Monday, October 5, 2009

Legal Counsel

As my business moves along, and I try and bootstrap it from the ground up, trying to minimize or eliminate fees is key, as it will be for your small business. But at the same time, I am trying to avoid being pennywise and pound foolish. From the get go I have questioned whether I can get any patent protection for my product. At the very least, I was going to trademark it.

Unfortunately, these are dollars that should be spent to at least get adequate counsel. I am glad I did. I met last week with a law firm on an initial consultation. The information I received was invaluable before I paid a dime in legal fees.

First, how did I find this law firm? Truth be told I looked up a few of the local legal firms, that are known for their corporate law practices, and sent introductory email messages to them, explaining who I was, why I was emailing and what I needed. In particular I wanted to talk with an associate that specialized in IP, as well as general corporate law questions, and if possible sales and use tax attorneys.

First law firm came back to me and said, sure we can meet with you, we charge an initial consultation fee of $150. I was prepared to pay it if I needed to until I reached out to the second law firm. They set up an appointment with one of the senior partners, where he listened to what I was doing, and what I was trying to accomplish. He then put me in touch with a younger associate that specialized in trademark.

I talked with the trademark attorney, and set up an appointment to meet with him. Before we even met he gave me some things to look up on a google search so I could understand what I was looking for. All of this at no charge. We met and talked about where I could run into problems, and what else I was looking for. All of this before I got charged a dime. We agreed to let him do some work, maximum two hours at $175 an hour. In addition, he was going to put me in touch with a colleague at another firm to talk patent.

These are the type of lawyers you want. Those that are interested in learning about your business. They make it up in more legal work in the future. Right now I am quite happy I met with them, and will continue to use them in the future. Because they are in a less urban area, their per hour fees are quite a bit less then what I would be charged in Silicon Valley. I figured I just got $10k in education on trademark for nothing.

My advice, do not pay an initial consultation fee. If this law firm wants to build a business with you, they will take a little time to meet with you and understand your business. At the same time, don't waste their time. Come prepared with your prototype, copies of your logos and names, so that the meeting goes smooth and fast. Remember, in the future, $175 per hour billed in 10 minute increments starts to add up over time.

Quality Printing for Less at

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