Owners of both small businesses and large companies should hire a lawyer (and would be better served to have an attorney on retainer at all times). Businesses (both small and large) can become involved in a variety of legal circumstances as well as requiring guidance from their general counsel for in house legal issues. Matters to something as simple as reviewing contracts, purchasing a property (both real property and equipment), drafting contracts (operating agreements) for the managing members of a business to complex litigation over a dispute within the members of the business or with other businesses.
When the time comes to hire a lawyer for your business, it is important to be very strategic and methodical about your selection of counsel. It also does not matter what type of business you are running because legal issues that relate to businesses can be similar; the difference is the gravity of the issue, which is often correlated to the size of the business. Any business transaction requires different levels of negotiation, document preparation, and review. Most business owners do not have the knowledge or experience needed when it comes to any legal aspect of their business, and hiring a lawyer can ensure that business owners not only make the best financial decisions for their respective company but that they make the correct legal decisions as well.
Having a competent lawyer on your team can help to ensure that your investors and stockholders are protected as best as possible from a legal standpoint. Any decision(s) that you make could potentially impact your business and affect your investors and stockholders. The luxury of having an attorney who both knows your business and how you run your business, places you in a strategically better place (presuming that you utilize your attorney’s skills and expertise) to ensure that the decisions that are made on behalf of the business are in fact the best decisions for your business (both legally and financially).
It is an unfortunate fact of life that we cannot please everyone and a business owner that has employees knows this fact all too well. Disgruntled employees can wreak havoc on any business, particularly in the current theatre of the internet, social media, and online review forums. The proverbial game has changed significantly from the pre-internet days and now a disgruntled former employee can simply claim on the internet that they were a customer and post a negative review that can have a damaging impact on your business.
The above begs the question of “what do I do to protect myself from employee-related issues?” The answer is to document everything that occurs during the course of the employee’s employment with your business to ensure that if legal issues do arise that you have your defenses prepared and the ability to play offense and proactively minimize the negative conduct of a former employee. The best offense for a small business owner when you have the slightest intuition that you will have a problem with an employee is to document everything that occurs. Creating a journal (electronically stored and backed up) of dates/times, who was present, what was said/occurred, all help to establish a record and in the unfortunate circumstances of an issue arising, you are prepared to combat the issue. Presenting your attorney with a history of the events is not only a terrific means of bringing your attorney up to speed on the issue that you are facing but it also aids your attorney in strategizing the best course of action for your particular problem with the employee.
Whether you are leasing office space or looking to buy property for your business, a lawyer can review contracts and leasing agreements to make sure that the agreement is fair and properly memorializes the terms and conditions agreed upon by the parties. Many small business owners think that they have been in business long enough and do not need to have their attorney review a “simple” contract; however, the small business owner is not an attorney and does not necessarily have the skills and expertise of the attorney. An attorney that is well versed in the law will be able to identify nuances or potential pitfalls in a contract prior to your signing the same, which in the long term can save the business owner unnecessary stress, frustration, and allow them to focus on what is most important, maintaining a profitable business.
Owning a business has unique challenges that your everyday employees do not see, and one of the biggest parts of a business is dealing with contracts and negotiations. Contracts are needed for every aspect of the business from dealing with vendors to the contracts your employees sign the day they are hired. Having your attorney review a contract prior to your signing it only serves to benefit you because most attorneys inherently find something that they do not necessarily approve of in just about any contract. Such disapproval may be something as simple as the structure of payment upon the delivery of goods or something more complicated such as damages depending on the nature of a potential breach. The money that you pay to have your general counsel review a contract not only could save you money if they advise you not to enter into a contract that your attorney deems to be potentially damaging to you but at the same time could aid in your accumulation of money and growing your business because the contract will benefit you. Either of these potential paths cannot be determined with any degree of absolute certainty; however, having your attorney review the same provides you with an additional layer of protection and peace of mind, which in the small business world, is often difficult to come by.
The reason to hire a lawyer for your business greatly exceed the reasons not to hire one. A lawyer should be one of the first hires you make if you are starting a new business particularly if you are new to the business world. It is imperative to have an attorney who understands you and your business and can aid your making decisions that help you to develop and prosper in your new venture.