Everybody wants to be their own boss.
Yep. That's the American Dream. Start your own business, make a little money, take orders from no man, direct your own destiny. What a plan! There's a TV series called "Walker, Texas Ranger," starring Chuck Norris. In one of the episodes (actually, they are all pretty much the same), gentle Chuck ("speak softly but swing a big kick") is confronted in some bar room fight by a maniacal pool-stick wielding, intoxicated, long-haired, unshaven, overweight thug, bound in leather and plastered with tattoos, who charges at our mild-mannered Chuck shrieking that he is "gonna tear your head off!" Chuck remains motionless, smiling tenderly with no increase in pulse or body temperature, and calmly replies in a soft and pleasing tone of voice (and with no facial or body movements that could even remotely be likened to what we would normally expect to see in a person who's being fast descended upon by a 300lb maniac who's sole and declared purpose is to make good on his promise to "tear your head off") Chuck, as I say, calmly replies,
"It's not going to be that easy."
Well, it is sort of the same thing about starting your own business (which is the easy part), and staying in business (that's the tough part). Lots can happen that confront and challenge your business plan, and oftentimes these confrontations and challenges present legal questions or legal issues.
After everything, now this.
As if it's not already enough that you have to keep your customers happy, deal with your competitors, manage your employees, pay your insurance premiums, take care of the lights and utilities, keep the computers up and running, answer phone calls all day, put up with unsolicited solicitors, pay your quarterly taxes, deal with health insurance and general liability insurance premiums, etc. On top of that, you have to get paid for your work, which (although it may sound to some people like an auto pilot) can be a whole new adventure in itself (and not always successful, at that). Layered on top of all of the above is the fact that we're all "workin' for the weekend." We all have our "real lives" that we want to live with our family, friend(s), or sometimes (better yet) our little old selves. So, when you or your business feel threatened by legal challenges, it can sometimes seem that you have hit the last straw.
You might as well go to law school yourself.
No trade, field or profession is as heavily regulated as business and commerce; not medicine, not public safety, not taxation, not criminal justice. Business and commerce are hands down the most regulated of all. It started with the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution which gave Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. From there, it just reads like U.S. History 101. Our federal government enacted legislation relating to anti-trust, unfair labor practices, industrial safety, civil rights, patents, taxation, securities, etc.
At the state level (Washington), our State Legislature regulates licensing of businesses, enacts building codes, attends to the registration and bonding of contractors, the formation of limited liability companies and partnerships, establishes the rights and remedies of merchants with regard to the sale of goods and services, prohibits unfair and deceptive trade practices, maintains a workman's compensation system, promotes industrial safety, regulates the disposal of hazardous or toxic waste, provides for employment security, and on and on and on. That is quite the legal framework for someone to operate within. Plus, the framework is always being amended by the State Legislature in order to keep current with the needs and signs of the time.
Where do I look for answers to these legal questions?
If the government has cited or fined or assessed you or your business, the government (city, county, state, federal) will always give you written notice of what law you allegedly violated. From there, you can look up the law yourself. On the other hand, if your legal challenge comes from customers or competitors or contractors or employees or adjoining land owners, etc., you can research and find applicable laws by checking out the Resources page on this website. That will get you started (and maybe finished) on your road to getting some answers to these legal matters that you may face.
You can also be proactive.
Yes, you don't have to wait until the parachute fails to open before you run back (more accurately, "drop" back) to the hanger to get your back-up chute that you forgot to pack. You can be proactive. You can sign up for some great seminars that will teach or remind and motivate you to take time now to avoid legal problems later. The seminars are on the seminar page of this website. They are not cheap and they do require a commitment of your time. But you know what they say about an ounce of prevention....
Frequently asked questions (FAQ's).
This may not have answered all of your questions about business & commerce. We anticipated that. So, we have prepared an additional Legal FAQ's webpage which addresses the most frequently asked questions with regard to business and commerce law.