Advice: For start-ups, hiring a lawyer is often optional

Dear Karen: I’m starting a business. What can I do myself and when do I need a lawyer?

Answer: Many small businesses start out as sole proprietorships. When you are ready for a formal business structure, there are do-it-yourself options for incorporating or forming an limited liability company.

You can also download legal forms such as contracts and confidentiality agreements and complete them yourself. Make sure you keep such records secure, said Charley Moore, the founder and chairman of Rocket Lawyer, a legal website.

You’re likely to need a lawyer if you plan to raise outside capital or if you get sued, Moore said. “There is no drawback in getting a consultation from an attorney; most offer free initial consultations. They will explain your rights to you, as well as estimate the time and money you can expect to spend on your legal issue,” he said.


How to improve your workforce

Dear Karen: I want to upgrade staff quality. How do I start?

Answer: Identify non-performers, including poor management and supervisors along with rank-and-file employees. “Give them a chance to respond to training, but if they do not show significant improvement, remove them from an influential role and replace them with someone else,” said Jeff Kortes, a management consultant and author of the book “No Nonsense Retention.”

Business owners often worry about holding employees accountable for their performance, fearing a backlash, but Kortes said the opposite usually happens. “If they don’t solve the problem, terminate them with respect and dignity. Your good performers will love you,” he said.


Small-business questions? Email Karen at

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