Aspects of Your Business’s Legal Foundation You Might Be Able to DIY

Welcome to another episode of Launched & Legal with Dayna Thomas, Esq., entrepreneurship attorney and law firm coach. Launched & Legal is an Atlanta Small Business Network original series dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for strategizing, legalizing, and monetizing their ventures. Today, Dayna shares whether you should hire an attorney, or potentially DIY, certain legal items for your new business’s foundation.

Transcription: 

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
Now, as an entrepreneur myself, I know that every dollar counts and you want to make sure that you are using your investments, your savings, any money that you have available for your business in the best way possible. I also know, as a lawyer, that even the thought of hiring a lawyer for everything in your business makes your wallet cringe. So I’m going to help you today with identifying potentially, not always, but potentially some aspects of your legal foundation that you may be able to DIY.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
Now here’s the caveat. Every lawyer may not agree with some of the items that you can DIY. Really, it comes down to opinion, how business savvy you are, and frankly, how well you can follow directions. Overall, it’s a cost benefit analysis and an assessment of potential risk. If the thought of even trying to do any of these things on your own scares you, get a lawyer for it all. In fact, it’s always best to have a lawyer, but if you had to reach into lion’s mouth to get the lawyer’s fee for each of these items, these are the ones I’d recommend you risking your arm for.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
All right now. First on our list, forming an LLC. Now I actually have that on my DIY list. Yes, forming an LLC is a service that many business lawyers offer. However, it’s so common, so frequent, and there’s so much information online and videos that shows you how to form an LLC. And in a lot of states, especially in Georgia, if you do something wrong as it relates to your LLC application, they will email you and let you know what you did wrong and how to fix it and give you a good amount of time to do it. So I would recommend a DIY for forming your LLC if your funds are tight. I think that’s something that you can do on your own. And again, if you’re not that business savvy at all, you can definitely send it to a lawyer.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
Next, register your trademark. Now I’m definitely putting that one on the lawyer side. And the reason for that is time is of the essence as it relates to trademarks. If someone files a successful application before you, then you are cut out of so many potential trademark rights and that directly affects your bottom line. It affects your brand. It affects your business and your wallet. Not only that, but once your trademark application is submitted, it is reviewed by another attorney. So you want to make sure that you’re on the same level with the trademark attorney that’s reviewing your application. If there is an issue with your application, there’s going to be a lot of legalese. And that response to you as it relates to your application about how to fix it, or whether something is even able for you to overcome. You’ll see case law being cited. You’ll see statutes being cited. And you are going to be very confused if this is something that you are not familiar with. So I would definitely recommend to get a lawyer for your trademark. Again, time is of the essence, and there’s a lot of legalese as it relates to filing your trademark application.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
Moving on. The next one is register your copyright. I’m actually going to put this on the DIY list. The copyright application is relatively simple. Not only that, again, there are so many videos on how to do it. And if there’s an issue with the copyright application that you submit, thankfully, the copyright office does send you an email in plain English terms letting you know what may be wrong and how you fix it. There is not legalese in the emails that come from the copyright office about what to do. It’s a regular email. They’re asking you direct questions and you can respond directly to those as well. So I think filing a copyright application is something that you can DIY.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
All right. Now let’s move on to the next one, drafting contracts. Tell me what you think. We’re going to put that on the lawyer side. Drafting contracts is nothing that you should play with. It can make or break your business. It gives rights. You acquire rights. There has to be consideration. There can be waivers and disclaimers and governing law and termination. So many things that you may you not be familiar with, but not only that, so many things that you may not even know has such a huge implication for your business. Contracts do have a lot of legalese, meaning legal language that may not even have the same exact definition in common terms, right? So your contracts are items in your business foundation that you should definitely hire a lawyer for. It’s important to get it right the first time, because if something goes wrong and you get sued for contract infringement, that can be really costly for your business and might take your business out.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
All right, moving on. We’re going to talk about your website terms and conditions. All right. Now this one was a little bit tough for me, but you know what? I’m going to go on the DIY side for this. And the reason for this is because there’s so many examples out there for a proper terms and conditions for a website like yours, for a company like yours that may sell certain products or services. So you’ll be able to see so many examples. And while I don’t recommend copying and pasting anyone’s terms and conditions, right? Or taking any full paragraphs exact language, because copyright laws do apply. It can give you an awesome guideline on what you need to include in your own terms and conditions so that you can draft it, review it, take a look at many other ones, and see if you can put it together yourself. All right. If it doesn’t quite work out for you, or even if you want to have a lawyer take a look at what you’ve put together, that’s also a great option.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
Similar to that is a website privacy policy. Now website privacy policy I’m going to also put on the DIY side. This one wasn’t too easy for me to decide. But again, if you had to put your arm in a lion’s mouth to get that legal fee, I wouldn’t risk it for that one. Again, for the same reason. There’s so many privacy policy examples out there, so many websites out there that have privacy policies. And if you have some business savvy, you can understand what it says, then you may be able to put it together yourself. And an awesome thing to do is to have your lawyer review it to make sure that it is legally sound.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
Okay. Now the next one I have is a cease and desist letter or other enforcements of your rights. We’re going to put that on the lawyer side. Not only because we want to make sure that your letters or enforcements are well drafted, but because people tend to pay more attention when it comes from a lawyer, right? If it doesn’t come from a lawyer, they may not take it seriously. They may continue to infringe on your brand. They may continue in breach of that contract. But if it comes from a lawyer, one thing that it shows is that you’re willing to spend money to defend your brand because even that letter costs money for a lawyer to do. So if it comes from a lawyer, it shows that you have already invested in protecting your brand. You’ve already invested in protecting your rights and that you likely would be willing to continue to do so. So that person that receives that cease and desist letter or that breach of contract notification needs to take you seriously, especially if it comes from a lawyer.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
All right. Last but not least, your will or business succession plan. We’re certainly going to put this on the lawyer side. This has to be right, because we don’t want any family members fighting over your business, who owns or is owed what. We want to keep it as peaceful as possible and you have to get this right the first time. So this is definitely not something that you should DIY. No amount of research is even going to give you any amount of enough insight to do it the right way. You definitely want to make sure that you hire a lawyer for your will and your business succession plan, because it’s a lot that goes into it, especially when it involves physical or intellectual property.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
Now, I hope that list helps to clarify things for you. While it is true that it’s best to get a lawyer to help you with every and all legal aspects of business, I know from being an entrepreneur myself and just starting out that it’s not always easy and it’s not always in the budget to hire a lawyer for every legal aspect that you need. For a lot of things that you need to do to establish a solid legal foundation, there’s good videos online, there’s information blogs, and especially blogs from other lawyers. So take a look and see what you can find, but certainly there are certain items that you should prioritize for your lawyer, but then other things that I think you may be able to DIY.

Dayna Thomas, Esq.:
Well, I hope today show helped to educate and inspire you as you pursue your business goals. Be sure to share today’s show with someone who can benefit and visit myasbn.com to subscribe. If you have any questions or comments about today’s show, I would love to hear from you. Send me a message or a comment on Instagram at Dayna Thomas Law. Remember to tune in next week and every week to make sure your business is launched and legal.


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