Early-stage startup founders and entrepreneurs often find themselves in a ‘chicken-or-egg’ type of scenario in reference to seeking legal advice. There may be pressure to hold off on legal advice for startups until some money has been made, but that revenue-positive point may come well after any number of legal issues arise.
So, for entrepreneurs, startups, and new and growing businesses, the question isn’t “Should my startup seek any legal advice?” but “Why, where, and when should my startup seek legal advice?”.
WHY Would a Startup Need Legal Advice?
There are many reasons why you should seek legal advice when forming and growing your business, including entity selection, formation, organization, and qualification processes, patent protection, and founders’ agreements. A good attorney will help you plan for what is happening with your business, as well as what could happen; legal advice for startups is an area where businesses shouldn’t cut corners. A mistake now could be much more costly for your business in the future than the attorney’s fees, especially when it comes to regulation and protection of your work. As Miriam Rivera, Venture Capitalist, put it: “handling legal affairs poorly can crater the chances of a startup’s success.”
A lawyer’s ethical responsibility is to be your zealous advocate, every step of the way. Have you fallen in love with a brand or logo for your new business? An attorney will help ensure it’s not already in use. Has a client not paid? An attorney will ensure your contracts are drafted with provisions for non-payment in mind from the get go, and could help you enforce and recover those funds.
WHEN Should Startups Seek Legal Advice?
Legal advice for startups can be especially helpful in the early stages. Don’t wait for an ugly legal issue to arise! It is far better to seek legal advice carrying a a business idea on a napkin than only coming to an attorney when there’s been a complaint or action against your business. Issues like overlooked industry regulations or copyright infringement are less troublesome with existing support from a trusted attorney.
Startups should seek legal advice when the value of an attorney’s help outweighs the potential amount of time and effort spent to resolve the issue. This may seem intuitive, but can often be a difficult decision pre-revenue, and involve a lot of risk mitigation. Attempting to ‘go it alone’ and missing important details can greatly affect a company’s chances for success.
WHERE Are the Best Places to Get Legal Advice for Startups?
Finding an ally in an attorney who is experienced in startup law can be very valuable for your business. If you’re struggling to find someone you trust to ask about such sensitive matters, seek advice from mentors or peers who have been in the same position. Research potential legal counsel extensively and know what rate packages they offer new businesses, what their reputation is, and how they’ve helped other entrepreneurs. Finding legal direction online may be easy, but it will never be able to replace the tailored, experienced, and one-on-one advice your zealous advocate can provide.
Ziliak Law’s team of attorneys delivers experienced insight on a broad spectrum of business and corporate matters to help a growing startup, including entity formation, capital structure, and intellectual property matters. For more information, please contact us.
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