When I walk into my attorney’s office, I know it’s going to cost a lot. So, I give them my undivided attention.
It’s much like a show. They stare down from the big, stage like, desk and I become their audience, listening attentively.
I’m not there to be entertained. I’m also not there to satisfy legal curiosities. When I visit an attorney it's because I have a problem that needs solved. I’m there to find a solution.
Some attorneys focus on their product (the law) and wind up failing miserably. But when they focus on me and my needs, I tend to get what I need. They make a fan. I keep coming back.
ATTORNEY EXPERIENCE #1:
When I was a young and starving artist, I met a beautiful girl. I asked her to marry me. She said yes!!
My business at the time was bringing in $800-$1200 in real American Dollars almost every single month… I was literally living on $200-$400 a month. I was a real life starving artist.
Just like the starving artists in film, I lived in the itsy bitsy attic room of an old rundown house. Instead of romantic Paris, I was in Center Township Indianapolis.
But, back to the beautiful woman. I thought she deserved more than $400 a month. I was pretty motivated to figure out a way to earn more.
Even more motivating, were the not so subtle hints from my fiancé that she was feeling the same way. So I went in search of income.
A friend seized the opportunity and talked me into joining his startup marketing company. I’m thinking, “Hey, if I’m able to make $400 a month with the guitar, surely I can make $4,000 a month in marketing!”
So, being the bright and educated kid that I was, I leave my struggling entertainment business that’s making almost no money and can barely pays my bills. And I devote all my time to a startup marketing company that pays me absolutely no money and makes it impossible to pay my bills.
Have I mentioned how smart I am??
To make matters worse, I sell equipment, take a cash advance on a credit card, and put $7000 of my own money into my friend’s company. I’m promised I’ll get it all back, along with a handsome salary in 6 months.
I think the $7000 is an investment to help the company grow. Instead, my boss uses it for his own personal living expenses. And after 6 months my $7,000 is gone. As you might imagine, there was no handsome salary waiting for me either.
PROBLEM SOLVED? NO…
So what’s the first thing I do? I call my lawyer. I need my $7000 back. Almost $3000 of it is sitting on a credit card, racking up high interest. And I need some new equipment to get back on the road. I am going to sue my ex boss (who’s also an ex friend at this point).
I visit my attorney’s office. I explain the situation. What’s he do? He refuses to take the case!
He tells me, “You can’t go to court for less than $10,000. It’s just not enough money to justify the effort. Just write it off.”
But I can’t write it off. My credit card bill is in the mail. I need new equipment now!
But he’s completely unsympathetic, then he tells me the most infuriating thing, “Your $7,000 just isn’t significant in the eyes of the law. Chalk it up to experience, and move on.”
What?! The law doesn’t care about me because I don’t have enough money? When I express anger that the system isn’t fair, he gets very defensive, “Look! You paid me to tell you what the law says and I told you. I’m done!” And he was.
He leaves me so upset and frustrated, I never call him again. He’s completely focused on his product, which is legal expertise. He ignores me and my needs.
Doesn’t he know that I, along with every other client he’s ever had, don’t care about the law. We care about our problems. I didn’t want legal expertise. I wanted a solution to my problem
He put his focus in the wrong place and completely missed the point. He also lost a client. I’ve never called him back.
ATTORNEY EXPERIENCE #2:
CAREER WITHOUT RICHES
Flash forward several years. My career is up and running. I’m not rich, but I’ve got cashflow under control. I have 2 employees. I’m travelling the world, playing guitar, paying my bills, supporting my family.
Then I hit a snag.
A letter arrives in the mail. It’s a ‘cease and desist’ order from a company in Houston, TX. Apparently, the title of one of my programs is infringing their trademark.
Worse yet, the Houston folks are making a lot of money with this program (over a $million annually). Worse yet, they registered the trademark. They now own exclusive rights to the title of my program.
THE PROBLEM EVOLVES
I check their trademark registration. Yep. It’s real. Then I look through my records and realize I used the mark before they did. I know my rights. I used it first. I should be able to claim prior use. Their mark should belong to me.
So what do I do? I call my lawyer.
I have a new lawyer now, out of Washington, D.C., who specializes in representing stage performers. He’s used to working with clients who don’t have a lot of money. I guess that’s why his rates are twice as high as everyone else… Sigh!
MY LAWYER LISTENS
My new lawyer, Brian Goldstein at FTM Arts Law, listens intently as I explain my problem over the phone. Then he starts to talk. He says the very last thing I ever expected my attorney to say.
Brian’s first words shock me, “This is why lawyers suck….”
What?? I can barely wrap my brain around it. My attorney is telling me lawyers suck. I think to myself, this lawyer is awesome, as a smile spreads across my face.
He continues, “You said this guy in Houston is making a lot of money with the mark right? And he likely knows you’re not making as much, right?”
I had to concede both were true. Brian continues, “So here’s what’s going to happen. You’re probably in the right and should be able to assert rights to the mark. But it’s not that simple.
“Trademark law is handled in federal court. To protest his mark, you have to go where he his, which means filing in Texas. I’m not licensed to practice law in Texas, so I can’t do it for you. I don’t know any attorneys in Texas who’ll take the case for less than $30,000 in an up-front retainer. And that’s just to get papers filed.
My heart stops for an instant. $30,000?!? That’s crazy. But my ego is bruised and I’m ready to fight. I don’t care. I’ll just use my credit cards!
But Brian continues, “This company in Houston has more money than you. They can easily run the bill up to $80,000 or even $100,000 before you get an answer from a judge.
“Most likely, because the Houston people can claim their livelihood is reliant on this mark, the judge will give you co-rights. So you’ll both be able to use the mark.
“So you’ll have $100,000 on a credit card. Your cash-flow will be crippled, and you’ll have rights to compete directly with a well financed company in Houston that will likely dislike you a great deal.”
Brian then addresses the bigger picture. He’s way outside the scope of legal expertise, but he’s zeroing right in on the things I care about most. His focus is on me
He asks, “Is this really what’s best for your business and your family? You’re a creative guy. Can’t you come up with a different name?”
MY LAWYER TELLS ME NOT TO HIRE HIM
I’m trying to digest all this. I can’t believe my lawyer is telling me not to pay him tens of thousands of dollars. This alone builds a trust I’ve never had with an attorney before. His next words are even more shocking as he begins pointing me toward a solution that doesn’t require his help.
Brian explains, “It sounds like you have a lot to learn from these folks in Houston. They’ve found great success. They’ve offered to help you find a new brand. Why don’t you work with them? Make them an ally and a friend.”
Then, suddenly, the conversation is ending, “Well,” he says, “I know you’ve got some thinking to do.”
And as he hangs up, I realize my $300 an hour conversation is suddenly over. And I’m thinking to myself, That was worth every penny!!
WHAT I REALLY PURCHASED
Brian knows what I really want when I call. I didn't call to find legal expertise. I called to find a solution. I want a better life and a better business. And that’s where he puts all his effort.
As an expert in intellectual property disputes, Brain’s expertise does make him uniquely suited to my problem. But it does me no good unless he helps me find a solution. Letting me dive into an expensive lawsuit that could bankrupt my company would be counter-productive.
Instead of using the law’s impractical mechanisms, he offers counsel to improve my business. He listens to my needs and makes sure he understands my situation. Then he uses his expertise to help me make the best decision. He broadens my perspective and helps me consider new options.
Incedentally, his advice worked out great. I called up my foes in Houston and suggested we have dinner. They've become great friends. We share ideas all the time. They’ve even paid out of their own pocket to bring my programs to Houston. I've been to see their program as well and it's so awesome! I'm so happy I didn't throw a monkey wrench into his work when it's helping so many.
The truth is I’ve gained much more than I lost when my friend in Houston registered that trademark.
Brian isn’t the only attorney I use. But I often go out of my way to use his firm, because he isn’t focused on his product. His focus is not on the law or his knowledge. Brian’s focus is on me
Every time I call, he makes me his audience. He listens. He's a true rock star and makes me feel important. Best of all, he doesn't sell me legal expertise. He sells me solutions I can use, and that's why I keep calling. That's why I love my lawyer!