When you’re running a business, there are many things to think about – from protecting your intellectual property (IP) to avoiding and resolving disputes. And that’s just the beginning. If you are an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to go through the long hours of research on how to legally protect yourself, then having an experienced business attorney by your side may be the best move for you.’
6 Ways a Lawyer Can Help You in Your Business
Here are six things that a lawyer can help you with:
Forming Your Business
At the very least, you should have a good business structure in place. A lawyer can save you time and stress by ensuring that your business is set up correctly from the beginning. A lawyer can help you understand how to form your business (e.g., corporation, partnership, Limited Liability Company) and the costs and benefits of that choice. For example, some businesses are more conducive to incorporation than others; you will want to know whether it is right for you.
During the business formation process, your lawyer can help you:
- Draft your company’s Articles of Incorporation
- File the Articles with the state
- Apply for a corporate identification number
- Create bylaws for your company
- Open a business bank account
- Issue stock certificates to company owners
A lawyer can also help make recommendations on reducing bureaucracy and expenses. With a good corporate attorney by your side, you will have an easy time complying with the appropriate tax codes, zoning regulations, and restrictions on commercial activities.
Once your company is formed, a lawyer can help you maintain compliance with state and federal laws. This includes preparing annual reports, maintaining corporate records, registering trademarks and service marks, and paying taxes. In some cases, it may be advisable to have a lawyer review an employment agreement before you sign it.
Corporate compliance comprises:
- Maintaining Corporate Records: Your lawyer can help you keep track of meeting minutes, shareholder resolutions, and annual meetings.
- Filing Annual Reports: Filing your company’s annual report with the state is a necessary part of maintaining an active corporation or LLC status. State agencies then send out reports to shareholders annually. If you want to avoid paying penalties for your noncompliance, have your lawyer help you file annual reports on time.
- Registering Trademarks and Service Marks: A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that distinguishes the products or services of one company from those of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark, but it protects services instead of products.
- Paying Taxes: Lawyers can help you file the correct tax forms and ensure you’re up-to-date on all tax laws that may affect your business.
Your lawyer can also advise you on other important decisions such as:
- Writing and revising bylaws
- Selecting directors and officers for your company
- Forming an employee handbook
Using a lawyer for corporate compliance can help you save time and money in the long run.
3) Protecting Your Intellectual Property and Assets
Intellectual property (IP) is an intangible asset with value, such as a patent, trade secret, copyright, or trademark. It’s essential to protect your IP because it can be stolen or misappropriated as a trade secret. To limit the access of your IP, you can use a corporate structure.
How to protect your IP:
- Patent: A patent is a federally registered right to control the use and development of an invention.
- Trade secret: The owner of a trade secret has the exclusive right to make, use, or sell their original work by keeping it undisclosed and maintaining its secrecy.
A lawyer can help you establish a corporate structure that will protect your IP from being stolen or misused.
4) Negotiating and Drafting Contracts
Contracts are a common part of a business. Contracts may be signed with suppliers for supplies and services, with customers for sales of goods or services, with distributors or franchisees to buy goods or services from the business on agreed-upon terms, or between partners in a business.
Whether the contract is simple as an equipment rental agreement between two businesses, or more complicated, such as a multi-year contract to provide supplies or materials for use in manufacturing, it is essential that the agreement be carefully negotiated and drafted by an attorney.
The lawyer can help ensure that the business has committed only to what it wants to commit to and that it understands commitments made by suppliers or another party. The lawyer can also ensure that the agreement is clear, concise, and unambiguous.
5) Resolving Disputes
Businesses often have disputes between or among owners, customers, distributors, and others. The disputes may be as simple as a failure to pay money due under a contract or as complicated as a breach of a complex agreement. Business disputes may also involve allegations of wrongdoing by one party against another. The parties involved in the dispute need to resolve it in any event.
A lawyer can help resolve disputes through negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. If those methods fail, your lawyer can also bring a lawsuit on behalf of your business. The lawyer can also advise avoiding disputes or how to handle them best if they arise.
6) Planning For Taxes or Succession
Business owners should review their tax situation regularly, in consultation with a lawyer. It’s essential to obtain the proper advice from a lawyer when:
- Restructuring your business for succession purposes
- Creating new business entities
- Buying or selling an interest in a company
- Forming new business entities or transferring assets into them
- Making other changes that may have tax consequences
A lawyer can also help with estate planning to ensure that the business owner’s interests are protected in the event of their death.
A Business Lawyer Will Save You Time and Money
When it comes to Business Law, a business owner cannot afford to go at it alone. A lawyer can provide that knowledge and help you avoid costly mistakes by negotiating with suppliers who want you to sign unfair contracts or by helping you draft a favorable contract for your business. If a dispute arises, a lawyer can represent your interests in court and help you resolve the dispute through mediation or arbitration. Business owners should also have a lawyer review their tax situation regularly and assist with estate planning. In short, a lawyer can help your business in many ways, and the cost of doing so is often small compared to the benefits.