When you are the owner and operator of a small business, your legal concerns may not be as big until your business has grown enough to begin brokering deals. Now you have entered new territory, and you want to be sure everything is on the up and up. If the buyer sitting across the table from you has a business lawyer, it may be a good idea for you to get one of your own. It will help you learn what you can and cannot do legally when brokering a deal, plus there are other things the business lawyer can help you with as well.
What You Can Do
If you are currently attempting to broker the sale of part or all of your company, it is definitely in your best interests to have a lawyer by your side. While you may be selling your business, you may want some extras out of the deal, such as royalties in perpetuity, the right to retain use of the logo, icons and taglines you have used to promote your business, etc. You could also request to remain an active partner in the operational affairs of the company until such a time as you are willing to release the company entirely to the buyer. (Some buyers may even request this, especially if your efforts have proven success rates and results, and you offer an innovative way of conducting business.) Your lawyer can show you a list of everything you are allowed to ask for during the negotiation process, and then help you write it into the contract.
What You Cannot Do
You cannot sign papers and then change your mind, unless there is a "seller's remorse" clause included in the language of the contract. You cannot ask for any extras out of the deal after you have already agreed to the deal and signed the paperwork (well, actually, you could ask, but it is bad form and may even be viewed as unethical or unprofessional). You can, however, have a private investor who owns part of your company outright and may or may not act as a silent partner.
The Business Lawyer's Helping Role
Small businesses and even medium-sized businesses that are being bought out by larger ones have some special legal concerns. These vary from state to state, and if you are selling your business to a company in another state or country, you will need a business lawyer with this kind of expertise. Meanwhile, your business lawyer can still protect your interests and represent you when you are converting your small business into a different kind of company (e.g. a limited liability or incorporated). He or she can also defend you in the event that a consumer attempts to sue you.