As a first time entrepreneur, you’re likely to encounter a bunch of unfamiliar issues as you navigate through the process of starting your business. One area that is especially troublesome for new business owners is dealing with the law.
Entity formation, employment laws, intellectual property, contracts, licenses, taxes… the list goes on and on. There are so many legal issues that come into play for a new business that it can be overwhelming at times.
Many inexperienced founders end up bypassing these legal issues altogether, either because they aren’t aware of them, or because they fear the high costs of hiring a lawyer for advice. But, avoidance is not the solution. You should deal with your legal problems immediately. Look for help from Kelly Services legal staffing support or another company. Remember, failing to take care of the little legal odds and ends early on can end up in disastrous outcomes down the road.
So below are some common legal issues along with tips for how to handle them on a tight budget.
Incorporating Your Business
The first step you should take when you start a business is to form a legal entity. Although it’s not required, it can be foolish not to limit your personal liability. You should think about protecting yourself with an entity such as an LLC or corporation. If you don’t, your personal assets like your bank accounts, home, and car are at risk if you get sued or go bankrupt.
Tips to save money:
- Research everything on your own. There is plenty of free legal information available on sites like NOLO.com. You should educate yourself about possible legal issues that you might face with these resources before you take any actions. That way you can come up with a game plan and avoid spending unnecessary dollars setting up your company.
- Do your own filings. You can file the paperwork to start an LLC or corporation yourself. Most states allow you to do it online, but if not, you can download the forms from the Secretary of State website and mail them in. It’s much cheaper than using an online filing company or hiring a lawyer to do it for you.
- Consult with a lawyer, but just for guidance. It can be very costly if you make a mistake when trying to do your own incorporation. So it’s often wise to at least meet with a lawyer for a consultation and discuss things. Most lawyers will do an initial consultation for free so you can get some basic advice. Let the lawyer know that you will come back to them in the future when legal issues arise and they will be more eager to help you out now.
Protecting Intellectual Property
If you are starting an Internet business, there are many intellectual property issues that can arise. Even if your business is offline, you should still take steps to protect your company name, logo, and any other proprietary things you create.
You will want to make sure that your company has complete ownership over all the work you produce. For a tech business, this includes all the graphics, source code, and other content from your website or app. If your company invented something new or your products are really unique, you may also consider applying for patent protection so your competitors can’t copy you.
Tips to save money:
- Work with non-lawyer professionals when possible. There are document services companies, paralegals, etc. that can perform basic tasks like trademark or patent searches. Those things can be tedious and expensive when you pay a lawyer by the hour, so consider hiring more affordable service providers to do the job.
- Fill out your own trademark application and have a lawyer review it. You can file a trademark yourself at http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/. Have a lawyer look it over before you submit it to make sure you did everything right. This will be cheaper than having the lawyer do the entire application for you.
- Offer to help when possible. For some things, you are always better off hiring a lawyer. For example, filing a patent application involves many technical details, and the average person is likely to make mistakes. But, let your lawyer know about your tight budget and offer to help out whenever possible to save money.
Writing Contracts and Documents
Having proper legal documentation of all your transactions is essential when you are operating a business. It’s probably the best way to avoid getting into costly lawsuits in the future because when an agreement is in writing, it’s much harder to fight about.
Whether you are hiring someone, taking money from an investor, purchasing raw materials from suppliers, or selling goods and services to end consumers, you need to document everything with proper legal agreements.
Tips to save money:
- Download legal forms and draft the first version yourself. There are hundreds, even thousands of inexpensive legal forms available online. While most of the time they won’t be tailored exactly to your needs, it can be a good starting point. Write first drafts of your contracts from these templates to the best of your ability, and then hire a lawyer to review them and help you cover up any issues you overlooked.
- Use document preparation services. As mentioned above, non-lawyer service providers are usually much more affordable. These companies can help you get legal documents that are more within your budget.
- Negotiate for cheaper legal fees and compare prices. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. If you compare price quotes from multiple sources, you’re likely to get a better price. You’ll also have more bargaining power if you ask your lawyer if they could do the work at a lower rate. A lot of times, they might have a paralegal or associate that could do the work cheaper. Some lawyers may even be willing to do the work for you at a discount with the expectation that you will remain a client for the long-term. Either way, communicate with the lawyer and let them know your situation.
Starting a company presents so many challenges and unfamiliar situations that it can be easy to lose track of the little odds and ends at times. But don’t cut corners when it comes to legal work. You’ll save yourself major headaches (and major dollars) by taking care of all the legal issues that come up properly the first time around.
In summary, here are the key takeaways and points you should focus on to save money on startup legal expenses:
- Research possible legal issues thoroughly on your own and create a plan before you take any actions
- Perform simple tasks yourself when possible, then have a lawyer double check your work to make sure you didn’t overlook anything
- Consider non-lawyer service providers to cut costs on basic stuff like document preparation and trademark searches
- Communicate with your lawyer and let them know about your budget situation, offering to help out with the work when possible
- Negotiate for lower fees, and explore multiple options to get the best price