This article will navigate some of the important legal issues a startup is likely to face and a brief guide into how to manage them. They will be broken down into five main areas:
Register your company
You will decide who runs your business, how the business will operate, and registering that information with Companies House. This is legal procedure.
To register your company you will need to find; an available company name, you can check to see if your idea has already been taken and the regulations you must adhere to; decide on your registered company address, somewhere all correspondence will be delivered and collected; decide the type of company you will be, private limited, private unlimited or public limited; who will run the company, directors and board members; and the shares you will issue and at what value.
This will protect each shareholder’s rights and prevent undue conflict. The document will outline the share issue, the company officers, requirements, rights and how dividends will be allocated. It will also outline the process for when a shareholder leaves the company.
To avoid conflict and ensure the smooth running of your company a partnership agreement should be laid out to define detailed roles of each partner, capital contributors, rights and responsibilities and what will happen in the event of separation or of a single partner leaving the company. It will outline matters of profit, duties and management systems.
This defines which member of the company retains each allocation of shares or stocks in the company. A share certificate must be allocated within two months of the business creation or the introduction of new shares. It will cover share allocation, price, date of issue, a unique certificate number, the type of shares and also member and company details.
It is a legal requirement for companies to keep minutes of all board meetings. An accurate record of decisions and discussions are necessary as evidence in case of issue or member disagreement in future. They are set to record staff, accounting, documentation and important decision making agreements. They must include the time and date, directors present, other attendees, the chairman, the agenda, the matter in question and if the appropriate number of members were present to carry out any decisions raised.
To outline your financial proposal in order to gain funds you will require a business plan. This will help create a real plan for gathering funds, repaying investments, outlining your objectives and strategies, all in order to make your company successful and profitable. It will set clear goals and how to make them achievable.
If you need to borrow money or are to lend to others as part of your business service, an agreement or contract will be required to make sure your process is legal and compliant. The document is created to protect both the lender and borrower in case of future conflict, it will outline any obligations or restrictions, and also rules on early repayment, late or missed payments, and failure to complete the full payment.
Contracts must be administered for every staff member; directors, partners and business owners are no exception. Every member must comply with the rules laid out pertaining to their position and because of higher levels of involvement and security for the company these documents will go into extended levels of detail than more general level contracts.
A letter of appointment is a clear way to outline the roles and expectations in a director’s role. It should cover duties, status, expected commitment, payments and expense allowances, legal and financial obligations and what would happen in the event of a termination.
Job specification and offer letter
Recruiting members for your company will require advertising or agency contribution. The specification is required to outline the purpose and role of the position, skillsets or qualifications required, remuneration, schedule, bonuses and how to reply. The offer letter will give the applicant the option of accepting the role, understanding the conditions and obligations, and that they will be entering into a legal contract if they choose to accept.
You will be providing legal cover outlining every aspect of the position for both employer and staff for the term of employment. This will outline all required terms in fairness, of the role and benefits to create a mutually rewarding relationship for all.
Your goods or services
Website privacy and T&Cs
Your website privacy or data protection policy is a legal document to protect you when trading on the Internet. It is used regarding the collection of data in all areas of your website’s management and presentation. Whether e-commerce, blogging, chatroom or straightforward marketing pages, data protection is key in today’s society and must be covered securely and in detail.
Your service agreement outlines the expectations, rules and obligations to both partners when engaging in a business contract. It will cover terms, rates, control, liability, confidentiality and of course, the service provided. According to Jones Whyte Law, this legal document is to outline facts if dispute arises that leads to conflict through a court or legal system.
Sale of goods agreements
This document is a record and contract of sales pertaining to goods including all relevant information; price, date, deliveries, and return policy, in order to protect the buyer from insubstantial goods and as a proof of purchase if returned to the seller.
The terms and conditions of sales or services will be outlined thoroughly covering every aspect of what both the buyer and seller expect to be both fair and that are legal. This will be a detailed document to cover eventualities that rarely happen or are even unlikely in order to protect both parties in the event that the unforeseen may happen. These are the rules and the laws required for each and every sale, behaviour and business practice.
Intellectual property rights are the assets of many businesses; trademarks, patents, design rights and copyright where a physical entity isn’t always available. A legal document will be assigned to prove ownership and the control over any of the above and more, depending on the type of business service and product.
If you are sharing sensitive information with your clients or customers as part of your businesses sales, growth or development then a confidentiality agreement will disclose private information regarding your business. You should never disclose any matter of importance and sensitivity until you have the agreement drawn up and signed outlining the repercussions of breaking trust.
Setting up a professional, efficient and successful company will require many more legal guides, documents and agreements than these. Finding a trustworthy and professional lawyer to provide your business with everything it needs is an important step. They will advise you at every step required and also in those you may have overlooked — it is imperative you protect yourself, and your team, legally, to ensure a smooth and efficient operation through both the good times and those more challenging ones.