Every business in California needs two essential professional services: an accountant and a California business lawyer. “The benefits of an accountant are clear; they will set up your accounts, review your numbers, and prepare tax returns. A business attorney is something that most businesses will not hire until they are being sued,” said Brad Nakase who is a business attorney in California. “A business attorney can help you with a lot of setting up a company. They can assist with incorporation, zoning compliance, intellectual property protection, and lawsuits.”
What Type of Business Law Assistance Do I Need?
Business law consists of many different types of legal disciplines. You will need all of the below services during your company’s lifetime. Look for a California business lawyer with as much of the following legal expertise as possible:
Business Organization Law
An attorney can discuss the different kinds of business entities and the pros and cons of each type. Once you choose the best for your company, they will help you prepare the necessary documents.
Your business will need a number of contracts with its suppliers and employees. In some cases, you may need a contract with your customers too. Your business lawyer will help you to negotiate contracts and will enforce them if necessary.
Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual property includes trademarks, copyrights, and patents. These protect what makes your business unique, and if another company violates your intellectual property protection, then you lose your competitive advantage. Your business attorney can help you to protect your intellectual property and deal with any disputes or violation.
Real Estate Law
If your business buys or rents a physical space, then a real estate and commercial lawyer can help you negotiate contracts. Commercial rental contracts can be costly and the terms restrictive, so legal advice is necessary.
While the accountant will handle all things tax, the business attorney will advise on how business transactions may affect your taxes.
What Type of Law Firm Should I Choose?
There are law firms of all sizes out there, from big law firms with offices in multiple states to solo practitioners. You need to choose the one that is best for your business. Each will have benefits and disadvantages.
A small law business lawyer will have a good basic knowledge of the law and specialize in a few different areas. The costs would be much lower, and often, they have a much more personal touch. These types of legal help are perfect for small businesses or startups.
A large law firm is beneficial because it will often be well-known in the legal community. A legal letter from a law firm known for its success carries a lot more weight than a legal letter from a small law firm. Because of their higher overheads, a large law firm will be more expensive. But you have the benefit of having a large number of specialties that you can tap into.
What Types of Fee Structures Do Attorneys Use?
Lawyers’ fees are always up for a bit of negotiation, there are a lot of lawyers to choose from, so it creates a bit of a buyers’ market. A business attorney will work on one of the following fee structures:
- Hourly rate – An hourly rate means that your attorney will charge you for the time they spend on the work they do for you. Ask your lawyer to quote you how long they expect to spend and to notify you if they foresee it taking longer.
- Flat fee – A flat fee means there is a set fee for the service, and there will be no nasty surprises. This is most often offered for simple or straightforward services rather than those that rely on getting information or negotiating with other parties.
- Contingency fee – This applies to lawsuits where you are expected to win financial damages. The lawyer will take their fee as a percentage of the damages that you win. They will not receive anything if they do not win your case.
Top 5 Questions to Ask a Business Attorney
When you are looking for a business lawyer, you should ask them a few questions to ensure they are a good fit for your company. Ask these 5 questions as well as some business-specific questions.
- Are you good at explaining legal situations to everyday people? You need someone who will drop the jargon and explain thing to you in terms you can understand.
- Will it be you handling my business? Some law firms have people to acquire customers, including consultations. That means that the person you are interviewing may not be handling your company’s legal matters. You want to meet the person who will be handling your legal matters so you can see if they are a good fit.
- What is your experience? Find an attorney with a lot of experience so they can guide you through the process. Ask about their general legal experience as well as industry-specific.
- What are your fees? Find out their fees up front so you can figure out if it works for your budget. Find out what fee structures they will use for different services.
- Do you have good connections? Connections are important because you will need different types of attorneys with different expertise. Your business attorney will refer some of their colleagues.
Hire an Attorney Before You Receive Summons
Don’t put off hiring a lawyer until you receive a summons, then it is too late. An attorney can save you a lot of time and money by doing pre-emptive legal work. You may be reluctant to spend money on too many things up front, but a business attorney will save you a lot of money in the long run by ensuring you are legally compliant.