The attorneys who handled your home sale/purchase, or your parents’ estate, may not be a good fit for your small business needs. In other words, an attorney who represented you in a personal business matter may not be the attorney who can help you protect your business.
Small business owners represent a myriad of companies. In size, a small business may be run by a sole proprietor, be an LLC or corporation, or have several to several dozen employees.
Types of businesses run the gamut to include professional services, manufacturing, construction, retail, restaurants and more.
Just as diverse are types of the business’s legal matters that require the services of an attorney or attorneys.
The Importance of Small Business Legal Services for Companies
Most small business owners can handle basic legal documents, such as obtaining a business license or registering the business with their home state, including paying the required state filing fees.
When you get deeper into business legal matters, you will begin to need legal assistance. For example – and this is one of the most important legal issues – as a business owner you need to protect your intellectual property.
Licensed lawyers can help you with other specific legal matters, from the proper wording in your company employment forms and your employment handbook, to specific areas such as legally establishing your business formation (llc? partnership? corporation?) or obtaining building/operating permits.
Understanding Legal Services
Although legal needs can vary depending on business formation, size, type and location, there’s no denying that small business owners will need the services of an attorney.
At the beginning, legal needs can include registering the business name, registering an LLC, paying the required state fees (state fees vary by state) and choosing the business formation type of entity (llc, partnership, etc), and even legally dissolving an llc. The attorney can also be responsible for the annual timely payment of state fees.
If the small business is a corporation, an attorney can file articles of incorporation and also provide registered agent service. Registered agent service provided by the attorney includes being the contact person for legal documents received by certified mail.
Going forward, legal services provided can expand to include proper handling of employees’ issues, including hiring and firing, using recruitment services and obtaining workers compensation insurance. They may also dispel other insurance myths that could otherwise get you into legal trouble.
Legal help may also be needed to check the language of service agreements for equipment, such as machinery and computer equipment.
There are intangible benefits that a small business gains from legal assistance from licensed attorneys. You won’t have to lose time running your business by getting bogged down with legal work. Your business lawyer will handle any legal issues your company may have to negotiate.
The Role of a Law Firm in Providing Business Legal Services
Each lawyer at a law firm may do general work, but also have a specialty area, such as labor law or llc/corporate law.
One of the specialties for a lawyer is intellectual property law, which includes trademark services. The intellectual properties owned by small businesses include patents, copyright, trademarks and trade secrets. Trademark mistakes are a common malady for small businesses.
The Importance of Intellectual Property Protection
A lawyer who specializes in this field may also help you write a “non compete” agreement, which is another layer of legal protection for the business and its customers. Non compete legal plans can include agreements designed to preclude former employees from setting up shop nearby, and operating a similar business, which could lure customers from the original employer.
Choosing the Right Small Business Legal Services for Your Company
Choosing the right legal service for your small business is a critical decision. It can protect your company from legal issues and ensure you operate within the laws applicable to your business. Here’s what to consider:
- Type of legal service required: Your business might need different legal services such as drafting contracts, reviewing leases, managing lawsuits, and more. Ensure the legal service you choose specializes in the area you need.
- Reputation: A reputable legal service can provide better service and assurance. Look for reviews, testimonials, or ask for references.
- Cost of Services: Costs can vary significantly. Make sure you understand the fee structure—whether it’s a flat fee, hourly rate, or retainer.
- Availability: Ensure the legal service you choose is readily available to help when you need it. Quick turnaround times can be important, especially for time-sensitive matters.
- Experience in Your Industry: It’s beneficial to have a legal service provider who understands your industry and the specific legal issues you might face.
- Communication: You need to feel comfortable communicating with your legal service provider. They should be able to explain complex legal matters in understandable terms.
- Size of the Law Firm: Smaller firms may offer more personalized attention, while larger firms may have a wider range of expertise.
- Location: If you need regular face-to-face meetings, consider choosing a local legal service. Online legal services could be a better option if the location is not a priority.
- Relationship with the Attorney: The relationship between you and your attorney is vital. Choose someone you trust and feel comfortable discussing sensitive matters with.
- State Bar Association Approval: Make sure any attorney or legal service you use is approved by the state bar association. This ensures they’re allowed to practice law in your state.
Remember, the right legal service for your business will depend on your specific needs. It may be helpful to interview a few different providers before making a decision.
Online Legal Services: A Modern Solution for Small Businesses
If you’re comfortable without face-to-face meetings with lawyers, online legal services are an option and can be very affordable.
There are many sites which offer legal advice and services, including basic documents and access to answers for common legal help, legal advice and legal questions. There’s no free legal advice, and there are a variety of fees for access to the various levels of services.
You can sign up, contract with and research through the company’s website. Using the website, you’ll have access to specific legal advice regarding the issue or issues you’re researching.
Some of the best online legal services are Rocket lawyer, UpCounsel and Legal Zoom offer access to a newwork of attorneys at an affordable cost. For example, LegalZoom offers a basic online legal service plan at $199. Filing for an LLC starts at $79 plus filing fees.
However, although a legal website may be convenient and provide the best value, should you need at attorney to assist on your behalf and represent you in court on legal issues, most likely you’ll have to contract with an attorney separate from the website.
Where to Find Reliable Small Business Legal Services for Your Company
Small businesses have many options to decide before signing contract documents with an attorney, or members of a law firm.
Where can small businesses find a reliable attorney or attorneys? Here are some ideas.
Your Personal Attorney
Your personal attorney may be an expert in a chosen field, however, does not have experience in business llc formation or law. However, that personal attorney may be able to network in the legal field to find the legal providers who would be the best fit for your needs.
For example, you may belong to a state professional organization for accountants, plastics manufacturers, or builders. The site for your state association may provide advice on the type of legal services you need, and where to obtain them.
Online Legal Services
The best online legal services are just a click away. An online legal service site offers access to a number of legal documents that may be needed for business filing, such as state fees.
An online legal service won’t represent you in court, if needed, but for affordability of basic legal assistance, online legal services are the best choice.
State Bar Association
Check the website or contact your state bar association to find attorneys in the niche you’re looking for.
Your state Bar Association will include a list of licensed attorneys as well as their specific areas of expertise. The listings should also include contact information for emails or phone calls.
Attend conferences related to your industry to meet legal professionals or other entrepreneurs who may provide referrals.
These are great opportunities to network with other business owners, and speak to them about similar legal needs and questions. Those business owners may have recommendations for the best attorneys to protect your business.
Chamber of Commerce
Network through your Chamber of Commerce, because it’s a great way to support local businesses and help create a stronger local economy.
|Place to Find Small Business Legal Services||Pros||Cons|
|Personal Attorney||- Has a personal understanding of your needs|
- Can provide a personal referral to a legal expert
|- May lack specific knowledge in business and LLC formation
- May lack business-specific expertise
|Industry Associations||- Can provide tailored advice for your specific industry|
- Access to a network of other professionals in your field
|- Advice and recommendations may be limited to members only
- Not all associations may have links to legal services
|Online Legal Services||- Quick, convenient access to legal documents|
- More affordable for basic legal assistance
|- Cannot represent you in court
- May lack personalization and the ability to ask specific questions
|State Bar Association||- Reliable source of licensed attorneys|
- Can find attorneys with specific expertise
|- May require some searching
- No personal referrals
|Legal Directories||- Comprehensive list of licensed attorneys|
- Includes contact information and areas of expertise
|- No personal referrals
- Quality of legal services may vary
|Business Conferences||- Opportunity to meet legal professionals and gain referrals|
- Networking opportunity with peers in the industry
|- Timing and location-dependent
- May require entrance fees
|Expos/Conventions||- Large networking opportunity|
- Potential to gain personal referrals
|- Timing and location-dependent
- May require entrance fees
|Chamber of Commerce||- Supports local businesses|
- Potential to network with local business owners and attorneys
|- Networking opportunities may be limited
- Not all members may have links to legal services
Frequently Asked Questions about Small Business Legal Services
What are small business legal services?
Small business legal services include labor law, corporate law, intellectual property protection and more.
What is the role of a law firm in providing legal services to businesses?
A reliable law firm should provide the needed legal services and oversight needed to protect and maintain operations of the small business.
Why is protecting intellectual property important for a business?
Without intellectual property protection, a small business could lose its trademark, patent or copyright legal status, as well as trade secrets (such as production procedures).
How do I choose the right legal services for my small business?
Each small business will have its own specific needs. Network and research to find your best fit for attorneys and other business services.
Where can I find reliable small business legal services for my company?
One of the best ways to find reliable legal services is to talk to research, as well as network with other business owners.