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Business Lawyers and Resources

Whether you're launching a startup, managing a family-owned store, or running a cozy corner shop, you've got a lot on your plate. But there's one thing you need to pay attention to: the legal side of your business.

The legal structure you choose for your business is not just a boring detail. It's a big deal. It affects how you run your business, handle money, and protect yourself from trouble. We'll also show you where to find help and resources. Knowing your legal needs in a small business is not just an option—it's a must-do.

Choosing the Right Business Structure

Selecting the proper business structure is often the first decision for new business owners. This decision can impact your business's tax treatment, liability, and management structure. The options may include:

Which structure you choose depends on several factors. For example, LLCs are a popular choice for their flexibility and personal liability protection.

When choosing your business structure, consider the following:

  • The level of control you want
  • The extent of personal liability you're comfortable with
  • Your tax obligations

Consulting with an attorney can help you make the best choice for your business. There are also some forms and templates to help you get started.

Business Formation and Templates

Consider using business forms and templates for your business operations and legal compliance. These resources can help you:

Online legal resources and templates can often save you time and money.

When using templates, it's essential to tailor them to your specific needs. While templates provide a starting point, they should be customized for your business. You also should have any contracts or legal documents reviewed by an attorney. An attorney can ensure they meet all legal requirements and protect your interests.

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Incorporation and Registration

If you choose a formal business structure like a corporation, you must complete the incorporation process. This involves filing legal documents with the appropriate state agency. Be sure to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes.

Incorporation makes your business a separate legal entity. This can offer benefits such as limited liability and potential tax advantages. It's a complex process. You may need help from legal professionals specializing in business law. Properly executed incorporation ensures that your business complies with state and federal regulations.

Tax Obligations and Returns

Understanding business tax responsibilities is essential to avoid potential legal issues. Business structures have varying tax requirements, so you must know your obligations. Consult the IRS and state tax agencies for guidance on your situation.

Keeping meticulous financial records is crucial for tax compliance. Consider using accounting software or hiring a professional accountant to manage your finances. Proper record-keeping helps with tax reporting and provides a clear financial picture of your business. This aids in decision-making and attracting investors.

Contracts and Agreements

Business contracts are the backbone of any successful venture. These legally binding agreements outline the terms and conditions of various business relationships. Some examples include:

Legal documents are essential for protecting your interests and preventing disputes.

When creating contracts, it's crucial to define roles, responsibilities, and expectations clearly. Ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts down the road. Using a business attorney to draft or review your contracts ensures that your agreements are legally sound. By doing so, you can protect your business.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Safeguarding intellectual property is vital for real estate, technology, or creative businesses. Intellectual property includes:

Each tool grants exclusive rights to your ideas, products, or services. These tools help prevent others from using or reproducing your ideas without permission.

Do thorough research before you take legal action to safeguard your intellectual property. Ensure your rights are clear and you're not infringing on others. Intellectual property law is complex, so consult an attorney specializing in this area for guidance.

Personal Liability Protection

Many entrepreneurs choose LLCs for their limited liability protection. This business structure is popular because it:

  • Protects your things (like your savings and belongings) from business debts
  • Makes legal issues and money troubles less of a risk
  • Allows some partners to have less responsibility for the business's debts

Limited liability protection is not absolute. But it's essential to maintain a separation between personal and business finances. Commingling funds or failing to adhere to corporate formalities could jeopardize this protection. Regular consultations with legal and financial professionals can help ensure ongoing compliance.

Name Changes and Updates

Changing your business name or updating its information often takes several steps. You'll typically need to submit specific documents to the appropriate authorities. For example, this could be your state's Secretary of State office or the IRS.

Here are the steps you should take before making any changes:

  1. Name availability check: Start by checking if the new business name you want to use is available and not already used by another company. This helps you avoid potential legal conflicts and trademark issues.
  2. Trademark consideration: Check for any existing trademarks associated with your desired business name. If there's already a trademark registered under that name, you might face legal issues, and changing your name could become a necessity.
  3. Branding and marketing impact: Changing your business name is more than just a legal process. It can affect your branding and marketing efforts. Consider the impact it will have on your existing customers and the need to reestablish your brand identity in the market.

When Do You Need a Business Attorney?

While you don't need a lawyer for everything, certain situations benefit from the help of legal professionals. In fact, not hiring a lawyer for certain procedures can be expensive to the point of bankrupting your business. All it takes is one lawsuit or botched contract to put your business on the wrong trajectory. The truth is, you never know exactly when your small business may need an attorney. Also, it's important to remember that limiting your legal exposure in the first place is much better than hiring an attorney after the fact.

So, if you have questions about a particular legal issue, particularly if the stakes are high, you should consult an attorney. Attorneys who work with small businesses are often open to consultation arrangements. In such an agreement, the entrepreneur usually does the bulk of the research and then solicits the attorney for review.

Instances where you might need legal services include the following:

  • Discrimination claims by current, former, or prospective employees
  • Complaints or investigations by federal, state, or local government officials
  • Environmental issues
  • Drafting a buy-sell agreement or merger of your company

Hiring a Lawyer: Considerations

Don't randomly choose a lawyer from the Yellow Pages if you need legal counsel. You'll want to make sure the lawyer you hire has the right temperament for your business, in addition to the standard criteria. It also helps to research common fees and fee arrangements before meeting with potential counsel. Generally, you should ask attorneys the following questions in order to make an informed decision:

  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • What are your practice areas?
  • Who is your typical client?
  • What are your fees and billing arrangements?
  • How will you keep me updated about the status of my case?

Getting Help From A Business Lawyer

Understanding legal forms, resources, and obligations can be overwhelming for small business owners. Remember, compliance with the law protects your business entities and sets the stage for growth and success in entrepreneurship. To simplify these complex matters, don't hesitate to contact a business law attorney for legal advice.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
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