Starting a business is scary. I know, I just started my own not too long ago. But, one of the advantages I have over most business owners is the whole I’m an attorney thing, and for whatever reason that sort of scares people. Which is great for me and getting stuff done, but if you’re not an attorney you may feel like people are constantly trying to take advantage of you.
And they might be…
So what are some of the times when I think having someone on your side is vastly important? (and by someone I mean an attorney to do the intimidating). Let’s go through a few below. When I am done, if you’ve been in a situation where you wished you had an attorney on your side I would love to hear about it! So comment on this post, or send me an email to Shannon@montgomerypllc.com.
Don’t sign that contract!
The first one that pops into my head, and the most recent one I dealt with deal with signing contracts. Of course, there are times when you and a friend or a third-party vendor have a strong relationship and can negotiate and draft a fair agreement. But, that isn’t everyone’s reality. A client recently came to me because a client she was about to work with wanted her to sign a horribly one-sided agreement. Luckily, my client was smart enough to read through the legalese and realize this was not in her best interest.
So she called me! I was able to take her through the agreement, point out what wasn’t great for her, what wasn’t an issue, and where we could make changes. I drafted up a new agreement, had a conversation with the other party, and we were able to compromise. Both parties signed a document that protects each of them, and will allow my client to do her job appropriately and in turn keep building her business.
She is a young entrepreneur and prior to me had only ever known of older attorneys that would charge an arm and a leg for the work I did, and she genuinely thought about forgoing taking on this client due to her insecurity over signing the agreement. She also felt like her potential client was taking advantage of her due to her age and the relative newness of her business.
That is no way to try and build a big business. If you’re new to this business building thing, and your budget isn’t huge that is ok! You can and you should find an attorney willing to work with you on the important stuff, like contract drafting and review. You deserve to have someone on your side to ensure that your interests are protected from day one, not day 456 when you finally have a budget for your legal department.
Try not to file your own trademark application
I have been retained to help a few people that filed for their own marks. Some of the mistakes can be fixed, and some of them are things that likely could have been avoided had they worked with an attorney from the beginning.
I have previously written about the perils of using a company like LegalZoom for filing a trademark application. And I want to warn even more so against filing pro se, or on your own. Not only is the USPTO somewhat adversarial in nature, but there are big companies out there with entire companies devoted to monitoring their marks, and even if the USPTO says your mark is fine, these companies might still come after you. Either through filing an opposition or by attempting to intimidate you into dropping your application altogether.
Having an attorney listed on the application will not only ensure that the application is done correctly, but it will keep other companies from contacting you directly and using scare tactics in an attempt to get you to move on from your desired mark.
Another great reason to hire an attorney or at least speak with one before filing is to find out if it even makes sense to file for your mark right now. I’m not one to turn away business, but if it doesn’t make any financial or logistical sense for your business to be stepping into the trademark arena, you can wait! I will be here when the time is right.
So, before you run out and start applying for your trademark with the USPTO give me, or another trademark attorney a call and get to work on your intellectual property portfolio together.
Sort of Like don’t sign that contract, but with money involved…
I’ve seen this already one too many times, if you’re planning to work with an investor you need to have an attorney on your side even if the attorney is only acting as an advocate for your business and not you personally, it will still be better in the long run.
I say this with my younger entrepreneurs in mind because like I mentioned above, for some reason, people seem to think taking advantage of a younger less experienced business person is the way to the top. The reality is, it never works out for that person, but they will take you down with them if you’re not careful.
Although this investor might seem like they have your best interest at heart, it doesn’t mean the fine print reflects that. Any time you are going to even speak with an investor, have the proper paperwork in place whether that be an NDA or an already drafted up contract to negotiate from. For the record, not all industries accept NDA’s but for the most part, they are perfectly normal to request an investor to sign. Make sure you’ve retained an attorney to go over the most important aspects of your business, how that investor fits into the picture, and what you should be on the lookout for.
And of course, if all goes well and the investor decides to buy in, have an attorney on your side before you sign anything!! And yes, there will be an agreement. You don’t do handshake deals anymore.
At the end of the day
Please note that this is not meant to be legal advice for you or your situation, this is merely some legal research and knowledge on the given topic