Why Entrepreneurs and Creatives should not DIY their Legal Work

In your live as an freelancer or creative, you have a long list of to-do items; the daily business tasks that need to be performed to keep your business going and those items, usually DIY items that stay on the back burner until they become urgent and important. One such item is all the legal things you need to do to become a legitimate entity as a business.

Freelancers and creatives consider their work in creating value as always more important than running the business side of things resulting in delaying or ignoring legal issues that continue to pile up.

If You Have Been Sued, It’s Already Too Late:

What freelancers and creatives forget is that, the secret to your success isn’t when you beat the Goliath; it’s when you manage surviving day-after-day. Most entrepreneurs are too meagerly funded and have a cash flow that is usually unable to sustain a prolonged legal battle.

The realization often comes too late for most freelancers and creatives, often after they have been sued or are held liable for damage by an authority. By then, it is often too late to hire a lawyer to protect you from making such a mistake in the first place. Before you make the mistake of being your own lawyer for your small business, here are some logical reasons for hiring a lawyer:

To Protect You From a Lawsuit:

When it comes to business and a lawsuit, it is usually a death blow for that freelancer or creative’s career, because of the length of time and money required, even in order to prove that you did nothing wrong. A good lawyer can mitigate the damage your business will suffer, but even a great one can’t shorten the time, the expense and the impact a lawsuit can have on your business. It is therefore critical to be proactive and get legal advice before any major decision you take that can have legal implications.

To Make Demands on Your Behalf:

Unfortunately, if you’re a business owner, freelancer or creative you’ll likely run into a customer or client that won’t pay. It happens all too often, and many business owners try to handle this process on their own. Many times the most effective way to bring a client or customer to the table to pay those outstanding bills is to send them a letter on your lawyer’s letterhead. A so-called demand letter can be an effective way to circumvent a breakdown in communication and to try and resolve an issue before it escalates into full blown lawsuit.

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To Mitigate Damages from a Legal Action:

Even when you have been sued or are involved in legal limbo, your lawyer can help reduce the cost associated with the legal action by evaluating the claim and advising you on what part of it you are truly liable for. A good counsel can also help in negotiating with the other side from a position of strength and legal acumen to bring the settlement down to terms that each side is willing to accept.

To Draft/Review a Contract:

Legalities involved in contracts are often cumbersome with meaning and function of a given document changing over minor changes both in its language and at times the governing laws.

Contracts, whether it involves a commitment with a customer or employer (record label), hiring an employee or choosing a vendor is nuanced and long term commitment. It is therefore essential that you seek the advice and services of a competent attorney to draw them to ensure they are airtight and largely either in your favor or at least fair to both parties. It is inevitable that you will come across people that do not want to hold up their end of the bargain and in such cases, an ounce of prevention can save you a pound of headache and expense in dealing with such a situation.

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Compliance with State and Federal Regulations:

State and Federal laws are complicated and their compliance is often mandatory. This is something that many new business owners often realize too late and end up either losing their license critical to operate or incur heavy fines unknowingly violating such laws. It is especially true when dealing with interstate commerce, sales of technically sensitive items or hiring help. For example, many business owners need advice when it comes to paying taxes, recovering unpaid invoices, expanding the business etc.

In these instances, it is critical to have sound legal advice at hand. Not only to have an experienced and proactive ally but also to explain the nuance, technicalities and sometimes money-saving tips on how to become and remain in the good graces of the law and for the least time and effort expended.

Dealing with Employee Issues and Liability:

An employee working for a business is a legal representative of that business whose actions and their consequences hold the business directly liable. It is therefore critically important to ensure that each employee is taken through a proper orientation and training and made to acknowledge on paper that they understand and agree to abide by all the rules and regulations on paper. This also includes maintaining a legally compliant employee handbook.

A poorly created and sloppily administered orientation and training procedure can potentially create liability for the business on a regular basis and can spell trouble for business. Having an attorney to advise you on how to create and administer an effective employee orientation and training procedure to keep you on the clear legally.

In addition to this, employee litigation is becoming all too common in today’s litigious society and having legal representation can help you reduce your exposure or effectively counter such nuisance lawsuits from past or present employees.

Safeguarding Your Intellectual Property and Trademark:

If you are working in any field as an entrepreneur, it is more than likely that your success depends heavily on getting your company’s name out there. In today’s competitive marketplace, it is a matter of when and not if a competitor will try to take advantage of your company’s name and goodwill by either copying your name or products. It is critical that you trademark your company name and even your product names or slogans. Unfortunately, getting a trademark isn’t exactly easy, and if you mess up, you might lose your ability to get a trademark in the future.

A well-heeled lawyer will advice you adequately on trademark registration. A lawyer will smooth away the trial and error process of filing for a trademark by preparing the exact paperwork needed to get a trademark and file it in a timely manner. Alongside the application process, a decent lawyer can also beat back the competitors from stealing away the advantage you have in the marketplace.

In conclusion, it is critical that small business create a strategic advantage in the marketplace and pay close attention to the day-to-day business activities to stay afloat and preferably engage a legal consultant to safeguard itself from legal entanglements rather than trying the DIY approach.

To help small business owners access quality legal solutions within their limited budget or cashflow, we have introduced affordable legal plans that include unlimited legal consultation, document review/drafting, meeting/negotiation support, tax planning amongst other services starting at N25,000/YEAR. Visit www.affordablelaw.ng to sign up today.

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