It can be tempting for small- and medium-sized businesses to sidestep the hiring of an attorney. Legal issues may not seem serious enough to justify retaining professional counsel or paying the costs associated with their services – after all, you manage your business expenses as carefully as you manage your household budget.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be judicious in the way you spend money. However, leaving nagging legal concerns untended too long could cost you tenfold more should they develop into litigation down the road.
As Attorney David Augustus explains:
“Business owners or executives or individuals facing a legal matter often hesitate to contact an attorney. Perhaps they don’t want to escalate the situation, hope they can deal with it on their own or don’t want to spend the money but, inevitably, it’s more cost-effective to connect with an attorney early and understand the legal issues at hand.”
How Attorneys Help Small Businesses
Experienced attorneys can provide vital support for nearly every aspect of your business – from the earliest stages of business formation and the creation of operating and partnership agreements to regulatory compliance, contract negotiation, and strategies for reducing exposure to risk. “That’s our job: to educate our clients on potential liabilities and exposures that could lead to future disputes or litigation if not properly addressed,” says Augustus. “We can look at your situation and identify where things could go wrong, and how best to navigate it.”
So when is it time to hire an attorney? Simply put: before you need one.
Here are few ways engaging an attorney sooner rather than later can help your small- to mid-size business:
1. An Ounce of Prevention: Avoiding Problems & Extra Expenses
The old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is abundantly true when it comes to enlisting the help of a business lawyer. By the time you’ve been sued or hit with major legal issues, the preventable damage has already been done.
A one-hour consultation with an attorney now can help you better grasp the legal risks and considerations you face as a business owner, partner or executive. Whether you are mulling over a specific matter—such as a simmering dispute—or concerned with mitigating business risks in general, an attorney can highlight exposures and help you evaluate your options while keeping legal costs manageable.
2. Making Informed Business Decisions
There is little doubt that the initial expense of hiring an attorney before problems arise is a far more cost-effective approach than hiring one when it is too late. Litigation can be time-consuming and expensive. By working with an attorney early on, you can be proactive in preventing problems rather than being thrown into a reactionary scramble.
Early intervention will allow you to fully explore available options and make sensible, informed decisions about matters that can have a major impact on the future of your business. You’ll typically have more avenues to explore when you plan ahead than when your business is backed against the wall.
As Managing Partner Trey Hendershot notes:
“Litigation is not cheap. It’s a lot easier to make informed business decisions on the front end than have to fix things on the back end. Consider trade secrets: An attorney can help you protect your trade secrets with enforceable non-compete, non-solicitation, confidentiality agreements. This is a lot more economical than having five of your key employees leave and set up competition against you after a few years in your employment, while also having to find a way to enforce your trade secrets through litigation.”
Working with a business lawyer who has the insight and experience to help you make prudent business decisions may ultimately save you money.
3. De-Escalate & Mitigate
Though no one is eager to involve attorneys when minor disagreements arise, failing to consult counsel in a timely manner can allow even the smallest disagreements to blossom into major disputes that threaten a company’s ability to operate. Having an attorney in the batter’s box or hiring one as soon as possible when problems arise can help you put a lid on legal issues that could become larger problems – such as a regulatory investigation with the potential for criminal prosecution, or an infringement claim that could lock you into costly litigation.
With early intervention, potentially injurious situations may be de-escalated before they impact your bottom line, place strain on critical relationships, or result in monetary or reputational harm.
Common issues that benefit from early legal intervention include:
- Partnership and shareholder disputes
- Business divorce
- Contract disputes
- Construction delays or defect claims
- Supply and vendor disputes
- Intellectual property protection
- Patent infringement claims
- Insurance coverage disputes
- Health care fraud investigations
- Regulatory compliance
Learn How Hendershot Cowart P.C. Can Help You
While partnering with an experienced business attorney may sound prohibitively expensive or low on a business owner’s priority list, it is all about preventing problems and minimizing risks. At Hendershot Cowart P.C., our Houston-based attorneys have devoted decades to representing clients like you in a range of business law and litigation matters. We know from first-hand experience that involving an attorney sooner rather than later can help protect your business so you can sleep better at night.
If you have questions about a start-up, established business, or pressing legal matter, our award-winning lawyers are here to help. Call or contact us online to request a consultation.