How a Lawyer Can Help Launch Your Small Business
One size doesn’t fit all startupsBy Judy Malmon, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on October 9, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorney Sofia S. Lingos
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- 1. Setting Goals and Priorities From The Beginning
- 2. Liability Protections and Contract Drafting
- 3. Ensuring Compliance with Licensing Legal Requirements
- 4. Handling the Legalities of Hiring New Employees
- How Do I Budget for Legal Services?
- Find a Business Lawyer for Your Company’s Legal Issues
Launching and operating a small business can expose you to a variety of types of legal liability, making it often difficult to have a good grasp on what exactly your legal needs are. Particularly with a limited startup budget, it’s important to have guidance on what to do and when.
Enter Boston transactional business attorney Sofia Lingos. “Most of my clients come at the business formation stage when they’re trying to understand exposure and liability,” she says.
“I like to start with just giving them some good early education and help them set up what I think of as [the legal counterpart] to a business plan. A lot of people get caught up in thinking they need everything right now, but that’s usually not the case.”
1. Setting Goals and Priorities From The Beginning
Lingos reviews her clients’ goals to tailor her legal advice to meet their needs.
“I really like to say, ‘From the beginning, we talk about the end.’ What’s their exit strategy—what are they trying to accomplish? And then think about, at different milestones, the documents we need to create,” she says. “We’ll then build a legal budget around that, so they can understand and plan accordingly.”
2. Liability Protections and Contract Drafting
Initial legal matters typically include liability protections such as business entity formation and negotiating business contracts.
Lingos helps prioritize what’s needed and in what order. “People often assume that formation is the first thing that should happen. But sometimes, getting some contracts in place is going to be more valuable, or protecting ideas with confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements. Sometimes, that’s the stage before we even get into formation matters,” she says.
3. Ensuring Compliance with Licensing Legal Requirements
“Usually, the next thing to focus on after liability is licensing. It’s shocking how many regulations exist, and they’re different for every industry,” Lingos says.
“One little niche, for example, is if you have a gas station. You have a whole different level of permitting if you’re going to have open cartons of dairy products for coffee versus using those little creamers. Laws like this can actually change how you operate your business. You might think it would be cheaper to just put some milk in a container for people to use in their coffee. But when you look at the licensing, maybe not.”
4. Handling the Legalities of Hiring New Employees
Another topic in business legal planning arises with hiring employees and employment contracts.
Lingos explains the complicated process of bringing a team member on board, which essentially necessitates a lawyer.
“If we could figure out how to make it easier to hire one employee, that could easily turn into two or three, which would give small businesses the opportunity for growth. The law is not always as accessible as it should be. I would love to lose business to having this be easier for people.”
How Do I Budget for Legal Services?
Lingos further understands the financial constraints many clients face as they start out.
“When I tell people my hourly rate, that can be hard on the budgeting process for a startup. Not being able to afford it all right away doesn’t mean they need to forego it, just that they may need to plan a little differently. Maybe it’ll slow down the process, but you don’t want to jump into the deep end of freezing cold water before you put on the appropriate attire,” Lingos explains.
“We do alternate fee arrangements. Usually, every legal document that we produce can be done at a flat fee. I always tell people to do what they can themselves—I’m happy to cut out whatever piece someone does on their own, and I can come up with a custom plan for them. And then, have a lawyer available for those things you can’t do yourself. It doesn’t help me if they can’t afford me, and it doesn’t help them. I want this to be a longstanding relationship.”
Find a Business Lawyer for Your Company’s Legal Issues
It’s important to find an attorney whose legal services match your legal problems.
If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner needing legal help for your new business needs—navigating federal laws or state laws, business licenses or employment contracts, partnership agreements or real estate issues— you can begin your search by visiting the Super Lawyers directory of small business lawyers.
Before entering the attorney-client relationship, feel free to inquire about flexible fee options and legal planning that addresses your specific needs and goals.
To further enrich your understanding of these legal issues, including types of business structure, the process of incorporation, trade secrets, and other business IP, explore our overviews of business law, employment law, intellectual property law, and related legal content.
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