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Legal Fees When Starting a Business

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

You know you can't start a business for free. Any comprehensive business plan will include an estimate of start-up costs, considering everything from rent and employee wages to inventory and insurance. The one thing many entrepreneurs may neglect in these calculations, however, is legal fees.

You may need an attorney's advice throughout your startup's life, from incorporation to employment law compliance. So here's a look at some of those legal fees, and some ways to keep them in check.

What You May Need a Lawyer For

Entrepreneurs might need legal advice from day one, when deciding how to incorporate their business. Finding the right legal structure for your startup may entail getting some legal input from an attorney. If you've got a new idea, new product, or new technology you want to protect, you'll also want to make sure they have the right intellectual property rights in place. And before your startup's first sale, you might want to confirm you've got the proper permits for operations.

Once you're up and running, you're probably going to have a few employees, at least. And employment law can get a little murky, especially when it comes to complying with federal, state, and local statutes. Finally, there's the little matter of paying taxes, which may require the help of an experienced tax law attorney rather than a CPA. No matter what your business entails, you're probably going to need a lawyer to get it started, and, as Entrepreneur notes, most startups underestimate their legal costs.

What You May Need to Pay a Lawyer

Just because your startup needs legal advice doesn't mean you need to pay an arm and a leg for it. There are some low-cost options for legal help:

  • Do-It-Yourself Legal Forms: More than ever, you can find standard legal documents online, from incorporation paperwork and employment contracts to trademark and patent filings. And in some cases you can have an attorney review your documents before filing.
  • Free Legal Resources: Along with boilerplate legal documents, there are more free legal resources at your disposal these days. Some online research with small business sites or government entities can help you understand your legal issue, so you can either get the answers you need or know which questions to ask an attorney.
  • Hiring a Private Attorney: You don't need a full-time lawyer on an hourly retainer to get answers or legal advice. And many attorneys may be amenable to alternative fee arrangements like fixed fees for certain filings or equity instead of cash.

The best way to get a sense of what your startup's legal fees may be, and how to save on them, is to talk to a local business attorney today.

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