After two years of working with digital entrepreneurs, I noticed a pattern. My clients would come to me to draft a contract, secure their trademark or form a business entity and then they would disappear for a while. Inevitably, they came back because they needed my help solving a legal problem. And more often than not, that legal problem was the direct result of them trying to DIY their legal needs.
One client botched her business formation so bad, that the process of reorganizing her business took a few months and cost her more than it would have cost to pay me to form the business in the first place. Another client drafted his own Client Service Agreement and wound up needing my help to collect fees from an important client who stiffed him out of a significant amount of money.
This pattern totally bummed me out. I hated to see my clients getting screwed out of money or wasting their time and energy. After talking with several of them, I realized the main reason they would try to do some of their legal work on their own and only contact me for the “big” stuff was because they were concerned about …. you guessed it, money! They were trying to save money and often wound up getting into situations where it cost them more than the initial legal fees would have in the first place!
So I needed to figure out how to solve this problem for my clients, once and for all. The solution was not working for free because I have kids to feed (and they both eat A LOT!). But I did figure out a solution that worked out to be a win-win.
Enter: Our Indispensable, Annual Program for Digital Entrepreneurs
Too many small business owners and entrepreneurs are going about their business (literally) without the legal counsel they need because they’re afraid it will cost them a gajillion dollars.
This just in: it won’t. Well, with us that is.
WHAT THE #*&% IS AN ANNUAL PROGRAM?
At the end of 2012, I found a way to solve both the “I’m getting myself and my business in trouble because I keep trying to DIY my legal needs” and the “I’m scared as hell to call my lawyer because she’s gonna charge me a bajillion dollars if I ask her this one question I really need help with” problems with one proverbial stone: an annual program.
Our annual programs include all the different legal services and support our clients could ever need throughout the year, but instead of making it rain every time their company has a legal need ($$$), their legal fees are spread out throughout the year. Each of our annual program clients pays a gloriously predictable (and reasonable), flat monthly fee. In exchange, they each get a legal team who knows their stuff AND also understands their business at their disposal … for all of their legal needs. That includes any legal questions they have, whenever they have them. Yes, really. (We call it “Lawyer On Demand,” catchy right?)
While no two small businesses are exactly the same, most of our clients — digital entrepreneurs, thought leaders and tech startups — have similar legal needs based on their stage of business. So, we created four levels for our clients to choose from based on their stage of business and the legal needs they would have at that stage.
Want to know how the Annual Programs have
helped saved our clients? Why didn’t you just say so?!
Here are a few examples of our annual program clients* and how we have worked with them throughout the past year.
BOB THE A-LIST BLOGGER
He’s a well-known blogger and expert in his field. After being in business for two years, things really started to take off. With a growing audience and a growing intellectual property portfolio, he realized he’d better get some help establishing a solid foundation for his growing business. He signed up for a Level 2 annual program and we got to work.
The first thing we did was establish a new business entity for his business based on his revenue and some other factors. We then drafted contracts for the various members of his team and a client service agreement for his one-on-one client work. Next, we drafted privacy policies and terms and conditions for his various websites and then began securing his intellectual property via trademark and copyright registrations and sending a few cease and desists to those who were infringing on his IP rights.
During our year working together, Bob had an opportunity to partner with another company in a very lucrative venture. We drafted the joint venture agreement which allowed him to jointly develop a product with a partner that has become the cornerstone of his business and brought in several hundred thousand dollars in revenue. Bob also wound up getting threatened with a lawsuit by an old client (who had never signed his new client service agreement). We handled the dispute for Bob (so he could get back to business) and were able to negotiate a settlement that cost him very little and diffused the dispute.
Now Bob has increased his revenue by about $200k from when he started working with us, he has recently partnered with a major corporation providing services in his area of expertise and is ready to take on a major change in his business that will free up his time to work with more big companies.
PAM THE POWER PRODUCT DESIGNER
Pam came to us after getting some big press for a new product she had developed a few months earlier. She had been advised to get a legal foundation in order by a mentor and was excited to find us. Pam was running a startup in the tech space, producing a physical product in a unique way with an online component she had designed and coded herself.
Pam had big plans for a partnership program with individual designers, so we assisted her in masterminding the program and drafting the contracts for her new partners. Then, unexpectedly, a team member who held equity in the company and had been an integral part of the business decided to part ways. We guided Pam through the process of losing her team member and drafted the separation agreement.
Now Pam has launched her new partnership program and has other big plans for the company, including getting out to trade shows and expanding her audience.
ANDREA THE BEST-SELLING AUTHOR
Andrea is a best-selling author, speaker and consultant. Andrea and her business partner came to us after getting killed in taxes one year. They knew they needed to get some structure around their business. They had worked with lawyers before but never established an ongoing relationship which is what they needed now.
Our first order of business (as it often is) was to restructure the company. They had the wrong business entity and that was the root of their massive tax bill. We recommended an accountant and bookkeeper they could work with to resolve related issues with their bookkeeping. We then brought in a tax attorney we often work with to ensure the new business structure relieved all of their tax concerns. Throughout the restructuring we provided legal advice and helped them make important decisions about the future of the company.
In addition to restructuring the company, we drafted a new agreement for their speaking engagements, which is responsible for a large portion of their revenue. We also drafted a new contract with their key salesperson.
Over the next six months, we will be working with them to secure the vast amounts of intellectual property that they have created over the years. We will also be reviewing their e-commerce process for potential legal pitfalls and drafting additional contracts to protect their business.
What's next for our Annual Program clients?
Our annual program clients have the option to renew their program at the end of 12 months working with us… and most do. Now that it’s that time of year — corporate filings and taxes — we’re working on getting their annual corporate filings ready and reviewing existing business formations to ensure that they’re still the most effective for each of their businesses. Business formation is not a one and done type of decision and often requires review as your business grows and pivots.
There is also a variety of intellectual property registration and policing in the works. The trademark process is a lengthy one so we typically have at least a dozen applications in process at any given time. That means we’re getting new ones ready and responding to requests from the USPTO on existing ones. We’re reviewing a potential trademark appeal in addition to getting copyrights secured for a variety of creative works of our clients. It’s also that time of year for reviewing and updating contracts for new products, joint ventures, licensing deals and so much more!
Our favorite thing is to help digital entrepreneurs and small business owners safeguard the businesses they’ve worked so hard to build (AKA check themselves before they wreck themselves.)
Our annual programs have become the cornerstone of our practice and we absolutely love partnering with our clients in this way. It allows us to provide excellent legal advice and service to these business owners in a holistic manner. We are constantly on the phone or in the Online Law Office working with our annual program clients — whether it’s just answering questions and reviewing legal documents — to major restructuring and intellectual property audits.
We get to know everything that’s going on in their business and help them strategize the best ways to protect themselves from a legal standpoint. For example, one client was changing some aspects of her manufacturing and shipping process. Of course, we drafted the agreements with her manufacturing and shipping partners but because we had also drafted her Terms and Conditions, we immediately knew those changes required a crucial edit to her Terms.
We’ve been offering annual programs for over a year now and its been very successful for our clients and for us. Last September, we reached capacity and had to stop taking on new clients. We love our annual programs and our clients so much that we decided to add another full-time lawyer to our team so that we have the capacity to take on more annual program clients.
Ready for us to rock your world? We know you are! See how an Annual Program for Digital Entrepreneurs can help you protect and maximize the value of the business you’ve worked so hard to build. We are currently accepting new annual program clients from the following states: NY, NJ, CT, and CA. Request your free 30 minute consultation with one of our attorneys.
*The names (and genders, in some cases) have been changed to protect our clients.