Setting up a new business, or taking over an existing business can be an exciting but nerve-wracking time. There’s so much to think about, and sometimes the legal issues get neglected. One obstacle that sometimes makes legal issues less of a priority is not knowing where to get the right legal advice for your business.
Your local business advice centre can give general advice on issues of which all businesses need to be aware, and there are also specialist business lawyers for example Yashmin Mistry of JPC Law who can provide business-specific advice. It’s worth using the free advice from the business centre to help you work out where to turn to, and then using the free consultations offered as standard by a private business lawyer to determine who will best suit your particular business.
What are the legal issues which may arise?
Business contracts are the main issue for all businesses. Trading in any form requires contracts, whether in written form or otherwise. You need to be aware of the statutory conditions for trading for your specific line of business. If you’re in a business-to-business line of work, then you will also want to draw up some terms and conditions. You may be able to use terms and conditions adapted from a standard template supplied by your trade body, but if your business is a little bit away from the norm, it will still be worth getting a specialist business lawyer to check these over for you.
Where you employ others, employee contracts will be essential. Again, employee contracts can be written or unwritten, but for mutual security, written are preferable. You should at least seek advice on what constitutes an employee contract and what needs to be included.
Property contracts such as leases need to be drawn up through a lawyer where possible. Paying for premises is likely the biggest expense your business will face, and you will continue to pay whether your business is a success or not, so it’s best to get the terms arranged before you sign anything. While you can prepare your own lease contract using free online templates, for something so potentially expensive, it’s worth at least getting a business lawyer to give it the once-over.
Protection of intellectual property (IP) is a concern for an increasing number of companies. A business lawyer can help you identify which areas of your business can be protected from copyright and patent infringement to stop others stealing your ideas. Ideas can include a new product, music, an app, or a design. As more and more business stems from new ideas and creativity, IP is something that is becoming a big concern.
Where can you find a business lawyer?
Finding a business lawyer can be as simple as picking up the phone directory. There will be dozens of lawyers available in your area, so look for a specialist business one. Not all lawyers know everything about everything – one who specialises in conveyancing or family law, for example, may not necessarily be knowledgeable on modern business issues. You can phone or email the office and ask for a free consultation to ascertain their suitability.
Word-of-mouth is a good way of finding someone appropriate. Ask other local businesses who they would recommend. Local networking events are a good way of getting introductions to suitable lawyers. Also, ask other professionals such as your accountant for recommendations.
Cost is a concern particularly for start-ups, but don’t choose a business lawyer solely on price. A good business lawyer will be worth every penny should you encounter a problem because of a badly-worded business contract, or if someone finds a loophole through which to steal and profit from your brilliant idea. Choose your lawyer based on their knowledge of your particular business and on reputation, and, hopefully, you’ll rarely need to bother them again!