If you’re thinking about starting a small business, you may have the idea firmly in place. The logistics can be a bit more challenging, however.
For example, do you need a lawyer to start a small business?
The following are some of the main things to know about starting a business, and whether or not you’ll need legal help to do so.
What’s the Difference Between a Lawyer and An Attorney?
First, there is a difference between a lawyer vs. an attorney to be aware of. This distinction is something a lot of people aren’t aware of.
A lawyer is someone who has either their Juris Doctor (JD) or law degree from a law school. A lawyer may be educated in law, but they aren’t necessarily licensed to practice law in any particular state. An attorney has a law degree and is admitted to practice law in at least one state.
So, an attorney would be someone you might work with to start a small business, but do you have to?
Some of determining whether or not you’ll need an attorney to start a small business will depend on what business structure you’re going to set up.
For example, if you’re setting up a sole proprietorship, you might not need an attorney. A sole proprietorship is the simplest type of business to set up, and you don’t even need to register it with your state.
You may need a local business license, and sometimes you might not even need that.
However, if you want to set up an LLC or partnership, you will need to register with your state. You’ll need to have certain documents prepared, like your LLC operating agreement, meaning you may need an attorney to help you.
You might be able to do this online, but if your business is somewhat complicated, having an attorney can be helpful.
If you aren’t sure which structure is right for you, you can consult with an attorney even if that person doesn’t help you beyond an initial consultation.
How Could an Attorney Help You?
The following are some of the ways an attorney might help you if you’re creating a small business:
- Compliance: There are local, state, and federal laws you have to follow as a business owner. An attorney can help ensure you’re compliant in all these areas. For example, there might be things you don’t even think about, such as employment law. Being noncompliant can lead to lawsuits and serious economic ramifications. These can be avoided if you’re proactive about working with an attorney.
- Mitigation of risk: Somewhat like what’s mentioned above with compliance, when you work with an attorney from the beginning, you can reduce your risk exposure.
- Create agreements: An attorney can help you draft enforceable agreements between business partners, employees, customers, clients, and vendors.
- Business Name: If you’re choosing a business name, an attorney can do necessary research to ensure you’re not choosing one that’s already trademarked or being used.
- Licensing and permits: You might need zoning permits, general business licenses, and licenses specific to your trade.
- Patents: If you have a business idea or product that needs to be patented, an attorney can help you file the required applications and paperwork with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Some of the reasons you might not need an attorney to help you include:
- If you can learn how to do certain things on your own, you can save a lot of money.
- Filing some forms, such as Articles of Organization, to set up an LLC is pretty easy and straightforward.
- Many of the most important business documents you’ll need are available online.
Types of Attorneys
Be aware of different types of attorneys help people set up small businesses as well.
For example, you might want to find a lawyer who specializes in contracts.
Some lawyers specialize in other areas, such as business organizations and real estate.
There are taxes and licenses attorneys, and attorneys who specialize in intellectual property.
The decision of whether or not to work with an attorney to start a small business is one that’s ultimately up to you. You need to think about what you’re comfortable with and if you aren’t sure where to begin, you might pay an attorney on an hourly basis to help you get started, and then you can take it from there.
Sometimes you’ll find you end up saving yourself money over the long-run if you work with an attorney, at least in some capacity, earlier on.