A good lawyer can be an invaluable advisor to your small business from inception to dissolution and at all stages in between. Here are some of the ways a lawyer can help your small business.
Business Formation. One of the first decisions you will need to make as an entrepreneur starting a small business is the form that it will take (sole proprietorship, corporation, S corporation, partnership or limited liability company). A lawyer can help you understand the legal ramifications of each business structure, especially with regard to liability (your accountant can discuss the tax implications of each). In addition, he can help you obtain the approvals necessary to establish your business as a legal entity (unless it will be a sole proprietorship, in which case from a legal standpoint you and the business are the same).
Contracts. A lawyer can and should review all business contracts to ensure that your interests are well protected. In addition, they can help you draw up contracts.
Leases/Mortgages. If your business will be leasing real estate for offices or other business operations, equipment, vehicles or other property necessary to operate your business, a lawyer can evaluate each lease before you sign it. Likewise, if you will be purchasing real estate for the business, a lawyer can review the purchase agreement and mortgage documents before closing.
Patents/Trademarks/Copyrights. If your business is dependent on intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks and copyrights, it is essential that you protect your right to the exclusive use of these intangible assets. A lawyer can advise you about intellectual property rights and your options to protect those rights. In addition, he can assist you with the necessary filings related to intellectual property. A lawyer also can play an active role in ongoing protection of your intellectual property rights, including monitoring the use of your intellectual property in the marketplace, sending cease and desist letters if your rights are infringed, and filing suit against violators if necessary.
Employment Law. Once your business grows from a one-person shop and begins adding employees, you will need advice on labor laws. Among other things, A lawyer can education you about state and federal labor laws, help you write an employee handbook, advise you on best employment practices (related to legal issues), and advise and protect you in the event of a dispute with an employee.
Purchase of Business or Assets. If your business acquires another company or purchases significant business assets from another company, a lawyer can advise you on any legal issues related to the transaction, help you draw up a purchase agreement, and review all documents and contracts related to the purchase before it closes.
Business dissolution. If the day comes when your business must be dissolved, perhaps because you are retiring and there is no one to take over or because financial pressures have made it impossible for it to continue to operate, a lawyer can advise you on how to legally terminate the business. Bankruptcy, in particular, is a complex process that requires legal assistance.
Sale of Business. If, instead of dissolving your business, you plan to sell it, a lawyer help you draw up a sales agreement and review all documents and contracts related to the sale before closing.
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