THE MOST IMPORTANT lesson or piece of advice I can offer a person is to stay awake at the wheel of their creative business. Just as important as the ability to stay present to yourself, your loved ones and your personal life, staying present to your business needs will certainly offer you a sense of security and give you the freedom you need to do your best work.
More often than I’d like, people come to my law office because of something that has gone wrong in their life or business. They tell me they waited to consult a lawyer for all kinds of reasons: it will cost too much, they are intimidated, or even feel they should have anticipated whatever crisis has taken place at this point in the journey. I would offer an alternative interpretation.
The people I work with tend to be creative and/or artistic, and focused on the work they are dedicated to. The kind of issues that come up in the process of owning a creative business are not the reason they became an artist, musician or healing practitioner, and filing your copyright, creating a business entity, or writing agreements falls to the bottom of everybody’s to-do list.
What I know from years in the practice is that in most cases, the investment upfront in creating structures and business forms tends to be tiny compared with the cost when things don’t go well. Intention is essential.
A musician client of mine spent months in the recording studio with a good friend making a CD. By all accounts, the product of this collaboration was outstanding and commercially viable. Not long after the completion of the creation of the project, but before distribution of the CD, the business partners had a falling out, and one moved to New York. The next thing you know, the artist who moved to New York used their music to create a new CD that was very largely based on the original work, thus triggering all kinds of copyright and contract problems.
After months of negotiations, we did come to a settlement, but feelings were hurt, and lawyers had to be hired. My client in this situation has since decided it makes financial sense to sit down with me ahead of time whenever he collaborates, so that we can together anticipate what might come up during the birth of his latest creative project.
I am able to be more present to clients in my practice by choosing to work in comfortable and unpretentious surroundings. My building houses yoga studios, acupuncturists, therapists and bicycle builders. The aim is always to make my clients as comfortable as possible as we explore together what will best suit their needs and concerns. Often I meet with people to play the role of mentor, and I hear from clients that they find freedom and clarity in being informed about the legal and mechanical aspects of their businesses.
Lawyers don’t have to be intimidating or overly expensive. In my practice, I work to give all my attention to my client, both during scheduled meetings and in preparing whatever documents need to be drafted, and I never hand them off to an assistant. Clients tell me they appreciate the sense that I am there for them, and it is my deepest hope that everyone comes away from any business consultation feeling that way.