When Do I Need a Business Attorney?

March 8, 2019 Off By Delores V. Stalnaker

If you own a small business or are considering starting one, you may be wondering if you need to hire an attorney to help with the process. Many small business owners fear that hiring an attorney will be too expensive and way out of their budget. Thankfully, that is not the case. Attorneys are accessible for new business owners and can assist with decision-making that can actually save you money in the long run.

Finding the right stage in your company’s development for the investment in legal counsel is crucial. Figuring it out means assessing what you do and how it is regulated, then determining at what point you will need to have an attorney to keep moving forward and at what point you have enough potential exposure to liability to justify the expense. The reason so many experienced entrepreneurs advise you to get a lawyer right away is that they specialize in a fast startup in their launch model, and they have the money to make it happen. Anything on the list of items you can handle yourself can be delegated to an attorney for increased efficiency if you decide you have the funds to hire a business lawyer right away.

Business Actions You Can In-Source

All of these duties are commonly delegated to attorneys when entrepreneurs can keep one on retainer from the beginning, but they are also accessible if you decide to handle them yourself.

  • Choosing a name for your business and registering it for a business license in your state
  • Applying for an EIN
  • Partnership or LLC agreements
  • Applying for licenses and permits
  • Creating contracts with customers and suppliers
  • Updating previously listed contracts and agreements
  • Handling IRS audits

With the exception of the first two items on this list, having an attorney handle the details will not only allow you to focus on other aspects of your business, but it also hedges your risks. If you’re looking for a general business attorney whose firm will also be able to handle any litigation or tax issues that arise, successful multi-faceted firms like Tully Rinckey are a great choice. You can decide what to delegate out to them, and they have attorneys who work in almost every area of business law, so help is on hand if new issues arise with your company.

When You Absolutely Need a Lawyer

Just like there are some actions you can handle without a lawyer and without worry, there are a lot of situations that absolutely call for one. The obvious time to need one is when you are being sued by a customer or vendor, but that’s not as likely to happen as these everyday events:

  • Local, state, or federal investigations/inspections to ensure regulatory compliance in your industry
  • Special allocations of property or assets outside of the LLC or partnership agreement
  • Environmental issues involving your business, even when you are not the cause
  • Negotiating for the sale of your company or for the purchase and absorption of another business

Lawsuits are also quite common for companies with a highly visible public presence, and they are also usually able to be settled by competent legal help. Hire a lawyer early to make sure they are up to speed about your operations and needs if you see these occasions coming up.

So When Should a Business Hire a Lawyer?

If you are looking at a business attorney from a firm like Tully Rinckey Law as an investment that hedges your risk, then you need to approach it that way. Get a lawyer on retainer at the point where you might encounter those issues, or where you have enough interaction with customers and employees that a lawsuit could arise. If you’re starting your first business, you can probably wait to hire a lawyer until after you start operations. If your business faces inspections and licensing before opening, though, you should consider hiring one early.