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? Re: Legal Advice from Home Based business

tankeytankey subscriber Posts: 11
edited September 2007 in Grab Bag
I am in the process of starting a home based business.  I have a business lawyer that was recommended through a SBA counselor.  The lawyer is quite pricey.   From my  initial meeting with her, she shared that when people try to go it alone regarding legal aspects of their business (i.e. legal kits, website info, etc.), many end up having to go to a lawyer any way and end up paying them more to fix the problem then they would have paid if only they had gone to them first.  I also heard this from someone married to a lawyer.  Now I am interested in hearing how true this is from people who are not lawyers (or married to one), and are self employed in a home business.  Does one really need a lawyer to find out when to copy right and/or trademark, and how to do it?  Does one need to ask a lawyer about every move (i.e. flier distribution, what should go on the flier to make sure there are no legal violations and to make sure the intellectual property of my business is protected, etc.).?Another issue..I submitted a request to my lawyer and her assistant over two weeks ago and never got it answered.  I checked in with her assistant once via email.  She replied that the lawyer had been sick and would call me that week.  After waiting all week, I finally emailed the assistant back the Friday before Labor Day weekend, and have yet to hear back from anyone from that firm.  I`ve met with the lawyer only once in person, and it was a hefty charge.  My latest request is info I wish for her to email me, which she has not done yet.  At the rate of $210 an hour, I`d expect more.  What are your thoughts?


  • PiperTaxPiperTax subscriber Posts: 5
    At $210 an hour, I`d expect more too.
    I`d certainly agree that a lawyer is an extremely important member to have on your team of advisors. However, I`d grab some self-help legal books (anything from Nolo is high quality) before meeting with a lawyer.
    I`ve generally found that spending $20 on a book and spending some time reading can help you to need need less face to face lawyer time. In other words, meeting with a lawyer is important, but do a little research ahead of time and you can shorten-up your meetings, and thus shrink your bill.  (Same thing with taxes and your accountant).
  • avengeravenger subscriber Posts: 0
    Take my advice . . . I`ve counseled businesses for years and worked as a business banker for the nations top institutions. Spend sometime in Borders or Barnes and Noble with a good cup of coffee.  Forget the lawyers/liars and go it alone.  In the end, you will be more knowledgeable with more money in your pocket.  Remember, unless you are in deep trouble with the law/divorce, you are better off doing the footwork.  Trust me.  
  • tankeytankey subscriber Posts: 11
    Thanks Janie, Piper Tax, and Avenger.  I guess as you mentioned, I need to do my foot work myself.  Right now, I am trying to find out if I need to Trademark or Copyright my business.   I went to the website for the United States Patent and Trademark Office regarding to see if the if the name of my business is already trademarked by someone else (it is not).  However, I asked the lawyer about this, too (still waiting to hear back).  I am wondering if the trademark search is something I don`t need her for.  However, for getting a Trademark or Copyright filed, it appears that I would need her because the site did not go into all that....unless I missed that info.  Has anyone ever filed a trademark without the aid of a lawyer?  I am curious. I got a call for my lawyer`s office literally a few minutes ago, and arrangements have been made for a phone appointment tomorrow.  Wish me well.
  • tankeytankey subscriber Posts: 11
    OldNikko,I don`t know if the SBA counselor does have a fiduciary relationship with her...as I understand the term (I may be mistaken about my understanding of the term...does it mean obligated to the lawyer?).  Anyway, I do know that they are good friends. The SBA counselor mentioned in passing once, that she was over to have dinner with him and his family.  Also, when he holds classes for small businesses, she is often the lawyer that does the lawyer presentation part of the classes.
  • tankeytankey subscriber Posts: 11
    Thanks for the advice Nikko.  I never thought to contact my local bar association for a recommendation.  Janie, I am in the process of a content based website, where I provide a free service for people who register with the site (shopping referrals and recommendations), and earn money through advertising and affiliate programs on the site. I plan to direct my services to the locals of my area and to mainly support local businesses.  I am still in the embryo stage.  I am attempting to do marketing research now.  I have a survey already developed and ready to deploy via email.  In order to get people to take the survey, I plan on having a drawing, among those who take and complete the survey, for two winners of Visa Gift Cards.  I wish to place fliers in various places throughout my community to solicit people to take the survey, in exchange for being placed in the drawing.  However, I wanted to know, from my lawyer (or anyone else with knowledge on the matter), if I need to Trademark or Copyright my business before distributing fliers with my company`s name on it, and put the indication that I am Trademarked or Copyrighted on media I create with my company`s name.
  • vwebworldvwebworld subscriber Posts: 40
    As Janie said, a trademark is not required before doing anything...unless you feel the name is of value or may be ripped off without it.
    A copywrite is different and can be implied by simplu announcing the material is copywrited...like a webpage.
    I`m not an attorney...nor do I play one on TV
  • tankeytankey subscriber Posts: 11
    Thanks Janie and Roland.  I will post questions to this site sooner when I have questions. As it turns out, I have a 1:00 phone appointment arranged with her today. After this costly discussion, I will more than likely change lawyers and do much more research before I go to the lawyer...unless it is one of those big "lawyer" tasks.  I posted questions here to see if how the lawyer was operating was in the normal scope of things.  Some things have been pointed out to me that tell me perhaps the lawyer was not operating in the normal scope of things.  Not that she is necessarily corrupt or categorically unethical.  However, her prices are high, for the below par service I`ve been getting.  Plus some other minor things happened that I did not address because I felt it would appear that I was nit picky at the time.  But those things have been on the back of my mind.  Now, with the correspondence issue, everything seems like valid concerns.  Yes Nikko, you did give helpful and informative advice.  I am glad I read them, and remembered what you said, before you deleted them.If any of you have any additional suggestions, I`d love to hear about them.  Meanwhile, I believe I will start a couple of more threads.  I have lots of questions.  I can`t wait until I am a bit more informative so I can share my advice as well. 
  • tankeytankey subscriber Posts: 11
    Well, I wanted to keep you all updated and get your take on things. My lawyer finally called (after about 15 days of no contact).  She informed me that I can choose to register my trademark now, before my business actually launches, which is more expensive, yet will have the advantage of already having the mark in case someone else tries to use it.  Or I can trademark my business after I`ve launched it which is less expensive, however, I would run the risk of someone else trademarking it which would prevent me from doing it.  She she said which ever I choose, is a business decision.  During our conversation, she stated she left me a voice mail after I emailed her office, to see what was taking so long.  I told her I did not get any messages from her.  She insisted she left me one.  When I asked which number she left the voice mail, she stated on the one  she was currently speaking to me (my cell phone).  I have no record of that message.  I believe she may try to charge me for the time of leaving me a voice mail that I never got.  My husband told me to get the record of all of our incoming calls from the cell phone company if she tries to bill me for the voice mail. Another issue is that when her assistant called to set up the phone appointment, she asked me which number should the lawyer use to call me.  I specifically stated for her to use the home number, since my cell phone can drop calls from time to time. Yet, the lawyer called me on my cell phone.  Well, luckily, the call was not dropped.  I`ve already decided to no longer use the services of the lawyer in question.  I actually made that decision before the phone appointment, but I knew I`d be charged for any work she did, on my behalf, up until that point.  Thanks to you all for your advice.  Hopefully, the additional info I`ve learned and shared about trademarking will benefit others.
  • melanienegrinmelanienegrin subscriber Posts: 0
    Dear tankey:The world of copyright and trademark can be quite tricky.  If your local community college offers a class in intellectual property, it is a worthwhile investment.  The big thing I find missing from this discussion is the idea of a service mark.   A service mark (SM instead of TM) can be used for a service and will act like a trademark.  By adding SM after the word or phrase you are considering for a trademark and using it consistently from day one, you should have a similar protection as long as no one else placed the word or phrase in use before you did.  Keep in mind, however, that pursuit of a trademark is only useful if you have the staffing and money to enforce it by tracking others who are using it, contacting them to ask that they do not use it (or willingly changing your own service mark if they had it in use first), and potentially bringing legal suit against the party infringing on your rights.  I am guessing that you are not quite ready to handle all of that on your own.  When just getting started, most entrepreneurs aren`t.  You may want to explore more about these ideas at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (uspto.gov).  You can do a quick and dirty trademark search there and can call them directly to try and get some of your questions answered, only turning to a intellectual property lawyer when critical.  The process for applying for trademark is also detailed.  Melanie R. Negrin, Merocune Marketing & Public Relations(www.merocune.com
  • tankeytankey subscriber Posts: 11
    Melanie,Thanks for your advice and information regarding Trademark and Servicemark.  I have done some poking around int  the US Patent and Tradmark Office site..have been for some time.  I don`t know if I`m just very distracted or what, but I was having trouble deciphering the bottom line of such matters.  I will look through it again when I am better rested and have no distractions.  I`ve been to your site and I am sure you can relate...with two children and all.  Do you run your business on a full time or part time basis? 
  • melanienegrinmelanienegrin subscriber Posts: 0
    Don`t be discouraged. The world of intellectual property can be quite daunting.As for my business, I am essentially full-time, though my hours are quite varied from day to day, working around family schedules and distractions. Thanks for your interest. Melanie
  • KimPaluchKimPaluch subscriber Posts: 0
    I just wanted to take a moment to say something. If you are new and not financially in a position to afford a pricey lawyer, you have two options...find a financial planner/accountant/tax lawyer who can help. The other option is to do the foot work yourself. Obviously, when we`re starting out, we don`t have the money to invest in people to support us. But remember...there will come a time in any successful business when the owner will be able to choose to wear all the hats and continue to do everything or delegate and hire people to do that.
    Here is one place where having connections works well. Have you attended any SBA functions, Chamber of Commerce meetings, etc.? Take some time to mingle and meet. Be sure your business cards make you look good, and hand them out. Be prepared to get cards too, and jot down what you want to remember about the contact. When you`ve made contact, you are now in a position to call and mention where you met them, that you were impressed with what they had to say and wanted their advice on a good consultant.
    Something to consider. I was going to say I`d be happy not to wear all the hats, but then I can`t say for sure. I wear many of the hats in our business, but I also know everything that goes on. Sometimes I enjoy that, sometimes I`d rather just do what I love doing.
    Be well,
  • tankeytankey subscriber Posts: 11
    Thanks Kim.  I actually was recommended to my current lawyer from an SBA counselor, and this lawyer is not impressive, even after I have given her the benefit of the doubt several time.  I look forward to going to some chamber events as you suggested, and networking.  I still have my day job keeping me plenty busy, so it takes lots of coordination of time to make things happen.  But I `ve  manage some creative scheduling for my day job, I must say.  Thanks again.
  • deltadelta subscriber Posts: 0
    Hey Tankey,
    I`d have to agree...you`ve got to do the research if you`re really going to be able to help yourself (even if you do end up using a lawyer) Spend the day in Barnes & Noble; I think you`ll learn a lot.
    I found that legalzone.com was very helpful and certainly less than $200+ an hour. Is it just me or is that crazy?
  • tankeytankey subscriber Posts: 11
    Hi Delta!I just checked out Legalzone.com and book marked it.  I`ve used Legalzoom.com for other things, and they have a division too, called All Business.  Anyway, this Legalzone you put me onto looks like a good resource as well.  Thanks!Tankey
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