What type of lawyer do I need for my photography business?
So you’ve realized your business needs some legal protection overhaul, whether it is a major overhaul or minor tweaks, but you need guidance on where to go.
This is figuring out the type you need, the price you may pay, as well as how to find them.
What type do I need?
Figuring out the type of lawyer you need is extremely important. In theory, barred attorneys can take on pretty much any case – it doesn’t mean they can or should. Attorneys have an ethical duty to have a competency to handle your case, but even more than that, you should want an attorney who specializes in the area that you’re seeking assistance in. Some areas of law require more understanding than a cursory understanding or quick flip through in a “crash course” guide can provide.
I hate to throw my lawyer folk under the bus, but some try to take on all types of cases but are not well equipped to do so. Think of the adage, jack of all trades but master of none. Legal isn’t something to mess with. Get someone who is specialized. Think of it this way, while a medical malpractice attorney may have taken tax law in law school 20 years ago, it doesn’t mean you probably want them advising you on tax strategies and actions.
Here is a quick checklist to take a gander at the type of lawyer you may need depending on your legal needs:
- Contracts – Small Business/Contracts
- Business Formation – Small Business
- Copyright – Intellectual Property and Small Business
- Tax – Tax and Small Business
- Trademark – Intellectual Property
- Review of business affairs – Small Business/Contracts
General practice law firms may provide specialization in one of these areas.
FYI: Read “Should I hire a lawyer or CPA?” for any business formation tips (Hint: The answer isn’t always to hire a CPA!)
It is important to note, you need an attorney that is actively barred in the state of where your business resides and/or you are engaged in business. Advisement by attorneys from across state lines can be borderline unethical, not be conducive to the type of advisement you need, as well as leaving you in a lurch.
Consider this also, if you take advisement from friend-of-a-friend Sally who lives in Tennessee while your business is in Texas and you end up with a legal issue – is Sally going to come to Texas to help you settle the issue?
Which results in having to start all over with a new attorney and potentially cost you more in financial and time resources.
There is safety in having a path of recourse should you run into issues in business. Having a friend of the family or a family member do legal work can complicate personal relationships if a situation comes up. You want to have the ability to pursue potential malpractice action or have someone to fix the issue at their cost.
How much do they cost?
Unfortunately, I can’t give you a hard cost. Lawyers, much like photographers, all have different business models. These can range from a retainer contract arrangement, to hourly, through flat rate fees.
#1 Get quotes
The goal going into the legal relationship is to get between three to five quotes in your local area based on the type mentioned above. Balance your budget with legal protection needs to identify the attorney you’ll inquire to.
If you’re unable to afford an attorney, get this cost into your cost of doing business (CODB) now! You can’t afford to run a business without legal protection.
Hint: You can interview firms before hiring. Even if you aren’t talking to the lawyer specifically, their staff should be able to discuss and answer questions about whether they are equipped to handle your specific legal needs.
#2 Take information with you
Before walking into the office, take a checklist of items in priority order. This will save you time relaying what you need and will give the attorney a quick roadmap to survey (saving time – especially if you’re being billed by the hour.)
Keep in mind, the majority of lawyers have never run a photography business! So while they know the legal side, you need to provide context on how the industry runs, as well as your specific business policies.
It’s a super plus if you’re going in for contract drafting and have pooled information (SHAMELESS PLUG: Such as my contract forms). I have examples in this article to show how templates and checklists saved one photographer $340 and 1.9 hours of time.
How do I find these lawyers?
- TheLawTog®’s Recommended Resource List – These are a list of attorneys that I’ve personally consulted and discussed the photography industry with so they are best equipped to serve photographers in the capacities needed.
- Search your local state bar website