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Finding Legal Support For Your Publishing Business

Who’s on your team? Do you have a team? Let’s explore building out a support team for your indie publishing business with a focus on legal support.

A growing Indie publishing business will need expert legal services at some point. That’s not to say that you’ll be sued or will need to sue someone, rather that you’ll need to protect and license your intellectual property. Rather than waiting until you need help, a good CEO looks to put a qualified team in place before the need to give the team time to understand your goals and execute a proactive plan.

If you’re like most authors that are self-publishing, your legal strategies are non-existent or DIY. This is not sustainable if you’re scaling up a significant business. Now, I’m the guy that helps authors set up their own companies, so I advocate doing some things yourself rather than hiring a lawyer, but when it comes time to protecting or licensing your intellectual property, arrange for help ahead of time. You’ll want to find a team member that understands what you plan to do with your intellectual property and has the know-how and network to make that happen.

Here are some points to keep in mind as you think about when you should begin building your legal support team.

•    The CEO is responsible for pulling together the best support team for your business.

•    Build your team proactively rather than reactively.

•    It’s not about having a lawyer but having the right lawyer

•    Check the “scarcity mentality” at the door.

I thought it might also help to bring clarity to the bullet list by sharing some of my experience with hiring lawyers. An instance when my partner and I raised money for a start-up business and how mindset and our selection of lawyers helped to accomplish the goal.

The CEO is responsible for pulling together the best support team for your business.

Being the CEO of your indie publishing company means you have to apply effort to get the right team in place. Creating a support network is hard when you’re trying to do everything, including the extra work of building for the future.

Remember you are the limiting factor of your business. This isn’t a criticism, rather a way to free you from those limits. By accepting that your business is constrained  by your capacity to do work, your capabilities, and experience; you can identify the most significant limitations and figure out ways to remove them. One of the fastest ways is to bring in an expert to your network where you are a novice.

Build your team proactively rather than reactively.

Indeed, with the legal profession, it is far better to have relationships ahead of time rather than trying to find someone under the stress of some legal issue you face.

Be clear that you’re proactively looking for ongoing legal support. Ask the candidates who think are some of the best and worse firms. Explore their networks, and ask who do they know, what types of work are they are known for handling? Look to build a relationship and pay attention as to how interested they are in what you are doing.

Most importantly, do this work before you need a lawyer. Most business owners don’t interact with lawyers until they need one then they settle for who is available. We must intend to build a world-class team, not fill some slots for a local pick-up game.

Knowing you’ve done the work ahead of time to find the best lawyer will give you comfort if something comes up. We tend to rationalize our decisions after we make them even if the choice was based on convenience.

Write out the information used to make the decision, including a pros and cons list behind your choice.

It’s not about having a lawyer but having the right lawyer.

When my partner and I decided that we were going to bring in investors for our business his first recommendation was that we choose a particular law firm. The firm was one focused on Mergers and Acquisitions, they weren’t the biggest, but they had a stellar reputation and a national footprint.

Now both of us had sole practice lawyers we were comfortable with and could have done an OK job for a fraction of what the other firm would cost.

The decision would quintuple our legal costs. That meant that 50% of that cost would be my burden if we didn’t raise funds.

The decision to work with the “bigger” firm was based on our plan to raise money. The firm we picked had experience writing contracts for private investment. The payoff came when we were introduced to a publicly traded company that wanted to invest in our business.

This public firm eventually put in 3x what our other investors did. Our ability to work with them was based partially on the fact we had a law firm they had heard of, but more importantly a firm that could figure out a deal.

You see, the investor was a Real Estate Investment Trust and it had special investment rules.  Our legal team was able to work with the Investor’s legal team to craft a compliant investment, something my sole practitioner would have been out of his league on.

Amid this negotiation, it was clear that we were going to rack up over $100,000 in legal fees. When we talked with our potential investor about this not being part of the budget, they explained that they understood and since the investor brought complexity to the deal, they would increase the funding to cover legal fees.

They also were comfortable enough with our law firm to split responsibilities for paper parts of the deal giving us control over the language in many contracts rather than having it dictated to us.

Without having a law firm that had the capability and reputation I am confident the deal would have fallen apart.  We had the right members on our team to play at the professional level.

Check the scarcity mentality at the door.

Select the right lawyer based on qualification, expertise, and network, not on the hourly rate.

I know that for many the concern is cost.  Lawyers, certainly good ones come with high hourly rates.  That can influence your willingness to look at top tier IP firms.

Your intellectual property and business deserve the best.

Keep in mind if you are honest and upfront about what you are doing most Lawyers will give you some time to see if you should establish a relationship.

Help him or her understand your business and budget. Likely much of your portfolio work can be done by a lower cost associate under the guidance of a partner.

Don’t forget an attorney is a business person as well, and they aren’t always the best at drumming up new business. Help them to understand what you are trying to do in finding the best support.

Interview hard!

Remember you are looking to hire them not the other way around. This way you feel comfortable later when you do need to use their services.

Confirm they have

1.    the skills and resources to support your needs

2.    a network worth accessing

3.    a solid reputation

4.    Experience in the firm with litigation

Action Steps

1.    Identify the areas where you need ongoing help. If you plan to be licensing your IP then begin your search to find the best IP lawyers you can.

2.    Allocate the time to interview and build relationships with potential representation. Be clear to them about your process that you are interviewing them.

3.    Ask candidates about other firms to get more leads. Ask them for recommendations. Investigate and see if you hear the same names popping up.  For example, if you’re looking for the best divorce lawyer ask lawyers whom they used and see if the same name comes up.

4.    It’s not one and done. You can always change Lawyers. While it’s nice to make the decision and move on you should be talking with other authors about whom they use and continue interviewing.

With an excellent outside support network, you’ll have a number to call and better yet, a relationship where your support network has an understanding of your business and is eager to help.

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