As a Los Angeles-based attorney for small businesses, I’ve found that most clients understand the core legal issues relevant to their business. For creative enterprises, as one example, copyright, trademark, and trade secrets laws loom large. There are, however, a host of other legal issues many clients are unaware of. These matters have the potential to enormously impact a business’s long-term growth, survival, and success.
Much of my work as a general-counsel-for-hire to small businesses involves identifying the full scope of relevant legal issues and determining whether specialized legal advice is needed. If outside assistance is required, I work with small businesses to locate and engage legal counsel with particular expertise to advise on and resolve particular matters.
Below are some lesser-known areas of law relevant to every business, no matter its size, mission, or scope.
Beyond ensuring that employees do not misappropriate your business’s intellectual property, there are a number of other significant employment-related legal issues relevant to all businesses.
For instance, all businesses must comply with local, state, and federal laws and regulations regarding nondiscrimination against employees and potential employees. All businesses must properly compensate their employees within the requirements of the law. Employers must also classify employees for purposes of granting them sick leave and overtime pay, properly withhold taxes from employee’s paychecks, and ensure a workplace free from harassment of any form.
Even if you only have one part-time employee who you pay on an irregular schedule, you should consult an attorney about employment issues specific to your business.
Beyond individual income tax and beyond federal, state, and local tax withholding for employees, there are numerous other tax issues that require specialized advice and analysis.
A skilled tax attorney can advise your business on collecting and remitting sales tax, the tax implications of conducting business transactions online, and any tax issues relevant to international and foreign transactions. A tax attorney can also advise on how to structure your business and collect revenue so as to take advantage of tax laws designed to encourage small business growth.
Scores of federal, state, and local agencies implement and enforce regulations and restrictions on the operation of certain types of businesses. An attorney versed in representing small businesses can help you identify and address all regulations with which your business must comply.
For example, an artisan food maker will need to comply with food product labeling regulations (ingredients and nutritional content) and must ensure safe handling of food to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. A toy or game maker must navigate regulations regarding product safety. A small shop offering a sweepstakes for marketing purposes must comply with laws and rules governing contests.
An attorney who focuses on the needs of small businesses can identify which regulatory regimes apply to your business and design a plan to comply with all applicable regulations.
If your business is selling a product imported from another country, trade laws may present unique issues for your business. For instance, there are restrictions on importing or exporting certain types of products.
There are also restrictions on conducting business in and trading with certain foreign countries. For example, the normalizing of relations with Cuba may provide a new market for certain businesses, but complying with the relaxed laws and regulations remains essential.
For more information, contact a small business attorney today.