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Business Tips and Trends from Atlanta Attorneys
In the most recent episode of Atlanta Business Radio’s series, Atlanta’s Most Trusted Advisors, Bonnie and her co-host, Ryan “Redhawk” McPherson, interviewed Keely Herrick and Stephanie Everett.
Both guests are respected Atlanta attorneys who gained big-firm experience before launching their own boutique law practices. Stephanie has since moved into consulting, helping other law firms manage the business of running a successful, efficient practice that doesn’t absorb every bit of time and energy from its partners so they can enjoy well rounded lives as well as advancing professionally. The conversation ranged widely and offered business owners a plethora of practical tips to save resources and minimize risk. Here are a few highlights.
Trademark rights for businesses
Keely explained that, “A trademark is your brand. So basically, every company has trademarks, whether it’s the name of your product or your actual business name.” The ideal time to seek legal advice regarding the brand’s name, logo and trademark is before the business even launches, she says. “When they are choosing a name for a new business or a new product we can help them see if there’s something out there that they might be infringing upon.” The savings can be critical for a new business in terms of both money and brand identity. “They can avoid investing a lot of time and money in a brand that they would eventually not be able to use.” Protecting the brand involves complex due diligence to research patents and registrations. There are also issues like opposition and cancellations to consider, warns Keely.
Having a law practice means running a business
“A lot of attorneys forget that they own a business,” reports Stephanie. “I find, unfortunately for lawyers, we forget some really simple things. And because we already have a skill, a trade that we know how to do, we think we can just go and do that and that’s all we really need to think about. And we forget about all of the business side of what we’re doing.” She advises clients to seek a balanced approach. “I let my clients know most of the time they should be aiming for about 50% of their time doing what we call technician work. Practice law or making that widget or doing whatever it is your business is doing. The other time is spent marketing and growing your business. Actually focusing on your business systems and processes and putting things in place that will work for you so you don’t have to do everything.” According to Stephanie, it’s a mistake to assume that doing well in law school is preparation for running a solid practice. “There’s a lot of lawyering skills you don’t really get to learn in law school, you learn in practice. And law school unfortunately right now is not teaching folks how to start and run a business. It’s just not their focus.”
Impacts of globalization
Keely sees an increasingly globalized economy and the expansion into online commerce as major drivers of change for business. “When I graduated from school, you could have a truly local business and really only have to consider, ‘Okay, I’m selling this T-shirt in Georgia and at my shop.’ But if you’re selling something online, you really have to think, “Does anybody else who is going to sell this product online through the same channel of distribution have a trademark that’s the same as mine?”
Moving away from the billable hour
Stephanie and Keely agree that the future of the legal profession includes a more value-focuses pricing structure. “I’m trying to encourage people to get away from the billable hour and think about their pricing as value pricing,” says Stephanie. “Because we don’t sell our time. We provide a huge value to our clients. When we think about our pricing, we need to take cues from what our other business partners are doing outside the legal profession. How do they set their pricing?” Keely takes the same approach, saying, “I like to do flat fees as much as I possibly can because then I know that I’m spending the amount of time that I need to spend on a project. It’s a real perspective shift. I do think that really is where the trend is going be going now. It’s better for clients too, certainly.”
You can hear much more about these issues and others by listening to the entire show, and don’t forget to tune in to Business RadioX next time to hear Bonnie, Ryan and their guests live on Atlanta’s Most Trusted Advisors.
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