Do I Need A Solicitor To Start A Business?
Starting a business can be fun. As long as you know that you’ve taken care of all possible issues, it can be thrilling—and safe. How crucial is having a business solicitor to this peace of mind?
Having one can help you navigate some murky waters, saving you time, effort, and misery in the future. But is a solicitor strictly necessary for every business registration?
Let’s take a look at the range of activities where a solicitor is useful.
You Can Register A Business Without A Solicitor
Generally speaking, you don’t need a solicitor to start a business. There is no legal requirement for you to have a solicitor’s advice or support when you set up your business.
If you choose the simplest business format, namely sole trader, the setup is simple and your accounting duties basic and manageable by the business owner. Sole traders have to register for Self-Assessment and file their tax returns at the end of each financial year.
Many people start their business as sole traders to test the waters and then upgrade the arrangement when profits and business opportunities expand.
There are various company formation agents who will set up your limited company within a few days, if not hours. These companies can set up your registered office, details of shareholders, and even your business name.
However, even after setting up your business, you might still need the help of a solicitor!
… But Legal Advice Is Useful And Sometimes Crucial
Setting up a business
If you choose a limited company with several shareholders, then the use of a solicitor is advised for all the paperwork to be in order and to protect all the involved parties’ interests.
Limited companies have to register with Companies House. Specifically, they need to supply a shareholders’ agreement and file it with Companies House.
A solicitor can prepare all the filing, making sure that shareholders have clear obligations and rights. A solicitor will ask the difficult questions that you might not have thought of.
What happens if one shareholder wants to sell their shares? What if some shareholders have a disagreement? What are the purposes and goals of the company?
These issues may not be particularly encouraging or cheerful, but they need to be explicitly asked and written down.
A solicitor will also make sure that the shareholders’ agreement applies to your particular business. It will be a document set up for you and your partners, according to your business model and your business expectations.
Remember that something you have dismissed now can catch up with you in later years and cause you agony and loss of revenue. A solicitor will make sure this does not happen.
A solicitor can also set up the right contracts for your customers, clients and suppliers and your interaction with them. These contracts will define the terms of payment, your obligations, and any other pertinent details when it comes to doing business.
For example, if you have the right contract, you can ask your clients to pay you within a certain amount of time. This can be very helpful with your cash flow. Similarly, a contract will guide your collaboration with your suppliers and will make doing business a smooth process.
Don’t forget that the right business contract will be the basis for any disagreement with clients or customers.
Helping with licences
Some professions require a licence before you can trade or do business. Restaurants and bars require alcohol licences. Childcare, dog breeding or imports and exports also require relevant licences.
A solicitor will make sure you have the appropriate licence before registering your business.
Take a look at the official Licence Finder to get a picture of the necessary licences, according to your line your work and the area you plan to do business. Remember you cannot set up your business without the required licence.
Likewise, don’t forget about licences for any photos, music, design or texts you might be using in your line of business. A solicitor can help you out with copyright law and will make sure you have the adequate licences at your office.
Checking your lease
If you are renting a premise, you will obviously have a lease.
A solicitor will set up a lease or take a look at the one presented by the owner and point out any details you may have overlooked.
What happens with rent increases over the years? Are you allowed to make changes to the premises? Will you need planning permission to upgrade the premises? Will you have to return the lease to its initial state if you leave the premises?
If you are employing personnel, you are required by law to have employers’ liability insurance for your employees.
But a solicitor will point out other types of business insurance you may need.
If you have a shop or premises that clients or customers visit, you may need public liability insurance.
If your business is more B2B, then your solicitor could suggest you get professional indemnity insurance to cover you in case a business you are providing your services to decides to sue.
If you sell products, then product liability insurance could be necessary if an item you sell is faulty or your get sued over one of your products.
If your line of business can have an impact on the environment, your solicitor may advise you to get environmental liability insurance.
Business expansion and financing
A solicitor can help you expand your business. For example, they can organise how you can issue shares. They can also advise you on financing your business by asking the right kind of questions.
What type of loan is better for you? What sort of liabilities will you have? What are the implications if you mortgage your house?
These are serious questions with an immense potential impact on your future business—and your personal finances as well.
If things go wrong…
A solicitor will clearly be necessary is something goes wrong. Disagreements with partners, dismissal procedures or other legal issues can occur at any point.
Having drafted clear contracts, agreements and shareholders’ agreements will definitely minimise any future upheaval.
But if a legal issue happens, a solicitor can solve it professionally and to minimal cost to you. It might take you days to solve a legal issue that a solicitor could figure out in a matter of hours.
How to choose one?
If you think that you would like some legal advice from a solicitor, you could check the Law Society which has a directory of independent solicitors across England and Wales.
When assessing which solicitor you want to choose, ask about their fees from the beginning. Usually, solicitors are paid by the hour.
Ending up with a bill that you cannot pay is not the best way to start your business.
Being honest upfront will make your life easier.
Also, ask other businesses about their experience with solicitors. Try asking businesses with a similar line of work to yours: it will give you a more exact idea of the expertise of any potential solicitor.
Ask friends, colleagues, relatives and even look up on the Internet about reviews, ideas, and experiences regarding working with a particular solicitor.
To summarize, no, you don’t need a solicitor to set up your business. You can easily form a business yourself or use a company formation agent, who will handle the registration process for you.
However, a solicitor can be useful for many other things related to starting a business. Their experience will help you avoid pitfalls down the road and help ensure a problem-free business in the future. From licences to contracts to insurance, a solicitor can be your business’ best friend.