“I’m starting a business!” – Do I need an attorney?

At least four or five times a year a potential client finds his or her way past my paralegals for a telephone consultation.

“This is Chris, what can I help you with?” I start.

“I’m starting a business and I need an attorney,” responds potential client.

“For what?” I reply.

“Oh, I don’t know, I’m starting a business and I was told I need to put an attorney on retainer.”

Audible sound of hand slapping forehead as I sink in my chair and recline.

If you’re starting a business, the first thing you need… is not an attorney.  What you really need is a viable business model.  A product or service that can be sold to a customer base that is willing to pay you money for your product or service.  That’s really step one.  And, it is the hardest step to figure out.  In fact, a lot of businesses never take off or fail because they fail to figure this out.

Everything else, it’s just noise.

When should you begin to think about hiring an attorney?  When you begin to feel as though you are taking risks and are willing and able to pay for legal advice.  Every business owner has a different set of skills.  Around the time you are hiring employees, it is probably smart to spend a couple hours with an attorney to assess the business risks you are taking and see if there are steps that should be taken to mitigate these risks.  Starting a business requires creativity, energy, persistence, attention to detail, and, above all, grit.  Having an attorney on retainer is not a requirement, nor should it be on your top five “to-do” list.

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