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An ambitious business owner can conduct many of his or her own legal matters. The prudent business owner, however, should be aware of the times when one does and does not require the services of an attorney. The key lies in realizing that the most basic business situation can become complicated and require the guidance of an attorney. The following are some examples of such legal situations:

  • Choosing among sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation;
  • Structuring a partnership agreement;
  • Establishing a corporation;
  • Dealing with stock and security laws;
  • Registering trademarks, copyrights, and patents; Filing for licenses or permits on federal, state, and local levels;
  • Fulfilling the basic tax requirements for small businesses;
  • Purchasing real estate or a business;
  • Leasing real estate or equipment;
  • Negotiating a lease;
  • Insuring a business;
  • Hiring employees and independent contractors;
  • Handling labor disagreements;
  • Dealing with customer litigation;
  • Extending credit and collecting debts;
  • Planning for an estate;
  • Dealing with criminal proceedings;
  • Handling bankruptcy and reorganization proceedings.

In order to determine the extent to which an individual can handle any one of the above situations, he or she should:

  • Understand the basic issues;
  • Have a clear understanding of the forms and procedures involved in completing the legal transaction;
  • Determine which, if any, aspects of the process can be handled by the individual without legal help;
  • Evaluate the complexities and honestly assess the need for legal assistance;
  • Decide if it is worthwhile in terms of time and savings to proceed independently.

The Small Business Administration Answer Desk (202) 205-7717, (800) 827-5722 or (202) 205-7701 can be contacted for recorded information and offers low-cost publications on a variety of topics.