For start-ups turning an idea into a commercially viable business can be a risky proposition. If you want to protect your investment in your business, then having the right legal documentation in place from the outset is essential.

To help you hit the ground running, we have outlined below five legal documents that every start-up should have in place.


One of the most important legal documents for a company with two or more shareholders is a shareholders’ agreement. This can ensure the smooth running of your business. It can set out the rules by which the company operates, define the relationship between shareholders, establish their respective rights and obligations and provide a framework for resolving any disputes.


Generally, you will need a directors’ service agreement for each director. Directors’ service agreements are employment contracts that contain additional clauses relevant to a company director. In some circumstances, a company director may not be an ’employee’ and the services they provide should be set out in a service agreement.


It is fundamental to define the terms of business on which you trade with your clients when supplying services. This essential legal document includes information on contract formation as well as service specifications. It deals with the payment process, intellectual property rights, limitation of liability, consequences of termination and can include a framework for resolving any disputes.


You should have clear employment contracts in place when recruiting new employees. It may be tempting to do this on an informal basis, but it is important to draw up clear employment contracts. These are key to ensure employees understand what is expected of them. A well crafted employment contract will protect your business and place post termination restrictions on employees ensuring your commercially sensitive date is secure and that former employees are unable to solicit your clients or staff.


If you have a website, you should link to a website acceptable use policy and a privacy policy. A website acceptable use policy should contain terms to help protect the intellectual property on your site, and a privacy policy is required as you are obliged to tell visitors how data about them is collected, used and stored. The two policies are usually covered in a single document. 

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