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Legal Support on Retainer: A Best Practice for Small Business Owners

Many Americans dream of owning a business, being a boss, and enjoying the freedoms of entrepreneurship and self-employment. However, hopeful business owners often don’t think about the smaller intricacies of day-to-day operations like purchasing insurance or hiring an attorney–at least not at first.

It’s the good little details that make a business successful, but “bad” little details can add up and hurt a business. Keeping a lawyer on retainer during the life of your small business can help navigate some of the inevitable roadblocks to success and maybe even help you avoid some of those pesky bad details from the very beginning.

The Basics

Hiring an attorney on retainer is advantageous for many reasons, but how does it work?

When you hire an attorney on retainer, it means you pay a set fee (often billed monthly or quarterly) to retain legal services. You and your lawyer will review the retainer fee agreement. That agreement should define what the retainer fee is, how the attorney will bill his or her time against the fee, what the fee covers, and how to proceed if additional services beyond the retainer agreement are needed. Much like an insurance policy, building annual legal support into your budget can give you the peace of mind that a qualified lawyer is “on call” should you run into legal issues.

When legal questions do arise (and they will –everything from drawing up contracts, to filing workers’ comp claims, to navigating lawsuits can cause a small business owner to seek legal advice or representation), you’ll have an existing legal relationship in your corner. Instead of searching for a lawyer who will have to work you into his or her schedule, your attorney is already familiar with you and your business. Plus, your status as an established client will take priority in your lawyer’s caseload.

The Benefits

We all know that time is money –especially for a small business owner. Instead of spending loads of time trying to become an “expert” in all areas of your business, consider the same outsourcing approach you would use for marketing, accounting, and cleaning services for legal support. Don’t think you’ll ever need legal advice? Here are some examples of how a lawyer can help your small business:

1. Creating.

When researching logos, taglines, and other brand-specific information, preliminary internet searches may only yield exact matches. However, many trademark rejections are not so black and white. Instead, the concerns arise with close or similar matches. Your attorney knows the ins and outs of filing your trademark application and can keep you on-brand and safe from litigation.

2. Starting.

Businesses need customers and clients, and when you do business with others, you often need legally binding agreements, too. A lawyer on retainer can help draft and review contracts –both the ones you execute and the ones presented to you by others.

3. Growing.

Growth is an excellent indicator of success in any business, but with growth comes a very real need for more space. Your legal counsel can help navigate the entire real estate process –from ending a current lease or selling your original space, to closing on your new digs and all the paperwork and processes in between.

4. Navigating.

Owning a business is not always good news. There will likely be all kinds of twists, turns, and detours along the way. Human resources issues, injuries on your property, customers who refuse to pay, breached contracts, property damage and insurance claims... the list is endless. Although we’d never wish these situations on any business, the likelihood you’ll run into legal hiccups at some point is reasonably high.

5. Exiting.

You’re a success! What now? What happens when you’re ready to sell your business? A lawyer will ensure you properly negotiate a sale price and protect your interests during the entirety of the transaction, achieving the best outcome for your future.

Contact Us

Whitehurst, Blackburn & Warren believes in the transformative power of small businesses. (Hey, we are one!) You are the lifeblood of towns like ours, and we’re ready and waiting to take care of you like family. To talk to a member of the WBW team about a legal retainer package for your business, call us for a free consultation at (229) 226-2161.

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