Avoid These Year End Legal Blunders

As 2015 comes to a close, it is time to start thinking about doing some year-end housekeeping for your online business. To help you stay on track, we at Hawthorn Law have compiled a quick Legal Checklist for your Online Business. (FYI, this is different than the legal audit checklist we offer to our email subscribers– you may want to download that too!)

CLICK HERE to download a handy pdf of this list to print off and keep on your desk for handy reference…

Taking care of these action items now will help you as you start to think ahead to your goals for next year, so you can focus on what matters to your business and forget about the boring legal stuff that wastes your precious time (or just let us worry about that for you!)

We at Hawthorn Law want to make sure that your proverbial “legal house” is in order so that you don’t miss any deadlines or risk having your corporation administratively dissolved for failure to follow the appropriate corporate formalities.

So, here are the ten items that we recommend you check up on before you take some time off (or maybe not…) for the holidays:

  1. Make sure that you have properly filed your corporate paperwork with the Secretary of State. So this one is directed to those of you out there that basically have forgotten to even form your corporation. There really is no excuse for not doing this. If you started a new business in 2015 and haven’t yet filed your Articles of Organization (as an LLC) or Articles of Incorporation (to form a corporation), make sure you get this done ASAP. If you need assistance figuring out which entity is appropriate for your particular situation, you can review the blog posts/videos I did on this subject (here, here, or check out the video resources here), or just give us a call or fill out a contact form and we can schedule a no obligation strategy session with you.
  2. Make sure to file your Annual Reports. Different states have different filing requirements, deadlines, and fees. And if you miss the deadline to file your annual report, not only could your corporate entity be administratively dissolved (leaving you without a liability shield… oops), but you could be assessed a late fee. And make no mistake, the late fees can be hefty (in Florida for example, the late fee is $400 if you don’t file by May 1st).
  3. Take care of all corporate formalities. If you are a C-Corporation, have you conducted your “annual meeting” yet for the year? If so, do you have records of this in writing? Get this meeting done and documented by the end of the year so that you don’t have to worry about it next year. In many instances you can waive the notice requirement by statute if all shareholders consent, but it must be documented properly. If you have questions about what legal documentation is required, please contact us here at Hawthorn Law and we can help you with this.
  4. Review all written agreements. Do you have written agreements with your vendors or any independent contractors you have working for you? Now is the time to review these agreements, make sure they are still up to date, and determine whether you will be renewing and/or renegotiating contracts that may be expiring soon.
  5. Review your business systems and job descriptions. This one is tough. Are you employing anyone that isn’t pulling their weight and following the responsibilities outlined for them in a written job description? Do you even have a written job description for each of your employees? Do you have positions that are no longer required or positions you need to fill? Now is the time to assess your business systems, as well as the people that run them for you. If your eyes glaze over when I mention business systems, you should go back and read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber over the holidays…
  6. Review your client engagement letters and contracts. Chances are you haven’t reviewed these in many years, possibly longer.  Have you ever had a lawyer review them or did you find them for free online? (Shame on you if that was the case… wink, wink) Now is the time to look them over and see if any changes, including possibly increasing your billing rates (because who doesn't want to make more money?), are warranted.
  7. Call your accountant. Call your accountant now, before the end of the year. Come January they will be BUSY. See if there are any last minute deductions you could take and make sure all your financial accounts are cleaned up. Determine what bonuses should be paid, if any, and make your year end retirement contributions (or plan for them for the next year).
  8. Do you have an employee and independent contractor handbook? This is an absolute must have for any online business. You need this to protect you from lawsuits and from employees or contractors stealing your hard earned intellectual property. Don't think that will happen to you? Think again…
  9. Review your recurring expenses. In the age of software as a service, many online businesses are paying for lots of services and software that they may not actually be using anymore. Make a list of all your recurring expenses and determine which services or software, if any, you can cut out to save some cash.
  10. Schedule a year end meeting with your attorney. This is a daunting checklist, but a competent business lawyer can help you navigate this minefield, and keep track of all your deadlines for you. If you need assistance, please contact us at Hawthorn Law for a free strategy session.

If you would like to download a helpful pdf of this checklist to print out and keep on your desk for handy reference, Click Here!

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