February 01, 2007

Business Law

Every book I have ever read about starting a business says to do your homework regarding laws and regulations. Trying to de-tangle the complexity of law can certainly make a lay person, like myself, decidedly bald. Most business laws are about honesty and integrity. In other words, you back up what you say and do what you say. Other laws are specific to the type of industry. The apparel/retail industry is mostly regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, although there may be local regulations regarding labor, waste, zoning, etc.

I have no interest in going to law school to try and understand every aspect of business law. I am reading as many lay books as possible about consumer and business law. I have even asked questions and read law-related blogs. My purpose is only to make sure I have all my ducks in a row - to make sure I am not overlooking something important.

Trying to find a lawyer is the first major hurdle. Lawyers seem to be even more specialized than doctors. Sure, I can find a lawyer that can help draft LLC paperwork - that is a general type of problem (and most people can do it without a lawyer). But trying to find a lawyer that can help with issues related to the apparel industry is an entirely different situation. Most of the locally available business lawyers deal with mining or agriculture - the two dominant industries in the area. On top of that, they want you to pay them a retainer of $500-$1000 before they will even talk to you. It makes the concept of "equal protection under the law" a complete crock. Just the same, I keep their phone numbers in my rolodex.

No worries. I am not in any legal trouble. I am just trying to be prepared and educated. I am currently reading:


  1. Esther, I am a lawyer and I can't keep up with it all. You are very smart to do as much legwork as you can on your own. It's very hard for a small business owner to afford good legal services.

    Save the experts for times when the outcome to your business is big (lawsuits, major reorganizations like partnerships or purchase deals, etc.). It is worth it to hire an expensive expert sometimes because they don't have to spend any time in the library looking up the answer, they already know the subject thoroughly.

  2. You're doing all the right things in reading and researching the issues. Other business people in your field are a great resource for issues to tag, maybe the best srouce for those issues that you might not find in the books.

    Unfortunately, being a lawyer is similar to being an undertaker, they are often called to come in to clean up after the mistakes have been made. Hang with the friends and pick the lawyers' brains when possible.

  3. I have had similar difficulty with the SBA. They are a great resource, but few of them truly understand the fashion industry and fashion merchandising. This is why the internet has become so valuable for networking.