We like to tell jokes about lawyers, but the reality is that they are specialists who can help us when we’re in a pinch. Before you dismiss the idea of getting a lawyer for your business, think about the situation. You might be surprised at how useful a lawyer can be to the successful entrepreneur.

Business Tasks that Don’t Require a Lawyer

First of all, there are some business tasks that you don’t need a lawyer for. Some of the things you can do on your own (or with the help of an accountant) include:

  • Naming your business
  • Setting up your business organization (it’s fairly easy to set up an LLC)
  • Obtaining your EIN and filing other paperwork (including state requirements) to start a business
  • Creating buy-sell agreements
  • Putting together contracts for clients and partners, as well as creating other paperwork, including non-disclosure agreements and non-compete agreements
  • Claiming a trademark

These are tasks that you can usually find information about online. Your state should have information about how to create a business in your state, and there are reputable online resources that can help you file paperwork and provide you with templates for contracts and agreements. While a lawyer can help you this tasks, you don’t actually need a lawyer to complete them, and they are fairly straightforward.

Time to Get a Lawyer Involved

Of course, there are times that you do need a lawyer. Once things start getting complicated, it makes sense to turn to a trusted legal professional. Additionally, you should outsource law-related tasks when you start feeling overwhelmed — even if the issue is supposed to be simple. Once you feel like your time isn’t being used effectively, it’s time to bring in the professionals.

Some of the more specific business situations that need a lawyer include forming a corporation (which is a more intricate structure than a partnership or LLC), filing a patent and buying or selling a business. These transactions require more paperwork and a level of expertise that can’t be replaced by templates or general advice from low-cost Internet providers.

And, of course, you need a lawyer for your business anytime you get in a situation where you are involved with litigation. If someone is suing you (or if you are suing someone else), a lawyer is essential. In fact, if you are concerned that you have liability issues as part of your business, it can make sense to keep a lawyer on retainer. There are plenty of lawyers that work on this basis, and it can be a big help when your back is against the wall — or even before it gets to that point.

When choosing a lawyer for your business, it’s important to pick someone who has experience with small business. You don’t want a specialist in another area. If you’re a startup, then you want a law firm that specializes in startups. It can help, also, if your lawyer has some knowledge of your industry, although that isn’t necessary if s/he is competent and experienced.

A good lawyer can help you out of a jam, review contracts before you sign something you regret and help make sure that you are following state and federal law with your business.

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Entrepreneur and Venture Advisor for the Network of Things Fund a Draper Nexus Fund. Newlands received a Bachelor of Laws and he is qualified as a Lawyer. He gained his Green Card by being recognized by the US government as an “alien of extraordinary ability.” Newlands is the author of “Online Marketing: A User’s Manual” published by John Wiley. He is former President of Due.com

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