Product Review
Advising Small Businesses/Forms Combo

Reviewed by Elizabeth R. Ashley

This six-volume set by Steven C. Alberty provides the solo and small firm lawyer with all the tools and information needed to offer sound legal advice to small businesses. The forms volumes can be purchased separately, but it’s more cost-effective to buy the combination package.

The first three volumes address the various issues encountered when dealing with small business clients. The publication is set up in an easy-to-follow continuum that allows you to quickly find the information you need to address your client’s questions depending on where they are in their business.

Volume 1, Business Entities and Financing, is an overview, and it’s a good starting point for lawyers who are expanding their practices to work with small business clients. This volume lets you learn—or relearn—the basics of business.

Volume 2 is titled Corporate Operations and Business Transactions. The “Business Transactions” segment includes chapters on trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets. Given the increasing importance of intellectual property in today’s business environment, it’s nice to have a quick reference for those of us who are not IP experts.

Remember the mind-numbing classes in corporations? Part III in this set takes you through all of it—shareholders, dividends, the duties of corporate officers and directors, etc.—in an almost painless fashion. I still think the subject is pretty boring, but with real clients, we have a frame of reference.

Volume 3, Employees and Business Terminations, covers one of the fastest-growing practice areas in employment law. Part V gives you an excellent reference into the basics of employment law and how to protect your small business client. The chapter on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alone is worth the read. Many small businesses find themselves facing citations and fines after an OSHA inspection. This chapter helps you understand what’s required and how to help your clients protect themselves and avoid citations.

Many small businesses are owned by older clients who want to retire. Chapter 48 addresses the estate-planning needs of small business owners. This significant topic is not often covered in estate-planning classes in law school or, to any great extent, in estate-planning CLEs.

With the current economy, it’s tough to own a successful small business. Many small businesses are closing their doors for a variety of reasons. This series helps you advise your clients on the best ways to structure a sale, liquidate assets, and, in the most unfortunate situations, file bankruptcy.

The three volumes of forms complement the text volumes well, with cross-referencing that makes it easy to flip to the form you need, as well as excellent instructions. The loose-leaf format also allows you to pull out pages and merge the forms pages with those of the text.

The forms volumes include checklists that ensure you cover all the essentials with your clients and form letters that you can adapt to your particular situation. Need a partnership agreement? Joint venture agreement? What about an operating agreement for a manager-managed LLC? I couldn’t think of a form I needed that was not included in this set.

One segment I found helpful were lists of federal and state agencies providing small business development and financing. In this financial climate, I welcome the information that will help me direct my clients to resources they didn’t know about before.

One major disadvantage of the combo package is its lack of a CD-ROM. Having no electronic version of the forms requires you to scan the forms or retype them. Also, with a list price of $1,526, the combo package is expensive, even with free ground shipping. West has a two-volume package by the same author, with the same title, that does come with a CD-ROM and costs $1,799 (also with free ground shipping). I don’t think the CD-ROM alone is worth the additional $273, but it appears that you cannot buy the CD-ROM separately. I did not review the two-volume set, so I don’t know how it compares.

Despite these disadvantages, the information in Advising Small Businesses and Advising Small Businesses: Forms Combo will allow you to reduce your research time and have answers for clients more quickly. And that can have a positive effect on your bottom line.

Note: West, a Thomson Reuters business, is a corporate sponsor of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division; this article appears in connection with the Division’s sponsorship agreement with West. Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services. This review should not be construed as an endorsement. The authors of these reviews receive complimentary review copies of the products being reviewed.


  • Elizabeth R. Ashley is a lawyer practicing in Cleveland, Ohio.

    Copyright 2010

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