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Starting a Business? 5 Legal Areas to Learn

By Andrew Lu on February 11, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You've decided to put your wonderful business idea into practice. Now you have to deal with the practical realities of starting a business, starting with all the legal requirements.

While you don't always need to hire an attorney to review your business' legal issues, you will at least need some basic understanding of the law -- and know where to find help if you get stuck.

Here are five legal subject areas that entrepreneurs will need to learn more about in order to properly start up a business:

  1. Contract Law. It doesn't matter what business you're involved in, you will likely encounter contracts. This can include franchisee agreements, deals with suppliers, web hosting companies, and even your own clients or customers. It is important that you understand these are legal documents and the fine print matters. Your rights are typically outlined by the four corners of the contract, and if you are inexperienced in reading such documents (and you should read every word), you may want to hire an attorney.

  2. Tort Law. What's a tort? It's the body of law that covers what happens when someone is injured by your business. It covers things like slip and fall injuries inside your store, product liability cases, car crashes involving employees on the job, and even interference with competing businesses.

  3. Intellectual Property Law. The worst thing that can happen is for a competitor to take your brilliant idea and basically steal it. Can your competitors do that? Well, it depends. And you'll need to understand some basics of copyright, patents, and even trademark law to understand your legal rights and how to enforce them.

  4. Employment Law. Unless your business is a true mom-and-pop shop, you will hire employees. This is a very big deal, as hiring employees means that you're now an employer. And employers have to meet a lot of legal requirements like paying wages, keeping employees safe, and even providing benefits.

  5. Internet Law. If you run an online business or maintain a website, you'll want to know how to protect your data and your customers' data online. Beware, as hackers have been known to prey on small businesses.

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