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13 legal tasks for starting a business

When starting a business it is best to work with a fairly comprehensive list of prioritised things to do.

The list in this article reflects my 30 years of experience as a business lawyer. The list applies to most businesses, recognising however that there are industry by industry variables.

For example, some businesses require regulatory licences, eg for people in a trade or in a food preparation or sale business.

Additionally, some businesses should prioritise finalisation of written intellectual property licences or assignments, eg for acquisition of the rights to a business name, logo or business system.  

  1. Set a starting date.
  2. Confirm your business and personal goals, in particular define the scope and nature of the services you intend to provide and how you intend to charge for those services (eg the rates you will apply).
  3. Develop your core planning documents (eg business plan, marketing plan and project management methodology).
  4. Select an advisory board or colleagues to give you good counsel.
  5. Select an accountant.
  6. Select a lawyer.
  7. Select a bank, set up a business account and perhaps apply for a line of credit or loan.
  8. Select an insurance broker, if appropriate; obtain all appropriate insurance.
  9. Install computers, set up your office network, put in furniture and equipment.
  10. Select a telephone system and appropriate Internet access.
  11. Prepare stationery and print business cards.
  12. Join business and professional organisations and appropriate social networking sites, it helps greatly if you also have a website or blog.
  13. Implement a good accounting system and tax payments compliance system; ensure legal compliance generally against local law.

With the above priorities in place, a business should now consider additional legal tasks and risk minimisation. Important here is trade mark protection and in-house contracts to have in place for general use as templates to use with suppliers and for customers. Here's an examle of such legal work for an IT consultant, involving four types of services.

  • Preparation of a template IT contractor services contract
  • Trade mark registration. This is not immediately necessary unless your venture is going to work off a name, logo or domain name that you consider to be particularly valuable.
  • Enterprise and business structuring eg company formation, negotiation of licensing agreements, employee contracts, contractor agreements.

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