When Should A Business Consult A Lawyer

Many businesses fall into the trap of not considering legal representation until they’re in dire need of one, and find themselves frantically calling every solicitor in town, hoping one will be available on short notice. This is the quickest way to guarantee your legal issues will be drawn out and expensive, as any lawyer you find will be unfamiliar with your business and will likely request a significant amount of documentation and information before they can even get started on your case. This means your time and attention will be taken away from your valuable day-to-day operations. 

Business lawyer

Whether you decide to retain a dedicated legal counsel or consult a lawyer only when you feel you need one, having reliable legal advice from a certified practitioner specializing in corporate law can be the biggest asset you didn’t know you needed. But, under what circumstances should your business engage the services of a lawyer?

If You’re Starting Out

Many startups and new businesses make avoidable legal mistakes that can be costly in the long run and potentially cause huge headaches in terms of focused attention from industry regulators. Engaging the services of a trusted lawyer early on in the process of starting a business, will ensure your company abides by all local employment and commercial laws. It’s much cheaper to get things right the first time than to make financial amends or even be forced into closing your business while you rectify any issues later on

 A new business is a fantastic opportunity to engage the services of a local, specialized legal team, such as commercial lawyers Idaho Falls, so they can become intimately familiar with your company as it grows, enabling them to help with any future problems quickly and efficiently. 

If Your Business Is Running Smoothly

Things are humming along nicely, you’re making profits, and your clients and staff are happy as clams—what better time to have a lawyer look over your business to make sure there’s nothing festering under the surface that might cause trouble later on!  While things are running smoothly, you have the time and energy available to focus on anything that might need tightening up or reviewing. A legal counsel can work with you to make sure your business is squeaky clean and ready for any challenges that might come its way. 

If You’re Being Audited

If you’ve done most of your own taxation in the past, or trusted a certified public accountant (CPA), you may think a tax attorney is a frivolous expense. But, take a second to think it through.

A CPA can represent you in an audit situation just as capably as a tax attorney, however a tax attorney will be required to represent your business in tax court if an audit reveals an unfavorable result. Wouldn’t it be better if someone who already knows your audit details inside out was to be representing you at such a delicate time? Additionally, if the IRS levelled charges against your company, whether valid or not, you’ll need a tax attorney to navigate your way out of the situation and get you back to business as usual.

A CPA will likely be sufficient for more regular taxation queries and submissions, but having them supported by a tax attorney who understands your company can be a welcome blessing, should an unpleasant scenario eventuate.

If You’re Hiring

Your business is expanding!  Well done on creating work for new team members. No doubt you’re excited to get them onboarded, but bringing on additional employees does mean a significant amount of paperwork!

Each employee will be signing a contract, which contains all the clauses and guidelines for their employment. If you don’t get this right, and an employee sues the company later on for an error in their employment terms, you’ll be tied up in mediation and litigation, and potentially end up paying out a significant sum of your hard-earned money. In addition to the negative impact a suit like this may have on staff morale, employees suing workplaces is high-risk for negative media attention. This can have an even more significant impact on the business than the original court case, so tread carefully.

It’s critical that you have a lawyer look over your employment contracts before they’re offered to new onboards. Your legal counsel will ensure you’re abiding by all local laws and regulations in terms of working conditions, pay, and any special terms you may need included.  

If You’re Firing

Termination of employment is never an easy situation. When transitioning a team member out of the business, you can expect emotions to be running high, some impacts on remaining staff morale, and a period of adjustment as the redundant employees’ work is split between different staff or departments.

One thing you shouldn’t need to worry about is whether you may be sued for wrongful termination. During such a sensitive time, appropriate legal counsel can walk you through all your responsibilities as an employer to make sure you have covered all your bases and can focus on moving forward with your streamlined team. 

If You’re Being Sued

It may be stating the obvious, but don’t try to represent yourself in court if your business is sued. Law is nuanced and complicated, and the people who’ve spent years studying and practicing law will run rings around you in a courtroom, no matter how smart you may be

A good lawyer will represent you from start to finish in any proceedings brought against your business, potentially even preventing them from getting to a courtroom through the use of mediation, or cease and desist letters where appropriate. There’s a multitude of things you could be sued for, including copyright infringement, slip and fall accidents, workplace injury, or failing to fulfil certain contracts.

Your legal representation will know what actions to take for every kind of scenario, so you can be confident that every avenue is being explored. 

If You’re Being Wronged 

On the flipside, it’s possible in your business journey that you’ll run into issues you need to have legally resolved.

Perhaps, a new trader is using your business name or intentionally presenting themselves to appear affiliated with you. Perhaps, a supplier has reneged on a large contract without offering restitution, or maybe your business is the subject of defamation intended to destroy your reputation.

Whatever challenges you may be facing, a capable lawyer can help. Legal counsel will take you through all your options, weigh up the pros and cons, and negotiate the best deal for you, guiding you through the maze that’s the legal system.

If You’re Negotiating Contracts

Every company needs good relationships with its suppliers in order to provide consistent products to their customers, while maintaining the quality and value that their repeat consumers expect. While your relationships with your suppliers may be friendly, you should be aware of any fine print that may be in your agreement, or whether any of their terms are unreasonable.

Some suppliers may try their luck with an inexperienced business owner or contact, and slip in clauses that aren’t only unfair, but may be considered predatory. When you’re negotiating new deals, legal counsel can make sure any agreements you’re entering into are fair and balanced, and also have caveats protecting your business interests in the event something goes wrong with a shipment, or a supplier relationship deteriorates. 

If You’re Operating In Different Regions

An often-overlooked reason for needing legal advice is if your business operates across multiple regions, which can present a whole new set of challenges. What is okay to be shipped across one state line may not be legal in another, or may require certain taxes to be paid. What employment benefits are required in one area may be above and beyond what’s required elsewhere.

As you can see, things can get complicated quickly!  Some lawyers can only practice law in certain states, so you should do your research to decide what your best option is for more complicated cross-regional operations. Perhaps, consultations with multiple lawyers in different areas is best, or you may find one lawyer who’s licensed to practice in all localities you’re focused on. Don’t assume that regulators will give you leeway if you unintentionally break a law due to inexperience in that region. It’s your responsibility as a business owner to ensure your company is compliant with all relevant laws.  

Conclusion

The importance of engaging appropriate legal counsel for your business, whether it’s a dedicated legal resource on retainer, or a more casual consulting arrangement on a need-by-need basis, can’t be overstated. Any failure to protect your business by proactively addressing compliance to all local laws and regulations opens you up to a significant amount of avoidable risks.

Legal representation may be the most important investment your company makes, so be sure you’re covering all your bases and giving your business the best chance at success by engaging a competent legal firm as soon as possible. By doing so, you can start enjoying the peace of mind that comes with total legal compliance.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.