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A Legal Checklist for the 21st Century Entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur, there are a variety of legal steps that you must take to set up a legal and profitable business. This checklist will help you do just that! We recommend that you print it out and go through one section at a time, taking relevant notes and checking off each step as you complete it.

Business Planning

  • Identify and document the problem you’re going to solve, the solution you’ll offer and your goals for the business.
  • Identify and document who your market is and how you will reach them.
  • Identify and document how you will fund the startup phase.
  • Establish a relationship with a lawyer and accountant for current and/or future business needs.

Business Structure

  • Research different business entities on the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission’s (CIPC) website:
  • Recommended: Obtain legal advice to determine which business entity is right for your company from both a tax and liability perspective.
  • Determine all of the steps necessary to properly create the entity you chose.
  • File the appropriate documents with CIPC.
  • File the appropriate documents with SARS.
  • Open a separate business bank account to maintain business funds.
  • Create an electronic and/or paper file for all of your business documents.
  • Document all of your major business activities, such as purchasing business equipment, hiring an independent contractor or investing capital.
  • Optional: Purchase business insurance (highly recommended if you’re a sole proprietor, partnership or if you’re at a high risk for liability.)

Business Licensing

  • Research business licensing requirements for your particular type of business. There are a number of regulations that businesses are required to comply with, for example labour law, the Liquor Act, the Competition Act, the National Credit Act and the Consumer Protection Act to name but a few.
  • Determine all of the steps necessary to obtain the applicable business license(s).
  • File the appropriate forms to obtain the applicable business license(s).

Legal Agreements

  • Prepare a list of all of the people, businesses or entities with whom your business will have a relationship. Examples include Client(s), Co-founder(s), Strategic Partner(s), Investor(s), Independent Contractor(s), Vendor(s), etc.
  • Research the laws that govern each of those business relationships.
  • Recommended: Hire a lawyer to prepare a legal agreement for each of those relationships.


  • Research trademark law by visiting the CIPC website to determine the relevant factors to be considered when attempting to register a trademark.
  • Conduct an in-depth internet search of your proposed business name (including variations).
  • Conduct a search for your proposed business name (including variations).
  • Recommended: Hire an attorney to conduct an in-depth search, provide advice on name selection and complete the trademark registration process.
  • Determine the appropriate steps to register a trademark.
  • Complete the trademark application.


Legal Strategy Session

If you have a list of specific legal questions or you just want to ensure that what you’re doing is legal, a Legal Strategy Session is for you. During the Legal Strategy Session, our goal is to provide you with as much legal advice, guidance and how-to information as humanly possible in one hour.

This checklist is a resource for educational and informational purposes and should not take the place of hiring an attorney. Additionally, this document does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Benater Attorneys.