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Ask An Attorney: Starting a Business

I am trying to set up a business. What can a lawyer do for me?

Before investing your hard earned money and your blood, sweat, and tears into your fledgling business, a consultation with an attorney can go a long way to helping you avoid commons mistakes.  A lawyer can consult with you about the appropriate corporate form (type of Company- Inc., LLC, etc.) to limit your personal liability.  The lawyer will probably make recommendations about how to set up initial financing and properly capitalize (fund) your company.  Also key is ensuring that the owners of the business have the knowledge of and proper documents in place to follow the necessary formalities which are required to actually limit personal liability. If your business is going to hire employees, consultation with an attorney can help you set up an Employee Handbook and establish appropriate policies and procedures so that you comply with necessary wage and hour laws, understand employer’s obligations in relation to worker’s compensation and unemployment, and how to avoid common employer problems with incorrectly setting up payroll and possibly incurring employment tax penalties.  Additionally, your business will probably face licensing requirements and possibly confusing zoning restrictions.  You should also be aware of the principles of contract law and some basics of the  Uniform Commercial Code when hiring vendors, suppliers and when opening lines of credit or offering them to your customers. If you plan on offering goods or services to the general public making sure that you understand the requirements of consumer contracts and the Consumer Protection Act can easily prevent misunderstandings, unhappy customers and expensive litigation. Finally, a knowledgeable business attorney can help you understand the structure and often complex terms of commercial leases, banking and security agreements or real estate contracts, as well as advise you about market conditions and appropriate and typical brokerage agreements and fees.  While these areas may appear to be a daunting list of potential stumbling blocks, creating a relationship with an experienced and trusted business attorney will help you properly allocate your recourses, evaluate your risks and leverage and help you create an efficient and productive business.  While it may be difficult to carve out $500.00 or $1,000.00 in your start-up budgeting for attorney’s fees, money spent on even an hour of consultation and planning with an experienced business attorney will likely repay for itself many times over during the course of your entrepreneurial venture.

One of our Annapolis attorneys at Hillman, Brown & Darrow can help you if you would like to set up a consultation to discuss what your business can achieve.