23rd February, 2018

Top legal tips for small businesses

For small businesses, trying to remain compliant with all relevant legal and regulatory requirements to operate legally can be daunting.

Employees need to be paid their minimum entitlements; workplaces must be compliant with health and safety legislation; taxes have to be paid when they fall due; environmental standards should be adhered to; anti-money laundering reporting obligations must be met.

This is all just for starters.

For small businesses in specialised industry sectors – there are additional legal requirements over and above these universal legal obligations.

Laws also change, especially when Governments change as has recently happened, so businesses need to continually review the legal landscape to remain compliant.

It can be difficult to know where, or who, to turn to.

The legal services market has become so fragmented – with specialist employment, tax, environment, intellectual property, and public lawyers among others – that finding the right lawyer for the job at hand is no easy task.

So what can small and medium businesses do to ensure that they are compliant and up-to-date with the law in the most cost-effective way?

Seek out free advice

Many Government departments have free newsletters and email alerts which update subscribers on the enactment of new laws, policies and regulations.

READ: What to know before filing a patent

Register with these to stay up-to-date and on top of the latest legal developments which might impact on your organisation.

Also, some firms provide legal newsletters providing similar alerts or useful information or guidance. Makes sure you’re on the mailing list

Appoint a legal officer

It is helpful to nominate a person in your organisation to have responsibility for making sure that the business is compliant with all its legal obligations at any given moment.

That person should become the central repository of all relevant legal compliance information and have the responsibility of sharing it with the rest of the organisation.

Don’t set and forget

Once your organisation is compliant with the law, stay vigilant.

The law is always updating and may change without notice or warning.

As noted above, registering for government alerts and nominating a legal officer are helpful ways of staying on top of the most recent legal developments.

Spend time understanding your legal problem

When you have a legal problem, don’t immediately instruct the most expensive lawyer you can find.

Many problems can be resolved without lawyers at all, and only the most complex problems require the best lawyers.

Take time to understand your legal problem and tailor your response to the complexity of the issue at hand. There are plenty of competent lawyers around who may charge less.

Pool advice with other businesses

Often small businesses in the same industry will need the same advice that your organisation does.

Rather than duplicate the same advice, which can be costly for all involved, consider teaming up and pooling your resources together with other small businesses to get the legal advice you need for the lowest price possible.

Even if they’re your competitors, you all need advice on health and safety and new employment or tax laws.

Ultimately, the golden rule remains: if in doubt, get advice.

If the problem puts your business at risk, and you’re not sure what the law is, get advice early.

That can save money and stress in the long run and could mean the difference between a good outcome and one that is harmful to your business.

If you don’t know who the best lawyer is to go to, ringing around your mates can be hit and miss.