Last night a client punched me in the face repeatedly. Now I am a pretty big guy, 6’4″ 240, but this guy rocked me. In addition to experiencing the joy of punching a lawyer in the face, this guy also helped himself out in ways he did not even anticipate. The client was in from out of town and stopped by for an update on some projects. He said he was a cage fighter and we began talking. I told him I was a cage fighter wannabe and told him where I trained.
Turns out he knew my instructor and had been meaning to get in touch with him. I told the client where we trained and he met us there for practice. He then proceeded to demonstrate the difference between a cage fighter and a potential cage fighter. Even though he was hitting me with maybe 10% of his potential, it still rung my bell. He not only taught me a lot about fighting, he also gave me insight into his business, what his current plans entail and where he wants to be in five years.
Advising clients on patents, trademarks and copyrights is complicated. What might be right for one client, may not be right for another. You never know what piece of information is going to be the critical piece of the puzzle that allows your attorney to turn a problem into an opportunity. Generally however, the more your lawyer knows about you, the more likely this critical piece of information will come out. The best way to minimize the likelihood of something slipping past is to keep in close contact with your attorney, working him or her into all facets of your company. If your attorney knows all of your key people and discusses key corporate issues with you several times a week, you substantially minimize the chance that a critical piece of intel might slip by your lawyer.
But what about smaller companies? If your company only talks to your patent and trademark lawyer a few times a year, stepping that up fifty fold at $255/hr, just to shoot the breeze, is prohibitively expensive. The one thing you can do is get to know your attorney. Sit down and talk with them at Rotary. Stop them at the gym and say “Hi.” Be friendly. Now there is a big difference between being friendly and cornering your attorney at a cocktail party to grill him or her on specific issues. In that situation you will not only get a bill, but you will likely not see your lawyer in a social situation again (especially if they see you first).
Avoid talking about the law. Stick to social discussions. Just be friendly. Like my client last night. He talked about anything but shop. He is a just a super interesting guy; it made me want to know more about him and his business. The next time I give him advice, I will take what I learned into account. Not only did he save about $500 in attorney fees in getting me this information, he got to pound my head in while doing it.
Don’t worry, I am checking ebay right now for a take a number sign to place outside the gym.