With a well-thought-out business plan in place, you've got the ball rolling. What's your next step? Preventive law. That is, consulting with a business attorney to make sure all your I's are dotted and your T's are crossed.
Yes, you could try to cover the bases on your own, but do-it-yourself law can be dangerous. And undoing any damage done can be costly to your bottom line as well as to your business's reputation.
"If you start [your] business with the professional assistance you need," says Torrance, California, attorney Cynthia L. Eller of Popeney, Lebetsamer & Grange, "things are set in motion that protect you."
Here is a sampling of the general areas a business attorney handles:
- Written agreements. Have your lease agreements, purchase contracts or employment agreements been drafted to document the specifics of each party's duties and expectations?
- Industry-specific licensing and ordinances. Will you need to be licensed or bonded? Will you require liability insurance?
- Business structure. Which form is most appropriate for you? Corporation? Limited liability company? Sole proprietorship? Have you taken into account the benefits--and drawbacks--of each?
- Tax requirements. How is your industry taxed? What are the tax reporting requirements in your industry?
- Co-ownership agreements. What happens if one or more owners want out of the business? Do you have an agreement in place that provides for an orderly and peaceful ownership transition (even in the event of death or disability)?
- Employer-employee relations. Are you familiar with the laws that govern hiring employees? Have you developed an employee handbook outlining your company's policies and procedures?
Don't gamble with your business's future by attempting to handle legal matters yourself. A little sound legal advice can go a long way.