When to get an attorney for business

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From starting a business to addressing ongoing legal issues in business, attorney James Bernicky says owners should consult a lawyer as soon as possible.

In this summer edition of 630 Naperville’s Legally Speaking, Bernicky discusses the importance of being proactive, not reactive.

Do I need an attorney to start my business?

When starting a business, whether by yourself, with a friend, or with a group; the most important thing is to get EVERYTHING in writing. Law firms consistently get calls regarding a dispute between friends (or now ex-friends).

The facts are usually similar: things were going great… until they weren’t. Problems such as a lost client account, an uptick in expenses or supply chain delays, etc.; these things happen. And when they do, questions arise:

  • Who pays for the losses?
  • What if one partner wants to buy out another or transfer ownership?
  • What if one partner wants to close the business and the other doesn’t?
  • What if one wants to refocus on another income stream and the other wants to ride out the issue?

Without a business plan agreed to by all parties when the business forms, these issues can easily snowball into long and costly litigation between business partners. Being proactive and taking care of these potential issues BEFORE the business opens can save time, stress, and money down the road. Businesses with a fully formed plan and firm legal structure are on much better footing to survive the trial and tribulations of business.

Why would I need an attorney after I’ve started my business?

Having an experienced attorney on retainer can be advantageous for business owners. Bernicky frequently answers questions from startups or successful, established, businesses, who want to be proactive and make sure they have someone available to answer legal questions without paying hourly “on the clock” for advice or the cost of having a full-time in-house attorney. This arrangement leads to a stronger business-attorney relationship where businesses don’t hesitate to call and ask questions.

Business clients often find they talk to their attorney about:

  • Proper formation (Corporation vs LLC, series LLC, etc.)
  • Registered Agent
  • Articles of Incorporation, ownership distribution, shares, etc.
  • Buying a business or franchise
  • Leases or purchase of property
  • Acquiring new businesses buying out/merging with an existing business
  • Vendor contracts
  • Employee contracts
  • Non-disclosure agreements
  • Employee Handbooks
  • Collections
  • Lawsuits
  • Shareholder disputes
  • Selling the business

My business is being sued – what do I do?

Bernicky says the most important thing a business can do in this situation is to contact an attorney as soon as possible. In the state of Illinois, businesses cannot represent themselves; they need an attorney to represent them in court. Timing is everything. If there are defenses, negotiations, or countersuits, there are deadlines. Bernicky has had several calls where these deadlines passed and a judgement, sale, or garnishment had already happened, which severely limits legal options.

Contacting a law firm right away allows for more options, less stress, and the possibility of much more favorable outcomes.

For more information on business, real estate, estate planning, traffic violations, and many other legal matters visit Bernicky Law Firm.