Future-Proofing: The Initial Consultation
For anyone who has ventured into business for themselves, they know that the early days can seem impossibly busy. Always with more on their plates than they know what to do with, business owners find it hard to imagine anything other than taking care of what needs to be done that day – let alone planning for the months and years ahead.
Early-stage business owners also dwell on preserving another commodity: Funds. When success hinges on how much money stays in the bank, using money the wrong way is tantamount to undoing a day or week’s work, and throwing away the one thing that’s keeping them alive.
But given a moment to look to the horizon, most savvy business owners can see that even a brief pre-trajectory chat with an attorney is money well spent. And with a little preparation, there are cost-effective strategies to making the most of your billable time with a business law attorney. Here are a few topics to plan on hammering out during your initial consultation with an attorney.
Choosing a Business Structure
Most clients first enter a lawyer’s office knowing they should consult with an attorney to choose the best legal structure for their business. Their only question is, which one is best? Two minutes of internet research tells them limited liability is a good idea, but limited liability comes in multiple forms and each carries myriad legal implications that potentially reach far into a business’ future.
It’s easy to think that choosing between an LLC, an S-Corp, a C-Corp or any other structure when first starting out seems premature, but for businesses that are growing steadily, the benefits offered by each may come into play sooner than you’d guess. Even though it may seem like the wrong time, taking the time to get this out of the way early pays dividends.
Many successful businesses share a similar theme of how they’re more busy dealing with legal disputes and contracts than they are dealing with the business. The fact is, responding to and protecting a business from legal exposure is a high-level function of business owners. Your initial consultation with an attorney will shed light on the legal exposure that all businesses will likely face.
Even doing something as simple as hiring a single employee reshapes the day-to-day landscape. Wrongful termination, worker’s compensation claims, sexual harassment or discrimination are all just some of the pitfalls that small businesses can find themselves in if they’re not careful. A one-time discussion with an attorney can raise awareness of these potential events and tell you how to protect against them.
Contracts between business owners and employees, contracts with vendors, contracts with clients. Scaling up a business is largely a process of more and more contracts. The point of contracts, just in case it bears reminding, is to create a legally-binding relationship between parties. If either side knowingly or unknowingly breaches the contract terms, will you know how to respond?
An initial consultation with an attorney can draft reusable contracts that offer legal protection for you and your business.
Worth the Investment
For most new business owners, the first time they’ll speak with a business attorney is just to figure out the safeguards necessary to move forward with a growing business. Because even frivolous legal disputes cost time, money, and manpower to fully take care of, just one or two legal problems can be enough to close the doors.
Taking the time to prevent them in the first place will always outweigh the damage of being unprepared, and is the whole point of involving legal expertise in your business.
Another benefit of involving an attorney in the beginning, or even keeping a dedicated attorney on retainer, is to have someone who can quickly respond to legal actions if they occur. If your attorney is already familiar with your business structure, contracts, history and culture, that saves time, saves money, and drastically increases your chances of success if there’s ever a dispute.