When Do You Need a Family Business Lawyer?
A family business lawyer is a legal professional who handles issues that pertain to family-owned businesses, including estate planning, succession planning, taxation, business transactions, and family disputes.
Starting a Family Business
When you’re starting a family business, there’s a myriad of legal issues to address. Family business lawyers ensure all legal formalities are properly handled. For instance, they can help you choose the right business structure (LLC, S Corp, C Corp, etc.), which significantly impacts taxation, liability, and business operations. They can also help draft the necessary documents, like articles of incorporation or operating agreements, and ensure they’re filed correctly.
A family business lawyer is also instrumental in drafting business contracts. They can help you create employment contracts, vendor agreements, and customer contracts that protect your interests and comply with the law.
A lawyer can help ensure your business complies with all applicable regulations, such as employment laws, environmental regulations, and tax laws. This can prevent costly fines or legal disputes down the line.
Lastly, they can help protect your intellectual property, such as trademarks, copyrights, or patents. This is crucial for businesses that have unique products, services, or brands to protect.
Running an Operational Family Business
Once your business is operational, a family business lawyer remains an essential partner. Day-to-day legal issues frequently arise in business, from employment disputes to contract negotiations.
For example, if an employee claims unfair treatment or wrongful termination, a lawyer can help you navigate this tricky situation and avoid potential legal pitfalls. They can also help create or update your employee handbook to ensure it complies with current laws.
In terms of contract negotiations, a lawyer can review contracts before you sign them to ensure they’re in your best interest. They can negotiate terms on your behalf, addressing any unfavorable clauses and ensuring you understand the contract’s implications.
Planning for the Future
Family business lawyers play a critical role in the future planning of your business. They can help create succession plans that outline who will take over the business when current leaders retire or pass away. This can prevent disputes and ensure a smooth transition, preserving the longevity of the business.
A lawyer can also help with estate planning, ensuring that the business assets are distributed according to the owner’s wishes upon their death. This might involve creating a will, setting up trusts, or planning for estate taxes.
Handling Family Business Disputes
Disputes are not uncommon in family businesses, given the overlay of family relationships and business interests. These disputes can be about business decisions, succession issues, or personal conflicts.
A family business lawyer can help mediate these issues, providing a neutral perspective and promoting fair communication. They can also ensure that the dispute is handled legally, ensuring that all parties’ rights are protected and helping to preserve both the business and the family relationships.
In more severe cases, the lawyer might have to represent the business or one of the family members in court. This might occur if a dispute cannot be resolved through mediation and escalates to a lawsuit. The lawyer would then prepare the necessary legal documents, represent the client in court, and work towards the best possible outcome.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Family Business Lawyer in the U.S.?
The cost of hiring a family business lawyer in the U.S. varies widely depending on the complexity of the case, the lawyer’s experience and reputation, and geographical location. On average, an hourly rate can range from $150 to $500. Some lawyers may also offer a flat fee for certain services, such as drafting a business contract or setting up a corporation.
Discuss fees upfront and understand what services are included. Additionally, some lawyers may require a retainer, which is an upfront payment that they draw from as they complete work.
What to Look For in a Family Business Lawyer?
When hiring a family business attorney, you want to find someone who not only understands the law but also your business and family dynamics. Look for someone with experience in family business law and a track record of successful case handling.
The lawyer should be able to communicate clearly, be accessible when you need them, and be capable of explaining complex legal concepts in a way you can understand. They should have good negotiation skills, as they may need to mediate disputes or negotiate contracts. Also, consider their ethical reputation, as you want a lawyer who will represent your business with integrity.
How to Prepare for Your Consultation With a Family Business Lawyer?
Before your consultation, gather all relevant documents, such as business contracts, financial records, any existing business structure documents, and any correspondence related to legal issues. Create a list of questions or concerns you want to address. These could be about specific legal issues, the lawyer’s experience, their fees, or their approach to your case.
Be prepared to discuss your business and family dynamics, as well as your long-term business goals.
Where to Find the Best Family Business Lawyer in the U.S.?
LegalMatch is an excellent platform for finding a family business lawyer in the U.S. It’s a free online legal matching service where you submit your case, and pre-screened lawyers review it and decide if they want to respond. You then review the lawyers’ responses, profiles, and fees before deciding who to contact.
LegalMatch allows you to find lawyers in your geographical area and field of need, making it easier to find a lawyer that fits your specific requirements. It also provides useful information about each lawyer, including their experience, past client reviews, and rates.
Remember, the best lawyer for your family business is one that understands your business and family’s unique needs and can provide the legal support you need to safeguard and grow your business.