It’s a fair question, and one you’ll be bound to ask yourself at some point between hatching your new idea and hiring your first employee. Obviously, I’m a bit biased, but even if you don’t work with me, my answer to this question is the same: yes, you need a business attorney. And the sooner you establish that relationship, the better.
As a business owner myself, I know the early days are often the leanest, and the idea of paying a lawyer from day one probably doesn’t sound great. However, this doesn’t mean you employ an attorney every day to review ever decision you make before it goes out the door. Think of your business lawyer as a strategic partner to call on when you need it. In order to make legal services accessible to new businesses, I offer flat-fee and pay-as-you go services that are predictable and easy to factor in to your monthly budget. We can also set monthly caps, or put together an individually tailored fee structure that makes sense for you and your business.
There are number of reasons to establish a legal relationship early on. Here are some of the big ones.
Entity Selection & Formation
Selecting the right entity is a big decision for any new company, and it’s important to get it right from the outset. When it comes to choosing an entity, there are a number of options - sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, and corporation are the ones that often come to mind. Choosing the right option for you will depend on a number of factors including where you are in the business process (i.e., just opening or a few years in), what kind of business you have, if you plan to have employees, what potential liabilities you could face as a result of your business, and a number of other important factors. Because entity selection is a particularly individualized decision, it’s important to work with an attorney who asks the right questions, and helps you get it right the first time.
As a new company, you’ll likely be entering a number of contracts, and a solid legal partner can help you avoid unwittingly committing to something that you’ll later regret. Contracts will come in a variety of forms; they can be for you or other owners or partners (operating agreements, shareholder agreements, or partnership agreements), employee or independent contractor agreements, nondisclosure agreements, commercial leases, and merchant or vendor agreements, to name just a few. These are all documents that I can draft in a way most beneficial for you and your company, or when presented with contracts that someone else has prepared, I can review those documents the same day with a fine-tooth comb to make sure your interests are protected.
Protecting your Brand
Protecting your company name and logo – and making sure you’re not infringing on anyone else’s intellectual property in the process – is something to pay particularly close attention to when starting out. Prior to deciding on a name and logo, you should determine whether you are infringing on someone else’s intellectual property by performing a trademark search. Once you’re confident that there is no potential for infringement, it’s time to think about what you can do to protect your brand from infringement by others. For example, even if you are not quite ready to start doing business (use in commerce is required to get a trademark) you can still file an “intent to use” application to reserve the trademark.
Keep in mind that obtaining an “intent to use” designation can take several months to complete. Once you’ve started using your name and logo in commerce, obtaining a trademark registration at the federal level – the kind that allows you to put the cool ® symbol next to your logo – can take a number of years from start to finish. So, when it comes to defining your brand and protecting your creation, it’s best to start early!
The Take Away
Like any other relationship you establish while starting your company, it’s important to find a legal partner you can trust, and with whom you can build a long-term working relationship. I can’t promise to answer all your substantive legal questions the first time we meet. But I can promise a 30-minute no-cost consultation, during which I will learn as much as I can about you, your business, and what you’re passionate about. I can promise that if you choose to hire me as your business attorney, you’ll be glad you did. For your first no-cost consultation, we can meet wherever you like – at my office, on Zoom, in a bar, or over coffee. It’s entirely up to you. Contact us.