Who you are as Business People
Your business is meaningful. It provides support for the people you love and for the people it serves. You want to see it continue to provide that support beyond your lifetime.
Your legacy includes the work you do and how it supports your family, for many generations.
You aren’t in business simply for the money, but for the impact you are leaving in the world.
You want to do things the right way and know that everything has been taken care of, without you being the one to do it all.
You appreciate guidance from a trusted advisor who gets it.
Small Business General Counsel Services
Many of our clients are business owners. We represent entrepreneurs from family-owned “mom and pop” operations to large franchises and companies with multiple locations in several states. We help business owners design, implement and maintain effective plans to help them reduce their personal liability, preserve all viable income tax deductions, facilitate the owner’s retirement, maintain family harmony, retain key employees and minimize income, gift and estate taxes.
To help owners protect estates and businesses that have been a lifetime in the making, we focus on an integrated approach to planning. This approach includes legal, insurance, financial and tax planning issues. More important, it includes discussions about family values and belief systems. As a result, we rely heavily on the expertise of our clients’ other professional advisors to help create the most effective team for our clients’ success.
Some of our business representation is done on an hourly basis. Hourly rates differ for attorneys and paralegals. We will give you a “best estimate” of the total fee based on the scope of the work we’re hired to do. Generally, we will give you a maximum amount that we will not exceed without permission. In most cases, however, we will quote you a flat fee to perform your legal work. In any event, we and our clients will sign an Engagement Agreement that identifies each of our rights, duties, and obligations, and the agreed upon fees.
Initial meetings for all business-related matters will vary in time depending on the topics discussed. Because we will be giving you legal advice and discussing various strategies, there is a charge for this meeting. Although you have no obligation to hire us to work for you after the first meeting, you will receive advice and information you can use immediately.
How we are different for Business Owners
Many business lawyers take a “one-size fits all” approach with their clients; they do this so they can work with as many people as possible in a short period of time. One problem is you receive an impersonal experience; but even worse than that, this type of planning can lead to unintended results in the long run for your business.
When lawyers do not take the time to inquire, listen, understand and truly consider your businesses individual circumstances, the result is that your business documents and model does not end up reflecting what’s very best for the structure and ultimately the growth of your business.
So even though you may pay less up front to get a standard set of documents or corporate set up, you lose money in the long run.
Our law firm is right for you if you want a trusted advisor to turn to for the life of business,
- to help you with ensuring you have the right business model in place and can navigate to a new one if you don’t,
- to help you with getting the right agreements in place with vendors, team members, investors, partners and others,
- to help you explore potential opportunities,
- to evaluate insurance buying decisions, asset protection planning choices, and tax saving strategies,
- to keep you out of trouble and respond when you get too close to the edge.
If that’s what you want, we just might be the right law practice for you.
Here are some of the ways we are different from most traditional business planning lawyers:
All of our fees are fixed fees agreed to in advance, so there are no surprises. At our initial meeting, you will choose the level of planning and fee that works best for your business, so there will never be any surprises.
We are proactive advisors who check in with you and your business on a regular basis so we can put our legal minds to work to help you grow your business, helping you take the best-calculated risks so you can receive the biggest rewards. We don’t just prepare a set of legal documents for you and send you on your way until something happens.
We meet with you at least quarterly via our Business Growth Membership program. We foster a lifetime, ongoing relationship with our clients so we can guide you through all of your business’ stages – preparing your business for succession or sale and always focused on helping you get to the next level. Throughout the life of your business, things change. You change; your assets change; your business changes; the law will definitely change. We are here to help you navigate those changes.
We have a whole team in place to answer your quick questions and to make the legal process incredibly easy and painless for you and your business. You never have to worry about unreturned phone calls or endless games of phone tag.
We help you get your legal and financial house in order by helping you make smart choices about things like buying insurance, selling your business, retirement planning so you never spend more than you have to or get taken advantage of by unscrupulous sales people who see your business as a cash cow for them.
Legacy Planning. We believe that your business is here to last and we want to help make sure that’s the case. Your work is meaningful and we will work with you to keep it that way.
Before Hiring a Business Lawyer Understand the Difference
You have already seen from our welcome that we are different. We speak differently than most lawyers, we talk more like you than most of our colleagues. That’s because we are you — first and foremost, we are entrepreneurs, business owners just like you who understand what it takes to start a business, grow a business, and turn that business into a venture that improves the world forever.
Explaining to you how we’re different (in ways you can’t see on the surface) requires an explanation of what the “traditional” experience with a business lawyer is like. If you’ve worked with a lawyer to prepare business entity formation or incorporation documents for you in the past, this will sound familiar.
During that traditional experience, you’ll go in and meet with a lawyer who might make things seem complicated and confusing. You’ll have a good idea that the lawyer is smart and seems to know what he or she is doing, so you’ll nod and answer questions as if you understand everything. Because you want to do the right thing for your business, you’ll have the lawyer prepare incorporation documents for you and you’ll sign the documents, feeling relieved that you’ve got that taken care of.
But, then what?
Maybe you will get a fancy Corporate Record Binder to take home with you. Maybe. (I’ve seen plenty of lawyers who don’t even do that.) You’ll take your fancy planning binder home, stick it on a shelf or in a drawer, mark incorporate business off on your checklist as DONE and never think about it again. Until something happens, that is.
You might remember your business lawyer said something about agreements (with clients, vendors, lenders, partners) but it didn’t go beyond conversation and you realize you still have open-ended incomplete agreements. Maybe you have even asked your lawyer for help, but you call your lawyer’s office, get a voicemail, leave a message and wait for a call back, (which takes several hours at least and sometimes days) and by that time, you’ll have gotten busy with other things and never get around to finishing that agreement.
And it’s the same way for all those other things you know you’ve got to get handled – trademarks/copyrights, insurance, maybe even financial systems and tax strategy.
Perhaps you do connect with your lawyer by phone, ask a few questions and then a few weeks later, you’ll get a bill in the mail for $67.50 for 15 minutes of your lawyer’s time for answering a couple of questions. You’ll make a mental note– don’t call lawyer ever again unless absolutely necessary.
Years go by and you don’t talk to your lawyer. What you don’t realize is that you not only never finalized your agreements, but your lawyer never customized your operating agreement or bylaws. You have not been having annual meetings or documenting annual meeting minutes.
Business will go on and you’ll know you’ve got these things hanging out, incomplete, but you are way too busy to think about it. It puts a slight drag on your creativity to know they are out there, but you don’t want to call your lawyer because you know you’ll get a bill in the mail two weeks later.
Plus, your lawyer doesn’t seem to be able to move things forward either and you are simply too busy to project manage anything that does not contribute to the bottom line.
You’ll hear something about a change in the tax law, but you figure you’d surely get a letter in the mail from your lawyer if it was something that affected you, so you don’t worry about it. And, you’d have to dig through boxes to find your incorporation documents so you can remember your lawyer’s name and find her contact information. Who has time for that?
It’s not until something happens (an employee lawsuit, a client complaint, a vendor dispute, a big tax bill or an audit, or the need/desire to borrow money, raise capital or your own incapacity or death) that you (or your loved ones) realize with a sinking feeling, your corporate documents are incomplete and you are not able to respond properly to the situation.
You are at a loss. And you can see clearly that you’ve lost time and by not having this all taken care of and, boy, are things an emotional mess. What you may not know is that you’ve been losing money all the way along. Or, at the very least keeping your business from generating anywhere close to the profits it can.
You see, having your business legal affairs in order and complete is as high priority as having your marketing plan and business model in place. It’s one of the little-known secrets of the most successful companies – they were set up right.
It’s no mistake that the IRS audits unincorporated sole proprietors 5-7 times more often than it does incorporate business entities … they IRS knows if you do not have your business set up right, you are probably not doing your taxes right. And we know that you are probably also not hiring and firing right, have not enough (or too much) insurance and that it’s probably not the right type. You are probably paying more for insurance than you need to as well if you have it.
All of this leads to your business being built on a house of cards, one crisis away from closing your doors
How do I know all this?
Because not too long ago, my own business was set up this way too and once I saw how my business changed once I took care of the foundation, I swore I would never let this happen to one of my clients.
And since then, I have seen countless clients come in to see me who have had this exact experience.
Unfortunately, what I discovered is that most lawyers who hold themselves out as business lawyers, do nothing more for their clients than incorporate their entity and send them on their way. Heck, you could get your business entity incorporated a lot less expensively by using a document drafting service if that’s all you are going to have taken care of by your lawyer.
Your business lawyer should be a counselor, not just a document preparer.
Our Firm Helps You Prepare for Business Growth and Success
What makes our firm different is that we were built with the needs of growing businesses in mind. Just because you can’t afford or don’t need in-house General Counsel, doesn’t mean you don’t need counsel.
We are that counsel.
We understand you are BUSY, you are growing, you are planning for a business of prosperity and you value ease, convenience, and efficiency. You want to know you’ve made the best decisions for your business and that you’ve got all the business details handled so you can be as creative and expansive as possible.
That is our focus as well. We’ve developed unique systems to give you access to a business lawyer as was previously only available to the likes of Google, Facebook, and Zappos so you can have the guidance you need to build a business of meaning, significance, and serious profitability.
We encourage communication with our clients. In fact, we’ve thrown out the time clocks so you never have to be afraid to call with a quick question. Everything we do is billed on a flat-fee, monthly basis, agreed to in advance, so there are never any surprises.
We have a whole team to serve you. When you call our office to ask your quick question, you won’t have to wait hours or days for a phone call back. You’ll get your question answered, right away. And, if you need to schedule a more in-depth legal or strategic call with your personal lawyer, a call will be scheduled when you’re both available and ready for the call so we can make the very best use of your time and not waste your time by leaving voicemail after voicemail back and forth.
And we monitor your business activities on a regular basis (determined by the planning level chosen with our firm) so we can be proactive about ensuring deals are documented, business moves forward, new ideas are protected, new hires have agreements in place and your company is always in order.
We’ve created unique membership programs to keep your legal, insurance, financial and tax affairs up to date month in and month out as well as give you access to our Trusted Team of Legal Experts for guidance on ANY legal or financial matter.
Here’s the way we look at it, one day you will need a lawyer. I don’t know why and I don’t know when, but when you do, you will be grateful you can call us and we’ll be here to advise you or get you out of a jam.
Lastly, we don’t just take care of your business now – we make sure it will be a valuable asset that continues to create wealth for your family after you are gone. This is what true legacy is all about.
Many business lawyers overlook this most important of issues, important to your family at least.
One day, you will either want to sell your business or you will want to pass it on to your loved ones so that they are taken care of by what you’ve built.
Businesses built right are built with this in mind. And that’s exactly what we help you do – build a business that can run without you one day.
And that means you can take a vacation, retire, or pass your business on to your family and know it will continue to bring in money, serve your clients and benefit everyone who comes into contact with it.
And really, what could be better than that? I mean, ultimately, it is why you are in business, right?
We’ve developed several tools that allow us to support you to start, grow and prepare for sale or inheritance a business that deeply serves the world, your clients, and your life. I can’t go into all of the details here, but we’ll definitely talk about when you come in to meet with your Personal Business Lawyer.
We look forward to seeing you and caring for your business soon!
– Jac Schuster
PS – if you think this all sounds like it’s going to be expensive, well, you are right and you’re wrong. I can guarantee you that if you qualify to meet with a Personal Business Lawyer, that your overall fees will be substantially less costly than it would be for your family, partner or clients if you or a key partner or client died without handling these matters or if your business gets in a jam without these things being taken care of.
And, I’ve never had a single business owner who believed in this kind of planning and wanted to put it in place for their business leave my office because they couldn’t afford it. We’ve made creative financing available to our clients because we know that this planning is the foundation for a business of success!
Entity Formation & Maintenance
Forming your business entity at our law firm is not one size fits all and is never handled in a vacuum. If you wanted once size fits all, you could use a document drafting service or online legal document website.
Before we form your entity, we get to know you, what’s important to you, what your business is going to do in the world and how you plan to exit it. We ask you questions that will inform the tax structure of your entity, how you own the entity and what happens to your business entity when you pass on (or you pass the company on to a new owner).
We ask you the questions so you do not worry that you don’t know the right questions to ask. And then we discuss your options with you in a way that allows you to know you are making informed decisions about:
- Where to form your entity (Nevada, Delaware, Wyoming or your own home state are all options);
- What type of entity to form (LLC, S-Corporation, LLC taxed as an S-Corporation, Partnership, or C-Corporation are the most likely options we will consider);
- How to set up your bank accounts,
- What type of insurance to get,
- Which agreements you need immediately (and which can wait),
- Which intellectual property to protect (and whether to own it in a separate entity from your operating assets),
- How much and what type of insurance you need,
- How to work with your CPA for max tax savings and more.
We see the formation of your business entity as just the beginning of a long-term relationship in which we are able to become the trusted counselor you turn to for help with all of your business decisions.
Think about it this way – Warren Buffett doesn’t just turn to Charlie Munger (his personal business lawyer) for help incorporating his business entities, he turns to Charlie before entering into any business deal that will impact the bottom line. That’s the type of relationship we have with our clients.
Maintaining Your Business Entity – Compliance & So Much More
We don’t really like the word compliance because it seems to suggest that we are going to restrict you in some way — but, it’s just the opposite…
Through our regular updating programs, we take care of all the little details, so you can stay creative and expansive.
At most business planning law firms the relationship ends when you sign your incorporation documents. At [name of law firm] we see the signing your incorporation documents as the beginning of our relationship with your business.
Over time, your business will change and grow; your ownership structure may change; we know for sure that the law will change. Your business documents must accommodate all of these changes in order to make sure your business is on track for growth and continued success.
If your business does not have annual meetings, maintain meeting minutes, have agreements, and is not properly updated and maintained over time, your legal documents become worthless – – worth no more than the paper they were printed on.
And the costs of failing to update your legal documents regularly are typically far greater than keeping everything current.
To help you make sure your entity is maintained properly, we offer [name of law firm] Business Growth Membership Programs.
Our membership programs are designed so we can proactively monitor the activities of your business on a monthly, quarterly or bi-annual basis. By doing this, we can stay on top of your business’ legal, insurance, financial and tax details so you can relax and be more creative, more expansive and live more into the possibilities for your business knowing everything else is handled.
Making Agreements & Sealing Deals
Incorporating your business entity is just the very beginning – we help your business grow!
You probably haven’t thought of your business like this, but really it’s just a series of agreements. Agreements with investors or lenders, clients, and vendors, employees, and independent contractors, partners and customers; the success of your business depend on your ability to make agreements and seal the deal.
This is where most business owners struggle mightily and we can help. We love to create clear agreements, help you set boundaries and manage expectations. We know that the future of your business hinges on it. That’s why we won’t simply incorporate your business and send you on your way. Nope, every engagement with us begins with either a review of your current agreements or, if you don’t have any, the creation of the core agreements that are vital to your business.
Then, we will proactively monitor your business activities to ensure we are helping you seal the deal on an ongoing basis. Plus, provide you with template agreements you can use to handle recurring agreements that come up consistently, such as those with your clients.
We use an innovative agreement process that gets all parties on the same page and leads only to triple win situations – that means that an agreement has to be a win for you, the other party and the situation as a whole. If it’s not a winner — no deal.
You see, we understand that it’s your upfront agreements (and your/our ability to renegotiate those agreements) that will keep you in the flow of business and out of the crunch of conflict.
Business Succession Planning
How We Guide You to Leave a Legacy That’s About Much More Than Just Your Money
After you are gone (or in the event of your incapacity), your loved ones (family, partner, clients, vendors, and others) will miss you deeply, and your business needs to be able to go on to support them.
You will either leave them with a legacy that is meaningful, easy to manage (or cash out) and keep supporting them or you will leave them with a big mess to deal with.
As an entrepreneur, this may be the most significant issue you can think about when it comes to the well- being of all of what matters most to you – your work and your family.
And yet, time and time again, this issue is overlooked by business owners and business lawyers serving their business owner clients.
Once your business entity is incorporated and online with agreements, insurance, intellectual property planned for and protected, and financial systems filling the coffers, we shift the conversation away from setting up to the all important exit.
It’s not the first time we will have discussed it, as all of our business set ups are planned for based on your eventual exit plan (sell the business at a certain point or operate it for income until death then pass it on).
It will be an ongoing conversation throughout the life of your business – what can we do today to ensure your business can and will continue to serve up your particular brand of goodness whether you are on vacation, taking a health break, after its sold or when you pass it on to loved ones after you are gone.
In addition, through our unique legacy process, we will ensure you leave your loved ones a tangible expression of your love for them far beyond your money or even your business.
Imagine if you had a music album length message from your great, great grandfather talking about his life during the great depression and how he made his money, ran his business and capturing the most important lessons he learned along the way. Would that be valuable to you and your family today?
Of course, it would. There’s no more valuable asset that we have than the lessons we have learned.
Most of these lessons are passed down (often in a somewhat twisted form) from one generation to the next via conditioning, not intentionally or consciously at all. Imagine the wealth your family would have if lessons could be passed down consciously.
As we shift into another time, we are learning that the lessons of the past hold a tremendous amount of value and those who can harness those lessons and build on that foundation are the most well off, have the easiest, most enjoyable lives – and because we want this for your family, we use a proprietary process for ensuring you pass on these most valuable lessons in the most conscious, direct, and clear way we know how
If this interests you, please ask more about it when you come into meet with us. Contact our office for availability.