Money or the lack thereof is often a reason start-ups will take shortcuts when it comes to their legal affairs.
Start-Ups put their businesses at risk by trying to cut costs by copying things like privacy policies and terms and conditions off the Internet.
While copying documents off the Internet is very risky, it’s not always necessary for start-ups to go see a lawyer.
This is supported by Scott Chamberlain, CEO of Chamberlains Law Firm who says now start-ups have more affordable options available to them before they start incurring the hourly fees most people associate with a traditional law firm.
“One of the options available to start-ups is to use online legal documents,” says Chamberlain.
“While there are many online publishers providing “dead” templates for which they accept no responsibility, start-ups should insist on “live” online documents accompanied by a statement of legal advice,” he cautions.
Chamberlains has five ‘lawsuit repellent’ tips to ensure your business has the ‘minimum viable legal protection’.
1. Shareholders Agreement – Ensure Internal Relationships are documented and solid
Founders should agree how the company will operate. This will include who will own it and control it, what will be contributed to its success, and the circumstances in which people can be forced to leave. Without this agreement, it can be impossible to be rid of under-performers and you may find yourself in business with someone’s spouse or relatives if they die or get divorced.
2. Remember equity is dearer than money
Founders can be tempted to offer equity as a way of covering initial costs. This is almost always a mistake. Aside from the complex tax implications, any new shareholder should be bound by the shareholder’s agreement and having too many small shareholders can pollute your share register and make it almost impossible for your company to restructure or attract new investment.
3. Non-Disclosure Agreement – Protect yourself from potential investors becoming competitors
You often have to tread a fine line between secrecy and collaboration when it comes to sharing information about your business. Non-Disclosure Agreements can protect the confidentiality of any information you might have to disclose when exploring the possibilities of a deal or project with another individual or business.
4. Terms of Service – Protect yourself from deadbeat clients
In real life things go wrong, shipments are delayed, products break and we sometimes have deadbeat clients. Service Agreements and Terms of Sale documents manage the fallout when things don’t go according to plan. Most importantly, they confirm ownership of intellectual property, limit your liability so that you are not unexpectedly liable for massive damages because of a missed shipment date, or a small-but-crucial failure to perform.
5. Employment & Service Contracts – Protect yourself from employees and contractors
Businesses can get themselves into trouble if they don’t understand the difference between an employee and contractor. Start-ups can crippled by unfair dismissal claims from disgruntled ex-employees they thought were contractors, or payment of unpaid worker’s compensation premiums. Worse, while employers own the IP their employees generate, contractors own the IP they generate. You may find that someone else owns crucial parts of your business IP.
A careless beginning can cause you a world of pain down the track, therefore getting your business ‘legal’ is an unavoidable requirement and should be one of the first things you do if you are serious about protecting yourself, your business and avoiding potential disputes in the future.
Chamberlains Law Firm offers a number of cost effective options that cater to those who want to do it themselves, those who need a bit of guidance and those who want someone to do it for them.
Chamberlains is the only law firm that provides online access to its legal documents for a fixed annual subscription fee. The chamberlains.online start up library contains the documents usually required to start a business. By simply answering a few questions these documents can be tailored to suit your business. Help is also on-hand if your have any questions as well as access to legal advice at dramatically reduced rates to ensure they suit your particular situation.
Go to online.chamberlains.com.au or call 1300 910 910 to find out more.
If you prefer more guidance then you can arrange to have one of Chamberlain’s lawyers come to your premises for a fixed daily rate that is significantly cheaper than hiring a lawyer at an hourly rate. They will identify the documentation you need as well as prepare and execute them.
To find out more about Chamberlains In-House email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 6215 9100
Chamberlains On hand
If you prefer to have Chamberlains handle the entire process for you then our team can handle your matter in the traditional way at traditional rates. To get a free quote to find out how much it would cost for us to identify and prepare the legal documents you need to start your business contact us at email@example.com or phone 02 6215 9123