What to Ask a Lawyer When Starting a Business?
Starting a business is an exciting venture filled with endless possibilities and potential. However, amidst the excitement, it’s crucial to recognise the importance of legal guidance. Seeking the advice of a knowledgeable lawyer can provide invaluable insights and help you navigate the complex legal landscape associated with starting a business.
From understanding compliance requirements and protecting your intellectual property, there are numerous considerations that require expert attention. Let’s explore the 37 questions on what to ask a lawyer when starting a business, equipping you with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions.
I. General Questions
1. What Legal Structure Would Best Suit My Business?
The lawyer will assess your business plan, needs and goals to recommend the most appropriate legal structure, such as partnership, limited liability company(LLC), sole proprietorship, or corporation, based on liability, taxation, and management.
2. What Legal Steps Do I Need to Take to Start My Business?
The lawyer will guide you through the necessary legal procedures, such as registering your business, obtaining licenses and permits, drafting essential contracts, complying with regulations, and meeting tax obligations.
3. What Are the Potential Legal Risks and Liabilities I Should Be Aware of?
The lawyer will identify and explain the potential legal risks and liabilities associated with your business, including issues related to contracts, intellectual property, employment, compliance, and any industry-specific regulations.
4. What Formation Documents Do I Need to Get Started?
The lawyer will inform you about the formation documents required for your chosen legal structure, such as articles of incorporation or organisation, bylaws, operating agreements, partnership agreements, or shareholder agreements.
5. What Do I Need to Know About Choosing a Name for My Business?
The business attorney will advise you on the legal considerations when selecting a business name, including trademark availability, potential conflicts with existing names, and compliance with local and state naming regulations.
6. What Do I Do if My Desired Business Name Is Available, but I’m Not Quite Ready to Move Forward?
The lawyer can guide you on reserving or protecting the name temporarily until you are ready to establish your business formally.
7. What Should Be in My Operating Agreement or Bylaws?
The lawyer will help you draft or review your operating agreement (for an LLC) or bylaws (for a corporation), ensuring they address essential elements such as ownership structure, decision-making processes, distribution of profits, and dispute resolution mechanisms.
8. How Can I Raise Capital?
The lawyer can explain different methods of raising capital, such as debt financing, equity financing, crowdfunding, or venture capital, and guide you on the legal aspects involved in each approach.
9. What Are My Business Compliance Costs?
The lawyer can help you understand the potential compliance costs associated with your business, including licensing fees, regulatory fees, ongoing legal support costs, and any industry-specific compliance requirements.
II. Contracts and Agreements
10. Do I Need a Partnership Agreement or an Operating Agreement?
The lawyer will assess your own business structure and recommend the appropriate partnership agreement (for partnerships) or an operating agreement (for limited liability companies), outlining owners’ rights, responsibilities, and profit-sharing arrangements.
11. What Should Be Included in Contracts with Suppliers, Customers, and Employees?
The lawyer can advise you on the essential terms and clauses in contracts with suppliers, customers, and employees, covering areas like payment terms, delivery schedules, warranties, non-disclosure agreements, non-compete agreements, and dispute resolution mechanisms.
12. What Contracts Does My Business Need?
The lawyer will help you identify and draft the necessary contracts for your business, including vendor, service, client, lease, employment, and independent contractor agreements.
13. What Are My Duties and Obligations?
The lawyer will explain your legal duties and obligations as a business owner, including responsibilities towards employees, customers, suppliers, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders.
14. Will I Be Signing Contracts with Vendors or Customers?
The lawyer can guide you on the implications of signing contracts with vendors or customers, ensuring you understand your rights, obligations, and potential liabilities under those agreements.
15. What Contracts Do I Need to Sign with My Employees, Contractors, and Vendors?
The lawyer will advise you on the contracts you should have with your employees, independent contractors, and vendors, outlining the terms and conditions to protect your interests and comply with relevant laws.
16. How Can I Resolve Disputes with Other Companies or Customers without Going to Court?
The lawyer can suggest alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration, and explain their benefits and processes for resolving disputes without resorting to formal court proceedings.
17. How Can I Resolve Issues with Another Business Owner or Partner?
The lawyer can guide you on the best approach to address legal issues or conflicts with business partners, including negotiation, alternative dispute resolution, or, if necessary, dissolving or restructuring the partnership.
II. Compliance and Regulatory Issues
18. What Licenses and Permits Are Required for My Specific Business?
The lawyer will help you identify whether you need a business license and the permits required for your business based on its nature, location, and industry. Whether you have a large or small business attorney, they can guide you through the application process and ensure compliance with applicable regulations.
19. How Do I Comply with Municipal, Provincial, and Federal Regulations?
The lawyer will explain the relevant municipal, provincial, and federal laws applicable to your business and guide you on how to comply with them, covering areas such as taxation, zoning, safety, health, environmental regulations, and data protection.
20. What Are the Potential Legal Consequences of Non-compliance?
The lawyer will inform you about the potential legal consequences of non-compliance with relevant regulations, including fines, penalties, business closure, loss of licenses, or legal disputes with regulatory bodies or affected parties.
21. What Legal Actions Do I Need to Start a Business?
The lawyer will outline the necessary legal actions to start a business, such as registering your business entity, obtaining a Business Number (BN), applying for necessary licenses and permits, and setting up appropriate accounting and record-keeping systems.
22. What Are the Essential Legal Documents You Must Have?
The lawyer will identify the essential legal documents your business needs, including formation documents, contracts, licenses, permits, intellectual property registrations, employment agreements, and compliance-related documents.
23. Are There Any Local Zoning Restrictions That Might Affect How I Operate?
The lawyer can inform you about any local zoning restrictions or land-use regulations that may impact your small business operations, such as restrictions on signage, noise levels, parking, or operating hours.
24. Do I Need to Register My Business?
The lawyer will advise you on the necessity and process of registering your business, including the appropriate registration forms, fees, and ongoing reporting requirements.
25. Do I Need to Comply with Any Health and Safety Regulations?
The lawyer can help you understand the safety and health regulations relevant to your business, such as Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) requirements, and guide you on the necessary compliance measures.
26. Do I Need to Comply with Any Industry-Specific Regulations?
The lawyer will inform you about any industry-specific regulations that may apply to your business, such as financial regulations for banking or insurance, food safety regulations for restaurants, or privacy regulations for healthcare providers.
27. Do Any International Laws Apply to My Business?
The lawyer can provide guidance on international laws and regulations that may apply to your business if you operate internationally, such as import/export laws, trade agreements, intellectual property protections, or data privacy regulations.
28. What Rules Apply to Advertising and Marketing for My Business?
The lawyer will inform you about the rules and regulations governing advertising and marketing activities, including guidelines for truthful and non-deceptive advertising, intellectual property considerations, and industry-specific advertising regulations.
29. How Can I Minimize My Tax Liability?
The lawyer can provide general guidance on tax planning strategies, deductions, credits, and incentives available to businesses and advise you on engaging with tax professionals or accountants to develop a tax-efficient structure for your new business entity.
IV. Employment Matters
30. What Legal Considerations Should I Be Aware of When Hiring Employees?
The lawyer will explain the legal considerations in hiring employees, including anti-discrimination laws, employment contracts, employee classification (exempt vs. non-exempt), wage and hour laws, workplace safety, and employee benefits.
31. What Should Be Included in Employment Contracts or Offer Letters?
The lawyer can advise you on the essential terms and provisions in employment contracts or offer letters, such as job responsibilities, compensation, benefits, confidentiality, non-compete clauses, and dispute resolution mechanisms.
32. How Can I Ensure Compliance with Labor Laws and Regulations?
The lawyer will guide you on complying with labour laws and regulations, including minimum wage laws, overtime rules, family and medical leave requirements, workplace safety regulations, and anti-discrimination laws.
33. How Do I Minimize My Risks as an Employer?
The lawyer can guide employers on risk management strategies, such as implementing proper employment policies and procedures, maintaining accurate records, conducting regular performance evaluations, protecting the business from employees, and addressing workplace conflicts or disciplinary matters.
34. Do I Have to Provide Any Employee Benefits?
The lawyer will explain the legal requirements and options for employee benefits, including health insurance, retirement plans, vacation or paid time off, family and medical leave, and other benefits mandated by local or state laws.
35. What Are the Most Common Employment Law Issues I Need to Be Aware of?
The lawyer can outline common employment law issues, such as wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, and wage and hour disputes, and guide you on preventative measures, compliance, and handling such issues if they arise.
V. Intellectual Property Protection
36. How Can I Protect My Intellectual Property Rights?
The lawyer will explain the available methods to protect your intellectual property, such as trademarks, copyrights, patents, or trade secrets, and guide you on registering and enforcing these rights.
37. What Steps Should I Take to Safeguard My Trade Secrets?
The lawyer can advise you on implementing appropriate measures to protect your trade secrets, including confidentiality agreements, non-disclosure agreements, restricted access to sensitive information, and employee training on trade secret protection.
37. Do I Need to Take Out Insurance for My Business?
The business lawyer will explain the importance of business insurance and recommend appropriate insurance coverage for your business needs, such as general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, property insurance, or workers’ compensation insurance.
Seeking legal advice when starting a business is a wise decision that can help you navigate the complex landscape of laws, regulations, and potential risks. By asking the right questions to a lawyer, you can gain valuable insights and ensure that you are taking the necessary legal steps to protect your business and its interests.
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