The general advice most often given to new business owners is that the two people they need on their team is an accountant and an attorney. The accountant may seem obvious, you need a guy to run the numbers and so few people actually enjoy math. But many times, we see businesses delay in hiring or even consulting an attorney. Again, I can understand that point of view, especially how expensive we can be. How hard can it be to draft a contract? Can’t I just use my best judgement and basic critical thinking skills? Can’t I just hire an attorney if I get sued? This line of thinking may seem like a way to cut costs, but will more than likely cost you more in the end.
First let me get this out of the way, if you’re a business owner without an attorney and you’re currently being sued, it’s already too late. In other words, you done #$%&!@ up. This is because, the point of hiring an attorney to help with your business is to prevent exposing yourself to legal liability. If you’re currently being sued the thing that exposed you or your company to liability already happened. Hiring an attorney is like having insurance, you need one to cover yourself. The earlier you hire an attorney for your business the better. You will want an attorney who truly knows or gets to know you and your business. And early on in a start-up business, an attorney can aid in drafting contracts, avoiding OSHA or Federal Employment law violations, zoning compliance, copyright and trademark advice (naming your company can be a pain) and every and all legal questions you may have. If you’re setting up an LLC, you HAVE to have an attorney. A corporation by law has to be represented by an attorney in court.
Finally, the best reason to keep an attorney on retainer is to do the things you want to do. J.P. Morgan once said, “I don’t pay my lawyers to tell me what I cannot do, but to tell me how to do what I want to do.” If you have a problem, a lawyer’s advice is invaluable. You want to stop employees from stealing business when they leave? We can show you how to do that. You want to expand into a new area or region? We can show you what you will encounter and how to do that. A common misconception about attorneys is that we tell you what not to do, when in reality our job is to tell you how to do it without exposing yourself to legal liability. So, if you’re starting a new business, please, seek an attorney to help you before you get into trouble. It saves time and money.