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Readers Respond: Why You Don't Need an Attorney to Start a Business

Responses: 14

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Starting a business takes lots of time and money, but it is a simple process. You don't need an attorney to help you with business startup tasks.

I think you can do it.

You can start a business by standing on a street corner with a sign around your neck that says "Will work for food." Seems to me that you all mean "select a corporate form and register under that form" when you say "start a business." There is no 'one size fits all' answer to whether you can start your business without a lawyer, but there are certainly many businesses that have done it. One of the many reasons for forming a business under a particular corporate form is to protect your personal assets. (The words behind the letters "LLC" tell the whole story.) If you don't have assets, you might not need to create a corporate form at all. If you have the stones for starting your own business, a lack of the capital needed to pay a lawyer to set up your corporate form isn't going to stop you. One mistake (among many) to avoid is relying on comment boards for legal advice. The above is not legal advice, just my opinion. If you need legal advice, hire a lawyer.
—Guest Mike McGuire

It's Not About the Documents

For a small business, especially where there is only one or two owners, it's possible to get the documents done without using a lawyer, but it's not about the documents. It's the initial decisions (e.g., where to form the company, whether to form a LLC or a S-Corporation, etc.), that need to be carefully considered at the outset. These decisions have substantial ramifications. For example, forming a LLC in NY rather than a corporation will result in a $1600 publication fee. California also charges LLCs a fee called the "gross receipts" fee that corporations are not obligated to pay. An entrepreneur is best served by putting together a team (lawyer, CPA, etc.) before filing Articles.
—Guest Jeff Unger, www.eminutes.com

Who are you listening to?

Of course you can get by without an attorney...until you can't. I find it tragic that so many websites selling forms are so quick to tell you how expensive and useless attorneys are. They prey on stereotypes that are mostly not true. Do you really attorneys go to 3 years of law school to learn how to fill out forms you can just as easily fill out yourself? Or maybe you think all attorneys are crooks. The real crooks are the form sales companies who oversimplify legal work in order to make a fast buck! Get curious about what legal advice actually is. It’s unfortunate a few bad apples ruin people forever on the usefulness of attorneys, but those who are successful in business for any length of time KNOW their attorney has their back. Don’t be penny wise, and pound foolish. My family has lawyers, and they all work insanely hard and care deeply about their clients.
—Guest Ellie Brooks

Save Money on Your Business Formation

While there are times when you will need to consult with and use an attorney, it's not a requirement that you use one to form your company. There are a number of free and low-cost resources that you can use to help you start and run your business. Organizations such as the SBA (www.sba.gov) and SCORE (www.score.org) offer free assistance and information to help entrepreneurs get started and grow their businesses. And professional incorporation services like LegalZoom can help you file your business formation paperwork while saving you money. With so many startup costs, every penny counts! Although LegalZoom cannot provide legal advice, we are able to provide you a lot of information about the process and answer any general questions that you may have. --Jacob Varghese is the Vice President and General Manager of Business Services for LegalZoom
—Guest Jacob Varghese, LegalZoom

Really not necessary

When we set up Maui Life Clothing Co. we were all set to use an attorney to do everything for us, but they wanted so much money to fill in simple forms. We figured out we use the extra cash for office space and advertising.
—Guest Maui Matt Klein

Easy Way to Research Law Before Deciding

Nolo press offers a great line of books including legal forms for setting up a business. Go to your book store and browse the particular book you need (they have ones for nonprofits, sole proprietorships, corporations, etc.) This will give you an idea of what you need to do to set up your business - if it overwhelms you compare attorney prices to online legal services. If you are not intimidated by the steps involved, simple small businesses generally do not need an attorney to start the business, but may grow and need an attorney later on down the road.
—Guest LAWolfe

Attorney Shares Opinion - LLC in Georgia

I am an attorney in Georgia and am writing to give my opinion, as a business owner (and not an attorney), as to why you do not need an attorney to assist you with starting a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Georgia. Again, this is not a legal opinion, but my opinion as an owner of an LLC. In Georgia all that is required to start an LLC is to file Articles of Organization (AOO) along with a $100 filing fee. In the AOO you are only required to include the name of the LLC (which cannot already be in use) and whether the management of the LLC is vested in one or more managers (and the names of those managers). That is it. To do this no attorney is required. Most people starting an LLC know what they want the name to be and who will be managing the LLC. Thus, there is no need to hire an attorney to help you.
—Guest Keary Floyd

I Have Done it Myself Many Times

I have NEVER hired an attorney to help me start any of my businesses - from LLC's, Sole Proprietor's to Corporations. Some of the companies that I have personally started: www.giftbaskets90210.com (sole proprietor for 16 years - working on reopening), www.loveyacupcake.com (copyrighted trademark without attorney,y) www.eatonrealtyadvisors.com (corporation - started in 2007) www.thinkpinkacademy.com (sole proprietor changing to LLC), Chadwick Farms, LLC (started in 2002), J.J. Eaton Racing (Sole Proprietor, started in 1997). I filed all the paperwork myself, filed tax returns under every company individual entity name - sometimes 8 different tax returns in one year including personal and other sole proprietor's Why you ask? Because I'm an entrepreneur and I had the tools available to me to do all the paperwork myself with Legal Zoom and Incorporate 101 - not only did I save TONS of money but I also learned more than I could have by hiring an attorney.
—Guest Julie Eaton

Lapsed Attorney Says You Don't Need One

While I’m surrounded by capable lawyers, I’m convinced that early stage companies do not need a lawyer to get started. States and localities have endless online resources to equip you to complete your company formation on your own, secure a license if needed, and even evaluate a potential office or retail lease.  Moreover, many cities and universities have small-business incubator programs that provide a few free hours of consulting on pitfalls.   Be sure to do a trademark search on your business name to ensure you are not getting too close in name to a company that is in a similar business in your geographic area.  Even pitfalls are small at early stages, so even a minor gaffe won’t cost you greatly.  Get up and running for six months. Then if things are going great, and you need more formal help, lawyer up and have the benefit of decent counsel. Im a co-founder of http://www.ontimeairfilters.com, founded and launched without any lawyerly advice, even my own (I'm an attorney)!
—Guest Sue Heilbronner

Attorney Not Needed

With the availability of great legal forms on the internet at discount prices, the only professional one needs to start a new business is an accountant. While protecting ones assets from judgment is a consideration, the greater key to success is minimizing taxes. ___ I am an attorney in private practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was in solo practice as an attorney for a dozen years and have started several businesses personally and with my partner, Karla Linden, who is a massage therapist. My practice today is exclusively in mediation, particularly with divorcing couples and employment matters.
—Guest Kelly Vickers

Know When You Need an Attorney

You can save money on attorney fees by knowing when you need an attorney and when you don’t. Using an attorney to incorporate a business is NOT a legal requirement and attorney fees can cost between $1,500 - $3,000; this money could be better used for other start up costs. Consider using an incorporation service provider such as BizFilings.com; these services are less expensive than an attorney and less time consuming and confusing than preparing and filing your own incorporation documents. Look for a provider with free online articles and tools to help make learning easy. Incorporation service providers are NOT law firms and cannot provide legal advice, but they can give general information on business structures and state requirements and walk entrepreneurs through the incorporation process step-by-step. Using both an attorney and service provider can save you money, since you are only paying attorney fees for advice, not for time working on the incorporation process. -- Karen Kobelski is General Manager of BizFilings.com
—Guest Karen Kobelski

Save Your Money

My name is Seth Mendelsohn and I started Simply Boulder Foods, an LLC about three years ago. I didn't have an attorney until year two, and I'm confident that this was the correct decision for me. As mentioned the business is an LLC, however I don't have any business partners. If I had business partners, then an attorney would have been needed for an operating agreement between the owners, but without partners an attorney would have tied up much needed money for growth. For example I was easily able to create a trademark and register the business on my own (anybody can do it). I was also able to work with third parties on contracts by using common sense. ___Seth Mendelsohn is owner of Simply Boulder Foods, "Gluten-Free Culinary Sauces Sweetened with Organic Agave Nectar"
—Guest Seth Mendelsohn

Of course you don't need an attorney

Of course you don't need an attorney to start a business. Its that kind of mentality that keeps a lot of smart people from NOT starting a business. Its not hard and its not scary, you fill out a DBA or an LLC form with your state and guess what, you are in business. Obviously you will need to speak with a lawyer at some point, but plenty of businesses start all the time with any sort of legal help. Just do it, start a business, start making some noise and talk to a lawyer when the time comes. Anthony Adams of The Hangover Cure at www.drinkthc.com
—Guest Anthony Adams

It's Just Fill-in-the-Blanks

When I initially set my business up as a sole proprietorship, I didn't have the money to hire an attorney to help me with the process. I read up on the laws governing businesses in my state and just got things done. I eventually reformed my business as LLC and, once again, I didnt work with a lawyer. Instead, after quite a bit of reading, I used Intuits MyCorporation software. For many LLCs, the paperwork is essentially fill in the blanks — if there's nothing unusual about the company, it doesn't make sense to pay for an attorney. ___Thursday Bram is the owner of Hyper Modern Consulting (www.hypermodernconsulting.com)
—Thursday Bram

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