We're looking to hire our first employee and we want to make sure the employement and stock vesting stuff is all in order - we're in the UK so is it safe to assume that anything we read regarding USA stuff is the same for UK stuff?
Can anyone recommend any online european services for this junk? We're very young (= little money)
There are several sites where you can obtain cheap 'template' agreements for use in the UK - where the laws are VERY different to the US. They provide some basic terms for common situations and are legal in the sense that they answer the question most often posed to lawyers about draft contracts: 'Is this legal?'
The problem, however, is that something may be 'legal' without doing what you want or need it to do, in just the same way that a car may be a 'good model' but may be totally unsuited to your personal requirements - ie powerful enough to pull a large caravan.
For this reason, the old adage of 'you get what you pay for' means that templates are at best a temporary solution - and where employment and finance arrangements are concerned, this may be no use at all.
Ideally, you need agreements which are tailored to your specific requirements (without being over-the-top), and this means getting professional advice from someone who can help you think through the issues and advise upon the sorts of things that are often missing from template agreements - ie the clauses that avoid you getting into arguments in the first place rather than those that are only useful in court.
The way to save yourself some money - and this critical for all businesses, not just start-ups - is firstly to choose your legal advisor carefully, and secondly, to go well prepared. It will reduce the amount of time you spend with him or her - and hence the hours you can be billed for - if you write down exactly what your arrangements are, and think through how potential disputes could arise and how you can avoid them.
I have used http://www.simply-docs.co.uk/ in the past, with success. They also do contract for clients, etc...
However long term you will want to speak to an employment solicitor: Templates are a good starting point, but by their very nature they are generic, so they will contain stuff that doesn't necessarily apply to you. And the more you have in a contract, the more there is to argue about. So of course, you then think "I can tweak it myself here and there". But in that case you are taking the risk of making the contract non-valid, because you remove a critical point, or you rephrased something the wrong way, etc..
Go with a template to start with, but as soon as you can, get some professional advice, especially if you are going to give some equity away. I know you are starting and money is hard to come by, but it will be much easier to do it properly first time than to try to update a contract that has already been signed.
One idea could be to mix both worlds: prepare your template as much as you can, than get a solicitor to review it (rather than pay them to start from scratch).
PS: Don't use anything that is not from the UK. It will be totally worthless here.
In the US, employmet stuff is pretty easy to setup if you get a good payroll vendor.
But the part that I think can get sticky is the "stock vesting stuff". Does that mean you're giving away parts of the company as compensation?
That's something you really might want to reconsider doing your self, as there are a lot of things that won't be templated, you won't consider, and you might not even be allowed to do. For example, if you said "upon start, you get 3% of comapny, but when you leave, you give it back", that could be seen as unconscionable (and therefor unenforcable) since you're compelling someone to give up property, etc.
Instead of giving ownership, you could offer a share of net profit or, if the employee trusts you enough, promise that you'll get it set-up properly once you have a lawyer. It shouldn't cost more than a few hundred, maybe thousand to handle.
You can also try DocStoc.com which is a large repository for documents such as those required for legal purposes, businesses, templates, etc.
If you worry about stock vesting and serious you should also try to look for a good legal help. It pays itself later, especially when you are successful (and that's the goal right?
All the free stuff you find in the Internet can act as a reference but in the court of law where you belong and do business.
The excellent http://www.nolo.com/ comes to mind, however laws differ from country to country. Even a slight difference could be a setup for problems in the future.
Try networking your way out - the documents you need are fairly common, so a fellow entrepreneur in your area might be able to provide them for free.
I've heard good things about LegalZoom from other users of this site. I've used two different law firms for most of my legal work so far, but it cost far more than the prices that LegalZoom quotes.
EDIT: Whoops, just noticed that you are in the UK. You might look for a shop similar to LegalZoom there.
Starting a business is very common thing. You ought to be able to get boilerplate documents, contracts and agreements from several sources. If you do decide to consult a lawyer, see if they will quote you a fixed price on the standard materials.