Most Lawyers Are Not Business Attorneys
Most lawyers address criminal and family matters. Someone who does “non-business” matters is probably not the best fit for your business. Business owners need an attorney with the skills in contracts, organizations, real estate, taxes, personnel and collections.
1. Business Attorneys focus on Contracts.
You will need a lawyer that speaks the language of business and can quickly understand your business. They should regularly prepare standard form contracts for you to use with customers, clients and suppliers. They should review contracts that other people will want you to sign.
2. Business Attorneys think about Organizations.
You will need a lawyer that can consider the available business entities in light of your specific circumstances and plans. They will help you decide whether a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) is the better way to organize your business, and prepare the necessary paperwork. Many people simply knee-jerk their way into a LLC without realizing that it presents four possible tax structures.
3. Business Attorneys deal with Real Estate.
Every business needs a place to work. Commercial leases are very complex and almost always favor the landlord. While leases may seem to be form documents, they are negotiable. Your attorney should have a standard “tenant’s addendum,” containing provisions that benefit you, that can be added to the printed form lease document.
4. Business Attorneys address Taxes, licenses and Regulations.
Accountants prepare and file business tax returns. Attorneys register your business for federal and state tax identification numbers, and understand the tax consequences the business transactions.
5. Business Attorneys help you find and protect Intellectual property.
If you are in a media, design or other creative-type business, it is certainly a “plus” if your lawyer can help you register your products and services for federal trademark and copyright protection. Generally, though, these tasks are performed by specialists who do nothing but “intellectual property” legal work. If your lawyer says he or she “specializes in small businesses,” then he or she should have a close working relationship with one or more intellectual property specialist.
6. Personnel and Employees.
Unless you can get the work done all by yourself, you’re probably going to need employees. You need to understand the wage and hour laws, discrimination laws, worker’s compensation, federal and state tax withholding and remittance regulations. Immigration, hiring, firing, vacation, holiday, Family Medical Leave act, Obama Health care, COBRA and other matters.
Cash is king when it comes to running a business. When you are out of cash, you are out of business. You need counsel that is well versed in credit policies, securitization, factoring and helping you to keep the cash flow — flowing.