Legal Advice: Protecting Your Rights, Your Business & Your Brand
By Tracey Robinson
After many years as a partner of a boutique CBD commercial law firm working with high-profile, ‘big business’ clients, I felt accomplished, yet conflicted. I really enjoyed the problem solving, challenging myself to define solutions, and setting strategies to avoid or solve disputes, but there was something missing. The client relationships felt very transactional and impersonal and I did not receive the personal fulfilment of helping everyday people in small business. I needed to be different and make a difference.
Protecting Your Rights, Your Business & Your Brand
For me that difference was to also offer high quality legal services to small business people and individuals who were missing out because they either were not confident to approach a lawyer, or could not afford to. Having my own firm, Robinson Nielsen Legal, means I have the freedom to practice law my way – to take the time to really listen to my clients, to provide uncomplicated and relevant practical advice and commercial strategies based on my 25+ years of technical legal experience, and to offer outcome based solutions to protect small business people, particularly women, to protect their rights, business and brand.
So, how, you might ask, can a lawyer ‘protect’ your business or brand whilst your business is in its infancy and without ‘breaking the bank’?
We’ve all experienced that daunting feeling of waiting for that draft agreement to arrive or an upcoming deal or arrangement. Should you sign it as is and just get on with things? Or maybe you’ve thought that you will just get the business going before you worry about (or spend money on) terms & conditions, trading terms, supply agreements, employment contracts, etc. Nothing will go wrong, will it? Or possibly worse still, you decide ‘borrow’ a template from the internet and hope for the best? All businesses have the same terms, don’t they? And then there’s our business relationships.
If you are going into business with a friend or relative… things will work out, won’t they? We don’t need to document our relationship as we want the same things… don’t we? The list of ‘buried concerns’ masquerading as ‘hopeful thoughts’ we have about our businesses legals is endless.
An ongoing relationship with a lawyer who takes the time to understand your business and answer these questions is invaluable. As a woman in small business, it is critical to know your rights and stay informed. No question is too silly. Those ‘hopeful thoughts’ can be replaced with clarity as to your legal rights. We can offer peace of mind so you know where you stand, as we minimise your risk and ‘go in to bat for you’, taking the emotion out of it for you and leaving you to focus on what you do best (working on and in your business!).
Let me share some tips for how we might assist you to protect your rights, business, and brand.
Trading Terms (or T’s & C’s as they are commonly known) are one of the, if not, the most important business document you will have. Each customer / client transaction will be governed by this document. Amongst other things, it will describe your product or service, define the payment terms, allocate risk between the parties, exclude or make warranties, provide for indemnities and determine your rights when there is a default or to terminate the relationship.
There is ‘no such thing as one size fits all’ when it comes to business legal documents. The documents you use must align with your business practices – not those of another or similar business!
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Know the deal you are entering. Ensure you understand any defined terms used in the contract. Many purchase orders and invoices, for example, have pre-printed language on the reverse that becomes part of the contract. Larger companies may “incorporate by reference” standard exhibits with detailed guidelines on compliance with laws, or a host of other details that may make all of the difference between a profitable and unprofitable deal.
If something is not in the written contract, do not assume it is still understood just because you discussed it. Reasonable persons come to the table with different assumptions, which, if not put in writing, can create problems later because they are not part of the deal. Instead, be clear about the terms from the start, when any dispute can be resolved in good faith. Clearing up misunderstandings becomes harder after a dispute when any solution will create “winners” and “losers”.
Protect your IP. It is important to consider at an early stage whether you can protect your copyright, trademarks, confidential information, business name, and business processes. Maybe a restraint of trade clause or non-disclosure agreement is warranted.
Become familiar with the requirements of any legal regulations and any codes of practice that apply to your business.
If you require clarity or peace of mind, contact your lawyer for a review of a document or agreement before signing. And don’t be afraid to negotiate or have us assist you to negotiate. Ask for changes that will help you or deletion of objectionable terms. Once you sign, your bargaining power is limited or non-existent.
I encourage you to develop a relationship with a lawyer and don’t be afraid to pick up the telephone or send an email and ask questions. The right lawyer will encourage this and want to learn about your business. Get your business documents in order upfront and plan for your success. Proactive legal engagement can be the difference between entering a deal that is profitable and the right fit for your business, and a very costly legal dispute.
A lawyer, a leader, and an advocate. Mentor.
Tracey, our Principal Lawyer and Legal Practitioner Director, is a highly trained and experienced legal professional with a history in commercial legal practice advising a wide range of small to big businesses and people.
She offers strategic and technical assistance in a wide range of legal practice areas, including commercial litigation, insolvency, employment, and business and commercial law.
Tracey delivers value to her clients’ companies and commercial operations in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, processing, construction, mining and resources, agriculture, property, professional services, engineering, retail, wholesale, and internet businesses, to mention a few.
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