nature of your engagement, even in some unforeseen circumstances, attorneys can play a vital role in protecting your business from unnecessary legal disputes. These contracts can include terms of agreement for customers, buy-sell agreement with partners, contracts governing the relationship with independent contractors, and so on.
Of course you don’t need an attorney with you when you are interviewing a prospective employee. But, you will need one, if they decide to sue you for not hiring them based on discrimination. You see, it is not always easy to tell whether a simple question you ask them, could be illegal or not. For instance, you are hiring employees to work on a critical project that should be finished within a year. In such a case, a straightforward question as to whether the candidate is planning to get pregnant in the near future, can get your business embroiled in a legal dispute.
It is quite common for many business owners to commit such mistakes. If you do not want to spend hundreds of dollars in attorney fees every time you go hiring, you can simply make a list of questions you wish to ask during the interview, and have your attorney give it a look. It will keep you on the safe side, while also not costing you much in terms of attorney fees, as you will have done most of the work. However, employing the services of an attorney to understand what constitutes discrimination, and harassment is always a good thing, even though it might cost you some money.
Employee Discrimination Dispute
When a former, current, or a prospective employee has sued your business, on the grounds of discrimination, or workplace harassment, then do not even think about contacting them. Your first job is to get in touch with your attorney, and decide the future course of action, based on their advice. It is always smarter to follow the thumb rule – prevention is better than cure. So, as explained earlier, you should employ the services of an attorney, and avoid any situation or question that may put you in a legal dispute.
Complaints and Violations
When the government bodies – local, state, or federal – have filed a complaint against you, or are investigating you, it is highly recommended that you approach an attorney to assist you in dealing with the situation. Do not even dare to think for a moment that you can handle this alone by yourself. Even if you are perfectly capable of handling the situation, have your attorney beside you right away. A single mistake from your side may cost your business a fortune. The same can be easily avoided with the relatively small fees of a lawyer.
Some internal matters of your business warrant the legal expertise of an attorney. For instance, when you want to make a “special allocation” of profits and losses, or when you want to contribute appreciated property to your LLC or partnership, you definitely need a business attorney.
When you are negotiating the acquisition of a company, or the sale of your own, the presence of an attorney brings a number of advantages. An attorney can help you perform due diligence of the company you are buying, or of your own, to ascertain their value. Moreover, lawyers are excellent negotiators, considering that their bread and butter is dependent on these skills. So, they can even help you get a great deal.
This is one of those issues, which absolutely demands the services of a lawyer. Quite often, companies get fined even though there are not directly responsible for any environmental harm. The environmental laws are very stringent, and it is strongly advised for you to approach your lawyer the moment you are faced with an environmental dispute.