San Jose Business Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Limited Liability Companies

Whether you are starting a company or already have an established business, you will likely need legal advice on many different issues. From business formation to dissolution, an attorney can assist you regarding contracts, employees, mergers, corporate disputes, and much more. Because you want to hire the right attorney for your legal case, the following are five questions you should consider.

What is the lawyer’s business law experience?

Laws regarding businesses can be extremely complicated and difficult to decipher. Just because an attorney handles cases in court involving individuals does not mean they can skillfully interpret business law and apply the laws to your case. You should ensure that the attorneys at the law firm you hire have extensive experience specifically in business law.

An important step in the business acquisition process is determining the true value of the business to ensure you are paying an appropriate price. Valuation of a business can be complicated and can depend on the type of company in question, your goals, and many other factors. While this process may seem daunting, an experienced business lawyer can help to identify steps to take and help you decide whether a price is right. The following are some of the issues to consider when evaluating the price of an acquisition.

Examine the Current State of the Business


There are many aspects of a business that should be closely examined before an offer is made, including, but not limited to:

Hiring and retaining employees is critical to success in business. While successfully managing a workforce has many components to it, understanding the basic components of the employment relationship not only protects the company when hiring, but also helps to set the expectations for new and existing employees. Clearly articulating expectations – such as whether the employee is hired at-will or for a fixed term, identifying the main responsibilities of the employee in a clearly articulated job description, informing the employee on the processes and procedures involved in the review process and protecting the company’s intellectual property assets – ensures the employer sets the stage for a successful employment relationship.

Should my Employee be At-will or Fixed Term?stretta di mano per lavorare in un ufficio

Employees can be hired as either an at-will or fixed-term employee. Unless otherwise specified in a written agreement, all employment in the State of California is “at will,” meaning either the employer or the employee can terminate the relationship at any time with or without cause. While at-will employment gives employees more flexibility in controlling how long they continue to work with a particular company, at-will employment also grants businesses with a greater control in terminating employees. Businesses can fire at-will employees at any time, with or without cause. (Obviously, this is limited to instances in which the business is not committing discrimination.) This is true because no contractual obligation exists between the business and its at-will employee.

While many well-known businesses are either corporations or limited liability companies, partnerships remain a common and savvy business entity selection. In fact, some of the biggest names in tech—Apple, Microsoft, and Google—started out as partnerships.

What is a Partnership?

cooperation
Partnerships exist whenever there is a cooperative endeavor of two or more people, entities, or some combination thereof, to provide a product or service. The main characteristic of any partnership is that the partners share in the profits and losses of the business.

Reputation can help make or break a startup. Startups rely upon a positive reputation to grow, develop, and maintain a strong customer base. Glowing reviews help startups strengthen their brand equity; at the same time, they help support and influence a customer’s decision to use the startup’s product or service.


A startup that develops a negative reputation will not have the same luck. Customers that leave negative reviews weaken the perceived value of the startup’s product or service. Potential future customers may find themselves less inclined to use the product or service as a result of negative reviews. Too many potential reviews could spell a startup’s demise.

Startups want to succeed. Whether the ultimate goal is to grow and expand or to be bought out, startups want to ensure that their success is not derailed through customer disparagement. In order to combat potential negative reputation, some startups began including non-disparagement clauses in their purchase or licensing agreements.

Many business owners do not hire an experienced attorney for several reasons. Some believe they cannot afford it and others may believe there is no need for a lawyer unless a legal conflict arises. However, it is much more resource-effective (time, energy, and money) to have the guidance of a skilled business lawyer from the very start. Doing so can avoid costly litigation in the first place and will allow you to focus on your business operations and not on a legal case. The following are only some examples of how hiring a business attorney can help to avoid litigation.


Business contracts – Businesses involve many different kinds of contracts, whether they are with fellow owners, suppliers, clients, or any other party. You may not recognize that a particular contract has unfair or adverse provisions that may leave your business vulnerable to losses or liability. Every single contract you consider signing should be carefully drafted, reviewed, and negotiated by a knowledgeable lawyer to protect your interests and avoid legal liability.

Compliance with business laws – California has a great number of laws that are relevant to businesses, and compliance is essential to avoid costly fines or legal conflicts. Such laws can regulate business formation, licenses, permits, zoning, taxes, employees, and many other issues. As a business owner, it may be challenging for you to identify all relevant laws and to ensure that you comply with them. An experienced attorney will know what steps you need to take to comply with necessary laws.

Hiring employees can be exciting for a business owner though it comes with many legal responsibilities and requirements. You must report your new hires to the state, set up a payroll system, comply with tax and immigration laws, and more. With so many requirements, the last thing you may want to do is anything that is not expressly required by law.


One optional step that can be extremely important, however, is developing and regularly updating an employee handbook. Following are some reasons that a carefully drafted employee handbook can help you to avoid legal conflicts with employees.

Avoid employee miscommunication

Startups centered around a technological development or product are highly popular in this day and age—and for good reason. Companies such as Apple or Facebook originated in garages or dorm rooms and are now each valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. Even if you are not a technical person and know nothing about programming or coding, you can still start a successful tech startup, as evidenced by companies such as Pandora. It is not surprising that individuals are continually trying to bring the next big idea to life and start their own tech company.


However, like any other type of business, there are many legal concerns for tech startups. One highly important concern is how to properly protect your intellectual property (IP). A novel and viable idea is generally the heart of a tech startup and you do not want to risk your success by failing to adequately protect your idea. The following are only some IP concerns that may be relevant to your tech startup.

Choosing the right type of IP protection

Too many startups fail to successfully get off the ground because of decisions that result in inadequate financing. As a founder of a startup, you can have a completely viable idea and still fail due to financing mistakes. For this reason, it is important to understand the different types of financing appropriate at different stages of your business. Financing can be complicated and it is always helpful to consult with a skilled business attorney who can evaluate your financing needs and provide valuable advice.


One type of financing used by startups is called “mezzanine financing.” The name is appropriate because this type of financing is in the middle between equity and traditional bank debt. Your business is less leveraged because there is no hard collateral to mezzanine investors, though many charge more interest than a bank loan. On the other hand, you will give up less control of your company than you will if you pursue additional equity funding.

When is mezzanine financing appropriate?

Many startups in the tech sector are idea-rich and cash-poor, meaning that their most valuable (and often only) asset is their intellectual property that may have the potential to be worth a substantial amount of money. While some startups are able to move their ideas from concept to deployment with relatively little labor involved, many of these ideas require the assistance of developers, programmers, engineers, and marketers, all of whom are skilled professionals who can easily command salaries well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.


For this reason, many startups are faced with the issue of how to pay their employees during the development and launch phase, before they are generating any revenue. Of course, one option is to borrow the money or to seek investors – a solution that has significant pros and cons which should be considered. Another very popular option is to offer employees equity shares in a company in lieu of cash compensation. In some cases, this may take the form of equity for a lower salary than they would normally expect, while in others an equity share may be the only compensation they receive.

There are many issues that tech entrepreneurs and founders should consider when offering equity as compensation. These include the following: