As a business owner, you hope that your company is involved in few legal issues. However, these problems do occur in small and large businesses alike.
By KEVIN DEVOTO
Being prepared with these six tips is key to helping ensure the situations are resolved smoothly and quickly.
1. Research Lawyers
If you wait until an issue occurs to find a good lawyer, you may overlook some important details because you are emotional and distracted by the situation. It is important to complete research beforehand so if and when the time comes, you know exactly who to turn to for help.
If you own a smaller business and do not foresee any problems, some basic preliminary research will likely do. Investigate lawyers in your area and their areas of practice. You want someone who specializes in business law.
If you own a large business, you probably have many more moving pieces and therefore, more risks than a small company. It may be beneficial to have a lawyer on standby. In this case, you need to meet with lawyers until you find one who is a good fit. This way, when questions or concerns arise, you have a lawyer ready to help who is already familiar with your business.
Additionally, if you do ever have to go to court over a matter, be sure the discussions are clearly documented. Hire a court reporter in your area, such as court reporters in Portland. These professionals are paid to transcribe court meetings to ensure discussions are accurately recorded for future reference.
2. Safeguard Intellectual Property
Intellectual property includes physical items as well as inventions of the mind. These can be ideas, designs, images, artwork, writing and more. The last thing you want is to spend countless hours developing a project only to lose out on revenue because you did not properly protect it. Copyrights, patents and trademarks are all legal ways to ensure your intellectual property is safe and recognized as yours.
3. Protect Digital Data
Many businesses are managed through online resources. While it is much more convenient and easier to stay organized when all information is stored on a computer, you need to take extra steps to protect that data.
This information may include intellectual property, employee personal data, cost and revenue details, tax information and client data. If this knowledge gets into the wrong hands, you could have a very serious legal situation on your hands.
Make sure your online softwares, programs and applications are protected with firewalls and a security program. Your IT department needs to address any potential breaches right away. Additionally, they should also evaluate and update the security programs on a regular basis.
4. Evaluate the Business Structure
To prevent issues with legal liability, ownership questions or tax procedures, clearly define your business structure. There are different types of formats, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. These structures include a corporation, sole proprietorship, limited liability company or partnership. Be sure everyone is on the same page as to the company’s setup.
5. Set Up Safety and Health Processes
Minimize the risk of a legal situation with an employee by creating safety and health procedures. These processes should be reviewed with the staff on a regular basis or when changes are made. Maps of evacuation routes should be clearly labeled and posted throughout the building.
6. Backup Data
In addition to protecting your online data from cyber theft, you also need to ensure information is backed up. This includes meeting notes, emails, project plans, reports and other relevant data.
Should a conversation or piece of information get called into question in a legal situation, you need that day-to-day data safe and available for reference. Work with your IT department to evaluate how online data is stored and make sure it is backed up regularly.
Taking proactive steps to protect your company is essential to ending a legal battle quickly and supporting your position. By following these six steps, you can be prepared for legal problems that your business faces.