for all your business needs

Your business success is easier than you think

Organizing Your Business

Choosing the right entity , owners and management structure are key to the success or failure of most new businesses.  Unfortunately, many business owners get this wrong because they do it themselves, trying to save themselves a little money.  I always tell my clients that my role in helping them to organize a new business is much like a commissioned artist.  I put a blank canvas before them, listen to what they are trying to accomplish, lay out what I believe will be the best alternatives for them and then implement the solution of their choice.  By so doing, I am able to help my clients avoid costly disputes, unanticipated tax consequences and plan for the future.  Let us help you get your business’ organizational structure right, whether you are just starting out or need us to review, and if necessary, revise your organizational structure to better meet your needs going forward.



Protecting Your Intellectual Property

More than ever, intellectual property is at the center of business success.  Sometimes that falls within the traditional categories of trademark, copyright or patent law, but often it relates to your business’ methodologies, confidential information and relationships.  Whatever your business’ keys to success are, it is critical that you not only protect that which you already have, but also that you plan for growth.  This takes vision and pragmatism as business to business, employer/employee and other common business relations can be messy.  Structuring such relationships in manners that are durable and yet anticipate that some relations will go sour are, in our experience, the key to long-term success in business.  Let us help you get this right.



Navigating the Permit Process

Most business operations require federal, state and/or local permits these days.  Frankly, such “red tape” is infuriatingly costly and inconvenient to most business owners.  On the other hand, structuring your operations in manners that will facilitate obtaining necessary permits and operating in accordance with relevant regulations can dramatically reduce your costs, help you to better price your goods and/or services for profitability and generally make your business operation bullet proof.  In turn, this leads to the long-term stability, stress-free operation and greater profitability of your business.  Good planning is the key to success.  Whether you are just starting out or may need a mid-course adjustment, let us help you get on course.



Obtaining Financing

Most businesses need some kind of financing to conduct their operations.  Unfortunately, few small business owners have a good understanding of their options and therefore approach financing haphazardly often securing the resources they need at very high interest rates and with little thought given to cash flow.  Moreover, they often end up mortgaging their personal as well as business assets when it is not required, eliminating many of the benefits of the corporate form up front.  Having written many business plans to help clients obtain financing during my early years as a business consultant, I understand how this process works.  Let us help you determine and obtain the type of financing you need for your business.



Purchasing, selling and/or leasing real and virtual property

The old adage for business success was “LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.”  In our virtual world that has expanded to include the Internet, media and other forums that did not exist when that adage was coined.  Whether your property is real or virtual, some form of property is generally at the foundation of most successful businesses.  Choosing whether to purchase, sell or lease space and how best to accomplish those tasks is often critical to your success every step of the way.  Understanding the pros and cons of each option with an eye to where you have come from and where you are going is critical.  Put our experience to work to help you make the best decision for your business’ needs.



Buying or Selling a Business

Whether you are in the market to buy or sell a business, each transaction is unique.  Such transactions are often laden with technical legal issues, such as:  confidentiality, assignment of contracts, asset valuation, financing, and transfer of real property, licenses and permits.  The cost to address all of these issues up front can be prohibitive and inhibit the type of interactions needed to bring about a deal.  Working with experienced counsel, who can deftly intervene to protect your interests cost effectively until such time as there is a real deal on the table that warrants the expenditure on legal services necessary to close the transaction is often critical to success.  Give us a call at the outset so we can help you properly plan your purchase or sale for ultimate success.



Avoiding Law Suits

A good offense is typically the best defense against costly disputes.  This requires business owners to be proactive, addressing potential issues up front to avoid disputes later.  Sometimes this can be as simple as inserting a proper dispute resolution clause into your contracts, but more often it requires things like:

Marrying a business’ contracts to its sales and marketing efforts so that they are never out of sync.

Adequately protecting confidentiality, intellectual property and other valuable assets of the business.

Implementation of sound practices and procedures to identify and address issues before they cause your business problems.

Negotiating contracts that properly understand leverage, accounts for the interests of all concerned in manners that will prove durable and provides a clear, practical path out for the parties should the relationship fail.

Let us help you build your business’ framework for success.



Resolving Disputes

Disputes are inevitable.  How best to resolve them, however, given the nature of your business and its goals can vary dramatically. Sometimes the high cost and length of time it can take to litigate your dispute is helpful.  Other times, resolving a matter up front, even at significant cost to the business, is the best policy.  Deciding what path is best for your business in any particular situation requires objectivity, experience and an ability to properly evaluate the costs and benefits of different options up front, when it is hardest.  While Attorney Atherton’s global travel generally makes it impractical for him to represent your business in court, he is pleased to guide your business through the entire dispute resolution process, retaining competent local counsel on your behalf where needed.



Alternative Dispute Resolution

Breakups are hard to do, but when they must be done, it is critical that they be done correctly.  With many years of experience litigating business, divorce and estates disputes, we have a keen understanding of both the inter-personal and the dollars and cents side of disputes.  Through our mediation and arbitration services we specialize in helping people fashion creative and practical solutions to difficult breakups.



IRS Representation

Many small business owners get themselves into trouble with the IRS for one reason or another.  Such problems can easily get out of hand quickly, threatening your business and your personal financial security.  Thankfully, you often have options, some of which may be far better than you imagine.  At Atherton Law, we have helped many people successfully resolve their disputes with and/or debts owed to the IRS.  Do not wait for the problem to get worse, give us a call now so that we can help you to develop a strategy that will work for you.



Family and Divorce Counsel

Most small business owners also have families.  Families can be messy.  As a small town, general practitioner in Vermont for more than 25 years, Attorney Atherton has handled just about every type of case.  As a result, while he is not expert in every area of law, he knows enough to provide you with timely counsel when you or your family need it, including helping to secure the more expert legal counsel you or your loved one may need.   Moreover, as a former family law practitioner, Attorney Atherton understands divorce and also the value of a good pre-nuptial agreement for small business owners.  Sadly, the unromantic nature of a pre-nuptial agreement means that it is seldom employed.  This is short sighted and often unloving.  In our experience a properly framed pre-nuptial agreement can be an expression of a couple’s love one for another.  This is particularly true in second marriages, where both spouses often have a shared interest in protecting the interests of children of their first marriages.  For the many small business owners who have no pre-nuptial agreement, but find themselves in divorce, there is often no way of avoiding the financial disaster that divorce is, but sound counsel can minimize the damage to your business.  While Attorney Atherton no longer appears in family court, he can help you secure competent legal counsel and counsel you and your divorce attorney through the entire process.



Retirement and Estate Planning

Most small business owners are so busy running their business that they never address the questions that nags at them in the back of their mind.  What do I do when I want to retire?  How do I protect my most valuable asset for the next generation?  What happens if I die unexpectedly or become incapacitated?  These are questions that need to be addressed well before the day of reckoning.  Sometimes the answer may be to sell the business or transition it to the next generation.  Other times it may be okay to let the business knowing that it has served its purpose.  Always some kind of transition is involved.  There is no one size fits all solution.  What I can say is that all small business owners need an estate plan, typically featuring a trust as probate is typically a financial disaster for properly managing a going concern and guardianship, in case of permanent or temporary incapacity, even worse.  Moreover, many more small business owners than realize it can, with proper planning, sell their business as part of a retirement plan that enables them to enjoy the fruits of their labor, long after they have given up the daily grind of running their business.  Let us help you to develop a retirement/estate plan that will meet your individual goals.



IRS Representation

IRS Representation

Many small business owners get themselves into trouble with the IRS for one reason or another.  Such problems can easily get out of hand quickly, threatening your business and your personal financial security.  Thankfully, you often have options, some of which may be far better than you imagine.  At Atherton Law, we have helped many people successfully resolve their disputes with and/or debts owed to the IRS.  Do not wait for the problem to get worse, give us a call now so that we can help you to develop a strategy that will work for you.

About Us

Founded by Attorney Steven H. Atherton, Atherton Law provides attentive, personal and cost-effective legal counsel to business owners.  Attorney Atherton is a magna cum laude graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center (J.D. 1989) and a chemical engineer trained at Cornell University (B.S. 1984). He is licensed to practice law in the States of Vermont (1991), New York (1990) and Texas (2004).  With wide ranging business and governmental experience, and an extraordinarily diverse legal practice over more than thirty (30) years, Attorney Atherton is uniquely positioned to advise small business owners. 

In brief, prior to opening his own law practice in 1992, Mr. Atherton worked in the New York City and Washington, D.C. offices of Sidley & Austin, a large international law office, and for Paterson & Walke (n/k/a Zalinger, Cameron & Lambek) a small firm in Montpelier, Vermont. These experiences coupled with short stints in Washington, D.C. at the International Trade Commission; the U.S. Senate Budget Committee; and the law firms of Wiley, Rein & Fielding and Miles & Stockbridge developed in Mr. Atherton a national and international perspective on the law that is unusual.

In the business world, Mr. Atherton has worked in many different capacities.  Prior to entering the practice of law, Mr. Atherton worked as a chemical engineer at General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he served as the Pilot Plant Engineer at the James Ford Bell Technical Center and as a Project Engineer in an internal consulting group. He also worked overseas as an engineering trainee in the plastics laboratory for Philips Corporation in the city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands.  Even since opening his law practice in 1992, Mr. Atherton ran a successful Internet Service Provider, Web Page Design and law office computer consulting firm.  He has also assisted many small business owners succeed in many different fields. 

Collectively, these experiences are what make Atherton Law’s approach to the law unique. Practical, down to earth legal counsel at a reasonable rate that is designed to meet your particular needs.  That is our aim.  Give us a call if you need help.


As a small business owner, I've learned that one of our greatest strengths is our ability to be very nimble. Markets change, technology changes, and opportunities come up very quickly. Being able to quickly pivot our business is critical. Steve has been instrumental in helping us both seize the opportunities, and avoid the pitfalls. He has two critical characteristics that are invaluable to any small business owner. First, Steve is always looking out for our best interest and profitability, not his own. Second, is his accessibility. Business does not operate in a narrow "9 to 5" window. It is happening all the time. Steve has been there for us when we've needed him the most, helping us address opportunities and concerns that impact our business. He's been a tremendous contributor to our success. R.E. Fort Hancock, TX
R.E. Fort Hancock, TX
Many years ago our business was stalled. Steve stepped in and organized a small business loan at the local bank. With those funds, we created a show room to highlight our goods and services. That gave us the traction we needed in the marketplace. Twenty years later, we are still enjoying the fruits of his work and he continues to be there for us to this day. C.H. Springfield, VT
C.H. Springfield, VT
I hired Steve in the midst of a dispute with a former business partner. At my insistence, he filed suit on my behalf. In the midst of a mediation that seemed destined to fail, Steve intervened in a unique way that gave me a new perspective. We put forth a new offer and within a short time, the dispute was resolved, saving me lots of money and making me whole. Ever since I have used him for all my legal needs. M.K. Northfield, VT
M.K. Northfield, VT
Some years ago I was dabbling in what was next in my life. During that time, I decided to buy a small business that I worked for periodically. Steve prepared all the paperwork. Shortly thereafter, an abrupt change in my life meant I had to sell the business before I had even really started. Nothing had happened and I was ready to give up, even though my predecessor was threatening to sue me. Steve intervened, suggested an alternative path and within thirty days I had closed on the sale of the business in a manner that satisfied my predecessor and set the new purchaser up to succeed. S.B. Topsham, VT.
S.B. Topsham, VT

Contact uS

Attorney Atherton no longer maintains a physical address as he is on the road full-time.  He does have local assistants in Vermont and Texas who can meet with clients by appointment.  Typically, we do most everything electronically.  

Thank you for visiting our website. Feel free to contact us via mail, email (using the form below), fax or phone if you need assistance, but remember no attorney-client relationship is established until a written contract for legal services has been executed.

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    With more than thirty years running and advising businesses, we know that prudent investments in legal services should bring you a substantial return on your investment.​


    As a legal pro and Christian Minister, Attorney Atherton’s work is steeped in conflict resolution. If you have a tough dispute and need someone who is willing to roll up his sleeves, listen to all sides and work with you to find the way out that can work for all, give us a call.


    As a general practitioner in Vermont since 1991, Attorney Atherton has the experience to quickly assess your legal issue and give you the counsel you need.


    Many people, particularly small businesses, run into issues with the IRS.  We know how to help.