Think You Have Your Sh!t Together
I hear “I need to get my shit together” often. Of the myriad of reasons clients come to see me, I think that phrase pretty much sums it up. Clients want to get their business affairs legally in order. Some of them come to see me when they are just getting started. They want to start things off right. Some of them come to me a year or two into their business. They finally have time and money to address their legal issues. However, more often than not many of these clients have an idea of why they are coming to see me, but more commonly they “feel” like they need to see a lawyer, they just aren’t sure what for! Below are the four most common reasons a client starting any type of business may need to see an attorney:
- Form a corporate entity. Most people are familiar with the terms “corporation” and “LLC”, but most people do not know what the difference is between them or which is the right choice for their business. When it comes to the hospitality industry, most business are considered high liability. In general, any business that permits the public at large to be on the premises (for example, restaurants, bars, retail establishments, music venues, etc.) are going to be high liability, and therefore I recommend forming a corporate entity to add another layer of protection to the owner. A corporate entity differs from a regular corporation in that it’s treated similar to an individual, while a corporation is a legal entity.
- Contracts. I am a firm believer that contracts help keep my clients out of my office for the wrong reasons. Generally, any and all service-oriented businesses should be using contracts between their clients, their employees, their subcontractors or independent contractors, and their vendors. A well-drafted contract should clearly lay out each party’s responsibilities, and what course of action should be taken should one party not live up to their responsibilities. I find many of my clients have side-stepped bad customer relationships by refusing to work with someone who will not sign a contract. Similarly, many of my clients have been able to diffuse situations before they escalate by pulling out their contracts. In my experience, it takes one bad experience of not having contracts to convince a client that they need to have them in place.
- Intellectual Property Protection. Copyright, trademark, patent. Most of the general population knows enough about these three subjects to be VERY dangerous. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of misinformation out there about intellectual property, what it does, what it protects, how you get it, etc. More often than not someone comes in with something they want to copyright, such as a restaurant name or logo, only to learn that it is something that is covered under trademark. Indeed, many people also come in not realizing that they have intellectual property that they need to protect! It is important for clients to become educated about intellectual property, so they have a better understanding of the goodwill of their business.
- Conflict. No matter how well anyone thinks they run their business, at some point a business owner will be sued or will need to consider suing someone. It is easy to know you need an attorney when you have been served with a lawsuit. However, what is not as easy is whether you should sue someone for nonpayment. It is important for clients to understand the real costs associated with litigation, and that there are no guarantees of collection. We take a straight-forward and brutally honest approach with clients when it comes to deciding whether the amount of money is worth pursuing. In addition, it usually is appropriate to discuss how the client can avoid being in the same situation a second time, either by amending contracts, putting them in place, forming a corporate entity or protecting intellectual property, bringing the process full circle.
If any of the above have struck a nerve, give Schaffer Law Firm PLLC a call today to set up a complimentary initial consultation.
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