Why Every Business Needs Legal Counsel?
Every business, new or established, needs legal counsel, the same way it needs an accountant and a banker. Business law is highly specialized, and, ironically, may not always mesh with a lay person’s common sense. You may not need to call on your lawyer for months at a time, but having someone you trust with whom you can consult when the time comes is imperative.
For example, if you’re served with a lawsuit, you usually have just 21 days to prepare a response and get it filed with the court. Litigation timelines are short, and it’s important to have a good attorney who is knowledgeable about court processes and your business in order to provide you with the most protection. If the time comes and you don’t have an attorney, you’ll need to go through the often-lengthy process of auditioning firms and finding the one that’s the right fit. On the other hand, if you already have an attorney, you can just pick up the phone and notify them that there is an issue. Every business needs to have that person on speed-dial, and the knowledge that someone is there, in your corner, ready to go, gives businesspeople enormous peace of mind. It also gives us, as your counsel, the ability to help you with much more precision and alacrity than if we received a cold call from an unknown contact.
What Pitfalls Can An Attorney Help Me Avoid When Forming a Business?
An attorney can help you avoid several pitfalls when forming a business. For instance, depending on the enterprise, the process of registering a business can become complicated. If you have a Virginia business, and you have employees actively working in the District of Columbia at a brick-and-mortar store, it will cause issues if you don’t make the appropriate filings.
Operating a business in D.C. while being registered in Virginia usually requires registration with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which is the administrative body that oversees businesses in the district. The district will also require payment of taxes in that jurisdiction, and has very different employment laws compared to those of Virginia. If you’re found to be out of compliance with those laws, D.C. oversight officials will not hesitate to impose fines and other penalties. Worse still, if you get sued in a jurisdiction in which you are not properly registered to do business, you may not be allowed to defend yourself in court until you get into good standing. These problems can all be avoided if a person consults with a knowledgeable lawyer on the front end.
Another avoidable pitfall relates to branding. If a business or individual is already using a trademarked name, logo, symbol, phrase or word that you are planning to use in connection with your business, you will want to get far enough away from that preexisting brand material to ensure you aren’t infringing on another party’s rights. I have clients who have received cease and desist letters from prior users of a trademark or service mark, whether or not it’s federally registered, threatening legal action if changes aren’t made. If you tiptoe too close to another company’s branding, such that a reasonable member of the public could be confused with respect to your services versus the prior user services, you’re going to have problems.
You could stand to lose a lot of money as well. New businesses often set aside start-up funds for branding needs, such as the creation of a website, logo, business cards, and promotional materials. Having to redo all this marketing material after receiving a cease and desist letter can be extremely expensive. It can also be time-consuming, and if you have someone breathing down your neck and threatening to sue you, that’s even more stress to deal with. However, if you verify your marketing strategy with an attorney, this scenario can be avoided. Attorneys can perform a common law “knock-out” search to confirm whether there is a potential issue with your company’s brand.
Finally, a company can control against an owner’s personal assets being put in jeopardy due to her business’s debts. When a company is owned by a sole individual, it is tempting to treat the business and owner as one in the same. If the owner uses her personal bank account to house business funds, for instance, or keeps business equipment in their home without building a clear chain of title back to the business, issues can arise. The more the owner treats the business as if it’s an extension of herself rather than a separate entity, the weaker the protective “corporate veil” will grow. This legal barrier between a business and the person who owns is extremely valuable and should be diligently maintained by ensuring there is enough separation between company and owner. A knowledgeable attorney can help put corporate formalities in place to maintain the strength of the corporate veil and protect the assets at issue.
For more information on The Need for Legal Counsel in Your Business, an initial consultation is your next best step. You can set up an initial consultation with The Lipp Law Firm by calling (571) 660-4077.
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