We’re all about teaming up with great startups on a mission to help the startup community excel. Priori Legal is one of those awesome companies. This guest post from proiri is important from an insurance perspective because many underwriters will ask for the legal work described below when quoting your insurance policy. Without these documents, insurance can be more expensive and harder to get!
7 Reasons to Find a Good Startup Lawyer Now
As a new founder, your first (and constant) priority is probably getting your product to market. While getting up and running is vital, it’s also important to attend to legal concerns that might thwart your success down the road. Consulting a startup lawyer at the outset helps avoid adverse legal consequences. Moreover, it provides you with an invaluable asset: a trusted adviser who understands your business and can guide you through various stages of your business cycle.
Here is a list of typical legal needs of a startup company and why you might consider consulting a lawyer.
A Startup Lawyer Can Help With:
- Formation & Corporate Governance
Incorporating your business creates a legal separation between the individual entrepreneur(s) and the business itself, possibly shielding you from personal liability for the business’s debts and other liabilities. There are several forms of business organizations, including a Partnership, a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or a Corporation (S Corp or C Corp). Your startup lawyer can help you decide on a structure based on your business, finances, plans and goals.
Where there is more than one founder, a Partnership Agreement (often in the operating agreement or corporate bylaws, depending on your entity’s form) is essential to create rules and procedures for governance, prevent future conflicts and avoid expensive litigation. A seasoned lawyer can help you plan for a “co-founder divorce”or disputes on the direction or operation of the business.
2. Employee Classification & Employment Contracts
For every employee and independent contractor, it is important to have an agreement in writing. Clearly articulating whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee may seem trivial, but misclassification can result in serious legal consequences. This can include payment of back taxes and penalties, reimbursement of wages and penalties, and benefits for workers’ compensation insurance.
The employment agreement should contain the terms and conditions of employment, such as assignment of any intellectual property created by the employee, confidentiality obligations and non-compete clauses. A lawyer can help you with a template agreement that covers the do’s, don’ts, restrictions and conditions of employee contracts.
- Standard Form Contracts
In addition to employment contracts, your company should consider creating contract templates for vendors, clients and partners. Although DIY services provide general templates, your contracts should take into account your business’s unique qualities and intricacies. A lawyer who understands your business can draft a form contract or tailor a template to your company’s needs, which will allow you to seize opportunities quickly without exposure to undue liability
- Protecting your Idea & Identity
Most often, at the core of many startups rests an innovative idea or invention. In order to protect the heart of your business, enlist an IP lawyer to help you file any relevant patent applications. Since publicly disclosed inventions lose their patentability in the U.S. in one year, it is advisable to address this early. Moreover, you can lose your patent even if you are the first inventor simply because you were not the first to file your patent application. A provisional patent allows you to prove an earlier filing date for a later-filed formal application.
To protect your brand name or logo, register it as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Although registration isn’t always necessary to protect a trademark, it demonstrates that you mark doesn’t infringe on someone else’s rights, gives you first hand proof of ownership, puts others on notice of your rights, and permits you to bring a suit in Federal Court.
- Financing & SEC Compliance
Typically, any issuance of an equity instruments, whether to founders, seed investors, to venture capitalists or as stock options, must be registered with the relevant securities authority. A lawyer can help you navigate complex securities laws and understand your obligations, as well as protect your ownership interest and rights.
- Real Estate
Whether it’s a storefront or other commercial space, a lawyer can negotiate your sale or lease to secure a great deal for your business. Having an experienced lawyer review your real estate contracts prevents exposure to hidden terms that could cause your business problems down the road.
Priori Legal can help you find the right attorney for all your startup’s needs. Again, start thinking about the legalities of your business early! It will save you a lot of time, money and stress in the long run.