Are you starting a new business? Congratulations! This will be an exciting time for you … but it can also be a turbulent time. Start-ups can be something of a roller-coaster, often with early successes accompanied by unexpected bumps along the way. It's easy to get carried away with the excitement of your business launch, getting underway with the marketing and gaining your first customers.
Your first duty is to protect your fledgling business. Fail to make sure you're compliant from day one, and you could be in trouble from the very start. This is where you need legal services – support and guidance from a lawyer who understands start-up businesses and the pitfalls you need to avoid.
A lawyer can provide legal advice to start-ups on everything from incorporation and shareholder agreements to employment contracts and protection of IP. By partnering with an experienced start-up lawyer, you'll get ongoing support and protection against any potential legal issues that may arise.
First, you need to make sure you find the right lawyer – one with a successful track record in providing legal services for start-ups.
This lawyer will have provided legal advice to other start-ups and will understand the challenges and the risks that you'll be facing. Look for an experienced lawyer also who knows and understands your sector. Check out details of their services and fees. Do they charge a fixed fee, or do they charge on an hourly basis? Most of all, think about which lawyer is most likely to add value to your business and start building a business relationship with the lawyer early on.
The first step your chosen law firm should take is to review your business plan and make sure that your business complies with the relevant laws and regulations. These can cover a wide range of matters such as company filings, employment matters, and the sale of goods and services.
An experienced start-up lawyer will do that quickly. After all, you won't want to be kept waiting for relevant approvals and permits to come through when you're ready to start trading.
If you've opted to go for the Limited Company option, you'll need to incorporate your company at an early stage. Once the company has been formed, you can start separating the assets and liabilities of the business from your own. Your lawyer will advise you on the key features of a private limited company. If necessary, they'll tell you about alternative structures that might be available. These decisions are critical as they will govern personal liability and tax situation.
Legal support will be essential in helping you to protect your business know-how and ideas, as well as the secrets of your operation. Your law firm will help you protect trade secrets by preparing appropriate confidentiality agreements.
You may have intellectual property (IP) assets that could be registered as patents, copyright or trademarks. You will want to register the IP as a source of your business growth. This will establish its ownership. This will protect your business and help you to obtain funding from investors.
You will also want to learn about the importance of getting your co-founders and employees to sign non-competition agreements.
Finally, there's the question of protecting your company data by having data protection policies in place.
A vital element to securing the future of your company is proper legal documentation. This will include a shareholders' agreement and the articles of association. These provide a legal basis for how decisions will be made and differences resolved, as well as how to handle ownership changes and how to issue new shares.
Turning an idea into a business often needs a number of founders to combine their skills, connections and assets. A co-founder brings an essential business need to the company and receives a significant portion of the equity.
If you are a co-founder, your lawyer will need to prepare and advise you on legal contracts with your fellow co-founders. The agreements should cover each individual's role in the business, their ownership stake, remuneration and leaving provisions.
As your business grows, you will be hiring employees with certain skills and connections. Employees will be paid for their time and may also receive some equity.
The company will need employees to sign employment contracts, and you'll need legal support to ensure you don't miss anything. The employment agreements should clearly set out the terms of employment, such as the role, the remuneration and the dismissal process.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to seek funding from venture capital.
The initial money for the start-up will have come from your own funds or from family and friends. That seed capital will have been used to buy equipment, rent office space, make your first few hires and pay other costs.
The time will come fairly early on in the life of your company when you will need to raise capital.
Your start-up lawyer will play a key role in helping you to prepare the investment agreement and other documentation with your investors.
You will need to deal with business to business contracts on a day-to-day basis. These contracts may be one-off contracts or standard contracts that will be used repeatedly.
These should be prepared to reduce legal disputes, ensure payment and provide a clear course of action in case one party or the other fails to hold up their end of the deal.
Being a relative newcomer to the commercial world, the web can be an unruly and uncertain place in which trade. Numerous businesses have found to their cost how simple mistakes can quickly escalate into significant business threats.
It is vital that your business is aware of its legal obligations. You need to ensure that your lawyer is familiar with all the relevant ecommerce legislation. Examples include –
- Consumer protection
- Distance selling regulations
- The Disability Discrimination Act
As skilled and experienced business lawyers, we'll help you with every aspect of the legalities when starting up your new business. We'll support you in exploring realistic options, testing possible solutions and coming up with long-lasting, permanent and robust ways forward.
Find out more. Call us on
020 3813 2866
or send us an email.
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