When you run a business, be it as a solopreneur or a company with 50+ employees, you need to have a strategy. In fact, most companies have multiple strategies that cover different aspects of the business— marketing, finances, hiring, and more. However, as a lawyer who works with fast-growth companies and entrepreneurs, I know firsthand that one particular area often gets overlooked — the legal strategy.
Legal needs often get completely ignored. But as much as we’d like to skip over the legal work that needs to be done, the fact is:
Avoidance is not a legal strategy.
So what causes people to put off handling their legal needs? And how can that avoidance of creating a legal strategy create other problems? Let’s take a look at why you should stop avoiding and start getting your legal strategy taken care of sooner rather than later.
Why People Avoid Legal
It’s probably not surprising that one of the most common reasons people cite for not being proactive with their legal strategy is money. Yes, legal work CAN be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. The reality is that by handling things before they become problematic, you’re actively working to keep your costs in check. It’s when things go wrong that your legal costs can really spiral out of control. When you can plan and put legal into your budget, there won’t be surprise bills.
Plus, for many people, legal feels mysterious or overwhelming. You don’t know what you don’t know, and so it’s easier to just push it off until “later.” Unfortunately, “later” often turns to “never,” and then suddenly you find yourself having to play catch up and address multiple legal issues at once.
Another roadblock people can run into is that there’s nothing inherently “fun” about solidifying legal strategy and finishing up their legal work. It’s not like designing a new website, where you spend the money and see a nice, shiny finished product at the end of the process and everyone can see the labor of the work done. While people typically aren’t sharing on social about their beautiful new contracts, it can be just as exciting as the new website.
I’d be remiss if I also didn’t include the fact that a lot of people have a bad attitude in general about lawyers. There’s that stereotype of the stuffy old codger in a pinstriped suit, sitting in an office that looks straight out of Downton Abbey, waxing philosophical about the law just waiting to take every dollar he can from you. Listen, I get it. Not knowing what to expect can be uncomfortable. But a good lawyer wants to be your partner and provide the support you need now to ensure your legal strategy covers your business today AND in the future.
Getting Your Legal Business Handled
There are many compelling reasons why you should make the decision to get your legal strategy handled, starting with the fact that it’s far easier to handle something proactively, instead of reactively.
Ensuring you have something as simple as a contract in place that outlines the responsibilities of both parties can make all the difference when it comes to settling a dispute. Legal counsel can help you avoid client or contractor disputes by ensuring everything is clear. I’ve had many clients tell me that when things went off the rails, their contracts helped them avoid issues from spiraling out of control.
Planning ahead for these challenges is usually less costly and something you can budget for. By getting the appropriate documents in place you can save a massive headache (and legal bill) later on down the road.
Also, legal strategy is designed to protect your business. Whether you’re dealing with something like branding and trademarks or contractor agreements, your business can be left vulnerable if you haven’t spent any time to make sure your legal is covered.
Bottom line — being proactive about your legal needs is simply part of your due diligence and protecting yourself and those that you work with.
How Avoidance Can Impact You or Your Business
If you’ve been reading this and thinking “Well Danielle, I don’t think my business needs a legal strategy,” I’d like you to consider some examples. While these may not be applicable to your specific business, they illustrate how little things can turn into bigger problems if they aren’t cared for.
Potential Issue #1: Your Client Wants Out of Scope Work
A copywriter or graphic designer gives a flat fee or project-based price, but the agreement is silent on revisions. Now, the client has requested a seventh revision and the company is scrambling because, at this stage, they are losing money on the project and need to stop the endless revisions, but the agreement says nothing.
Solution: Fix the client agreement to address revisions and requests that fall outside of the agreed-upon scope of work. This way, the client knows what to expect and the business owner can be firm in what they will deliver as part of the project.
Potential Issue #2: Your Client Ghosts You
A client agrees to a multi-month agreement with a flat fee due for a three-month period. The client ghosts, then reappears five months later expecting the work to continue. The company’s pricing has increased in that time period. What happens?
Solution:A client agreement that includes language regarding delays, refunds, stopping work and rate increases.
Potential Issue #3: Your VA Solicits Your Clients
A company hires a virtual assistant (VA). The company finds out that VA is marketing services to the company’s client list. Clients are complaining and questioning how the company does business. Can they prevent VA from contacting their clients?
Solution:Have the VA sign a confidentiality and/or non-solicit agreement at the time they are hired that outlines rules and conditions for the use of internal company property, including client lists.
Potential Issue #4: Your Client Makes Unreasonable Requests
A client likes to contact the company with emergencies on Saturday nights. Usually through something like text or Instagram DMs. The client then freaks out when they get no response by Sunday brunch. What can the company do to create better boundaries?
Solution: Setting a communications policy with response times, office hours and appropriate methods of contact. (Some companies also include additional fees for weekend contact, and this can be outlined in the agreement.)
Potential Issue #5: Your Client is a No-Show for Calls
As part of a company’s services, a client receives multiple calls with the company. The client has canceled the same call four times with less than an hour of notice each time. What can the company do to deal with this behavior?
Solution:Include a cancellation policy agreement.
Stop Avoiding and Start Working on Your Legal Strategy
As you can see from the scenarios above, with a well-drafted agreement, all of these things can probably be covered. While a contract can never prevent people from being jerks, it can at least give clarity on how to govern the situation.
Hiring a lawyer to assist with your legal strategy gives you the opportunity to look at the entirety of your business and use their expertise to help you proactively avoid bigger legal issues down the line.
Have you been avoiding the legal side of your business but are now ready to take the first step towards getting things on track?
Book a consult and we can get started.
Not exactly sure what kind of services you need? Learn more about the legal planning and strategy services we offer.