Avoid business rack and ruin with a lawyer from the get-go
Hiring a good lawyer is crucial to any successful business.
There are at least two professionals every business should have early on: an accountant and a lawyer. The reasons for hiring an accountant are pretty obvious; you need someone to help you set up your accounts, review your numbers periodically, and prepare all of your necessary tax returns. The reason for hiring a business lawyer may not, however, be so apparent. But a good business lawyer will provide vital assistance in almost every aspect of your business, from basic legal compliance to formal business incorporation, contracts, protection, employment, and possibly litigation if things don’t turn out as they are supposed to.
If you are being sued, it's too late.
Many small businesses put off hiring a lawyer until a matter has turned sour and they are being threatened with legal action. Big mistake. The time to hook up with a good business lawyer is before you are in trouble. Once a dispute has arisen, it's too late--the problem has already occurred, and it's often then just a question of how much you will have to pay (in court costs, lawyers' fees, settlements and other expenses) to get the problem resolved. Nobody likes to pay lawyers' fees for anything, but the fee a lawyer will charge to keep you out of trouble is only a small fraction of the fee a lawyer will charge to get you out of trouble once it's happened.
What should a business lawyer be helping my business with?
Contracts. You will need a lawyer who can understand your business quickly; prepare the standard form contracts you will need with customers/clients, employees, co-owners, lenders, and suppliers; and help you respond to contracts that other people will want you to sign.
Structure your business. A lawyer should help you decide whether trading in your own name, a partnership, a trust, or limited liability company is the better way to organise your business, and prepare the necessary paperwork.
Real estate. Leases of commercial space--such as offices and retail stores--are highly complex and are always drafted to benefit the landlord. Because they tend to be "printed form" documents, you may be tempted to think they are not negotiable. Not so. Your lawyer should amend a standard lease so that it benefits you. Some companies may also choose to buy and sell property for one reason or other, and so will need to involve their lawyer in the conveyancing aspects.
Intellectual property. If you are in a media, design or other creative-type business, your lawyer can help you register your products and services for trademark and copyright protection.
Regulatory compliance. There are so many rules and regulations these days that businesses need to comply with to avoid prosecution; health and safety regulations, council regulations, consumer protection, industry specific regulations, and so on. Your lawyer can help to make sure you are complying with these rules.
A good business lawyer goes further than just processing your transactions.
J. P. Morgan once said, "I do not pay my lawyers to tell me what I cannot do, but to tell me how to do what I want to do." The right lawyer for your business will not respond to your questions with a simple "That's OK" or "No, you can't do that," but will outline all your available options and tell you what other businesses in your situation normally do.
A good business lawyer:
Is one you like. It’s important that you get on with you and trust them so that you feel comfortable to speak openly with them. The more you let your lawyer get to know about you and your business, the better they can advise you. And let’s face it; it is much more enjoyable doing business over coffee with someone who you have become friends with too.
Is well-connected. Many different questions, much of which will not be of a legal nature, will be prompted in the mind of an invested lawyer as they get to know you and your business. Have you got insurance to protect from that? Did you get a good deal on your loan from the bank? Have you discussed your new strategy with your business consultant? Your lawyer should not only be bringing these questions to the front of your mind, but they should also be able to connect you with the right professionals to best help you address them.
Stays abreast with what is going on in the world and your industry. Your lawyer should be somewhat familiar with your industry and its legal environment. If not, they should be willing to learn the ins and outs of it.
Is a good teacher. Your lawyer should be willing to take the time to educate you and your staff about the legal environment of your business. He or she should tell you what the law says and explain how it affects the way you do business so that you can spot problems well in advance.
‘But lawyers are expensive’ you say?
For many entrepreneurs, the idea of consulting a lawyer conjures up frightening visions of skyrocketing legal bills. While there's no denying that lawyers are expensive, there are ways of keeping costs down.
Meeting with your lawyer regularly keeps costs down in the long run. At first glance, this may not seem at all like a good way to keep costs down. But you'll be amazed at how much it reduces the endless rounds of phone tag that plague busy entrepreneurs and lawyers. More importantly, a monthly 10 or 15 minute meeting (even by phone) can save you substantial sums by nipping small legal problems in the bud before they have a chance to grow.
Get your business in top shape and ready to take on the world!
At Movest, we now offer an annual business package which provides SME owners with a telephone consultation and update each month (a ‘check-up’ so to speak), so we can stay abreast of what is going on in your business and life, and can advise you of any action you are best to take to avoid complications down the track. Contact Movest for further information.
If you are just starting out in business, or if it’s been a while since you last touched base with your business lawyer, get in touch with Movest. Even if business is looking rosy at the moment, we can help you to make sure it stays that way and only gets better. By being proactive can save your business money and save yourself a lot of headaches.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Contact Movest for specialist professional advice from a quality business lawyer.