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"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

For business owners, Benjamin Franklin could have easily added "hiring a lawyer" given that, at some point, most companies will need some legal services.

Even though they are a part of the business landscape, hiring a lawyer can be intimidating because they don't come cheap and they're usually needed when something goes wrong. But hiring a lawyer also plays a key role in determining whether a business is successful.

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Rob Hyndman, who leads Hyndman Law in Toronto, says having at least one conversation with a good business lawyer is an important first step in launching a business. "There are a variety of pitfalls your lawyer can help you avoid, and a few precautions at the outset can help you avoid serious difficulties later on."

Mr. Hyndman says finding the right lawyer does not need to be a difficult or a painful exercise. The most important consideration, he says, is finding someone who shares your values and provides the level of service required for your business. He recommends that you do an in-depth initial interview to talk about the lawyer's experience, his or her approach to your legal needs, and, of course, the fee structure.

"Lawyers often specialize in particular areas of business, so asking people in your industry for referral recommendations is often the best way to focus on well-regarded people who know your business," he says.

Among the things a lawyer can provide, Mr. Hyndman says, is advice on personal tax planning, given the ownership structure of a business can have a major effect on after-tax results. Having the right business structure, he says, is important because tax liability issues, for example, often lead entrepreneurs to favour one type of business structure - a limited partnership - rather than incorporation.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting, which offers strategic and tactical marketing, communications and social media services to start-ups, as well as larger companies. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware , b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understand how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a tech reporter for more than a decade with The Globe & Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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