What Does a Business Law Attorney Do?
Starting a business can be a very daunting task. It can involve many aspects that can go unanticipated. Initially, a new entrepreneur has to decide what type of business they will conduct. From there, the entrepreneur has to understand which type of business entity or structure is best for their situation. Each structure, whether it be a sole proprietorship, partnership or incorporation, has its pros and cons and differences.
Starting a New Business and Choosing a Business Structure
When deciding on a structure, one must understand the basics of a business entity. Usually, the general goal in setting up a business entity is to create a significant separation between the business and the owner. This separation allows a business owner to legally protect themselves against claims that may otherwise reach them through their involvement in business. For instance, in a sole proprietorship, the business owner is personally liable for the financial obligations of the sole proprietorship. In other words, if that business has a debt that it cannot pay, the owner can be held legally responsible for it. The same applies to a partnership where multiple owners share in the profits and losses of the business. However, in a corporation, the founders or owners are not personally liable for the corporation’s financial obligations as the corporation is a separate legal entity.
There are also hybrid forms of business structures such as a limited liability partnership that combines the concepts of partnerships and corporations. Those forms also tend to create a legal separation between the owners and the business, and can even create a legal separation between the owners themselves. This separation is not an absolute protection from all personal liability for an owner of a business. The law allows for this protection to be broken in situations where in actuality, there is no meaningful separation of the business and owners. This legal concept is referred to as piercing the corporate veil.
Assistance with Tasks Such a Choosing a Business Name
The legal ramifications from choosing one business structure over another are just the beginning of the legal issues a business may face. After formation there still may be issues over licensing, naming the business, employment, tax, insurance, credit and financing, and even contractual relationships with other businesses. For instance, take the naming issue.
- When starting the business, did the owner look up the business’s potential name in a state database to see if the name was available?
- Will the name chosen be in conflict with another business name?
- Are there trademarks involved?
Something as simple as naming a business can involve way more research than one would think. Consulting a business attorney early on can help avoid early legal issues.
How Does a Business Law Attorney Help an Existing Businesses?
Several different situations may call for several different types of business attorneys. If you are just starting a business, your needs will most likely be different than a business that has been up and running for a while.
For the fledgling business, a business attorney can perform a wide array of functions. They can help with the initial formation of the business by creating articles of incorporation or a necessary filing paperwork with the state such as service of process authorizations. They may also help in obtaining any business licenses that may be required. Business attorneys can also help in drafting contracts. You may need employment contracts, non-disclosure agreements, or agreements that cover the sale of products.
For the business that is already up and running, a business attorney is more likely to be needed for drafting contracts and possible litigation issues. An attorney would assist in drafting agreements that deal with relationships with other businesses such as vendors, manufacturers, and third-party service providers. You may also want an attorney to look over any credit obligations the business may have occurred or any government regulatory concerns there may be. There is also a high likelihood that at some point in the lifetime of a business, there will be some form of a lawsuit that the business must respond to. Businesses get sued, and sometimes must sue in order to protect their interests. Its no wonder that many businesses employ attorneys to work on the business’s legal matters full-time.
How do you Choose a Qualified Business Law Attorney?
Searching for the right attorney to help with your business can be like buying a new mattress, they all tend to look alike. You may ask yourself, what difference does make? Well, it can make a huge difference. Many attorneys have a lot in common. They may have similar websites and profiles, but there can be significant differences in the services and abilities of respective attorneys. The process may take a little effort, but it's definitely worth your time. You have to do your homework! Whatever kind of legal work you need, a successful outcome may be largely dependent on which attorney you choose.
- Determine Your Needs
So the next step in the process will be to decide on what exactly you are looking for in an attorney. What criteria will you use to base your attorney selection? Here is where it gets a bit easier. There are many sources you can pick from that will allow you to make a sound decision. If you are starting with absolutely no idea of the name of an attorney you might want to use, you may want to start by first zeroing in on your geographic area.
- Research Online
You can begin by running a simple search for a business attorney in your local area. From there you should find lists of names and firms that can handle your business needs. Once you have names in hand, you will want to search for information on that individual attorney.There are plenty of websites that rate attorneys or provide reviews for attorneys. Avvo ratings and Martindale-Hubbell peer review ratings are good places to start. Avvo's site contains over 1 million reviews of attorneys nationwide. Reviews come from clients that post their thoughts on the attorney's performance. Avvo also provides their own rating that rates attorneys based on information provided by the attorney through their website, and information made open to the public via a state bar association.
Martindale-Hubbell provides ratings that are determined by surveys of other attorneys that are familiar with the work of the attorney being reviewed. They can work as references for a client who wouldn't necessarily have access to others that can evaluate another attorney’s work.
- Check the State Bar's Website for any Disciplinary History
Both sites can provide pieces of a puzzle that can help you find what you are looking for in an attorney. The next piece of information you will want to obtain will come from a state bar association website. The bar association is an organization that every attorney licensed to practice in your state must belong. So if the attorney has an office in your state, they must be a member of that bar association.You will want to find the state’s discipline history as most states makes disciplinary actions for attorneys very easy to find.
Many state bar websites have a search tool on their website that will allow you to conduct a search of the attorney in question. A profile will show up and list all the disciplinary actions that have been taken against the attorney. There you will get a good idea if there have been any serious issues raised against the attorney. Hopefully, the attorney will have a clean slate, and you can continue to research that attorney's history. If the attorney happens to have disciplinary actions against them, you may want to look further into the situation for any facts that are provided on the site. The state bar profile will also contain some other basic information that you may want to consider. Bar profiles usually reveal how long the attorney has been licensed to practice in the state. As a business owner, you may want an attorney who has practiced for a considerable amount of time in their area of expertise. An attorney who has handled all sorts of business related manners will have a large breadth of knowledge of how to handle any issue that may arise.
- Schedule an Appointment with a Business Attorneys
Once you have some background information on specific attorneys the next step that you should take is to meet with a couple of them. You will want to talk to multiple attorneys in order to find one that you are the most comfortable. Many firms offer free initial consultations so the only drawback may be the consumption of time. When you go to the initial consultation, make sure you have enough questions on your mind that you will use to gauge the level of knowledge that the attorney possesses. You may also want to pay close attention to the demeanor of the attorney, do they seem sincere? Are they listening to you? Or are you just being told what they think you want to hear?
If you follow the above tips, you should be well on your way to finding an attorney that fits your business needs. It is definitely worth a little extra time to make an educated decision on which attorney to choose.