May 28, 2015

Having represented a wide variety of businesses for over thirteen years, we have seen a pattern develop as far as legal hurdles that must be overcome to achieve their goals.  Here are a few of the “culprits” that we expect to re-appear in 2015, especially as many new ventures are launched:

Leasing & Financing – Many small businesses seeking to acquire new space or expand an existing space will need to negotiate a lease agreement or lease amendment.  A commercial tenant can benefit from legal advice regarding the basic deal terms (rent, term, renewals, etc.), legal terms (indemnification, exculpation, default, etc.) and the form of guaranty.

Zoning – Many small businesses in New York require local municipal permits before opening for business.  For example, a horseback riding academy may require a special use permit, a retail store may require a change of use permit, and an office may require a parking variance.  Consulting an attorney early in the process to perform a zoning analysis can help develop a roadmap for completion and estimate how long the approval process will take.

Business Entity Formation – To an experienced practitioner, setting up a new business entity may seem simple yet to many small businesses the paperwork seems daunting.  Choosing the right type of business entity and having it properly formed can save time and money and ensure that the business receives the benefit of the legal protections.

Insurance – Small business owners may have questions about meeting landlord and regulatory insurance requirements, as well as umbrella coverage and other types of insurance particular to their trade.  An attorney can help liaise with insurance agents and give advice about exceptions to coverage or filing claims.

Intellectual Property Protection – This is perhaps the most common issue confronting small businesses today.  Whether it is patent, trademark or copyright protection, small businesses recognize the value of intellectual property and how critical its protection is to their long term success.  An experienced attorney can help draft website terms of use, handle trademark registrations, draft copyright statements and, when necessary, send and respond to cease and desist notices.

Commercial Contract Protections – Small businesses today often negotiate contracts with customers, vendors and other parties for goods and services.  An experienced attorney can help negotiate favorable terms which memorialize the understanding of the parties and reduce the risk of litigation.

Employment Issues – An experienced attorney can help draft independent contractor agreements, non-solicitation agreements, non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, as well as employee manuals addressing disciplinary procedures, termination, sexual harassment policies, internet policies, dress code, benefits, sick and vacation time, and other relevant issues.

Bankruptcy – Small businesses may encounter bankruptcy issues if a customer or vendor files for bankruptcy in federal court.  It is important to timely obtain sound legal advice regarding the filing of a notice of claim or responding to court papers.

Foreclosure – Unfortunately foreclosure of real property has become all too common.  Small businesses may request non-disturbance agreements from landlord’s lenders.

Environmental Compliance – A commercial tenant performing its build out may encounter asbestos, lead based paint and storage tank removal issues. An experienced attorney can help identify these issues early in the process, liaise with qualified environmental professionals, and provide legal advice on due diligence, innocent landowner defenses to strict liability, and contract clauses such as environmental indemnity.

If you have any questions about setting up a new business in New York or related matters, please do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney at (914) 338-8050. For more information about our firm please visit www.betenskylaw.com.