Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Small Business Pitfalls: Why Attorneys Make Cents

Most small business owners hesitate enlisting the help of an attorney until they’re forced to. It may be a cost perception, or it may feel like an indulgence your growing company can’t afford. There are a number of reasons, however, why having an experienced business law attorney at your side makes not just sense, but cents.

Here’s the first of a two-part series offering a number of reasons it makes the most sense to have an attorney right from the start.

Avoiding Unnecessary Complications

From the moment you decide to start a business, you begin reaching out to experts in a variety of areas to help you make sure you start out properly. Hiring the right attorney is likewise a sound investment in the future of your business. Working with new business owners is perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of my practice, because I can help you bring great ideas and exceptional talents to a waiting market while avoiding the snares and legal pitfalls that await you as you navigate the minefields of running a profitable operation.

Right Business Structure

My first step in helping a new business is to consult with you and discuss the different options available. Choosing what type of entity: corporation, limited liability company, or general partnership, is a crucial step. While most new business owners operate from the assumption that they may have to form a corporation, I work with my clients to understand the many reasons why an LLC can be a much sleeker way to do business for many, avoiding the annual reporting requirements while still getting many of the tax advantages of an S corp.

Filing Requirements and Contract Negotiations

When starting a new business, it’s absolutely crucial to understand the paperwork required - requirements not only from the IRS but at the state and local level too that you might not even be aware of.

I really appreciate when clients come to me asking for guidance about employment issues and contracts. Constantly changing laws have made the employer–employee relationship more complex, especially for businesses that hire independent contractors. If the contractor-employee line is crossed, it can create an IRS nightmare and an unpleasant exchange with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries. Not only will carefully considered policies and practices help your business avoid litigation, but they allow you to instill a sense of trust and leadership that will help you as you grow. When you care about your people and your partners, you must think about your legal relationships with them.

Next month, I’ll share more about the cents in hiring a business attorney.