People often ask us “when do your clients seek out your services?” It’s an interesting question and we’ve helped enough small businesses to notice some patterns. Here are some common scenarios.
Let’s start at the very beginning …
Many of our clients involve an attorney at the inception of a business. Hooray! As they say: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” An attorney can help you:
- Choose the right type of entity
- File the correct paperwork with the Secretary of State
- Obtain your tax id from the IRS
- Negotiate terms with your partners
- Draft governing documents
- Help you assess risk
- Connect you with other professionals who can make your life easier
- etc. etc.
In theory, this makes perfect sense. In reality, involving an attorney from day one simply isn’t an option for many small business owners who are often short on resources (like time, energy, and money!) when they’re getting the business off the ground. We get it. We have literally been there and done that. So let’s look at some other common scenarios.
Some of our clients have the foresight to involve legal counsel at the beginning, but simply don’t have the resources to pull in an attorney at that time. Small business owners are smart and capable people. So they take a DIY approach and do some legal work themselves. They file paperwork with the SOS, modify a contract that they’ve found online, and generally “make do.” These quick-fixes can help you get to work and may offer a manageable alternative, at least for awhile. But, as is true of most things (I can speak from personal experience about cutting hair, fixing plumbing, filing taxes … the list is long) there’s more risk involved with the DIY approach than with the “hiring a professional” approach. So it’s best to hire an attorney just as soon as you can afford one to review what you’ve done and to help you mitigate that risk.
These are clients who simply start doing what they’re doing because: “It’s a passion of mine.” – or – “I saw a niche.” – or – “Iwas interested in exploring [x, y, or z].” – or – “I don’t know, I just started doing it.” Then one day, they realize that they’re making money. They have clients and contracts and relationships that are making a bona fide business run. Often the leap from “I own a business!” to “I need an attorney!” is a short one.
The unfortunate truth is that things can and do go wrong. When this happens, clients generally hire an attorney to help them navigate a resolution. This is an important service that attorneys offer and having a good advocate on your side can make a big difference in the outcome. That said, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. It is expensive for clients to negotiate and/or to litigate a dispute. Sometimes it’s inevitable, but almost always it is avoidable. So, to whatever extent possible, bring in those professionals sooner rather than later and invest what you can in avoiding that “oh no!” moment.