This site is not intended to be used as any sort of legal advice, knowledge of legal proceedings, or as a substitute for qualified legal counsel …
In other words … GET A LAWYER!
If you are going to “cheap out” on anything make sure this is NOT the area you do it in. It constantly amazes me how many sign shop owners have never taken any steps to protect their sign shop, their home, their livelihood or their family. Unfortunately, here in the United States, we live in a litigious society. Anyone is likely to sue for anything and I “recommend” that you take steps to protect yourself. As a word of warning, if you do not properly and legally protect your sign shop you could literally be placing your whole life on the chopping block.
The first thing that you should do is to begin to educate yourself on the possible legal protections available. Yes, I said educate yourself. There are tons of legal web sites that are designed to help you begin to learn about the basic of business legalities. Find out what a “sole proprietor”, a S-Corp, a C-Corp or an LLC is. Simply put, if you do NOT educate yourself then you severely limit the amount of advice your lawyer of choice can give you. If you know very little about your business and its legal protections then you can expect to receive the simplest (and safest) advice that your lawyer can give (your attorney doesn’t want to be sued either). Taking the simplest advice might not always be the best for your situation.
Once you know a little bit about legal entities, find a good attorney to help you determine what the best one is for your sign business. The two of you should sit down and find out exactly how much potential liability you might have as a sign shop owner and work towards protecting your assets and minimizing any risk you might have for being sued.
Ask for referrals, check with your friends and family (preferably those with a business of their own) and find out who their attorney is. You can also check the internet for local attorneys or local networking groups who specialize in building relationships with local lawyers. I use the BNI website when I am looking for a particular specialist.