How To Navigate Through The Legal Aspects Of Starting A New Business

In my role with Startup Lakewood, I often encounter individuals who are interested in starting some really interesting businesses – but they simply don’t know where to start. For some, it’s the legal issues and complexities that turn their bright idea into a non-starter. It’s understandable that laws related to starting a new business can seem complex and downright scary. After all, it takes professionals at least 7 years of schooling and passing a rigorous set of Board exams before they can receive a license and call themselves a true attorney. For those of us that don’t have that sort of training – how are we supposed to know what to do?

However, legal complexities should never be the reason for not starting a business. Individuals that have true, burning passion for bringing their ideas to life will not let a few legal issues get in their way. That said, if you have a desire to start a business but find yourself lacking when it comes to startup law – you might find the following recommendations to be helpful:

1) Do some research.

No, you likely aren’t going to be willing to spend several years of your life putting yourself through law school just so you can feel comfortable navigating legal complexities of starting a business. However, you can take some time and invest it in learning about the areas that matter most.

Interested in understanding the basics? The U.S. Small Business Administration has a host of resources available online at

Are you starting a small business? Free local resources such as Startup Lakewood and SCORE exist for the sole purpose of helping you throughout the process. They can help with locating the right kind of resources you need for the type of business that you’re starting.

Are you going bigger and need to raise venture capital? Websites like and books like Venture Deals, by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson will be very helpful to you. Notable Silicon Valley law firm, Fenwick and West, even made several standard “seed funding” documents available online at (although, it’s still recommended to have a venture attorney review these on your behalf.)

2) Find the right attorney (or two).

Yes, eventually you will need to find a good attorney – or perhaps several good attorneys.  Turning to “Uncle Frank,” who is a personal injury attorney, to help you with starting your business might not be any more helpful than if you tried to do everything yourself. After all, you might have done more research on starting a business than Uncle Frank. It’s important to find attorneys that specialize in the type of law that’s important to you.

Are you starting a restaurant franchise? Finding an attorney who has helped other franchisees in the past is essential. Are you inventing a new product? Attorneys who specialize in Intellectual Property should be on your short-list. 

While it’s true that attorneys can be expensive, this doesn’t have to be the case. Many attorneys who work with small businesses will offer you the ability to defer their fees until the business reaches a certain stage – or, at minimum, you can ask them to provide you with a “fixed fee” quote to ensure that they don’t charge over a pre-specified amount for a specific service you request.

There are also programs available that can give you access to attorneys and law students that specialize in starting businesses for little-to-no cost. The University of Akron, for instance, houses a Seed Legal Clinic that helps entrepreneurs with all sorts of legal startup tasks – such as incorporating, drafting Operating Agreements, and more. Gary Spring, Director of the clinic, can be reached at

If you have specific questions about laws related to starting a new business, Startup Lakewood is offering a free event on November 19th that is open to the public. “Startup U: Keeping it Legal” will feature Jake Derenthal, an experienced Attorney from Frantz Ward LLP, one of the area’s leading business law practices. Mr. Derenthal will discuss answers to the most commonly asked startup law questions he receives – and will turn to the audience for additional Q&A. This event will be the last Startup Lakewood event of 2013 and will take place at 6:30pm at the University of Akron’s Lakewood Campus at 14725 Detroit Avenue. To register online for this free event, visit:

Mike Belsito is a Lakewood-based entrepreneur and inventor, and serves as Director of Ideation for Startup Lakewood.

Mike Belsito

Mike Belsito is a Lakewood-based entrepreneur and inventor, and serves as Director of Ideation for Startup Lakewood.

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Volume 9, Issue 22, Posted 2:01 PM, 11.12.2013