Running a small business is like riding a bucking a bull; there are wild ups and downs, each down a potential disaster that could land you on your keister. Delays in shipping, unruly employees, fluctuating markets, any of these are conceivable pot holes on the road to financial success. Any smart business owner, regardless of size, anticipates future problems and takes action before they grow.
There are inherent problems that come with building a business. Many are unavoidable and have to begrudgingly accepted as a cost of doing business. Other issues are avoidable; seeking legal advice is a sure-fire way to navigate that friction. While there are a litany of business tasks that don’t require legal counsel: writing a business plan, setting a budget, reserving domain names, there are practices in which legal advice is vital. For example, a breach of contract with a partner or employee disputes; these are instances that demand legal advice and lacking it could be devastating.
The secret to an especially effective legal counsel involves keeping its clients out of the courtroom. When a client comes to us once they are being sued, we will litigate as efficaciously as possible to clear our client of any wrongdoing. However, had our client come to us before being sued, we may have been able to guide them away from ever going to court. Too many businesses, big and small, wait until the ship is taking on water before looking for help. Think about it like this: if you’re going sailing, it’s best to have taken a class on how to sail.
A tangible example of how having legal advice can help with such avoidance comes in the form of hiring practices. There are twelve different factors companies are prohibited from considering when hiring. They range from a person’s disabilities to a debt. It should also be noted that a potential lawsuit could arise at any point in the hiring process from interviews to termination. Legal counsel guiding you through the dos and don’ts of the hiring process may come with a small cost but would pale in comparison to the damage a lawsuit could do to a company’s reputation and finances.
According to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), just two years ago, a Maryland-based environmental remediation company was ordered to pay $110,000 to two Hispanic workers, while also making $305,000 available for other potential claimants. That’s obviously a substantial amount of money, not including damage to reputation and of course, legal fees. It is better to avoid the fire by seeking legal advice before the forest is ablaze.
Small businesses face enough challenges on a daily basis that potential lawsuits cannot be afforded. Whether it is a dispute between partners, the creation of a limited liability or choosing the proper entity type, legal advice for a small business is worth its weight in gold.