When people decide to start a business, they usually have a great idea and some money to invest in the enterprise. Some people opt to start the business by themselves or with family members, while others have partners or other investors who will not be involved with the day-to-day affairs of the business.

The laws that apply to start-up businesses differ based on the specifics of the situation, and even business people who decide to go it alone have options to protect themselves from personal liability for business debts and obligations. For this and other important reasons, you most likely will need a lawyer for your startup.

1. Liability. Different business forms provide different protections and risks to the business owner/investor. Personal liability means that your business puts everything you own at risk. An attorney can help you avoid this situation or minimize your risk. Knowing about your personal liability, and reducing the risk that your business may devastate the economic well-being of you and your family, is well worth a visit to an experienced attorney. See Business Liability to learn more.

2. Tax. Different business forms provide different tax advantages and disadvantages. The only thing more crucial to a new business is liability.

3. Autonomy. With many business entities, the things you don’t decide are decided for you. Most states have adopted “Uniform Laws” that fill in the gaps for business entities where their charters, by-laws, and other organizing documents are silent. You may be subject to a whole set of laws and regulations that you don’t even know exist.
10. Contracts. Most businesses execute contracts for space, services, and supplies. Businesses often have agreements between partners, investors, and employees. It is important to get it right so you don’t end up in court.

4. Variety of Entities. Although there are five basic business entities, there are other options within these entities that determine things like double taxation and liability for the acts of partners.

5. Capital. Businesses need to raise money, keep records of income and distributions, and behave in a fiscally responsible manner. Different business entities may require different procedures for raising capital and making distributions.

6. Strict Conformity. With some business entities you must strictly conform to the state law governing that business form, or you may lose the benefits and protections of those laws.

7. Multi-State Business. The preconditions to forming and conducting a business entity in one state may not be accepted in another state. If you are not careful, the protections you have in your home state of operations may be lost if you do business in another state. See the State Business Laws section for more details.

8. Business Form. The choice of business form (i.e. sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation) often dictates the legal responsibilities and potential liability of those involved in leading the business, as well as the manner in which it may operate. For example, choosing the wrong entity may make you personally liable for the wrongs of employees or partners.

9. Registering, Licensing, and Permits. Some business entities are required to register with the state in order to be recognized. Even businesses that are not required to register may be required to obtain licenses or permits.

10. Contracts. Most businesses execute contracts for space, services, and supplies. Businesses often have agreements between partners, investors, and employees. It is important to get it right so you don’t end up in court.