Does your small business really need an attorney?

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By Samantha Cortez

If you recently started a business or are finally seeing some financial gain at your company, you might be wondering if you should have a lawyer on board. Even if you aren’t dealing with any legal issues at the moment, having an attorney on retainer can prove highly beneficial for you and there are many different types of lawyers to choose from. On the other hand, there are some instances where you might not need legal services and don’t have the disposable income for retainer fees when you’re still in early growth stages.

What are your business needs?

One of the first things you’ll need to do is determine your specific business needs. Every business is different. If you’re running a one-man online company, you might be able to easily set up a sole proprietorship. As a new startup, hiring a lawyer right away may not be in your best interest. However, if you plan to hire employees, rent a commercial building, or file patents and trademarks, the paperwork process becomes much more tricky.

The more responsibility you take on as a small business owner, the more likely you are to need a lawyer. This is especially true if other people are also involved in your business or if you’re providing services that require detailed contracts. Take a step back to examine potential risks. This will help you make smarter legal decisions when it comes to operating your business.

Is your business brick and mortar or online only?

If you run a fully online business, you may be able to wait until you’ve turned a profit before you start looking into business lawyers (depending on your current and future business needs). However, brick and mortar business owners should consider an attorney right away, as there are a slew of state and federal legal issues associated with physical buildings.

For instance, as a business owner of a physical location, you are required by law to provide a standard duty of care to your customers. Everyone that walks into your store or office becomes your responsibility. If someone gets hurt accidentally, your business is at risk—even if you aren’t at fault. Your building must also be up to local code and regulations or you’ll be hit with hefty fines.

Common reasons you’ll need an attorney

You might be wondering, what could I possibly need an attorney for? The truth is, there are many reasons. For example, navigating legal documents like incorporation paperwork can be very confusing. If you need help with specific tasks, such as trademarking, filling out incorporation forms, and reviewing lease documents, they’ll be able to spearhead this for you.

Furthermore, many business owners attempt to cut costs and cut corners by filling out online forms, however, blanket legal documents leave plenty of room for manual error. Lastly, having a lawyer allows you to focus on areas of the business that you’re best at while your attorney hands the legal side of running a business.

Peace of mind

Having a lawyer gives you the ultimate peace of mind. Unfortunately, there are many things that can go wrong. An employee you fired might file a discrimination lawsuit against you. A developer you hired might decide to go off and launch their own startup, taking off with your intellectual property. A customer might have slipped and fell in your store. The last thing you need is to stay up late stressing over the possibilities of what might happen.

Small business preventative measures

There’s an old saying that goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Hiring a lawyer before you’ve run into legal issues is one of the most important preventative measures you can take as a small business owner. Case in point: you go to the dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups to ensure your dental health is in good standing; you wouldn’t wait until you’re in tremendous pain or notice something wrong before you visit your dentist.

You’ve worked hard for your business, and if you fail to take the proper steps to legally protect it, you might find yourself in trouble. Rather than waiting for a situation to arise where you need a lawyer, having one on hand can save you time, money, and headache in the long run. This level of insurance against legal risks is often worth the financial investment.


Samantha Cortez is managing editor for, an influencer marketing SaaS & marketplace. She has written for some of the largest publications in America, including Business Insider & 20/20 Magazine. Sam loves to travel, often working remotely from Europe.

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