An inside look at how to create a legal strategy to take your business to the next level.

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We’ve been talking a lot about strategy – one of my absolute favorite words. Ever. It’s so important because even if you’re creative by birthright and innovative by nature, you can’t build an actual, profit-generating business that incorporates these gifts without good, strategic insight at every corner.

I’m an attorney but a creative, first. Sometimes, it’s difficult balancing my right- and left- brained tendencies. I suspect I’m not alone. Having a solid plan keeps me altogether. I shared before that hiring a business plan consultant was my first business move. Now, my go-to tool for business planning (introduced to me by my sister) is the One Page Business Plan for Creative Entrepreneurs.

I’ve learned that with any plan, it’s important to start with your end goal, and then work backwards – that way you have a pretty solid picture of the path you’ll need to take to achieve what success looks like for you. I’ve also learned the importance of allowing room for flexibility within your overall plan. Now, I know you’re saying… “Patrice, why would you tell me that I need a plan if you’re also going to say it’s okay to break it?” Because in reality, we change our minds and rework how we want to serve through our businesses. That’s natural, and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

A flexible plan gives you the wiggle room you need to be human but within a strategic framework.

I’ll spill a secret.

A business plan by itself is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. With no jelly.

Of course I’ll explain... Once I had a business plan my next step was to identify what I needed to put in place legally to bring each specific “thing” to life. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was actually mapping out my legal strategy. A legal strategy is an action plan that identifies those legal steps that need to be taken alongside your business plan to get you from point a to z.

A legal strategy is really important if:

  • You are launching a business while working and need a strategy to keep ownership of your intellectual property and inventions.
  • You are collaborating with someone on a project so you need a strategy to ensure the partnership terms further the goals of your own business instead of restricting you.
  • You are starting a new business altogether and you need a strategy for aligning the business with your long term initiatives while you execute.

Without a clear, legal strategy you end up:

  • Setting up a business structure that isn’t a great fit for you and doesn’t protect your personal assets like everyone claimed.
  • Signing contracts that looked great in silo but actually restricts you from future opportunities instead of creating new opportunities for you.

Let’s get specific.

Say you are presented with an opportunity to work on a project. The project pays a pretty penny and it would provide steady income for you. 8 months of income that is. (Congrats). But, there is this no-compete clause in the contract that says while you are working with us, you can’t do similar work for other companies in X, Y and Z industries.

Are you still with me?

Right now, you are only working in X industry…so you aren’t super concerned with Y and Z industries. Plus, you want to get that money. (Fair enough). With no legal strategy, you feel confident in your decision. But, with a legal strategy aligned to your business goals you know that in 2016 you plan to expand to those other industries. And, before that point, you want to take on a couple of free projects to build your profile in those industries.

But wait… the contract said you can’t. Exactly.

This is why legal strategy is the jelly to your dry ass peanut butter sandwich. One doesn’t work well without the other.

Here is a sneak peek at my exact process for developing a legal strategy based on some elements of my own business plan.

Vision Statement.

Your vision statement explains what you are building and how you will impact. My vision statement says (in part), “We deliver high-value, strategic legal solutions to leverage the work of creative entrepreneurs, change agents and innovators through intellectual property, resulting in the creation of long-term, sustainable businesses.”

The legal strategy breakdown looks like this:

I want to focus on strategic legal solutions —  a different approach to delivering legal services (most firms focus on just keeping you out of trouble or putting out the fires). So, I’ll look at how I can position myself through legal strategy:

  • Brainstorm ways to capture “strategic legal solutions” into a unique tagline or slogan associated with my firm.
  • Conduct a trademark search to determine the tagline’s availability as a federal trademark and register the trademark.
  • Standardize my process for identifying strategic legal solutions.
  • Brainstorm ways to brand that process (in other words, give it a name).
  • Conduct a trademark search to determine the branded process name availability as a federal trademark and register the trademark.
  •  Identify which elements of my “strategic legal solutions process” can be protected as a trade secret.
  • Make sure I have processes in place to protect those parts of my process as a trade secret.

The trademarks and trade secrets are important because they are intellectual property assets that will add financial value to my business. They can also be leveraged to create passive revenue streams.

Hint: I’ve already begun to brand my process as the 360 Approach.

Screenshot-2015-08-12-23.38.26-1122x604 business lawyer

 

Mission Statement.

Your mission statement explains why you exist and how your peeps will benefit form working with you. Mine says, “To allow creative entrepreneurs, innovators and change agents to escape the humdrum 9 to 5 world, and transform dreams into thriving businesses.”

The legal strategy breakdown looks like this:

My mission isn’t just to provide legal services it’s to transform peeps so they can live the lives they want. The first question is, “What do I need to do to really make that transformation happen?” I decided that I would provide education via valuable content – workshops, info products and a blog so my peeps could continue to learn when they weren’t working with me directly. I could make some content available for free, and monetize the rest as a part of my business model. This means I must:

  •  Develop a plan to legally protect my content so that I can monetize it
  •  Keep an inventory of all content created
  •  Develop a regular schedule for registering content with the U.S. Copyright office so I can maximize legal protections available to me if someone infringes on my content
  • Make sure I’m clear on the terms of use of any websites/blogs where I contribute. Will I own the content or will they own it. If they’ll own it, is it worth the trade-off for me?

Objectives.

Your objectives reflect specific and measurable priorities you’ve established for your business. One of the objectives is that I will facilitate two of my signature Real Law bootcamps next year. Real Law is a term I’m coining to identify my legal education as being no-fluff, plain English and actionable.

The legal strategy breakdown looks like this:

  • I need to research and protect the Real Law name as a federal trademark
  • Get a workshop facilitator contract in place that clearly states that I own this brand name as my intellectual property.

See how this works?

This sneak peek gives you solid insight into my legal strategy thought process. Next, I set deadlines for the legal work, and build it into my budget (yes, I still have to pay filing fees). Remember, the goal is to not just make a laundry list of “to-dos” but to prioritize and make it actionable.

I really believe in this process because I’ve done it in my business and with my clients. It works.

I’d love for you to start brainstorming your own legal strategy. I promise it will make a huge difference in how you do business on a daily basis, and accelerate your path to your ultimate goal.

If you want to collaborate with me on it we can do that in a Legal Quick Start.

If you want more (you nerd you) check out my podcast interview with Maggie Patterson. We chat about Creating Your Genius Law Strategy. 

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