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Small-business Savvy: Adding Legal Help to Your Small-business Team

Glenn Muske, NDSU Extension rural and agribusiness enterprise development specialist (NDSU photo) Glenn Muske, NDSU Extension rural and agribusiness enterprise development specialist (NDSU photo)
Add an attorney to your business team from the start.

By Glenn Muske, Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

At some point, you will need the support and expertise of an attorney as you operate your small business.

Often, though, owners delay adding that member to their business team. The thought is that you, the owner, will know when you need such help.

But that line of thought has two major issues. First, you may be making decisions now that are costing you money and will take more money to correct later.

For many small-business owners, the first time an attorney’s advice might be valuable is when selecting the business structure for their business. The attorney, along with their accountant, can outline the pros and cons of the various alternatives. Yet business owners often make that decision without any consultation.

Second, the time to look for an attorney is not when you are sent the notice to appear in court. Then you pick at attorney out of desperation and may not find the best fit for your business.

When looking for an attorney, you want to find one whose expertise and personality fit you and your business. Attorneys specialize. Thus, your attorney should be someone who has expertise and knowledge of assisting small-business owners such as you. In an ideal world, the attorney you select would have experience in your specific industry.

Finding such a person takes time. You need to determine who are your options. You can do this through an online search, networking, phone books and reference guides. Identify your needs and any specific questions that might arise.

This list of questions might indicate that, in addition to a general business attorney, you need a second member for your team with a specific set of skills, perhaps in trademarks, patents or international contract law. However, an attorney doing general business work is probably a good first step.

Then, like hiring an employee, you need to do interviews and reference checks. Who else do the attorneys work for and how do those clients feel about the services received?

Don’t hesitate to ask the attorneys about their charges and policy for response times. You want someone who will respond to you on a timely basis. This is a question to ask the candidates as well as other business owners as you do your reference checks.

The attorney you select will, you hope, be a team member for a long time. Bringing this person in early will help you make some early decisions and gets him or her grounded in your vision and goals.

Finding the right person will help build your bottom line.

For more help, visit our website,, and sign up for the monthly newsletter.

More information is available at your local Extension office, as well as at and

The Small Business Administration and its related organizations, such as the Small Business Development Centers and Service Corps of Retired Executives, along with many other state agencies, also can be valuable resources.

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Dec. 29, 2016

Source:Glenn Muske, 701-328-9718,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391,
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