120 Questions to Ask a Lawyer When Starting a Business

Starting a business is an exciting journey, but it’s paved with many legal considerations that are critical to your success.

Consulting with a lawyer can help steer you clear of potential pitfalls and set a strong legal foundation for your budding enterprise. From the intricate details of business formation to navigating tax laws and protecting intellectual property, knowing the right questions to ask can save you time, money, and headaches down the road.

So arm yourself with knowledge, and let’s dive into the essential questions that will empower you to build your business with confidence!

Business Structure and Formation

  1. What are the differences between various business entities, and which is most suitable for my business?
  2. How does the choice of business entity affect personal liability and tax obligations?
  3. Are there any legal advantages or disadvantages to incorporating in my home state versus another state?
  4. What documents do I need to prepare to establish my business legally?
  5. Can you explain the process of registering a business name and how it protects me?
  6. Do I need to register for a federal tax ID number, or can I use my social security number?
  7. Are there specific permits or licenses required for my business, and how do I obtain them?
  8. What are the annual legal obligations of maintaining a business entity?
  9. How do different types of business entities affect employee hiring and management?
  10. Can you assist in creating internal policies and procedures that will govern my business operations?
  11. What are the legal considerations of a home-based business versus a commercially located one?
  12. How can I ensure that my personal assets are protected from business liabilities?
  13. How often should I review and update my business’s legal structure?
  14. Can you outline the process and legal requirements for creating a partnership or joint venture?
  15. What are the potential legal pitfalls of not properly structuring a business from the outset?

Contracts and Agreements

  1. What should I include in my service contracts to protect my business interests?
  2. Can you review the contracts I will be asked to sign by vendors or clients for potential red flags?
  3. What are the essential clauses to include in a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement?
  4. How can I legally ensure payment for my services or goods from clients?
  5. What are my obligations when entering into a lease agreement for a business property?
  6. How do I create an enforceable contract with freelancers or independent contractors?
  7. Can you help draft employment contracts that are in line with current labor laws?
  8. Are oral agreements legally binding for my business, or should everything be in writing?
  9. How can I avoid potential legal issues in contracts with suppliers or distributors?
  10. What is the right way to amend a contract, and when should this be done?
  11. How can I safeguard my business if a party breaches our agreement?
  12. Is a handshake agreement reliable, or must I always have a written contract?
  13. What’s the difference between an MOU, a contract, and a letter of intent?
  14. How often should contractual agreements be reviewed and updated?
  15. What steps should I take to ensure a contract is legally enforceable?

Intellectual Property Protection

  1. How do I determine which aspects of my business can be trademarked?
  2. What is the process for registering a trademark, and how long does it typically take?
  3. Can my business idea or concept be copyrighted, or does it have to be a tangible work?
  4. What is the best way to protect my business’s proprietary information and trade secrets?
  5. How can I ensure my website’s content is protected from plagiarism or unauthorized use?
  6. Is patent protection necessary for my product, and what does the process involve?
  7. How do I handle copyright infringement if someone copies my work without permission?
  8. What are the risks and benefits of licensing my intellectual property to others?
  9. How does international IP protection work if I plan to do business abroad?
  10. Can you help me conduct a thorough intellectual property audit for my business?
  11. How often should my intellectual property rights be reviewed for potential violations?
  12. What should I do if a competitor is using a name or logo similar to mine?
  13. How can I avoid infringing on another company’s intellectual property?
  14. Are there any government grants or incentives available for protecting intellectual property?
  15. How do I monitor and enforce my intellectual property rights effectively?

Employment Law Compliance

  1. What federal and state labor laws must I comply with when hiring employees?
  2. How can I create an employee handbook that covers all necessary legal aspects?
  3. What are the legal requirements for ensuring workplace health and safety?
  4. How do I properly classify employees versus independent contractors?
  5. What are my obligations regarding overtime and minimum wage?
  6. What policies do I need to establish to prevent employment discrimination and harassment?
  7. Can you explain the procedures for employee termination to minimize legal risk?
  8. What records do I need to keep regarding my employees’ information and work hours?
  9. How do I handle requests for disability accommodations or family leave?
  10. What should I be aware of regarding employee privacy rights and monitoring?
  11. How does the law protect whistleblowers, and what should my policy be?
  12. Are there specific training programs that my employees are legally required to complete?
  13. Can you provide guidance on implementing a diversity and inclusion program?
  14. How do I navigate employee grievances and disputes legally and effectively?
  15. What steps should I take to ensure compliance with the Affordable Care Act?

Regulatory and Licensing Requirements

  1. What are the most common industry-specific regulations that might apply to my business?
  2. How do I stay up-to-date with changes in the regulatory landscape that could affect my business?
  3. Can you outline the process of obtaining a professional or occupational license?
  4. What permits are necessary if my business deals with environmental hazards?
  5. Under what conditions may my business be exempt from certain regulatory requirements?
  6. How often are regulatory compliance audits conducted, and what do they entail?
  7. What are the consequences of non-compliance with applicable regulations and licenses?
  8. How can I prepare my business to handle an unexpected regulatory inspection?
  9. Are there any self-assessment tools available to help ensure I’m meeting regulatory requirements?
  10. Can you assist in developing a risk management plan to mitigate potential regulatory issues?
  11. What should I do if my business receives a notice of violation for regulatory non-compliance?
  12. How does online data collection and e-commerce impact regulatory compliance?
  13. What do I need to know about the regulations surrounding advertising and marketing my business?
  14. Can you help me understand the licensing requirements for selling products internationally?
  15. How can I ensure all products and packaging comply with industry regulations?

Tax Obligations and Planning

  1. How is my business entity type going to affect my tax planning and obligations?
  2. Can you explain the deductions and credits I can take advantage of for my business?
  3. What are the tax implications if I decide to do business in multiple states?
  4. How do sales tax requirements vary, and how can I ensure compliance?
  5. What records do I need to maintain for tax purposes, and for how long?
  6. How can I structure my business to benefit from lower taxation legally?
  7. What is the process of dealing with payroll taxes for employees and contractors?
  8. Can you assist in identifying potential tax liability issues before they arise?
  9. Are there ways to reduce my tax burden through retirement plans or other means?
  10. What are the tax consequences of business loans, investments, or grants?
  11. How often should I review my tax strategy with a legal or tax professional?
  12. What is the best way to handle an audit by the IRS or state tax authorities?
  13. How can I plan for taxes if my business operates internationally?
  14. What are the tax implications of buying or selling a business or its assets?
  15. Can you explain the tax ramifications of different business expenditures?

Risk Management and Liability

  1. What types of insurance do you recommend for a business like mine to manage risk?
  2. How can I protect my business from potential lawsuits or claims?
  3. What liability issues may arise from my website or e-commerce activities?
  4. Can you help draft terms and conditions that limit my business’s liability?
  5. What should I know about data security and potential legal liabilities involving customer information?
  6. How do I handle product recalls or defects to minimize legal repercussions?
  7. Can you review my safety protocols to ensure they mitigate potential liability?
  8. What contractual provisions can help protect against potential business risks?
  9. How can I implement effective risk management strategies in day-to-day operations?
  10. What are the legal aspects of creating a comprehensive disaster recovery plan?
  11. How does holding intellectual property affect my business’s risk profile?
  12. Can you provide guidance on legal risks associated with business expansion?
  13. What should I consider when developing a strategy for incident response and crisis management?
  14. How often should I reassess my business’s risk management policies?
  15. What precautions should my business take when engaging with third parties to mitigate risk?

Exit Strategies and Succession Planning

  1. What legal considerations should I keep in mind when planning an exit strategy?
  2. How do I ensure a smooth transition if I decide to sell or transfer ownership of my business?
  3. What are the legal steps involved in dissolving a business entity?
  4. Can you outline different succession options, such as selling, passing down, or bringing in investors?
  5. What documents and legal frameworks are necessary for an effective succession plan?
  6. How do I navigate buy-sell agreements?
  7. What tax implications should I be aware of when considering an exit strategy?
  8. How does the valuation of my business impact legal planning for succession?
  9. What is the best way to deal with existing contracts and agreements upon exiting?
  10. Can you help ensure that my intellectual property rights are maintained during a transition?
  11. How do I manage employee retention or layoffs during a change of ownership?
  12. What are the legal ramifications of retaining a stake in the business post-exit?
  13. How do planned exit strategies differ from emergency or unplanned ones?
  14. What are the steps to minimize legal disputes with co-owners or family during succession planning?
  15. Are there any legal strategies to help me retain control of my business until I am ready to exit?

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I look for when choosing a legal structure for my business?

Choosing a legal structure is crucial for tax purposes, liability protection, and setting the framework for your business operations. It is important to consider the size and nature of your business, your personal liability comfort level, and financial priorities. Common structures include sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations.

How important is it to have contracts and agreements in writing?

Having contracts and agreements documented in writing is essential. Written agreements provide a clear record of what was agreed upon, reduce the risk of misunderstandings, and are enforceable in a court of law. Whether you’re dealing with employment contracts, service agreements, or vendor arrangements, always ensure they are formally documented.

What steps should I take to protect my business’s intellectual property?

Protecting your intellectual property is a key component of safeguarding your business’s assets and maintaining a competitive edge. Steps may include conducting a thorough IP audit, registering trademarks and patents, and implementing confidentiality agreements regarding trade secrets.

Why is compliance with employment law important for my business?

Compliance with employment law is important to protect your business from costly lawsuits, fines, and damage to your brand’s reputation. It ensures that you treat employees fairly and comply with wage, labor safety, and discrimination laws.

What kind of taxes do I need to be aware of when running a business?

Business taxes can include income tax, self-employment tax, payroll tax, and possibly sales tax, depending on your location and the nature of your business. Proper understanding and planning can help you optimize your tax obligations.

Final Thoughts

Embarking on a new business venture can be daunting, but with the right legal counsel and questions in hand, you’re already a step ahead.

Remember that laws and regulations are the guardrails that keep your business on the path to growth and success. By ensuring that you’re well-informed about the legal aspects of starting a business, you are not just complying with the law but also building a resilient framework for your business to thrive.

Now that you’ve got your list of questions, it’s time to seek out a lawyer who can help you navigate the legal landscape and turn your vision into a flourishing business.

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Bea is an editor and writer with a passion for literature and self-improvement. Her ability to combine these two interests enables her to write informative and thought-provoking articles that positively impact society. She enjoys reading stories and listening to music in her spare time.