Launching your startup can be an exciting time for you and your co-founders and there are many things to consider in the early stages of your new business.

Protecting your startup from a legal perspective is arguably as important as securing investment! What is the point in funding your business if you stand to lose it all in an avoidable dispute in the near or distant future? Having a strong structure and well drafted legal documents in place from the outset will protect your start up from launch, through growth and all the way to acquisition.

So what legal documents do you need?

We have put together a list of the common documents that many of our startup clients require. Whilst you may need additional documents depending on the nature of your startup and business model, these documents are a great starting place!

Business Terms and Conditions

If you are selling products, services or setting up an online marketplace, you will need to have a well drafted set of business terms and conditions drafted and easily viewable and accepted by all of your clients or customers. The type of business terms and conditions that your startup will need depends upon the nature of the product or service.

Client Agreement: Startups that sell services will need a client agreement. Client agreements set out the services that you provide to a client and on what terms. This agreement will include information on your obligations, your clients’ obligations and provisions to limit your liability and protect your legal interests.

Sales Terms and Conditions: Startups that sell products will need a set of sales terms and conditions. This document will cover similar information to the client agreement and will also include your delivery, repair and exchange policies and will ensure that you are compliant with the Australian Consumer Law.

Marketplace Terms and Conditions: If your website allows parties to buy and sell information, products and services you will need marketplace terms and conditions. These terms and conditions need to be quite comprehensive in order to clearly set out the rights and responsibilities of all parties that may interact on your marketplace platform.

Shareholders Agreement

If you are setting up a company with one or more partners, entering into a shareholders agreement is key. We consider this Agreement to be your ‘business pre-nup’ and can save a lot of hassle and expense in the future. The shareholders agreement will set out each party’s role within the company, what your duties and obligations are, how profits can be divided, how the company can be dissolved and what will happen in the event that something goes wrong.

Employment or Contractor Agreement

When your startup expands and you are at the stage of bringing on new employees or contractors to assist you in growing your business, you will need to prepare your employment or contractor agreements. Employment and contractor agreements will set out the role of the worker, their remuneration and benefits, any leave entitlements, what expectations you may have of them among other important factors. It is crucial that these agreements comply with the current Australian legislation. If you are preparing an employment or contractor agreement it is a great idea to have a lawyer draft it or review your existing agreements to ensure their legal validity.

Website Terms of Use

A huge number of new startups have some form of an online presence. If you have a website, website terms of use will be necessary to spell out the way in which the users of your website can and cannot act. If visitors will be posting reviews about your services or if they will be relying on any information that you upload onto your website, website terms of use are an important document for your website and business.

Privacy Policy

Most startups and almost all businesses will need a privacy policy in order to not only garner trust and transparency with users customers but to also meet your obligations under the Privacy Act. A strong privacy policy will set out the information you will collect from users, how you store it and if you will disclose it to any third parties. If you plan on sending promotional material to users, it is a good idea to let them know that they will be added to your mailing lists to prevent breaching any spamming legislation and to maintain a high degree of customer service.

Conclusion

There are a number of documents that your startup may need depending on the type of business and the products or services you offer. Whilst tackling your ‘legals’ can seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be and if drafted correctly the documents will work as your business and model inevitably changes and grows. If you are unsure as to which documents you may need for your startup, a good startup solicitor will be able to assist.

Lachlan McKnight

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