5 of the Top Legal Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Company

Published January 23rd, 2024 by Klafehn, Heise & Johnson P.L.L.C.

Launching a new company is an exciting venture filled with aspirations and plans. However, amidst the enthusiasm, it's crucial not to overlook the legal aspects of starting a business. Overlooking these can lead to significant challenges down the road. At Klafehn, Heise & Johnson P.L.L.C., we have guided numerous startups through the legal complexities of establishing a successful business. Here are five of the top legal mistakes startups often make and how to avoid them.

1. Not Choosing the Right Business Structure

One of the first critical decisions for any startup is selecting the appropriate business structure. Choices like sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership, or corporation each have different legal and tax implications. The wrong choice can lead to unnecessary tax burdens, personal liability issues, or challenges in raising capital.

How to Avoid: Carefully assess your business needs, future growth plans, and tax implications with a legal professional. An attorney can help you understand the benefits and limitations of each structure and choose the one that aligns best with your business goals.

2. Ignoring Intellectual Property Protection

Many startups underestimate the importance of protecting their intellectual property (IP). This includes trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Failing to protect these can result in competitors using your ideas or products without consequence.

How to Avoid: Conduct thorough IP searches and register your IP rights where applicable. Consulting with a legal profesional in IP law can ensure that your innovations and brand identity are well-protected.

3. Overlooking the Importance of Shareholder Agreements

If your business has multiple founders or investors, not having a clear shareholder, operating or partnership agreement can lead to disputes and misunderstandings. These agreements should outline each party's rights, responsibilities, and what happens if someone wants to exit the business.

How to Avoid: Draft a comprehensive agreement that covers various scenarios. A legal professional can help you create a document that protects everyone's interests and provides clear guidelines for resolving potential disputes.

4. Inadequate Contracts and Agreements

Startups often make the mistake of using generic contracts or, worse, operating on verbal agreements. This can lead to legal vulnerabilities, especially when disputes arise.

How to Avoid: Invest in professionally drafted contracts tailored to your business. These should include terms of service, employee contracts, and supplier agreements. A lawyer can ensure that your contracts are enforceable and protect your business interests.

5. Neglecting Employment Laws and Regulations

Non-compliance with employment laws can lead to costly legal issues. This includes misclassifying employees as independent contractors, not adhering to wage laws, or failing to maintain a compliant workplace.

How to Avoid: Stay informed about the employment laws relevant to your business. Work with a legal advisor to ensure that your employment practices, policies, and documents comply with federal and state laws.


Starting a company is an intricate process that requires more than just business acumen; it demands a keen awareness of legal responsibilities. Avoiding these common legal mistakes can set the foundation for a successful and sustainable business. For those embarking on this entrepreneurial journey, contact Klafehn, Heise & Johnson P.L.L.C. for comprehensive legal guidance and support.

Legal Disclaimer: This blog post offers general information about common legal mistakes in starting a company and is not intended as legal advice. The legal needs of a startup can vary significantly. For personalized legal advice, consult with the professionals at Klafehn, Heise & Johnson P.L.L.C. Portions of this content are considered ATTORNEY ADVERTISING under New York State Unified Court System Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR Part 1200). Past results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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