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One good way to locate a reliable small business attorney is to reach out to your network of fellow business owners. — Getty Images/undefined undefined

In our Startup2021 series, we're helping aspiring entrepreneurs navigate the business climate of the COVID-19 era. Each week, we'll share an in-depth look at one step you can take toward launching your business in 2021.

As a small business owner, it’s important to have reliable legal advice from a professional you trust. What’s the best way to find a small business attorney and how exactly can they help you in your business endeavors? Check out the tips in this article to find a suitable small business attorney for your needs.

What is a small business attorney?

A small business attorney is a legal professional that exclusively represents small businesses and their owners. Here are a few examples of small business attorneys:

General business attorney

This type of attorney provides general legal business advice, usually encompassing a wide range of topics. This lawyer is best suited for businesses that don’t need specialized legal advice or representation.

Employment and labor attorney

If your small business has employees or is planning to hire them, an employment and labor lawyer can help you follow local and state labor laws. They can also protect your business through wrongful terminations and workplace discrimination lawsuits.

Merger and acquisition attorney

Before merging with another business or arranging an acquisition, it’s important you’re accurately represented by a merger and acquisition lawyer. They can help you through the transaction to ensure fair negotiation.

Tax attorney

As a small business, you’re required to pay state and federal taxes. These tax requirements can get confusing and lead to mistakes. A tax lawyer can help you remedy these mistakes if the IRS takes legal action.

Intellectual property attorney

This lawyer will help protect any trademarks, copyrights or patents your small business holds.

Contract attorney

If you’re making a business deal that requires a written agreement, a contract lawyer is beneficial to secure a legitimate contract that doesn’t lock your business into any unnecessary obligations.

[Read more: Attorney Inspires Small Businesses to Protect Intellectual Property]

You should retain a small business lawyer to help with more serious legal issues.

Where to look for a small business attorney

One of the best ways to retain a lawyer suitable for your small business is through network referrals. Talk to other small business owners or colleagues within your network and ask them to refer you to a lawyer they may have used in the past or are currently working with. Be sure to ask your connection when and how they worked with this lawyer to determine if they’re the right fit for your business.

Another way to look for a small business lawyer is through online resources including social media platforms such as LinkedIn. While it may seem simple to just read the reviews on these sites, be wary as they can house fake sources. Lastly, online services and directories can connect you to a local lawyer in your area based on your legal needs if your network doesn’t offer suggestions and you don’t trust online reviews.

What to consider when choosing a small business attorney

When choosing a small business lawyer, ask yourself why you need a lawyer’s expertise. Maybe you need an employment and labor attorney after increasing your employee count or you are entering into a business partnership and require a contract lawyer.

When you’ve determined your business’s needs, there are a few questions to consider in your search:

  • How many years have they been in practice?
  • How often do they handle the issues you’re hiring them to deal with?
  • Can I talk to existing clients with similar needs or business structure as me?
  • What size is the law firm and can it scale with me? Conversely, if it’s already large, does it have enough time to help me with my issues?
  • What are their fees?
  • Do they have financial arrangements that suit my business’s finances?

When you need a small business attorney

While legal representation and advice is crucial in certain circumstances, there are some instances where you may not need one, including while:

  • Writing a business plan.
  • Submitting IRS forms.
  • Setting up a business (registering your domain name, hiring employees, filing permits, etc.).
  • Updating a current partnership agreement.

On the other hand, you should retain a small business lawyer to help with more serious legal issues, including:

  • Environmental issues that involve your business.
  • When selling your business or acquiring another business.
  • When local, state or federal institutions file a complaint against your business.

[Read more: What Happens if Someone Violates Your Copyright?]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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Published July 14, 2021