Starting a business in California can be one of the most exciting endeavors a person can undertake. You’ve put together your business plan, completed market research, and put everything together in hopes of creating something new. Of course, part of your launch plan is meeting with a civil attorney in Los Angeles. While meeting with a business lawyer can be intimidating, it’s a great way to proactively plan for your company’s business needs.
Here are the most important topics you should discuss with your civil attorney in Los Angeles.
Questions to Ask Your Business Lawyer
Does My Business Even Need an Attorney?
Beyond needing representation, if you’re ever part of a lawsuit, breach of contract, or other legal situation, there are plenty of areas where business attorneys come in handy.
Starting a business has many legal ramifications: liability, copyright, employee rights, contracts, and more. You may not need a full-time business contract attorney on staff, but it is wise to have regular meetings with your attorney. Keeping him or her in the loop will help avoid legal issues before they turn into significant problems.
While some businesses may need more legal consultations than others, it’s always a good idea to have a lawyer on your side. If you wait until there is a lawsuit to hire an attorney, it’s already too late.
Which Business Structure is Right for My Business?
When you start your business, you have to make decisions about how your company will be structured. There are a variety of options, so it’s worth taking the time to discuss the pros and cons of each so you can make the best selection for your business.
Note that making a poor choice could result in being personally liable for a mistake or stunting growth at a critical juncture.
There are several common business structures from which to choose. It is possible to make a change from one to another down the road, but making a wise choice early can save issues later on. Your civil attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of each and make the right decision.
Here are the most common business structures.
If your company is a one-person show, it might be best situated as a sole proprietorship. There is no special paperwork or license required to form your company; this structure exists the minute you start doing business. The owner is personally liable for lawsuits, taxes, and so on.
When two or more people start a business together but want a similar organization as a sole proprietorship, a partnership is made. Typically, the only paperwork involved is some agreement recording how the owners share the company.
- A standard corporation is known as a C-Corp. This organization is treated as if it were a person. It has legal and tax structures independent from the business owners. Taxes are based on corporate profits/losses and shareholder dividends.
- An S-Corp is very similar to a C-Corp in its structure. The most significant difference is that a C-Corp does not have a limit on the number of shareholders, while an S-Corp does. The limit is typically up to 100 shareholders. Owners also report their own share of the company’s profits and losses.
- A limited liability corporation (LLC) is a mixture of a sole proprietorship/partnership and a corporation. Owners are not personally responsible for the company’s liabilities, but taxes are passed through to the owner’s personal taxes.
What are the Best Practices for Selecting a Name?
One of the most fun parts of starting a new business is coming up with the perfect name. Every state has a different process for selecting and securing a business name.
A business attorney can help ensure that you don’t infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks with your name. Your lawyer can also help you create a “doing business as (DBA)” in case you want to do business under a different name other than your company’s legal title.
How do You Bill?
Everyone knows that lawyers don’t come cheap. It’s crucial that you understand precisely how your attorney bills. Avoiding this question could result in getting a rather large surprise bill.
Find out if the lawyer bills for phone calls, e-mails, video chats, time their assistants help, research time, and so on. You also want to know in what time increments your lawyer bills. You’ll want to know if your lawyer rounds up to the nearest 15 minutes, half an hour, etc.
Some attorneys might also help with specific tasks for a flat rate. For example, a business contract lawyer might review a vendor contract for a flat fee.
Even if money is not an issue for your business, you’ll want a clear picture of your attorney’s billing practice so you can make the most of his or her time.
Do You Work with Companies Similar to Mine?
Companies come to lawyers at many different stages in their business. Each stage of a business’s life comes with different legal challenges and tasks.
There is a clear difference between a business starting from scratch and one that has been established for years. That means many lawyers out there might not have much experience with companies in the startup phase. When making your choice, you want to make sure that your attorney is comfortable working with companies in your stage.
It’s also helpful to know if your lawyer understands your industry. When your lawyer understands your business, he or she may have additional insight into the legal issues you’ll face. This could mean more efficient, and therefore less expensive, work. At the same time, a lawyer with a fresh perspective could offer insight you haven’t considered before.
While there is no right or wrong answer for how much industry experience your attorney has, it’s crucial that you’re comfortable with your representation.
Can You Help with Taxes?
While an accountant is another valuable member of your new business, there are some areas where your lawyer can help. There are different tax ramifications from which business structure you use. Your lawyer should be able to help make sense of your tax situation. Moreover, if you’re also on the hunt for an accountant, a reasonable business attorney will have a vast network of CPAs who can assist.
Get the Right Legal Representation for Your Startup
Business owners need to secure proper legal representation from the early stages of their business. Instead of waiting for a fire to start before putting them out, civil attorneys can help stop flames before they even start smoking. You’ve put a lot of work into creating your business. Don’t risk your dreams by taking a legal risk.