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4 legal mistakes small business owners can avoid

Small business owners and entrepreneurs have a lot on their minds, and they often work many hours a week getting products ready, planning marketing and dealing with customer service issues. Legal issues aren't always front and center in their minds, which is one reason it's a good idea to work with legal professionals if you're planning to launch or grow your business. Here are a few legal mistakes small business owners might make that you can avoid.

Many small business owners start shop in their own homes without employees. When they do hire staff, it's usually a little at a time until, suddenly, they find themselves the boss of an entire team. One mistake many people make is not creating viable human resource guidelines before that happens. Without policies and procedures to govern how you govern your staff, you can become embroiled in costly and time-consuming human resource legal battles.

Documentation is also important for owners. Strong shareholder or owners' agreements are critical if you ever want to change the structure of your business, enter an IPO, sell the company or merge with another organization. If you didn't plan ahead in your agreements, you could find yourself tied down and unable to make the most profitable decisions.

You also need to protect your brand. Many business owners make the mistake of not getting the right patent, copyright or trademark protection. It's true that you don't always have to file for such things, but it pays to know when to file for it and which protection is the right fit for your product, idea or creative asset.

Finally, another mistake some small business owners make is filing unnecessary lawsuits. In a bid to protect yourself and your company, you can end up in court a lot. By working with an experienced business law attorney, you might be able to negotiate and settle some matters in a way that is better for your bottom line.

Source: Forbes, "Top 10 Legal Mistakes Small Businesses Make," accessed Jan. 26, 2017

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