A Guide to Hiring a Business Lawyer

Posted by: kevensteinberg
Category: Business Law
A Guide to Hiring a Business Lawyer

When forming a new business or beginning a venture, it can be difficult to know when to hire an attorney. Often, small business owners don’t hire an experienced business attorney until confronted with a serious legal problem (e.g. a lawsuit). Yet the retention of legal counsel from the beginning is critical to saving your business from serious financial and legal complications and liabilities in the future.  Some of your business law needs may include negotiating and preparation of contracts with customers or suppliers; assisting with real estate negotiation (such as a lease or building contract), taxes, zoning, and licenses; protecting intellectual property and trade secrets through non-competition agreements and non-disclosure agreements (also known as an NDA); and, yes, sometimes settling litigation.

Finding the best attorney for your business needs is key whether you are a startup that requires someone who can meet your fast-paced deadlines or an entrepreneur who needs an expert in risk assessment, liability prevention, protection of trade secrets, and against unfair competition.

Business Law Basics: Find the Right Attorney for Your Business

When finding the right lawyer for your business, it’s important to understand the basics. Transactional lawyers (more commonly known as business attorneys) are part of a specialty that deals with legal issues generated by businesses; however, there’s a wide variety of areas of practice in transactional law that are important for a company’s infrastructure. Some relevant business formation items that a transactional/business attorney can assist with for an organization may include:

  • Creating/forming legal entities
  • Drafting and negotiating contracts
  • Advising on general governance, commercial, and compliance matters
  • Completing and filing legally required forms, including tax exemption applications
  • Designing personnel policies and/or counseling on real estate, regulatory, intellectual property, and licensing matters

How Can a Business Attorney Save Your Business Money?

There are many ways to protect yourself and your assets when setting up a company or organization. The decisions you make early on have significant implications for the long term success of your business including (but not limited to):

  • Protection of personal assets
  • Protection of your confidential information
  • Tax consequences
  • Mitigation of lawsuits and liability

For example, the first critical aspect to understand is structuring the appropriate business entity.  Not only does the right business structure provide legal and tax protection from its owners, but it is also a symbol of how you present your business to the world at large, including customers, other businesses, and the general public.

Basics on Structuring a Business Entity

The structure of your business determines different levels of protections, liabilities, corporate governance considerations, and tax consequences. It is critical to fully understand each option during this structuring process to decide which one best serves current and future business goals. Your business structure will have a significant impact on income tax liability, business successors, the number of investors allowed, and the legal liability that you and your business may face. This initial structure is like a foundation to a home—it fortifies the rest of the business and must be done correctly from the onset to prevent future problems and to protect you and your business.

Options for structuring your business entity (in California) include:

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Corporation (including S Corporations)
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)
  • General Partnerships
  • Limited Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Partnerships

The type of business entity a person chooses impacts almost all aspects of how a business operates, so this decision should be made with experienced but are not limited to):

  1. Contracts: Most businesses execute contracts with clients and vendors, as well as for space, services, and supplies. Businesses often have agreements between partners, investors, and employees. It is important to get it right the first time so you don’t lose leverage or end up in court.
  2. Confidential Information and Intellectual Property: Protecting your confidential information and intellectual property doesn’t end once you receive your copyrights, patents, or trademarks. Intellectual property and confidential information protection extend to protecting your most valuable business assets and guarding against the infringement of trade secrets and unfair competition.
  3. Registering, Licensing, and Permits: Some business entities are required to register with the state in order to be recognized. Even businesses that are not required to register may be required to obtain licenses or permits.
  4. Capital: Businesses need to raise money, keep records of income and distributions, and behave in a fiscally responsible manner. Different business entities may require different procedures for raising capital and making distributions. In all instances, the capital contributions of business owners and investors must be protected.
  5. Autonomy: With many business entities, the things you don’t decide are decided for you. Most states have adopted “Uniform Laws” that fill in the gaps for business entities where their charters, by-laws, and other organizing documents are silent. You may be subject to a whole set of laws and regulations that you don’t even know exist.
  6. Taxes: Different business forms provide different tax advantages and disadvantages. The only thing more crucial to a new business is a liability.
  7. Liability: Different business forms provide varied protections and risks to the business owner/investor. Personal liability means that your business puts everything you own at risk. An experienced business attorney can help you avoid this situation or minimize your risk.

Why a Concierge Attorney Makes the Most Business Sense

As a new business or venture, you may realize that an experienced business attorney is a key and vital player on your business team from the beginning. The right one can save your business time and money in dealing with complex and changing legal matters. While you may not be prepared to hire a team of in-house attorneys, you also may not be willing to compromise on the inaccessibility involved in working with an outside firm. If that is the case, a concierge attorney might be the best fit for your new venture. A concierge attorney is a personalized, private, and on-demand confidante. Some advantages of a concierge lawyer include:

  • Better access to your lawyer. With 24/7 access to your attorney, you never have to lose another minute of sleep, miss another deadline, or an opportunity for your business.
  • Building a repertoire. A concierge attorney often has a select number of clients, which enables a one-on-one relationship in which the attorney has the time and dedication to forge a personal relationship and interest in the needs of every client. Concierge attorneys, by knowing their clients on a deeper level, can often plan well ahead to make sure their client’s goals, intents, and desires are met every step of the way. This relationship lets the client conduct business and remain in the boardroom rather than spend their time and energies in the courtroom.
  • Breadth of knowledge. Don’t waste time and money finding a separate attorney for varied aspects of your business. A good concierge business attorney is fluent in a broad range of business law and is able to expertly advise you on each step with their intimate knowledge and experience not only in the law but also in business. This knowledge is even more valuable when coupled with an intimate knowledge of your specific business.

Today’s business environment is rife with changes involving shifting regulations and policies. A concierge attorney is fluent in every aspect of transactional law to make sure that your business is poised for success. If you would like to learn more about Steinberg Law’s personalized concierge practice, contact us and one of our attorneys will be happy to assist you.

Author: kevensteinberg