When is a business lawyer like a shoemaker?

Posted on June 7, 2014 in Business Essentials

Answer: When her “children” go barefoot.

Welcome to the “new and improved” AskTheBusinessLawyer.com website!

This revamped site houses my library of small business legal articles and information products and my business law practice, the newly-inaugurated Kaufman Law PLLC.  What possessed me to make changes to a site that was still regularly getting compliments? Traffic.

Contrary to what Mother always told me, on the Internet, it’s important to “go play in traffic.” When it came to traffic and site visitors, people were flocking to AskTheBusinessLawyer.com, rather than the separate sites that I had set up for my Articles Archive and my information products. A community wasn’t really “gelling” there.  No dummy me, it was time to combine the sites.  So I did.

That involved hundreds of pages of blog content migration, shopping cart configuration, and the addition of several videos (check out the Home, About, and Speaking pages).  Shout outs go to my highly talented web designer, Cynthia LaLuna of Rowboat Media, the able assistance of my VA, Melinda Janicki, of On Demand Virtual Services, and the creative talents of Jonathan Fulton and Todd Ritondaro (logo/graphic design and video editing, respectively).

But aside from the marketing challenges, revamping my website raised a number of legal issues, too. AskTheBusinessLawyer.com, as you probably guessed, is not your traditional law firm website. Sure, it has the bios of the attorneys (me), a description of the practice areas, and contact information.  I had the standard sprinkling of “attorney advertising–prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome” disclaimers. However, once I decided that I wanted to sell information and affiliate products on the same site as my law practice–well, that opened up an entirely different potential can of worms.

They included:

  • What language did the attorney advertising rules require me to have on my site (assuming I didn’t have it there already)?
  • What effect did selling information and affiliate products have on my website terms and conditions?
  • Given that people outside of New York (my home state) would buy the information products and provide credit card information, how did my privacy policies need to change?
  • In light of the above, did it make sense to continue to run my law practice as a sole proprietorship? (Note: the information products have always been handled by a separate company)
  • What would–and would not–be considered legal advice?
  • What actions needed to happen for me to formally be retained to provide legal services (for example, signing an engagement letter and provided me with any requested advance fee deposit)?

The real kicker (and, a moment of pride) came when I read the rule stating that the name of the attorney’s law firm needed to show up on each and every page. Which meant that, if I kept things as they were, my individual name would have to show up on each and every page.  Yikes!

For various reasons, practicing law as a sole proprietor was manageable as long as I clearly compartmentalized my business activities.  A brochure-type site for my law practice could easily be contained.  Yet this would be a hybrid site–jointly owned/created by Me (as attorney) and The Legal Edge LLC (the separate company I established)–so, as a result, I would be “exposed”.  And now that they would be actively displayed together, the risks were different.  The overall business model was different.  So they needed to be evaluated differently.  It was time to grow up.  To form a separate entity.

So this “shoemaker” got to work: revising website terms and conditions, updating my privacy policy, enhancing my affiliate/associate program agreement, and forming a professional services limited liability company. Shelling out $2000 in formation and publication expenses was not exactly my favorite way to spend this money–but it’s what I would tell my clients to do.  So I did it.  I also created a single member PLLC agreement, got a separate EIN, and opened up new bank accounts.

Now, I can comfortably say that my “children” are no longer barefoot; they are finally well-heeled and these boots are made for walking.

Let me know what exciting changes are afoot (haha) in your world!

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