Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid a lawyer will tell you “no”

I regularly hear from many clients about their process of deciding to hire an attorney for their small business. The most frequently-stated reason clients hesitate engaging legal counsel is their fear that the attorney will tell them they can’t legally do something that forms the core of their business.

All too often, clients say “I’ve always thought it better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”  Of that old addage, the word “better” never means less expensive.  In fact, clients generally pay me more to fix a problem and get them out of a mess than they pay me for advice upfront.

Moreover, it’s my job to facilitate clients’ wishes and help them make their small busienss dreams a reality.  It would be antithetical for me to tell my clients, “No, you can’t do that.”

So what do I tell clients?

“Let’s find a way”

Part of good training for any attorney is learning that instead of saying no, we should say “Let’s find a way.”  While it is my job to make sure that whatever my clients create, provide, or sell, they do so within the bounds of law and without infringing on the rights of others, it’s not my job to stamp out my clients’ creative aspirations. I’m here to help clients navigate thorny legal issues and successfully come out the other side.

For example, a client may come to me with an idea for a website that raises a host of copyright and trademark issues.  Although the idea as originally conceived may be unworkable under existing legal frameworks, my process would be to engage in brainstorming sessions with the client to help them develop the idea within the bounds of the law.

In this way, speaking to an attorney before you begin a project is a cost effective way to refine your ideas to maximize your creative output and minimize your legal liability.  And to that I say, “Yes, let’s find a way to do it.”

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