By UpCounsel Corporate Attorney Adam Forest

If you’ve recently taken a job as a company’s first lawyer, chances are there is some legal cleanup to do. Maybe more than some. Here’s a quick and dirty checklist of some things you should accomplish at the outset.

1. Insurance

Spoiler alert: your company is going to make mistakes. You might even make mistakes. So you should first and foremost ensure your company has the right type and amount of insurance. Insurance brokers are a great way to gauge whether you’re on the right track there, though of course they have an incentive to sell you more than less. But at the very least, consider coverage for general commercial liability, workers’ comp (often required by law), directors and officers (D&O), errors and omissions (E&O), employment practices liability (EPL), cyber, crime/fidelity, and employed lawyers.

2. HR

A major area of exposure for any growing company is human resources. If your company is hiring like crazy, it will make mistakes and hire bad apples even if it has an HR representative.

For starters:

  • Make sure your offer letters are clear about the nature of the employment (e.g. at will), base comp, bonus, equity, and signing bonus,
  • Obtain consent for any background checks you run,
  • Get the Fair Labor Standard Act (and state equivalent) categorization correct at the outset, and
  • Ensure you have each employee sign a confidentiality and IP agreement.

3. Privacy


State and federal laws govern how your company can obtain, store, and transmit a customer’s information, and importantly, the policies you must disclose to customers about how you treat their data. If you’re online, make sure you have a privacy policy that complies with these rules. The rules are even stricter if you’re dealing with NPI.

4. Licensing & Registration

Where are you doing business? Does your company require a license to operate there, and are you registered with the state’s secretary of state? And finally, who’s on top of the fees you need to pay to renew licenses and remain in good standing?

5. Vendor Management

As you grow, your business development teams will be firing off NDAs, vendor agreements, and other commercial contracts faster than you can keep up. Do you have good templates, and are you collecting final signatures? Once that’s done, where are you storing and tracking the documents and important obligations from each (e.g. counterparties, dates, non-solicits)?

Of course, there are numerous other items that should be on your short list, such as intellectual property, trade secret protection and Cap table management. But these top five are essential for any growing business, so make sure you’ve at least considered each.

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About the author

Adam Forest

Adam Forest

Adam is a generalist with significant in-house and law firm experience. He founded and led the legal department at a FinTech startup in San Francisco that grew to 250+ employees and more than $1B lent in under three years. At the law firm of Reed Smith LLP, he represented clients in litigation matters ranging from financial services to education, with hundreds of court appearances in more fifteen state and federal jurisdictions across California.

Adam attended Stanford University and UCLA School of Law. He currently manages a small law firm focused on growing tech companies in Oakland, CA.

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