3 Ways to Protect Your Business Without Hiring a Lawyer

Addressing potential legal issues might seem daunting, but ignoring them could put you out of business.

learn more about Laura Cowan, Esq., CPA

By Laura Cowan, Esq., CPA

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There are a lot of benefits to being a business owner: control over your schedule, unlimited income potential, choosing projects you genuinely enjoy. But there is a lot of responsibility too. What if you don't get the legal stuff right? What steps should take to protect yourself and your business? What can you do on your own, and when should you hire a lawyer?

It can seem daunting and overwhelming. But the legal-issues need can't be ignored because one mistake can be enough to put you out of business. The good news is that while hiring a lawyer is often the best option, there are some things you can do on your own without incurring hefty legal fees. Here are three.

1. Link your business bank account with your LLC

As an attorney working with small-business owners in New York City, I see this mistake time and time again. You go to the trouble to set up an LLC, and you even go so far as to set up a business bank account. But you set up the bank account under your social security number when it should be set up in your LLC's employee identification number (EIN). The LLC is meant to protect your personal assets from the actions of your business. The only way it can do that is if your business bank account is linked to your LLC's EIN, not your personal social security number. If you don't have an EIN, you can get one by visiting www.irs.gov.

Related: 5 Mistakes That Sabotage Your Company's Bank Credit Score

2. Buy business insurance

Insurance doesn't solve every problem, but it can go a long way towards reducing your out-of-pocket expenses if you run into any legal issues. Lawsuits are expensive, even if you win. Businesses need business insurnace because it helps cover the costs associated with property damage and liability claims. Without business insurance, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for damages and legal claims against your company. Depending on the incident, this could be a financially devastating scenario. Plus, insurance provides peace of mind, which can't be understated when running a business. There are different kinds of insurance business owners may need, including general liability, professional liability and data breach. Speak with a broker about your options.

Related: 7 Types of Insurance You Need to Protect Your Business

3. Put legal notices on your website

Virtually every business today has a website. Could your website get you sued? The answer is "Yes!" Even if you don't slander anyone or post someone else's work, what's on your website or what's not on your website could get you in trouble. At a minimum, your website should have three legal notices posted where viewers can easily read and understand them: a privacy policy, disclaimer, and terms and conditions.

The privacy policy states what personal information you collect from visitors (like emails and phone numbers) and what you do with it (using it for marketing or fulfilling orders). This is required by law if you do indeed collect any personal information from people because protecting people's privacy is an important government interest. A disclaimer is a legal notice placed on your website in an effort to limit your liability for the outcome of the use of your site. Does your site provide advice or instructional information? This could expose you to potential claims if someone relies on that information and has a bad outcome. A disclaimer can reduce your liability if that happens. Finally, a terms and conditions notice is a way for you to set up rules and regulations for visitors using your website. It's also a way to protect your business by limiting liability if a customer were to take you to court. These three notices are often posted at the very bottom of your website, where users can click on them and read them.

Related: 5 Tips to a Better Small-Business Website

If it's not in your budget to hire a lawyer to prepare these for you, there are templates online that are a good start. You can then have them reviewed by an attorney licensed in your state, potentially for a lower fee than if they were to prepare them for you from scratch.

Laura Cowan, Esq., CPA

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Business Attorney

Laura Cowan is an award-winning attorney, CPA and small-business strategist. She helps entrepreneurs nationwide establish their business, protect their brand and keep their profits.

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