18 February 2013

Legal considerations for starting and running a small business

We mentioned not long ago, the number of entrepreneurs is on the increase. In this blog, Nick Branch guest posts and gives some important advice for start-ups on why you may want to consult a lawyer for your new business.

Legal structure of your business

Most businesses start with an idea or a concept, doing something entirely new, or taking something that is already out there but deciding to do it differently. One of the first major technical decisions is to decide how the business will operate, and a big part of this is the legal format that the business will take.

Company registration is the popular route, offering as it does a simple and relatively cheap way to create a business format that will stand the test of time. Companies can expand, change ownership and evolve without any need to make major structural changes later on. Other popular business formats include partnerships and sole trader enterprises.

Selecting the right structure is undeniably important, so many will seek some legal advice from lawyers before taking the plunge. While owners and founders are increasingly setting this up for themselves, there are times when it is best to seek legal advice first. For example, you should consult your lawyer on the way the shares in a company will be divided up if there is to be more than one owner.

Checking contracts

Creating a business is one thing, but getting it up and running is quite another. Your business lawyer will be able to help in many areas, such as sourcing appropriate premises and negotiating a favourable commercial leasehold or freehold agreement. It can pay to have a lawyer to check the contract over carefully.

Obtaining capital from a bank can be a daunting prospect for any start-up business. Ensuring you have a lawyer who can represent you in negotiations with the banks is very important. Make sure you fully understand the terms of any agreement before you commit to it, especially those relating to non-payment and potential business insolvency. While you won’t want to think about your venture failing, it always pays to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

As your company grows

Lawyers are important in the initial phase of your business, but actually become even more so as your company grows.

Taking on staff is an important moment for any business and is a sign of success for your company. However, it is also fraught with legal pitfalls in terms of employment discrimination and the legal and technical requirements for employment. Your new employees have rights and it helps to have legal advice on hand, to make sure you do everything by the book. Small businesses often fail to take this element seriously and learn the hard way in compensation payments when cases go to employment tribunal.

Employment law changes

Keeping a business afloat and successful is a tricky thing, so having good, expert advice on hand will help all small and start-up businesses.

The law relating to business is changing all the time. 2013 will see important changes to employment law, with the introduction of the new ‘employee-shareholder’ contracts. These are specifically designed to benefit start-ups, allowing them to offer reduced employment rights in exchange for shares in the new company. A good lawyer for business will help you to stay ahead of developments in the law such as this, giving you the best chance of making your business a success.

Nick Branch received his LLB from The University of the West of England and his expertise covers a range of legal areas like employment, commercial and property law. If you need a lawyer for your business and need more information, call Contact Law for free on 0808 1492 903.