Business Law

Jessica Jensen Law PS is a full service business law firm. We are here to help businesses of all sizes optimize their efforts from formation to contract drafting to dispute resolution and litigation when necessary. Our business puts your business first.

Business law services include:

  • Business formation of profit and nonprofit corporations and LLC’s
  • Business mergers and acquisitions
  • Contract and lease drafting, review, and negotiation
  • Employer advice on employee issues from hiring to termination
  • Operating and Shareholder Agreement drafting and review
  • Resolution of business disputes via mediation, collaborative law and litigation
  • Debt collection and representation of creditors in bankruptcy

Small businesses and nonprofits often go without legal advice because they think they can’t afford it. That approach is often penny-wise and dollar-foolish. Consulting with an attorney can help identify and resolve legal issues before they become complex problems.

Ten Things Every Business Owner Should Know

1. Your business structure can make a difference in liability and how much you pay in taxes. Which structure is right for you depends on a) whether you are running the business alone or with others, b) whether you need to be concerned about protecting yourself from liability, and c) your commitment to maintaining good records so you can take advantage of tax-saving strategies.

2. Tradenames and trademarks. You must register with the state every business name you use that is not your own name. If you are planning to use a tradename and/or logo across state lines, consider obtaining a federal trademark to protect your right to do so in each state.

3. Buying an existing business. Before buying a business, ask to see financial records for the past three years and any lease you are assuming. Have a UCC search done before you buy equipment or inventory. Others may have a security interest in the property that must be released. Be sure you address outstanding federal and state tax issues. You can be held liable for taxes not paid by the prior owner. If the owner can’t produce financial or tax records, beware! That’s a red flag.

4. Leases. Avoid signing a long-term lease when just starting your business. You are liable for lease payments for the entire lease term whether your business makes it or not. Consider office sharing until you have a predictable cash flow. Review any lease carefully, and consult with an attorney if you have questions.

5. Contracts. Contracts between business owners for the sale of goods over $500 must be in writing. Contracts for services that will not be performed within one year must also be in writing. If you expect to use contracts frequently in your business, learn the basics of contract law or have your contracts reviewed by an attorney.

6. Employment. All Washington employers must comply with wage and hour laws and state and federal health and safety laws. Employers of 8 or more must comply with the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Employers of 15 or more must generally comply with federal anti-discrimination laws.

7. Contractors versus Employees. You must give a 1099 to anyone you pay more than $600 in a given year. Calling someone an independent contractor does not necessarily make it so. The IRS considers a number of factors in determining whether someone is your employee, including whether the person receives income from any other business and whether you direct the work being done. A person can be considered your employee for worker’s compensation purposes even if the IRS agrees the person is a contractor for federal tax purposes.

8. Managing Risk. Take action to identify and minimize your risk of liability. Then, plan how you will pay for any liability you may incur (self-funding or insurance). Insurance is a great way to pay for losses, but it is not available to cover all risks. Have your insurance policies reviewed once a year by a competent insurance agent or broker.

9. If You Are Sued. Don’t ignore the paperwork. Immediately consult with an attorney. You may be able to handle the matter yourself, but obtaining legal advice will help you understand the law and the process.

10. Business Continuation. Consider what you want to have happen to your business if you die, retire or become incapacitated and then plan accordingly. Ensure someone is authorized to continue your business on a short-term basis if you are temporarily incapacitated.

Recommendations for Every Business Owner

Develop a Business Team. To build a successful business, you will want to develop a team of advisors to help you as needed. Find competent professionals you can relate to and who seem interested in your business. Then use them. A typical business team might include a business coach or consultant, accountant, insurance broker, banker and attorney.

Make a Business Plan.

Invest in Marketing. Develop a marketing and/or communication plan based on the nature of your business and the type of customers or clients you want to attract. For some businesses, advertising will be critical while networking may be more important for other businesses. A marketing or communication analysis can point your business in the right direction.

Hold an Annual Retreat. Hold an annual retreat with key staff to review what’s working and what’s not and adjust your goals accordingly. Be clear about your intent. Envision what you want your business to be and work toward that goal.

Collaborative Law

In the unfortunate event that you are involved in a business dispute of any kind, please see our Collaborative Law page. Collaborative Law is an effective, cost saving and stress reducing process for resolving disputes with the most privacy and least court interaction as possible.

Business law RESOURCES: (go to the Doing Business tab)

Legal (General) RESOURCES Washington State Bar Association

County Government Thurston County Pierce County Mason County Lewis County King County

Business law REFERRALS:
www.accountsourceinc.comKim Adney – Tax Accounting
www.firstalliedcentralia.comBarbara Greatwood – Investments
www.nlapointe.comNancy J. LaPointe – Financial Planning
www.altmanagency.comBrad Altman – Insurance Agency
http://lanebookkeeping.comJulie Lane – Bookkeeping