There are two professionals every business will need early on: an accountant and a lawyer. The reasons for hiring an accountant are pretty obvious, you need someone to help you set up your “chart of accounts,” review your numbers periodically, and prepare all of your necessary federal, state and local tax returns.
The reason for hiring a business attorney may not, however, be so apparent. A good business attorney will provide vital assistance in almost every aspect of your business, from basic zoning compliance and copyright and trademark advice to formal business incorporation and lawsuits and liability. First, some general rules about dealing with lawyers:
If you are being sued, it’s too late. Most small businesses put off hiring a lawyer until the sheriff is standing at the door serving them with a summons.
The time to hook up with a good business lawyer is before you are sued. Once you have been served with a summons and complaint, it’s too late–the problem has already occurred, and it’s just a question of how much you will have to pay (in court costs, attorneys’ fees, settlements and other expenses) to get the problem resolved.
America’s judicial system is a lot like a Roach Motel — it’s easy to get into court, but very difficult to get out once you’ve been “trapped.” Most lawyers agree that while nobody likes to pay attorneys’ fees for anything (heck, let’s let our hair down–nobody likes paying or dealing with lawyers, period), but the fee a lawyer will charge to keep you out of trouble is only a small fraction of the fee a lawyer will charge to get you out of trouble once it’s happened.