According to the Kauffman Foundation, 565,000 businesses emerged in the US in 2012. This tends to imply that starting a company is easy, but entrepreneurs have a lot on their plates when launching a new business.
In addition to developing a product or service, building a team, and acquiring customers, there’s also the matter of making sure your business is legally sound. To do that, you’ll need to consult with a lawyer—or several lawyers—to ensure you’re covered on all fronts. Here are five types of legal counsel your company needs before launching.
1. Intellectual Property Counsel
If your business sells products or services protected by intellectual property (IP) laws, then you’ll need to work with an IP lawyer to safeguard your interests. This could include filing for patents, copyrights, or trademarks, negotiating licensing agreements, or litigating infringement disputes.
For instance, let’s say you’ve developed a new software application. You’ll need to obtain a copyright for the code to prevent others from simply copying and selling your app. Or, if you’ve come up with a clever name or logo for your company, you can trademark it to prevent others in your industry from using it.
An intellectual property lawyer can also help you navigate the complex world of IP law and advise you on how to protect your business’s intellectual property. Even if your business doesn’t deal directly in IP, it’s still wise to consult with an IP lawyer to ensure you’re not unintentionally infringing on someone else’s IP rights.
2. Employment Counsel
If you’re hiring employees, you’ll need to consult with an employment lawyer to ensure you’re compliant with all applicable labor laws. This includes drafting employment contracts, setting up employee benefit plans, and handling other HR matters such as job descriptions, performance reviews, and termination procedures.
This is important because employment law is constantly changing, and businesses can easily fall behind. For example, the Affordable Care Act has introduced several new requirements for employers, such as providing health insurance to employees and prohibiting discrimination based on health status. If you’re not up-to-date on these changes, you could find yourself out of compliance—and facing hefty fines.
An employment lawyer can also help you navigate tricky situations such as workplace harassment claims or disability accommodation requests. Having an employment lawyer on retainer can make you confident that you have someone to turn to when problems arise.
3. Personal Injury Counsel
If your business sells products or services, you need to work with reliable personal injury lawyers. This is because companies can be held liable for any injuries or damages caused by their products or services.
For example, let’s say you sell a hair product that contains a chemical that causes baldness. If someone uses your product and suffers hair loss, they could sue you for personal injury. Or, let’s say you sell a piece of exercise equipment that breaks and injures the user. They could also sue you for personal injury.
You’ll need to consult with a personal injury lawyer to protect your business from these types of lawsuits. They can help you draft liability waivers and product safety disclaimers to help limit your liability in the event of an accident.
4. Tax Counsel
Depending on the structure of your business and the nature of your products or services, you may be required to pay certain taxes at the state, federal, or local level. A tax attorney can help you understand your tax obligations and develop strategies for minimizing your tax liability. This is particularly important if your business is engaged in international commerce, as additional taxes and compliance requirements may be related to cross-border transactions.
For example, let’s say you sell products online to customers in other countries. Depending on the value of the products, you may be required to pay import taxes. A tax attorney can help you navigate the complex world of international taxation and ensure that you comply with all applicable laws.
In addition to helping you with tax-related matters, a tax attorney can also guide you on other financial issues, such as raising capital or structuring business deals.
5. Corporate Counsel
You’ll need to work with corporate counsel if your business is a corporation. Corporate counsels are lawyers who specialize in legal issues related to businesses, such as formation, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance.
For example, let’s say you want to merge your business with another company. A corporate lawyer can help you draft the necessary paperwork, negotiate the terms of the merger, and ensure that it complies with all applicable laws.
In addition to this, corporate lawyers can also help with other aspects of running a corporation, such as drafting bylaws, issuing stock, and complying with disclosure requirements.
Starting a new business is an exciting undertaking—but it’s also a complex one from a legal standpoint. To help ensure your company is fully compliant with all applicable laws, consult with each of these five types of lawyers before launch day arrives. Doing so will give you peace of mind knowing that your bases are covered and help reduce the risk of any legal problems arising down the road.