Starting a business can be an exhilarating journey, but it also comes with legal complexities that can be overwhelming for entrepreneurs. In this episode of Starting a Business Simplified, our host Suzy Wraines sits down with Cheri Andrews, an experienced attorney and founder of her virtual legal practice.
Cheri shares valuable insights and practical tips on how entrepreneurs can protect their businesses legally. From business formation to contracts, copyright to liability, Cheri offers guidance and demystifies the legal landscape for small business owners.
Let's dive into the key takeaways from this informative conversation.
Cheri Andrews' Journey
Cheri brings a diverse background to her legal practice. After attending law school and working in law firms for 16 years, she served as an in-house general counsel for a company for 13 years. Following a merge and leadership changes, Cheri found herself without a job. Drawing on her experience running side businesses, she recognized a need for affordable legal services for small business owners, which led her to start her own virtual practice just before the COVID-19 pandemic. Three years later, Cheri is thriving and enjoys helping entrepreneurs navigate legal complexities.
The Importance of Setting Up a Legal Practice
Cheri understands the creative mind and the needs of clients who are building a business. Clients appreciate her ability to be the first person to truly understand their needs, setting Cheri apart from other legal professionals.
To further simplify legal knowledge for small business owners across the United States, Cheri wrote a book titled "Smooth Sailing: A Practical Guide to Legally Protecting Your Business." This comprehensive guide covers topics such as business formation, contracts, policies, copyright, and trademarks, equipping entrepreneurs with essential legal information.
Understanding Retainers and Billing Methods
Cheri enlightens us on the concept of retainers in legal engagements. Retainers are payments made to attorneys at the beginning of the engagement, which cover the expenses involved in legal work. If the attorney doesn't use all of the retainer funds, they are obligated to return the remaining amount to the client. Attorneys may ask clients to replenish the retainer if it's running out to continue working on their case effectively.
Additionally, Cheri explains the two primary billing methods attorneys use: hourly rates and flat rates. Clients can either pay the total bill at the end of the month based on the hours worked, or they can opt for a fixed fee upfront for specific services.
Finding the Right Business Attorney
When it comes to finding the right business attorney for your needs, Cheri suggests using a multifaceted approach. Start by asking for recommendations from friends, family, and coworkers who have had positive experiences. Utilize online platforms like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to research potential attorneys.
Evaluating professionals' websites and social media presence can provide valuable insights into their expertise and areas of focus.
Cheri compares the process of finding an attorney to finding a doctor or a spouse — it's crucial to do your due diligence and find someone you trust. Take advantage of initial consultations, both free and paid, to gauge your comfort level and assess if the attorney is the right fit for you.
Consider the "five C's"
When evaluating potential attorneys, ensure they have the necessary credentials, are conveniently located or accessible through virtual means, specialize in the relevant area of law, communicate promptly, and offer affordable fees that align with your budget.
The Importance of Setting Expectations in Writing
Cheri emphasizes the significance of setting expectations in writing when conducting business. Contracts and written communication help establish clear understandings of responsibilities and obligations for both parties involved. While some people may have negative perceptions of contracts, Cheri reassures us that they are not about wanting to sue someone but rather ensuring clear communication and accountability.
Cheri highlights the importance of hiring a local attorney for business formation and contracts, as state laws vary. However, when it comes to copyright and trademarks, attorneys experienced in filing trademarks can represent anyone nationwide, as it falls under federal law.
Wise Owl Academy: Empowering Small Business Owners
To further support small business owners, Cheri created Wise Owl Academy, an online learning platform. This platform offers foundational knowledge, templates, contracts, and in-depth information on various aspects of running a small business, including business formation, legal matters, insurance, finances, and taxes.
With a year-long membership, entrepreneurs gain access to core content and monthly additions focused on specific topics.
Members can participate in monthly office hours, where they can ask questions related to the material. It's important to note that while Cheri can provide guidance, she does not offer legal advice during these sessions.
Understanding Jurisdiction in Legal Disputes
Jurisdiction is a crucial aspect to consider when dealing with legal disputes. The contract between parties can define where a lawsuit will take place if both parties are located in the same county or state. However, when parties are from different states, jurisdiction may involve deciding whether to pursue actions in state or federal court.
Cheri advises entrepreneurs to clarify jurisdiction upfront to avoid additional litigation costs. If dealing with out-of-state cases, entrepreneurs may need to hire an attorney in the state where the lawsuit will take place. Prioritizing contracts and seeking advice from small business attorneys help assess risks and balance potential liabilities when entering contracts with businesses from different states.
In this enlightening episode of Starting a Business Simplified, we gained valuable insights from Cheri Andrews, an experienced attorney well-versed in the legal complexities of starting and running a business. From understanding retainers and billing methods to finding the right business attorney, Cheri provided practical advice for entrepreneurs.
We also learned about the importance of setting expectations in writing, utilizing legal assets for protection, and considering jurisdiction in legal disputes.
With her Wise Owl Academy platform, Cheri empowers small business owners with essential knowledge and ongoing support.
Remember, when venturing into the world of entrepreneurship, understanding legal aspects is crucial for success.
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