A small business owner needs a lawyer like . . . a fish needs a bicycle? I know that’s what a lot of business owners think. When told they should get legal advice, they react with disgust, horror, panic, fear, or some combination of those emotions. And for good reason. Going to a lawyer’s office can be intimidating. Getting a lawyer to pay attention and give practical advice can be daunting. And thinking about all the money it might cost is completely overwhelming. So lots of people try to get around this. They ask a friend or relative for advice. They try to do it themselves (maybe with some online help). Or — by far the most popular — they ignore the problem and hope it goes away.
I understand. In my career, I have hired and supervised dozens of attorneys on hundreds of matters. I was often frustrated with the level of service they provided. I was ALWAYS frustrated with the cost. But if you are starting up a business, or running a business with employee, contracts or other legal needs (which, let’s face it, is pretty much EVERY business), there are at least 5 good reasons you should bite the bullet and get professional legal help. Why? Because: Read more
I first got the idea for this blog when I met a couple (let’s call them Bob and Mary) who wanted advice on how to form a limited liability company. Or, at least I thought they were a couple. Turns out they were just a man and a woman who wanted to go into business together. Or, at least it seemed like they wanted to be in business. Because after 20 minutes of conversation about corporate formation and filing fees, it became clear that these people had no intention of sharing profits, decision-making, liabilities or any other aspect of running a business together — except, maybe, some marketing. They were each independent business people with stand- alone companies they were seeking to expand. They just hadn’t realized it yet. Needless to say, they didn’t incorporate. But if left to their own devices with a corporate formation website, or with a lawyer who would mechanically fill out a form, they might now be stuck in an LLC that made no sense.
Bob and Mary are great examples of the sort of people who benefit most from talking to a lawyer at the start of setting up a business. And not just a lawyer who drafts documents, but one who listens closely and asks questions to find out what they really need and want. Which led me to think about the different roles a lawyer can play, and how the lawyer-as-mentor is a model I like. Which in turn led me to this blog (see. . . there’s a path here somewhere). In a way, it’s about helping business owners create the perfect agreement — with partners, suppliers, lenders, customers, and even a legal advisor — to meet their business needs. So, in future posts I hope to talk more about when and why a lawyer can help, how a business owner can choose the right one and how to get the most out of that relationship. I’ll also include some practical business law tips and links. By doing this, I hope to help some other Bob or Mary get their business moving in the right (legal) direction.