Quality legal advice is priceless for businesses, just ask Director of RBK Legal, Matt Campbell, who’s an expert on the topic! We picked his brain on why it’s worth engaging a lawyer from the beginning, some of the common reasons why businesses might need to get a lawyer and what to look for when deciding on a lawyer for your business
So Matt, what’s the most common reason business owners seek-out legal advice?
It depends a lot on what industry the business is in. I think that the smart way to go about it is by seeking out legal advice from the get go, or at the least seeking out a legal health check. The old saying, you don’t know what you don’t know, is pertinent here. Smart business owners seek advice to reduce their risk of running into potential hazards which at the end of the day reduces unnecessary costs.
What’s a mistake or issue that seems to come up a lot, before business owners then realise they need a good lawyer?
There’s a couple of very common scenarios.
Debtors, creditors and other disputes between businesses:
Client’s either chasing money, or being chased for it, often try and resolve the dispute themselves with the other party. Businesses often do this to save on costs, however, it can inevitably end up costing more in the long run, when a lawyer needs to be engaged.
There are many complexities when transacting with other companies and things aren’t always as they appear. People conduct business in good faith however, the law is not always fair and often doesn’t care about good faith. That’s why it’s important to obtain advice on your legal position as soon as an issue arises (such as owing or being owed money) to determine what strategy you take moving forward. This provides peace of mind – knowing where you stand from the outset and can make the entire process a lot easier.
Small business owners do so well to employ millions of Australians and the majority of employer/employee relationships are completely harmonious. However, sometimes things turn sour, and whilst it may be in the business’ best interest to part ways with an employee, it is a minefield that must be navigated with care. Employment laws are rightly or wrongly skewed in favour of the employee. Unfortunately, it’s not until a business has separated from a client that it learns this the hard way as there is a stringent procedure that must be followed.
What difference does good legal advice make to a small business?
Good legal advice should provide the business owner with the confidence to know that they can conduct their business without the worry of potential legal traps. Legal issues can be crippling for business owners from not only a financial perspective, but also on a personal level, from the stress that comes with legal issues.
When deciding on a lawyer, are there particular things people should be looking out for?
Find a lawyer with experience in the area of law that you need and experience with dealing with matters like yours:
For example, one of my best childhood friends from school also went on to become a lawyer, a criminal lawyer. He is renowned, his practice is burgeoning and I’ve known him for two decades. He has the knowledge, experience, and reputation and I trust him, but I’d rather ask my pet dog for commercial law advice than him.
Someone who will tell it like it is:
You should find a lawyer who you can trust and can build a rapport with, but will at the same time tell you how it is. One very important role of a lawyer is to be stern with their clients, and to sometimes give advice that will not be what the client wants to hear.
Communication is key:
All too often clients complain about lawyers because of their lack of communication, or that issues could be avoided if there was better communication. Find a lawyer who will reply to emails and will pick up the phone and has a team that will do the same.
What are the basic legal things (technical term!) that every small business should tick off and why?
It’s important for business owners to consider the relationships they have with all of their different stakeholders as well as the functions of their business and work out what their legal rights, risks and obligations are. Could you change things to be more favourable to you and your business whilst not exposing further risk? Are your goods/services compliant with legislation, do you hold the requisite qualifications/licences/tickets to be trading? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, head here to get in touch to see how our team can help to ensure your business is legally covered should anything happen in the future.