When an entrepreneur decides to take his or her idea from the planning stage to actual operation, the founders should almost certainly consult with a lawyer. In the initial weeks and months of the startup’s life, here are some things that entrepreneurs can and should be consulting legal counsel on:
Entity formation — although the filing of the papers to create a limited liability company or a corporation is a relatively simple process that can be accomplished by anyone, an attorney can advise you on the necessity of legally organizing your business and on which form may be best for your business. They can also help you with other aspects of entity formation that can go overlooked, such as tax treatment, other governmental paperwork filings, structuring the company for raising capital, and drafting operating documents for the company, which in some cases can be legally required and in other cases (particularly when there are multiple owners).
Contracts and agreements — Your company will likely need to have contracts with suppliers, distributors, or customers; an attorney can help draft templates or customized agreements for that purpose.
Commercial space — If your startup needs commercial space, an attorney can help negotiate a lease, as well as help you with zoning and regulatory compliance, particularly if you need a regulatory variance for your space.
Intellectual property — An attorney can advise you on what particular intellectual property rights your company may have and help you determine a strategy to protect them, including registration at the state or federal level or establishing trade secrets. In addition, an attorney can help you with intellectual property agreements with employees, as well as licenses with other intellectual property holders.
Employees — Attorneys can advise your startup on employment law matters, including drafting an employee manual, compliance with employment law regulations, and withholding of payroll taxes. They can also help with setting up employee equity compensation plans. And if your company uses them, they can also help you maintain the distinction between employees and hired independent contractors.
Finally, an attorney can advise you on what kinds of liabilities your business may be facing, and if those liabilities turn into the prospect of litigation, an attorney can manage the situation to help keep it — and your business’ costs — under control.