More than 250 years ago, Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. He was advising Philadelphia homeowners to insure their homes against fire to avoid catastrophic losses. Franklin’s advice is just as applicable today to the legal issues of your business.
In this article, we explain a new legal service, Canadian Business Legal Checkup, an audit of legal matters affecting your business. Business Legal Checkup is a diagnostic tool most small and medium size businesses could use to verify if legal aspects of their operation comply with the law and to minimize risk, litigation and expense. When the Business Legal Checkup is completed, the business owner receives a lawyer’s report red-flagging matters which need correction, improvement or further legal advice.
A closer look at the Business Legal Checkup
Your business is built on a foundation of laws and legal procedures. As a prudent business owner, you have probably considered the following legal matters:
o You had to incorporate your business. The corporation has been properly set up. All shares are properly issued. Directors and officers have been appointed. The corporate minutes and register are up-to-date.
o You and other directors of the corporation know exactly what your duties and liabilities are. All directors are protected from liability by sufficient insurance coverage.
o You have a shareholders’ agreement so that all shareholders know their roles. All partners are treated fairly. There is an orderly method for valuation and termination of the corporation. You understand the minority shareholders rights requirements of the Business Corporations Act.
o You filed a business registration and have a system to renew it before expiry and you have registered any business names that you are using.
o You filed trademark, patent and copyright applications to protect the intellectual property of your business.
o Your URL (web address) is trademarked. You have audited your website to check for breaches of privacy law, defamation and technology law issues. Your online sales portal is set up to avoid legal problems with privacy law, identity theft and contract issues.
o Your licencing and registrations are up-to-date. If your salespeople have to be registered or licenced, you have a system to ensure that their registrations are up-to-date and that their regulatory requirements are being monitored.
o You have a long term lease for your plant or office. You had your lease vetted by a lawyer. You know what it says, including the extra rent the landlord can demand. You know the deadline for your right to renew.
o You use several legal standard forms and contracts in your business. These have all been vetted by a lawyer to comply with applicable laws including the PPSA, the Interest Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the Sale of Goods Act, the Mercantile Law Amendment Act and the Bills of Exchange Act and contract law.
o If you extend credit, you know that your service charges don’t exceed the “criminal rate of interest”.
o You know prohibitions against misleading advertising and unfair competition in the Competition Act.
o You understand the privacy legislation and you have a system to ensure that you comply each time you collect, use, or disclose personal information.
o Your employees have signed free employment advice agreements which spell out the length of notice they are entitled to receive if you terminate their employment. You know who is entitled to how much and what to do if you decide to terminate an employee, whatever the reason. You understand your obligations under the Employment Standards Act.
o Your employees have all signed non-competition covenants and non-solicitation agreements to prevent them from taking away your best clients, business procedures, best employees and trade secrets if they leave to set up shop on their own.
o You have a procedure to prevent violation of the Human Rights Code and you know the protected grounds of discrimination. You also understand all of the elements of sexual harassment and you know how to deal with it.
o You know your company’s rights and obligations under the Workplace Safety Insurance Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
o You have liability and multi-peril insurance and you know what it covers.
o Your manufacturing and distribution processes are set up to avoid potentially devastating product liability and class action lawsuits. You have minimized risks.