Thursday, January 26, 2012

Legal Talk

When I decided to start my business I did my homework and researched the ins and outs thoroughly before I got things moving. I learned that every business will need the advice and guidance of two professionals: an accountant and a lawyer. My search for an accountant was as simple as picking up the phone...I contacted the same accountant we used to prepare our taxes every year.

Finding a lawyer was relatively easy as well. My husband has been involved in our community for many years and he knew a few lawyers on a personal basis. I contacted both the accountant and the lawyer, they were glad to help and after a short amount of time discussing the necessary details regarding my business I was set.

Over the years I've counseled and helped a few people who liked the idea of having his or her own business. A couple of these people wondered why it was important to seek the guidance of a lawyer and accountant. To me the reasons for hiring an accountant are obvious--he or she will guide you in setting up your bank accounts and they can review your books and balances as your business grows. Plus they can handle and prepare all of your tax returns. That, I feel, is one of the most important reasons of all!

But the reason for hiring an attorney may not be quite so obvious to some. One of the people I was counseling a few years ago was very surprised when I suggested she find a lawyer before she forged ahead with her business. She literally gasped when I first told her of this important part of starting a business! She thought that the only type of lawyer she would ever need would be a California criminal lawyer. Yes! I couldn't believe the naive mentality!! I was only talking to her over the phone so perhaps she was joking! I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

After she realized her silly assumption I explained that an attorney will guide you through the many facets of your business to make sure you are operating everything legally. For example, my business is home-based, but I still had to find out whether or not I needed to worry about zoning compliances. That was something my attorney helped me with. Plus you'll need to contend with copyright and trademark laws along with potential lawsuits and liability issues. A number of years ago my husband opened his own business and we juggle our own business bank accounts separately. Every so often, however, I think about incorporating our businesses and operating them under one hat. In dealing with that issue I'll definitely need the advice of our lawyer.

Ever since that odd phone conversation I had with the woman I was counseling I learned to always gently explain the need for a lawyer. I explain that there's no need to worry or feel intimidated. Attorneys aren't soley needed because you commit a crime. Lawyers are also needed for guidance so as to avoid an illegal issue from arising in the first place. So again I reiterate, it's important to research and learn as much as you can about what your business will require financially and legally.

And, to add some humor to my counseling sessions I share the above story. I stress the importance of understanding that you will only need a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer if, and only if, you are being prosecuted by the state or federal government. I tell them, "If you've committed an act that could be classified as a crime and if you've been charged with this crime you will need an experienced criminal lawyer to represent you. And perhaps you should put your business idea on the back burner until you get your serious legal issues ironed out."

When I make that comment and share that story some of the people I counsel chuckle along with me. Others don't say anything and I can't help but wonder if perhaps they might have a similar reaction as that lady! But oh well! I feel that if I'm offering advice I have to make sure I'm covering all the bases.

Okay...more sharing on the way...until then,

1 comment:

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