You're an entrepreneur, not an attorney.
But that doesn't matter when it comes to the plethora of legal issues that relate to your small business. From the government's perspective, you're required to keep yourself informed about the proper application of small business laws.
In addition to forging a relationship with qualified legal counsel, some businesses address this problem by creating a sort of business law library. Unlike the law library at your attorney's office, your business law library doesn't have to include walls of legal books. Instead, it can contain a variety of smaller (and less costly) forms including a handful of business law guides, periodicals and a file of commonly used legal document templates.
However you decide to arrange your business law library, the key is to make sure it covers the issues that are most relevant to your workplace. Here are the legal topic areas we think no business law library can afford to ignore.
- Incorporation. The subject of incorporation inevitably comes up at some point in the life cycle of a small business. When that day comes, you'll need to understand the legal intricacies that govern incorporation materials, corporate bylaws, etc. Since incorporation is handled on a state-by-state basis, you'll need to make sure your library contains state-specific materials.
- Contracts. Contracts are a common area of concern for small businesses. It is extremely useful to maintain a library of contract templates for vendors, customers and other parties you do business with on a regular basis.
- HR. A good chunk of your business law library will be dedicated to human resources. Poorly executed HR functions translate into legal entanglements and employment litigation. Your library has to be fully stocked with resources that ensure a safe and discrimination-free workplace.
- Tax Issues. At a minimum, your accounting department should be encouraged to maintain a small library of materials related to business tax law. Since tax law changes every year, these resources need to be constantly updated to maintain compliance with current tax codes.
- Leases & real estate. Your company's leases and real estate dealings are legal transactions. You can't afford to ignore the legal implications of physical space agreements, so you'll need to include legally enforceable lease templates in your library.
- Patents & trademarks. Protecting your company's proprietary knowledge and brand is a never-ending process. Although we strongly encourage you to enlist the services of a qualified patent attorney, it doesn't hurt to have basic patent and trademark legal resources on hand.