Confidential Business Start-Up Information Questionnaire
An experienced business law attorney can be a tremendous help for an entrepreneur in the process of launching a business start-up. Regulatory compliance, tax issues, licenses, leases, business contracts — launching a new business includes myriad legal matters. Not knowing about a federal law, state statute, county regulation, or local ordinance can be a costly mistake that ends a business before it has a chance to succeed.
What Kind of Lawyer Do You Need?
There are lawyers who specialize in start-up businesses, but most business lawyers will handle a wide range of legal matters for both new and existing businesses.
There are also lawyers who specialize in a particular area of business law that is most often addressed in the start-up phase. Depending on the nature of the business, a would-be entrepreneur or inventor may want to consult a(n):
- Intellectual property lawyer (also called IP): These lawyers handle copyright and trademark, and sometimes patent law
- Patent lawyer: These lawyers focus on securing, transferring, and protecting patent rights.
- Business organization lawyer: These lawyers help the business owner choose the right kind of business structure (LLC, partnership, LLP, S corp, C corp, Inc), and then complete the paperwork to set up the business.
- Tax lawyer: While an accountant can help you prepare and file your taxes, some issues require the help of a tax lawyer. Getting on the wrong side of the IRS is a good way to find yourself in significant legal and financial trouble.
- Contract/transactional lawyer: Every business lawyer will be able to assist you with creating business contracts, but you may want to work with a lawyer who is familiar with your industry.
- Government contract specialist: If your business wants to seek government contracts, a lawyer who focuses on this type of work could provide invaluable advice.
Information Your Business Lawyer Will Need
The Business Startup Questionnaire
In order to do the best possible job on your behalf, your business attorney needs information about your proposed business venture. This information is best provided by parties involved at the highest level of the new business — the founder or co-founding partners.
At your first meeting with your attorney, you should be prepared to provide the following business start-up information. It is a lot of information, but taking the time to provide this information in writing and upfront could save you a lot of time and money when you meet with a lawyer.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO SEE A LAWYER?
What can this lawyer do for you?
Do you have specific questions or general questions? What are they?
Is this a one-off consultation or are you looking to form a long-term business relationship?
INFORMATION ABOUT YOU
Date of Birth____________________________
Home Phone Number ____________________________
Work Phone Number ____________________________
Other Phone Number ____________________________
Website URL ____________________________
Social Media Contact _____________________
Have you ever declared bankruptcy? (If yes, provide date)
Do you have a criminal conviction for a felony or financial crime? (If yes, provide details)
Have you ever been found in violation of SEC, Commerce Department, or other government regulation? (If yes, provide details)
Have you ever entered into a consent decree with, or had an injunction granted against you by any federal or state enforcement agency or commerce department? (If yes, provide details)
Do you have any injunctions or liens against you—particularly an IRS lien or civil judgment lien? (If yes, provide details)
INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR EMPLOYMENT
Employment Position ____________________________
How long have you worked there?__________
Do you intend to remain employed there? __________
If yes, for how long?__________
Did your current employer or any past employer require you to sign a non-competition or confidentiality agreement? __________ (If yes, provide a copy of the agreement to your attorney)
Did you develop your business concept on company time or premises?__________
Did you use any company resources in developing your business concept? __________
If yes, what resources?______________________
Have you approached your employer with your business venture?__________
If yes, what was your employer's response?______________________
YOUR BUSINESS IDEA AND BUSINESS MODEL
Explain it in as few words as possible. Is it a product or a service? (This will determine what kind of lawyer you're looking for.)
Who are your competitors?
What is your business niche and target market?
Do you have a business plan? (If you don't, get one done before you see a lawyer, even if it is only sketched out.)
If this is an invention or a product, is it patentable? __
- Have you started the patent process? __
- Do you have a patent lawyer? __
If it is a physical service or an online service?
Do you think you can copyright any part of it? (Note: Most software cannot be copyrighted.) __
Does the business have any trademarks or logos you wish to protect?__________ (If yes, provide details or renderings)
Do you, any of your partners, or the business own any inventions the business intends to exploit?__________ (If yes, provide details)
Does anyone else have an interest in the product? (This includes a company you work/worked for if you developed the product there, someone who helped work on the product, financiers who have an interest, etc.)
Have you signed any non-compete or confidentiality agreements that might relate to this product or service?
Is there anyone who might be able to sue you over this product or service? __
INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS FOUNDER, CO-FOUNDER, AND PARTNER(S)
If you have business partners or associates, provide the same contact information requested above. They should be at the meeting as well.
What will be each person's interest in the business?
What is each person's contribution to the business and the interest in the businesses that will arise from that?
Which of the owners are expected to be employed by the business? __________________
In what capacities? ________________________________________________________
For what compensation? ___________________________________________________
Are there any written contracts between the owners?__________ (If yes, provide your attorney with a copy)
INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS VENTURE
Have you taken any steps to incorporate your business? __________(If yes, provide details)
Have you chosen a company name and, if so, have you run that name through the Secretary of State's business name machine?
Who is expected to initially own the business, in what percentages, and for what contributions?
Is the business a party or potential party to any joint venture, license, or similar agreement?__________ (If yes, provide your attorney with a copy)
Who will be actually working for the business and in what capacities (this should all be in the business plan but expect to know this off the top of your head).
What is your source of financing?
Do you need bank financing? Have you obtained or sought to obtain any loans for your business?__________ (If yes, provide details)
Do you have collateral—particularly personal assets to collateralize?
What assets does the business own?__________
Have you offered to sell or sold any interests in your business to any investors?_________ (If yes, provide details)
Have you promised an interest in the company to any consultants?__________(If yes, provide details)
How do you expect to make money?
When do you expect to break even?
How will profits be distributed?
Does the business have any written financial statements?__________ (If yes, provide your attorney with a copy)
Does the business own or lease any real estate?__________ (If yes, provide details)
Who else are you consulting with?
— Other attorneys (and note the reason you are working with them to avoid duplicate efforts)
— Corporate consultants,
— Financial consultants, etc.
— Accountant/CPA (take that person to the meeting if you can)
— Other consultants (list them)
What kind of physical space will you need?
Do you have a real estate agent or some kind of building space arrangement (like a business incubator or your mother's basement)?
Have you retained any consultants, accountants, or tax professionals?__________ (If yes, provide details)
How are you going to pay the lawyer?
(Make a list of pertinent questions to ask your attorney)
Find the Right Lawyer for Your Business Needs
There are many different disciplines within the larger context of business law. See FindLaw's Business Lawyers and Resources section for more information. More tips and resources can be found in FindLaw's First Steps to Start a Business section.
After gathering the necessary business start-up information, find a business and commercial lawyer near you. who can answer questions about your startup business
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