Every business faces legal issues from time to time. From tax returns, internal agreements, state regulation and intellectual property, business-owners have a lot to deal with. This post will illustrate just some of the things that businesses need a lawyer for.
1. Form and state of organization
Every business owner wants as little personal liability as possible. It makes sense to protect your personal assets in case anything happens to the firm (taking out debt or losing a lawsuit) and in most cases an LLC or corporation is what you need. If your business fails in some way, the “corporate veil” will protect your assets from being seized. A lawyer will also suggest the type of corporation that best suits your needs.
2. Internal agreements
Before you can get your business out into the world, you need to settle things at home first. Any agreement you have with your co-founders, principals or investors should be formalized in written form. Having a partnership agreement will state clearly the operating procedures of the company and what happens when one of the partners has to leave (for any reason). This saves money, time and drama in the long run.
3. IP: Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents
A big part of the competitive advantage of a business lies in intellectual property. It would make sense then to protect this as good as you can. Trademarks protect a business’s brand – the logo, name, slogan and product names. Before you register a trademark you will have to research and see if someone else hasn’t taken on the name you intend to use. When you’re clear, you will want to register one or several federal trademarks.
Copyrights protect anything that is made — art, software, media, content and so on. For some businesses this copyright protection is granted the second you publish your work – for others, you will have to apply for one.
Patents protect inventions and processes. A pharmaceutical company’s method for synthesizing a drug for example is often patented, meaning that only they can use this process.
Talk to an attorney to see whether you need to file for a patent. A good attorney will know how to streamline what is important and do everything that is required in order to ensure the protection of your intellectual property.
4. Location matters
Whether you’re buying an office or renting storage space in a warehouse, you will need a lawyer to clear the sale and secure the lease in order to make sure that there are no “hidden” terms that would cause problems later on.
If you’re going to hire employees or contractors, you must abide by federal and state employment laws. At the very least you will need a contract between you and your employee (or independent contractor). You’ll also need an employee handbook of company policies. Your lawyer will help you determine if your employee is actually a contractor and vice versa, whether employees are exempt from having a contract and to make sure that your company’s data stay confidential.
6. State regulations
Depending on the type of business you conduct, there will be certain regulations you will have to follow. If you own a bar, you will need a license for selling alcohol for example and if your company exports to international countries, there are other laws you must follow. An attorney will help you evaluate what category your business falls into and how to make sure that you comply with existent regulation.
7. Paying taxes
You might want to speak to an attorney if you’re thinking of restructuring your company in order to reduce tax contributions and to figure out what tax requirements there are for your business. You wouldn’t want to skimp on an legal expert in this area. Lesser men have fallen out because they didn’t pay the right taxes at the right time.
photo credit: kozumel