Many small business owners realize the importance of hiring a lawyer when they’re just starting, but most don’t consider it an ongoing expense. But, any Missouri corporate law attorney worth their salt will tell you that keeping a good business attorney around offers a range of advantages. You may not have the type of business where it’s necessary to keep one on retainer, and there are some issues where you can proceed without a lawyer. But, legal advice should be part of your ongoing cost of doing business for a few reasons.
Legal Problems You Can Tackle Yourself
Although several of these matters are legal matters, paying an hourly fee or a retainer to have a lawyer handle them might be an unnecessary expense. There are plenty of legal resources online and legal blogs that offer solid advice. Just make sure you choose one with a reputation for providing accurate information that’s applicable to your state and type of business.
You’ll probably be okay without an attorney if you’re:
- Drawing up a business plan, partnership agreement or LLC operating agreement
- Choosing a business or domain name; those that are taken or trademarked can be found with a quick web search
- Applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Applying for licenses or permits
- Hiring staff
- Updating business agreements or terms of sale
- Filling out IRS or tax documents
When You Need an Attorney
If you have better-than-average legal knowledge, you can probably do a few more things on your own. However, there are some situations where having a lawyer is imperative. These are issues where you could be in legal jeopardy, when the situation is extremely complex or when not having an air-tight contract could cause you problems down the road. A few examples would include:
- You’re being sued by a former employee for a matter pertaining to harassment or discrimination
- You’re entering into a merger, acquiring another company or selling your business
- You or your company are being investigated at the state, local or federal level
- Your company is implicated in an environmental issue, even if you weren’t directly involved
When choosing a lawyer, find one that specializes in business and tax law, and who has practical experience in your type of industry. You’ll find that a trustworthy corporate attorney is a good business partner to have around.