If you’re a small business owner, be confident that you can handle many tasks without a business lawyer, such as writing your business plan, reserving a domain name, and applying for licenses and permits.
You can also go solo on larger jobs. For example, there are many good resources available to help you choose a legal structure for your business -- sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC -- and set it up.
That said, an experienced, local business lawyer could be a great asset: Do you know which local, state, or federal licenses or permits your business must have? Do you feel confident negotiating with that new vendor you’ve been talking to? Are you sure the IRS is going to agree that the person you just hired is a contractor and not an employee?
You may find it helpful to look for a business lawyer who is willing to consult with you, reviewing important documents and answering questions as they arise.
What Does a Business Lawyer Do?
Here’s a short list of things a good business law attorney can help you do:
- Confirm you’ve chosen the best legal structure for your new business.
- Draft or review important agreements such as a partnership agreement, LLC operating agreement, or shareholder’s agreement.
- Apply for licenses or permits that involve complex legal regulations and paperwork.
- Answer questions and advise you on legal matters as they arise: contracts, taxes, trademarks, trade secrets, zoning or environmental rules, and more.
- Keep clear relationships with people you hire: determining whether a worker is an employee or contractor, understanding best hiring practices, maintaining a workplace free from discrimination and sexual harassment, and other concerns.
- Negotiate intelligently. Negotiations may include leases, vendor contracts, mergers, acquisitions, or other situations that affect your business.
- Defend you or your business if an employee or customer sues you.
- Represent you if you are unable to resolve a conflict with your business partners.
- Handle an IRS audit.
- Sell your company.
Find a Good Business Lawyer
Like tax law, bankruptcy law, or family law, business law is a specialty subject involving complex legal rules. Someone claiming to be a business lawyer should be able to point to experience and deep knowledge of business law and regulations in your municipality, county, and state.
For an experienced business lawyer, most transactions involving business law are routine. Chances are good that an experienced lawyer has already seen a situation like yours. The lawyer you choose should be able to advise you on the best way to proceed with your business matter given your goals and your state’s laws.
If you're going to hire a business lawyer, make sure you get a good one. Do your homework and comparison shop before you hire someone to represent you.