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Free legal help for small businesses: a very useful guide to what’s on offer

It’s easy to put your head in the sand about the legal issues your business faces. What’s more it’s hard to find good help online without someone trying to sell you something, and the government’s website, GOV.UK, can seem like a bit of a labyrinth.

Fear not, comrades, Small Business Heroes to the rescue. We’ve trawled our internet and put everything all in one place just for you. Aren’t we great?

As with many things in life, offence is the best defence, and seeking legal advice while planning out your business is the best way to avoid running into stressful, costly legal troubles later. There’s a great article in the Guardian explaining why you should just bite the bullet and seek advice sooner rather than later if legal issues are on the horizon. So no excuses!

Here’s what we found.

The type of legal help you will need depends on what category your business falls into. If you’re just starting out and you don’t know what type of business you’ll be running – take a look here. You’ll need this information handy no matter what your issue is.

The government’s business support website doesn’t have a button that says “Click here for free legal advice” unfortunately, and you’ll have to dig down in the relevant section in order to find a breakdown of your legal obligations. However, we have found some nifty shortcuts that cover two big areas of the law – employing people and issues with suppliers, as well as our guide to getting free legal advice from solicitors.

The legal side of employing people – GOV.UK

The gov.uk website has comprehensive advice about hiring and paying employees and your legal obligations as an employer. If you’re just starting out, make sure you register as an employer with HMRC.

Here’s a breakdown of your legal obligations as an employer relating to:

·         Working hours and contracts

·         Redundancies, leaving and dismissals

·         Keeping employees safe

·         Paying your employees

·         Pensions for your staff

·         Hiring people

·         Employee holidays and time off

·         Unions and employee rights

Problems with suppliers – Citizens Advice Bureau

Some of the most common issues encountered by small business owners are problems to do with the goods and services supplied by other businesses.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is a charity set up to help consumers with a range of issues and it can also help you as a small business owner.

It has a page dedicated to consumer problems relating to business to business services. If you have bought goods or services and there’s a problem, read this first before marching off to your solicitor or threatening legal action (never a good idea until you have consulted a legal professional first). It’s nicely broken down into sections relevant to what you have bought.

If in doubt, get in touch with your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau and ask one of their advisers to run through the problem with you. If that’s no good, read on to find your local free legal clinic.

Free one-on-one legal advice

As the Guardian article we mentioned earlier covers, there are free legal clinics dotted across the UK that let you drop in for some free initial advice. Typically these sessions run for 15-35 minutes in which a volunteer solicitor will assess your problem and give their legal opinion on what your options are.

Find a LawWorks clinic near you.

To maximise the time you have in your session, go prepared. Here’s the FAQ telling you what to expect, how to prepare and what to bring to the clinic.

A solicitor can help you with legal issues relating to any area of your business and help you to work through a legal advice checklist to ensure you are covered across the board.

Here’s a helpful article listing the business areas where a solicitor can advise you and a tool to help you find a solicitor.