Sounds like a silly question right? But do you? You DO. Oh that’s great. Perfect. Then you must have a lawyer! At this point some of you are saying yes and some of you are saying no but in my opinion you should all be saying YES!!
Getting a lawyer at the outset does three magic things:
- Prevents catastrophic errors happening – for example signing contracts that are cleverly designed to steal your product, intellectual property or your profits, and ensuring that your business is compliant. The truth is that when you have an amazing business, everybody will want to be involved in it. When you’re just starting out, whether you like it or not, you are easy prey. The bigger businesses, the more experienced investors WILL try and get much more for their money. A lawyer will identify this and protect YOU. And what about non-compliance? Well non-compliance is costing Volkswagen a potential $17billion. They only set aside $6billion to deal with this. This is a perfect example of the consequences for breach of the laws and regulations in your industry. The law will collect payment for breach and it doesn’t care if it kills your business in doing so. A lawyer will highlight these risks to you.
- Speeds up the growth of your business – yes having a lawyer actually speeds up the growth of your business because you are letting the pros do what the pros do best allowing you to FOCUS on enhancing your business in the way that you know best! Everything that you need in order to be legally functioning, just happens without YOU spending precious management time trying to do it yourself. NOW you are probably thinking, hey, you always say BE LEGALLY SMART.. yes I do and a part of being legally smart is NOT trying to be a lawyer. Legally smart is about being informed so that you can give clever, well thought out instructions to your lawyer so that you do not suffer at the hand of the billable hour… “Yes the fee is high because I had to look into X and Y and Z” compared with “No problem, I can do that for you…how long? I can get a draft to you by close of business today”.
- Gets you a great bargain in the long term – the client/lawyer relationship is a precious one. It is one of trust and mutual respect. What most clients ought to realise however is that lawyers take the work of their clients PERSONALLY. Once you have given a few instructions, growing THEIR business, lawyers respond in kind, prioritising YOUR business, offering free services, offering discounted rates. Looking out for you without being prompted. This is the ultimate goal for any business, to have an established relationship with a law firm because that’s when the fees get cheaper!
Ok, so some of you will literally just be starting out and you cannot afford a lawyer, in that instance there are many things you can do. If you are confident in your product/service, approach a law firm you like the look of and that you envisage you should be able to afford in about 6 months’ time and ask them if they would be interested in assisting you with a few starter contracts/services pro bono (meaning free). Pitch your business to them, explain that you like their work and can see a genuine client/lawyer relationship developing. Some law firms will show you the door but others, and I’d be one of them, would be intrigued and would do you that favour. Alternatively there are lots of firms that offer start up packages and individual standard form contracts that you can purchase and adapt. This is the next best thing to having a lawyer as such contracts are usually drafted to include key provisions. However this option should not be a long term circumstance. If you are serious about your business, your goal should always be to have a lawyer, eventually a team of lawyers protecting and enhancing your business albeit guided by YOU, the LEGALLY SMART one.
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