Don’t Let Your Business Decisions Be Clouded By Rumors

“Mark Twain famously said that a lie can go around the world while truth is still putting on its boots.”

MinnPost has a great article with lessons businesses can learn from the Shirley Sherrod story. Cooler heads and actual evidence should have prevailed in the first place.


New Podcast on TechdotMN

I had the pleasure of talking to Harold Slawik of New Counsel about choice of entity, funding and securities law issues for startups. Check out the article and podcast at TechdotMN.


Yelp! sued in class action over extortion

There’s even a blog about it. I use Yelp! only occasionally but I do rely on reviews on Google and elsewhere. This can be a touchy subject for many small business owners as they can and do find customers through online reviews.I found my barber through those reviews and I know he takes those online reviews pretty seriously. Its also ripe for abuse as small businesses may be tempted to put as many five star reviews up as the can. What this lawsuit alleges though is that Yelp! asked for money to make the bad reviews go away. Yelp! denies this and states that they only remove reviews that they believe are illegitimate.

http://yelpclassaction.wordpress.com/


Don’t Confuse Your Attorney With A Paper Dispenser

There are a number of sources of free legal documents and free or cheap legal document generators online. This is overall good news and should not in any way be a real threat to attorneys. But people often confuse a document for a solution to a legal problem. In order for the document to be useful, it has to say what you want it to say. You have to know what it is you want to accomplish with this document. Knowing when a document works requires a skill that a document generator cannot provide.

Software programmers would not insert any old code to try to accomplish a specific task. It takes a fair amount of skill to determine if source code can be reused from one program in another without causing problems. Blindly copying legal documents is not any different. If the document doesn’t do exactly what you want it to do, you might be in a worse situation. But like programmers, attorneys do reuse “code” and free and readily available documents help to do that. The “code” is on legal documents is English (sometimes barely recognizable). But the danger for the do-it-yourselfer is not knowing or not caring what the legal code on that document means.

For example, Legalzoom offers incorporation and trademark registration services. But Legalzoom doesn’t offer any advice on what kind of application to file, whether its necessary to file, how to get value from that piece of paper or how to make sure your newly formed company actually complies with state law. They basically guide you through the form and check spelling, which at any price is pretty expensive. A better value would be to buy a book by Nolo Press (which are for the most part really good) and gain enough understanding to do it yourself; or save up your money and hire an attorney. For both corporations and trademarks, obtaining the piece of paper is only a small fraction of the work. If you ignore the rest (compliance, usage etc.), the paper is worthless. Paper is cheap. Know-how costs extra.

Nevertheless, there are things that make sense to do yourself and not hire an attorney. For my own clients, if there are things that are routine, I may offer to advise them on a strategy and propose a form or policy that they can reuse. I also might suggest having them draft a document and then simply have me review it for potential problems. I would rather see them save some money on legal fees now and still be in business years later to hire me for matters that might demand more attention. The value in hiring an attorney is not to have access to a paper dispenser, but to have access to advice.


Puffery!

Domino's Pizza Defines Puffery

This commercial amused me so much. Puffery is one of those terms that when you first hear it, you assume you misunderstood because it couldn’t possibly be a real legal term. But it is. Basically, puffery is exagerated praise for promoting or selling products. E.g. “The Godfread Law Firm is the greatest law firm ever!!!” The legal effect is that you couldn’t sue me for deceptive advertising or breach of warranty or otherwise rely upon that statement.


LLC or C-Corp? A New Post at Tech{dot}MN

My latest post compares two of the more common business entities. It is definitely not a full picture of business entities, but I wanted to pick two popular entities that were on different ends of the spectrum for complexity and administrative burden. Minnesota LLCs being on the relatively cheap and easy side, Delaware Corporations requiring a bit more finesse. Both can be good choices, but neither fits in all situations.


Corporate campaign litigation comes to Minnesota

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has filed suit to in the wake of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. At stake is to what extent the State of Minnesota can continue to regulate corporate expenditures on campaign advertising. Here is the article which includes a link to the complaint.


Who owns your digital life?

I was recently quoted on the Agency Babylon blog about who owns your digital identity. It is an interesting topic and one that many companies and individuals probably haven’t fully considered in their social media policies. My comments were based on discussions with other attorneys on acceptable social media policies. Companies are often want to use social media tools to engage with their customers better, but sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are really designed for individuals so it can be difficult to control. It can also cause problems with data that would otherwise be confidential such as customer and contact lists, because your friends and contacts are at least partially public.

See the article and discussion at:
Thought leaders, issue followers weigh in on who has a stake in your professional digital life


New Post at TECH{dot}MN

My second post at TECH{dot}MN is a quick overview of various employment agreements that can get you into trouble if you ignore them. Anyone starting a new business needs to review what agreements they have signed with their former employer.

More at TECH{dot}MN


Trade Secrets: The Other Intellectual Property

I have a short article over on TECHdotMN about why new businesses need to have a plan to protect trade secrets.