Other Cities in Florida where our Startup Attorneys can assist you.
If you're new to the world of business, you need to tread carefully. If you're not cautious, you could get ensnared in a costly legal trap. To protect yourself and your Florida startup, hire a business attorney who can give you invaluable advice.
Why Hire a Startup Lawyer
Business lawyers know the ins and outs of Florida's business laws. They can help you with the following key business tasks.Choosing a Business Structure
Before you start promoting your goods and services, you need to decide what type of business structure you'll operate under. You may choose:
- Sole proprietorship. This is the simplest business structure where you, as the owner, oversee everything. It also makes you personally responsible for the business's financial obligations.
- Partnership. This is when the partners who run a business agree to share the profits and losses. The partnership itself isn't responsible for those profits and losses; they are "passed through" and reported on the partners' income tax returns. A lawyer can help you draft a partnership agreement that clearly outlines how much responsibility each partner carries and what the duties of each partner are.
- Corporation. This is a business that is separate from the people who run it. There are both S corporations and C corporations. The S corporation structure is more common for small businesses, but it requires you to file special paperwork with the IRS.
- Limited Liability Company. This structure also provides tax protection for the people who run the business. It is a hybrid between a partnership and a corporation. LLC members are considered to be self-employed.
Florida state law governs business structures, so you should always consult a qualified lawyer who knows both federal and state regulations.Choosing Where to Incorporate
The state of Delaware is known for providing a favorable business and legal climate, which is why many businesses choose to incorporate there. It is possible to incorporate your business in Delaware and then register as a foreign entity in Florida.
Doing this, however, requires that you carefully consider many factors. For example, you may have to pay extra taxes if you incorporate in one state and operate in another. You could even be hit with heavy fines if the IRS decides that you incorporated in another state solely to save money. You must pay particular attention to these things if you run a brick-and-mortar business rather than an online one because the geographic boundaries of a brick-and-mortar business are easier to define.
Lawyers can advise you on the best route to take toward incorporation. They may recommend that you stick to incorporating within Florida. Florida has a favorable business climate because it has no personal state income tax, which is helpful for partnerships and sole proprietorships. It is also good for corporations because it doesn't impose a corporate income tax on S-subchapter corporations or limited partnerships.Raising Money
The need to raise money is a fact of a startup's existence, but you need to go about the process in accord with SEC regulations. A lawyer who knows these crowdfunding rules will help you do things correctly from the beginning.
There are other things to consider, as well. For example, when you're pitching to angel investors, you need to present them with a contract that you both understand and agree to. If the angel is the one who offers the contract, your lawyer should review it. There are two main types of angel investor agreements:
- Equity stake. This means that the investor gains partial ownership of your company.
- Convertible note. This is set up more like a loan to your startup than a straightforward investment.
It is important that your name does not infringe on another business's trademark or copyright. A qualified lawyer can help you search intellectual property databases and help defend you if someone else claims that you are infringing on their intellectual property.
Also, while it isn't legally necessary for you to register your business's name with the Patent and Trademark Office, doing so can protect you. Your attorney can assist you with this as well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can register your trademark on either a state or a federal level. As your business grows beyond Florida's borders, you may want to consider federal registration to safeguard your logo and name from copycats across the nation.
If complex issues arise related to your intellectual property, you may have to seek assistance from a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property and not general business issues.Hiring and Dealing With Employees
Both state and federal laws apply to the way you classify your employees, what taxes you need to pay, and what benefits you may need to offer.
Also, if you ever face trouble from a disgruntled employee or face fines because of a mistake you made with regard to your human resources, your lawyer can help you deal with these situations.
Another key thing to consider is your employment contract. Your lawyer can advise you about things to include, such as:
- A confidentiality clause.
- Information about salary.
- A non-competition clause.
- An at-will employment clause.
- Statements about benefits.
These documents determine how your business functions and touch on the management structure, rules and responsibilities for owners and shareholders, and other key points.When Should You Hire a Startup Lawyer?
The above tasks are just a few of the reasons why you will find it advantageous to look for the best startup lawyers in your area. Start your hunt for legal assistance as soon as you know you are serious about starting your business. The sooner you find a lawyer you can trust, the sooner you will have a safeguard against potential legal pitfalls.
How to Find the Best Startup Lawyer in Florida
Choosing a lawyer that is suitable for your business can be overwhelming. There are a few sources you can turn to during your search:
If you know other businesspeople in your industry, you can ask for referrals. Your colleagues' experience with the lawyer can give you information that you won't be able to find on any website. For example, you'll learn about the lawyer's personality. While personality isn't the most important thing when you're looking for a lawyer, it can have a big impact on how you communicate with your legal representative.
Periodicals and local online directories can direct you to legal firms in your city. However, these aren't the best places to learn about a lawyer's reputation. Before you visit any lawyers you find in local listings, do online research. Find out about their areas of expertise, and try to find reviews of the firm.
At UpCounsel, we accept only the top lawyers to our site. They've graduated from top law schools, including Yale and Harvard. You'll find high-powered legal representatives who are eager to see your Florida business succeed.
Questions for Your Startup Lawyer
Since you'll be placing a great deal of trust in your attorney, you should ask him or her a series of searching questions.How Much Experience Do You Have?
An attorney who is fresh out of law school may charge lower rates than someone with more experience, but they may not have adequate knowledge about your type of business and the industry you're operating in.
Ideally, you'll find a lawyer who has personal experience with entrepreneurship. They will have learned firsthand about some of the ups and downs that come with managing a budding business.
You don't have to rely solely on a lawyer's word to find out how they have fared in the past. Your local law library, as well as websites like Lexis and Pacer, can give you information about how lawyers have performed in specific cases in the past. After you do your research, you'll have a better idea of how the lawyer operates and what questions you should ask them.How Do You Handle Disputes?
If you get sued by another business or even a customer, you need to know ahead of time about how your lawyer will handle the situation. Do they tend to settle, or do they more often go to court? Decide which approach you're more comfortable with, and talk that over with your potential lawyer.Will Anyone Else Be Working With Me?
In a large firm, there may be paralegals and other lawyers who play a part in helping your business. This is advantageous because those other individuals may have greater expertise about things like contracts, business structure, etc., but you may be better off with a smaller firm if you just want to work with one person.How Do You Bill?
Some lawyers charge an hourly rate, while others will want you to put them on retainer. Make sure you understand how much you'll owe your lawyer and how the lawyer expects you to pay them.
Also, consider if the lawyer will charge you simply for coming in to talk to them. Some may offer a free consultation, while others will charge their normal rate if you just want to interview them as a potential representative. If the lawyer is charging for the first consultation, ask if they will credit that charge to your bill later if you decide to hire the lawyer.
If you notice any of the following in your lawyer, he or she likely isn't one of the top attorneys you should consider:Lack of Knowledge
Does the lawyer understand the jargon of your industry? For example, if you own a web business, does the lawyer understand privacy policies and the basic technical aspects of how online commerce sites work? You don't want a lawyer to use your business as an opportunity to educate himself or herself; they'll take more time to do what you want them to do, and they may not do it correctly.Personality Conflicts
Instincts are important when you're hiring a lawyer. Do you trust this person? Do you like them? If you're not comfortable with your lawyer, this can strain your relationship and even hurt your business. Make sure you feel a rapport with the attorney and feel good about their method of communication.Surprise Billing
Billing is one of the first things you should discuss with a lawyer. If they say one thing about fees but later charge you much more than what you expected, it's time to move on to another business lawyer.
Choosing the perfect lawyer for your startup isn't easy, but it is important. A qualified legal expert can help you as you deal with lawsuits, choose a business structure, handle intellectual property issues, write contracts and bylaws, and perform other essential tasks that will give your business a firm foundation. UpCounsel is the perfect place to start when you're seeking legal advice.
On UpCounsel, you can find and connect with several top-rated Florida startup attorneys & lawyers that provide a wide range of startup law services specifically for startups and entrepreneurs that are starting a business in the state of Florida or may wish to incorporate elsewhere. Any of the affordable startup lawyers you connect with are vetted, rated, reviewed, and will be available to help with a variety of your startup law related legal needs on-demand or on an ongoing basis.
Typically dealing with startup legal needs like business formation, contracts, leases, equity financing, securities, and intellectual property protection, the Florida startup lawyers on UpCounsel can help you with a variety of specialized and general startup law related legal matters. No matter what type of startup law needs you have, you can easily save money and hire an experienced startup lawyer servicing the state of Florida to help you today.
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