When you run a small business, it’s not rare for you to need legal advice. It’s not necessarily a bad thing: you don’t only take legal advice when you’re at risk of being sued. It’s a responsible step when you’re signing contracts to have them reviewed by a legal specialist to ensure you’re not committing yourself to anything you didn’t agree to in negotiations!
Let’s have a look at some of the different kinds of lawyer who can help you with different situations you’ll encounter as you run your small business.
This is probably the lawyer you will have the most regular need for, and therefore the closest relationship with.
Contracts are an everyday fact of life when you run a business: whether you’re employing someone, selling your own services or renting premises, you’ll need to seal the deal with a legal contract. It’s important to make sure you get them reviewed by a good contract lawyer before you make that final commitment of signing on the dotted line.
If additional terms have been added in by the other party between you negotiating a deal, and signing the contract, you may find yourself bound to honour them as the contract trumps any prior discussions. Unless you have firm evidence of deception (like datestamped emails showing what your agreement was prior to the contract) it’s very hard to prove you aren’t simply trying to evade your responsibilities. Getting your contracts scrutinised by an expert prior to putting your signature to them is the best way to avoid problems in the future.
If what your business is selling is an idea, rather than a physical product or labour, you’ll definitely need the services of a lawyer specialising in Intellectual Property. If you used bespoke equipment with unique designs, code you have written yourself, or if you’re a creative using music, recordings or words, you need to protect those ideas! They’re how you make your money and others can use them with no repercussions you won’t have anything to sell.
An IP lawyer can advise you on how to keep your ideas safe: when you need a non-disclosure agreement so you can show off your ideas to clients without risk, and walk you through the process of submitting patents if you need to.
The main lesson here is that not all lawyers are created equal: you need to find the right one for the task at hand. Consider your ‘go-to’ lawyer a first point of contact who if need be can refer you on to someone who has the specific skills to help you.