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At What Point Should a Small Business Call in the Lawyers?

February 16th, 2010 | Online & Small Business Resources,Small Business,Small Business Tips | No Comments »

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.  It’s a oft-repeated phrase from Henry VI (and from many former clients).  Love them or not, at some point, every small business is going to have to work with (or against) a lawyer.  Some do it early, some later.  Think about just setting up a business.  Do you do operate as a sole enterprise, and LLC, a corporation or (if working with others) a partnership.  What are the implications of these decisions? 

You get past formation, now does your business have a special product or process that should be protected with a patent filing?  Is your business name something you want to protect (or at least prevent your competitors from using) — if so, looks like you’ll have to consider filing for a trademark. Your website is up and running…do you have a site agreement, terms of use, etc?  What about a privacy policy?  Where do you get a good and enforceable service agreement?  Now your business is growing and you must hire employees and contractors to help, what agreements do you need in place and are you aware of the relevant employment laws and regulations.

I’m not making this post an advertisement for the legal practice, but with all the potholes out there, it’s scary.  If your business is fairly straight-forward, you can take advantage of commercial forms (take a look at LegalZoom).  But that won’t get you all the way there.  For example, we here at KikScore have a couple of lawyers as part of the team (myself included).  You’d think we wouldn’t need to hire outside lawyers for our start-up.  Well, it may be because we don’t have the brightest lawyers on staff (myself included), but we have a patent lawyer and an outside corporate lawyer helping us out.  I’m not saying this is the way to go…I’m sure because of our backgrounds we over think a lot of the decisions.  In fact, my dad has operated relatively lawyer-free for the past 30 years and has handled most of his business disputes in small claims court.  But he’s also heavily armed, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

What’s your opinion on when to call in the unfrozen cave-man lawyer?

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