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What is Legal Services?

Legal services programs, often called “legal aid societies,” provide irect civil representation, for free or at a reduced cost, to low income and elderly clients. Legal services attorneys ensure equal access to the justice system for people who could not otherwise afford attorneys. Much of a legal services lawyer’s work involves individual lient contact, and attorneys take on cases in which a client’s fundamental rights and needs are in jeopardy.


Legal services are an important consideration for any business owner, but especially for small business owners, who often face a number of legal hurdles. Protecting the owner's personal assets from lawsuits against the business, ensuring protection for the business against lawsuits charging discrimination, wrongful termination, and sexual harassment, and handling employee contracts, copyright claims, and incorporation are just a few of the legal issues that commonly face small business owners.

The high costs of retaining a lawyer often make it seem as if competent legal services are out of reach of most small business owners. In addition, experts emphasize the dangers of entering into legal agreements without first obtaining advice from a qualified attorney. But there are reasonably priced methods of obtaining such services, like pre-paid plans and legal software. In many cases, this attempt to cut corners can turn small problems into big ones for small business owners. "Perhaps your tax structure is not to your best advantage, or you are not adequately protected from liability," Charles Poling noted in the New Mexico Business Journal. "If you're in a regulated business, you might run afoul of the law simply because you haven't gotten educated by your lawyer. Failing to consult with a securities or financial lawyer when you're raising capital can cause serious problems."

The type of legal services a small business should obtain varies with the size and age of the business. "Exactly what type of lawyer you need depends on what business you're in, and what stage it's at," Poling wrote. "A general business lawyer can help you as day-to-day questions come up, reviewing contracts and tax questions. But for more complicated matters, you might need a specialist…. Just starting up? Find someone who specializes in forming corporations or partnerships. Going public? Find a securities lawyer. Other specialties include environmental law, banking, patenting, copyrighting, medicine, nonprofit corporations, employment law, and so on."

According to Michael Barrier in Success, the best way to find a good attorney is by getting referrals from people you trust, especially those with similar legal needs. Before signing a retainer, small business owners should inquire about the attorney's experience, charges, and potential conflicts of interest. It may also be helpful to check your insurance policy, because certain litigation expenses may be covered.