Legal services for small business

A lawyer can help in many business scenarios, from helping with the incorporation process, to drawing up contracts or, if necessary, representing you in litigation.

Retaining a lawyer

There are some things you can do on your own, like naming your business and claiming a trademark. However, you should consider retaining a lawyer for certain services. See the resources at the bottom of this page for free and reduced cost legal assistance.

Form a corporation

While you can often take care of the formation of a legal business entity such as an LLC or business partnership without legal help, forming a corporation with shareholders and a board is a more complex process. Articles of incorporation can be filed without lawyers, but the administrative side of managing the complex tax and legal requirements often requires the services of a corporate attorney.

File a patent

Patents are expensive and time consuming. It can take years to get one approved. Unless you are in the pharmaceutical or biotech industries, consider whether patenting your product actually gives you a major market advantage. Consult a patent attorney to help you evaluate your product and understand what rights you will achieve.


This can include dealing with lawsuits by customers or by current or former employees, discrimination or harassment lawsuits, environmental lawsuits, and government investigations for legal violations.

Buy or sell a business

Lawyers can help with negotiating sales agreements, lease agreements, and more.

Featured resources

Legal Services for Entrepreneurs

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights provides legal services for entrepreneurs to low-income individuals (including women and people of color) who want to start or develop for-profit businesses, and certain for-profit businesses committed to community economic development.

SF Bar Association – Lawyer Referral & Information Service

The Lawyer Referral & Information Service (LRIS) a nonprofit public service of the Bar Association of San Francisco offering legal assistance from lawyers who are pre-screened for their experience in over 100 legal areas. Small businesses can gain assistance with a wide variety of matters including: ADA Compliance, Contracts, Intellectual Property Rights, and Labor Relations. LRIS has attorneys specifically trained and qualified to handle ADA lawsuits, compliance and education. Se ayuda en español también.

Legal Public Services

The California Bar Association offers advice for finding and hiring the right lawyer.


Nolo, formerly known as Nolo Press, is a Bay Area publisher that produces do-it-yourself legal books and software that reduce the need for people to hire lawyers for simple legal matters.

Mediation Service

The Mediation Service is a nonprofit public service of the Bar Association of San Francisco, serving the community since 1872. BASF Mediation Services has mediators who can assist you in over 30 types of law.


Last updated August 9, 2022