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Startup Law 101 Series - What Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Business Law

The Startup Law 101 Series is aimed at educating founders and entrepreneurs about the basics of startup business law.

Here are my suggestions on this important question.

1. Law is fundamentally a specialty field and entrepreneurs should leave it, for the most part, to the specialists when it comes to technical details.

This part can't be emphasized enough. Law is a maze of complexities. If you, as an entrepreneur, try to master it at that level, you will be an unusual entrepreneur if you are not quickly discouraged into abandoning the effort altogether.

2. Entrepreneurs can feel trapped, though, by specialists who hem them in and sometimes abuse them. Lawyers have been known to attempt to capitalize on the "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" (FUD) factor that can be used to scare up business where none legitimately exists. So it can be unsafe to leave everything to the specialists without being informed about their proper role and without being proactive in managing their activities as your hired agents.

3. Entrepreneurs should attempt to gain a working knowledge of the law as it affects their companies. The emphasis here is on "working." This is not a technical knowledge. This is not about going to law school or about learning to think like a lawyer. It is about trying to get the equivalent know-how about law that a serial entrepreneur might have -- it is about knowing the decision points and the main factors that affect those decisions so that you can manage a lawyer's efforts in giving you technical assistance on those points. It is about learning the fundamentals of how companies are formed, funded, managed, and sold. It is about understanding how deals work within a company context. As an entrepreneur, you don't have to know how these things work beyond following the advice of your lawyers. But you will be far sharper if you do. You can be led by the professionals or you can actively manage their efforts, even while using their expertise, to help achieve your goals.

4. Therefore, though law is fundamentally boring for most entrepreneurs, the smart ones attempt to educate themselves in this area as needed to achieve the goal of being effectively proactive in working with lawyers and of being able to use the law effectively to further their business goals.

5. What does this investment of time and effort get you? It will educate you on how to use the law to help protect yourself from liability risks relating to your business. It will improve your ability to plan effectively for your company's launch and growth. Finally, it will save you money because it will improve your ability to manage the time of your lawyers.