- Leverage And Invest In The Law As A Tool To Help Protect Your Hard Work.
Legal advice can produce a good return on your investment. It is important to understand the tools available to you and how they can be used to your advantage. For example, an investment of less than $1,500 in forming a solid corporate entity (S-corp, LLC, etc.) can protect tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of your personal assets (such as your house, car, pension, stocks and savings). An investment of less than $1,500 in a trademark clearance search and registration could save you tens of thousands of dollars defending an infringement action from a competitor or prevent you from having to incur the expense of re-branding (new logo, packaging, stationery, brochures, website design, etc.). It can also protect your brand image and the reputation you spend time and money developing in the marketplace so others cannot use confusingly similar names or logos to trade on or “palm off” your good will and hard work. An investment of less than $1,500 in employee handbooks and policies could prevent you from being liable for 6 months of unemployment for terminated employees or tens of thousands of dollars for violations of employment and labor laws. We all know that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so be prepared and well-positioned to defend claims by terminated employees.
- Consult A Skilled And Experienced Attorney.
Advice given by non-attorneys and “self-diagnosis” is very often wrong and can be costly to your bottom line. Developing defendable legal positions and policies for your business requires accurate information.
The laws of each state or city, or the industry of the business, can vary greatly. What is legal in one place or industry might not be legal in another. Online resources come from a wide geographic span and may be completely accurate on what they describe but it may not apply to you where your business is located or in your business industry. It is important to get accurate advice from an attorney knowledgeable about the laws that apply to you – both geographically and in your particular industry. For example, rules for executive management differ from those of laborers and administrative staff.
Experience matters. Knowing the law is one thing. Understanding and predicting how a given scenario may play out takes life experience. Strategy is developed after assessing strengths and weaknesses of various people and situations. With years of legal experience, lawyers begin to know how certain attorneys and judges work, and what negotiating techniques work most successfully with certain personality types or situations. Just as our parenting techniques improve with age, so do our lawyering techniques. Making good business decisions requires experience.
- Understand How The Law Applies To Your Business Or Situation.
The law is very fact dependent. There is no denying that social media is the new platform for marketing. The problem is that this new technology brings new issues and challenges. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Instagram. NLRB. ADA. ADEA. Title VII. The first four could get you in trouble with the last four. It is important to understand the impact and pitfalls of social media in labor/employment law. The internet allows us to access all types of information like never before. But just because we can does not mean that we should. There are legal uses of internet spying or social media by employers and ones that cross the legal lines both vividly and criminally. Examples of lawful use in the application process – resume verification, looking for evidence of unlawful activity by the potential employee and looking at writing samples. Examples of unlawful use would include “spying” on employees and taking action for legal activities of the employee on off-duty time. Employees do have privacy rights and freedom of speech. And these rights are not given up when you accept a job. If you engage in this genre of employee oversight, it is important to speak with your attorney about what conduct is permissible and what might subject you to penalties.
- Have Legally Enforceable Agreements.
Understand what is necessary to have a legally enforceable agreement. We know not everyone has a formal legal contract in every situation. Oral contracts can be enforceable. Not so formal agreements reached via a series of emails can be enforced. But, if you do not have the basic elements of a contract, you will not be able to enforce it. The terms must be definite and understood the same way by both sides. You cannot agree to agree – meaning you can’t leave key elements blank to be decided upon later. You must be able to identify what you are actually agreeing to – have a meeting of the minds as to what the terms of the bargain are and both sides must be both giving up and getting something in the transaction. (If not, it is a pure gift and well, try to enforce your mother’s promise to buy you a pony for your birthday.) In contract terms, we call it offer and acceptance, mutuality of obligation and consideration. Think who, what, where, when, why and how. Those will do the trick. What must each side do and what is the minimum standard that must be met? Most importantly, how do you get out of the deal if you need to and what happens if you do? If you have the basics, any good attorney can help you enforce the agreement.
- Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Your Brand.
Branding is more than a logo or catchy slogan. Focus on packaging for goods and websites for services. Create a recognizable “look and feel” for your promotional materials and your business office or retail space. Don’t forget to register your marks, but don’t stop there. Work with your marketing and legal team to create protectable trade dress. Consider design patent protection for proprietary designs to protect your product or packaging until consumer recognition develops and you can establish secondary meaning. One intellectual property strategy can often bolster another resulting in the strongest strategy for your valuable brand assets.