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Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.
Every business owner should have a mentor. Mentors encourage you, provide advice and expertise. And a good mentor can also help you avoid legal issues.
The first step is to find a quality mentor. She should have relevant industry experience. She should also be able to advise in areas in which your business skills are lacking. This may mean that you will need more than one mentor.
The next step is to prepare an agenda of topics to discuss with your mentor. Recognize that your mentor's advice is not a substitute for legal advice. But she can help you avoid legal trouble and unnecessary attorneys' fees.
Here are five ways to utilize your mentor for legal help:
1. Ask about her attorney: Your mentor is a great resource to ask for a referral for a business or specialized attorney.
Ask how often she meets with her attorney. Learn the types of tasks she has an attorney help her with. Ask if there are any tasks she now knows she could have completed without an attorney to save money.
Are there any examples of when she wishes she had contacted her attorney earlier to avoid trouble?
2. Talk about business entities and employees: Ask which business entities your mentor has owned. Find out why she chose them. Learn the start-up costs and legal challenges she encountered with each.
3. Learn from her mistakes: There is no need to recreate the wheel - especially if that wheel involves lawsuits. Ask your mentor what legal mistakes she has made. Be sure to find out what, in hindsight, she would have done differently.
4. Learn from her triumphs: Ask what she has successfully done to avoid lawsuits and liabilities.
5. Review and revise your business plan and budget together: Apply the insight your mentor has provided to your business. For instance, you may set a goal in your plan to change business entities and revise your projected budget to account for the associated costs and attorneys' fees.
Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.