Chicago (The Loop)
Chicago (West Loop)
Chicago (Wacker)
Houston (Theater District)
Houston (Scanlan Building)
Dallas (Katy Building)
Charlotte (Uptown)
Jacksonville (Groover-Stewart Building)
Seattle (Pioneer Building)
Alexandria (Old Town)
Indianapolis (Circle Tower)
Pittsburgh (Golden Triangle)
San Diego (Gaslamp)
Denver (16th Street)
Chicago (River North)
Kansas City (Kessler Building)
Richmond (Shockoe Slip)
Nashville (5th Avenue)
Minneapolis (Lasalle Building)
Boulder (15th and Canyon)
Cincinnati (Hooper Building)
Savannah (Johnson Square)
Phoenix (Midtown)
Chicago (Superior)
Minneapolis (TriTech Center)
Madison (The Capitol)
Orlando (Angebilt Building)
Denver (Trinity Place)
Milwaukee (Cathedral Square)
San Jose (North First)
Washington, D.C. (Dupont Circle)
Phoenix (Heard Building)
Norfolk (City Center)
Miami (Biscayne)
Columbia (Main Street)
St. Petersburg (4th Street DTSP)
Austin (North Austin)
Houston (Upper Kirby/Greenway)
Albany (State Street)
America Chicago
America Adak
America Anchorage
America Anguilla
America Antigua
America Araguaina
America Argentina - Buenos Aires
America Argentina - Catamarca
America Argentina - Cordoba
America Argentina - Jujuy
America Argentina - La Rioja
America Argentina - Mendoza
America Argentina - Rio Gallegos
America Argentina - Salta
America Argentina - San Juan
America Argentina - San Luis
America Argentina - Tucuman
America Argentina - Ushuaia
America Aruba
America Asuncion
America Atikokan
America Bahia
America Bahia Banderas
America Barbados
America Belem
America Belize
America Blanc-Sablon
America Boa Vista
America Bogota
America Boise
America Cambridge Bay
America Campo Grande
America Cancun
America Caracas
America Cayenne
America Cayman
America Chicago
America Chihuahua
America Costa Rica
America Creston
America Cuiaba
America Curacao
America Danmarkshavn
America Dawson
America Dawson Creek
America Denver
America Detroit
America Dominica
America Edmonton
America Eirunepe
America El Salvador
America Fortaleza
America Fort Nelson
America Glace Bay
America Goose Bay
America Grand Turk
America Grenada
America Guadeloupe
America Guatemala
America Guayaquil
America Guyana
America Halifax
America Havana
America Hermosillo
America Indiana - Indianapolis
America Indiana - Knox
America Indiana - Marengo
America Indiana - Petersburg
America Indiana - Tell City
America Indiana - Vevay
America Indiana - Vincennes
America Indiana - Winamac
America Inuvik
America Iqaluit
America Jamaica
America Juneau
America Kentucky - Louisville
America Kentucky - Monticello
America Kralendijk
America La Paz
America Lima
America Los Angeles
America Lower Princes
America Maceio
America Managua
America Manaus
America Marigot
America Martinique
America Matamoros
America Mazatlan
America Menominee
America Merida
America Metlakatla
America Mexico City
America Miquelon
America Moncton
America Monterrey
America Montevideo
America Montserrat
America Nassau
America New York
America Nipigon
America Nome
America Noronha
America North Dakota - Beulah
America North Dakota - Center
America North Dakota - New Salem
America Nuuk
America Ojinaga
America Panama
America Pangnirtung
America Paramaribo
America Phoenix
America Port-au-Prince
America Port of Spain
America Porto Velho
America Puerto Rico
America Punta Arenas
America Rainy River
America Rankin Inlet
America Recife
America Regina
America Resolute
America Rio Branco
America Santarem
America Santiago
America Santo Domingo
America Sao Paulo
America Scoresbysund
America Sitka
America St Barthelemy
America St Johns
America St Kitts
America St Lucia
America St Thomas
America St Vincent
America Swift Current
America Tegucigalpa
America Thule
America Thunder Bay
America Tijuana
America Toronto
America Tortola
America Vancouver
America Whitehorse
America Winnipeg
America Yakutat
America Yellowknife
Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HAST)
Hawaii-Aleutian with Daylight Savings Time (HADT)
Alaska Standard Time (AKST)
Alaska with Daylight Savings Time (AKDT)
Pacific Standard Time (PST)
Pacific with Daylight Savings Time (PDT)
Mountain Standard Time (MST)
Mountain with Daylight Savings Time (MDT)
Central Standard Time (CST)
Central with Daylight Savings Time (CDT)
Eastern Standard Time (EST)
Eastern with Daylight Savings Time (EDT)
Atlantic Standard Time (AST)
Atlantic with Daylight Savings Time (ADT)

Out of all the risks that entrepreneurs take, perhaps the biggest is failing to establish a solid legal foundation for their startup. Legal documents for startups include protecting a startup’s inventions, or the rules which define each leader’s position in the company. Without them, the startup is no more reputable or organized than a scam.

Don’t make that same mistake. Start with the most important legal documents for the formation of your business. You may just avoid several headaches down the line.

Here are a few legal documents to get you started.


Articles of Incorporation

One of the first legal documents a startup has to concern itself with is the articles of incorporation. Although entrepreneurs have the option of foregoing incorporation in favor of sole proprietorship, this usually results in some major tax consequences later on. Incorporation is also ideal if you plan on attracting outside funding in the future.

Each state has their own unique laws regarding incorporation. For example, in Illinois, incorporation must involve a registered agent and include certain abbreviations.


Intellectual Property (IP) Assignment Agreement

Have you ever seen Shark Tank? The most commonly asked questions on the popular startup funding show almost always have to do with intellectual property. These IPs typically include software licenses, invention patents, secret recipes, and other proprietary knowledge. IP assignment agreements ensure the company has the sole rights over the intellectual property.

For instance, you may hire a graphic designer to create your brand’s first logo and other branding material. But without an IP assignment agreement, they may be able to walk away with the rights to that material- even if you paid them! Make sure any technology, design, or information unique to your brand has a corresponding IP assignment agreement to avoid any future disputes.

Pandadoc has an example of what an IP assignment agreement looks like here.


Founder’s Agreement

Also known as an operating agreement, this document prevents any sort of disagreement between the founding parties and co-founders. This document sets out to define the basic roles, rights, and responsibilities that each of the founders have in relation to the company.

Starting out, agreements may be informal and spoken, but without having them in writing, conflict can quickly arise. Arguments may break out, but without any evidence, it essentially becomes one person’s word over another. Protect everyone involved by hashing out the initial founder’s agreement early on.



Similar to the Founder’s Agreement, bylaws dictate the business’s internal rules, leadership roles, and shareholders’ rights. Bylaws also clarify the voting requirements for introducing new laws, electing new board members, or raising topics for discussion.


Nondisclosure Agreements (NDA)

An NDA is a contract signed by individuals protecting confidential information in your startup. For example, startups may ask contractors to sign NDAs when they are shown an unreleased or unannounced product, or when a vendor is asked to review a marketing plan for the following year.

NDAs typically define:

  • The information considered confidential or not for disclosure
  • The manner in which confidential information is meant to be handled
  • The owner of the information
  • The time period for confidentiality


Employee contracts and offer letters

Companies that plan on hiring new employees need to have clear documentation on the nature of the business relationship. Employment contracts and offer letters clearly communicate the following:

  • Compensation
  • Responsibilities (from daily tasks and monthly goals)
  • Ownership of IP (graphics/ written content)
  • Best practices/ expectations (how one is supposed to conduct their job)
  • Company policies (working hours, dress code, office conduct)


Shareholder agreements

Shareholder agreements define how among shareholders how a company should be operated as well as shareholder rights and duties. It ensures shareholders are protected.

Creating a startup and seeing it to fruition can be one of the most rewarding feelings. But far too often, entrepreneurs and founders forget to take basic but important steps in protecting their future. As a result, competitors manage to steal proprietary software, founders bicker over profits, and new hires may cost the business a fortune.

Take the long route and seek professional counsel. It may seem tedious, and even overwhelming at first. That’s natural. But by establishing these six legal documents at the onset of your startup, you can safeguard your business from years worth of financial and legal chaos. In fact, these initial steps can make all the difference between an amateur startup and a long-lasting business.