In a previous post, Martha Jameson suggested tips for students starting a small business. She talked about how the experience will set them on the road to becoming entrepreneurs and many students will hopefully move on to create their own startups.
But once you are in the process of getting a business up and running, there'll be many considerations to take into account that you didn’t have to deal with while you were a student. One crucial consideration is whether or not you need to get legal aid for your startup. In our experience working with law firms, we've learned it's an important asset that's often delayed too long. Here we'll go over how to get the right legal assistance for your needs.
WHY LEGAL AID IS A PRIORITY
The Muse published an article on why startups must hire lawyers, and note that getting legal aid is crucial for all businesses in their early stages. The main reason is that the right expertise helps ensure that all legal requirements (e.g., tax and copyright matters, legalities when it comes to hiring staff) are covered, thus giving you confidence and peace of mind to proceed with your business plan.
In addition, getting help from lawyers can help your startup grow. A feature on attorney recruiting by Special Counsel explains how hiring legal expertise can help a company evolve. They will be able to provide advice on future business proposals and help your startup avoid any pitfalls that commonly derail young businesses.
TAKE YOUR TIME AND BE THOROUGH
A vital part of getting legal aid is hiring the right lawyers. Strategy+Business points out that some startups rush the hiring process which can end up being counter intuitive. This is mainly because it can lead to companies acquiring lawyers that aren’t used to working with startups.
Many lawyers are too often fixated on preventing potential losses that they fail to see opportunities for possible growth. Therefore, they become choke points that hold down the startup rather than lift it up.
HIRE ACCORDING TO YOUR NEEDS
Every startup requires legal advice on different areas of business. They can be hiring practices, taxation procedures, or intellectual property requirements. It is best to find out which area of your business needs, or will need, the most legal aid and target a lawyer that specializes in that subject. Hiring a lawyer on a case-to-case basis rather than on a retainer is a more cost effective approach.
KNOW THE FEES AND KEEP THEM IN CONTROL
Tech Crunch breaks down the common fees that lawyers command into flat, hourly, and contingency fees. Contingency fees are generally for litigation, and are therefore mostly inapplicable to startups, which are best served avoiding long, drawn-out court battles. This means you need to educate yourself about flat and hourly fees, so you can negotiate effectively with potential lawyers.
Another way to keep fees down is to monitor them strictly. Ask for a cost estimate, request routine billing updates, and instruct your lawyer to alert you if a billing threshold has been reached. Additionally, you can try asking for "emerging company" discounts, as many lawyers are amenable to charging less for smaller businesses. The lawyer will want your firm to succeed in order to add you to their portfolio.
Starting a new business is a daunting task, and many entrepreneurs will prefer to concentrate on their product or service. However, seeking the right legal aid is a crucial step for not only getting your business up and running, but ensuring that your startup is not part of the 90% that fail within their first 3 years.