The L Word: Talking all things 'legal' with Jess from Sinclair + May
We're not going to lie, this isn't a story about THAT 'L' word - we're talking today about all things Legal. And whilst we're being brutally honest (and in the spirit of full disclosure), we want you to know that when we decided to venture into our own Small Business, we really were naive about what type of 'legal' advice we needed - "What do you mean it's not ok to copy and past your T's & C's off google" (ummm....ok).
We think that this is the same for a lot of small business owners, but as we've heard before - it's not until you need a solicitor that you wished you'd engaged in one beforehand.
We don't proclaim to be 'experts' in this field at all - so when we were introduced to Jess and had a chat we knew she was the lady for us. So we asked if we could 'pick her knowledgeable brain' and pass on all the good bits to our followers.
The great thing about Jess is that she is just like us, juggling a business and motherhood and understanding all too well the pressures that come with both - who better to speak to our tribe?
Over to Jess...
It seems that engaging a lawyer is the last thing on the ‘to do’ list - why do you think this is?
My clients often tell me they had no idea where to find a lawyer and were really uncertain how much it would cost them. Fortunately the legal profession seems to be making a shift to be more consumer driven and to listen to what the market wants. In my experience, business owners want to know they can find a lawyer that is friendly and will make them feel empowered.
There are different ways my clients engage me:
- If people aren’t sure if they even need a lawyer or want to know what it would cost to get a lawyer involved, I offer a free 15-min check-in service where people can book a time via my website to run something past me and I’ll give them some pointers to fix it themselves or suggest another way forward.
- For ad hoc jobs, I quote a fixed fee (after a discussion to scope the job). If the scope stays the same, the cost stays the same, regardless of how many phone calls it takes for us both to be delighted with the result.
- For fast-growing startups, established businesses with 2-10 employees and $200,000+ pa revenue, I often act on a monthly fixed fee retainer. Most of my retainer clients started off as fixed fee clients. We sit down and do a detailed analysis of where your business is at and identify any existing risks or issues on the horizon. We then determine the number of hours per month that will best suit your needs. I then act as your in-house counsel helping you grow and avoid trouble. This means the client can call or email me whenever they need a legal opinion on an issue and I’ll always be on the lookout for ways I can make their business legally healthier.
So tell us why it's a bad idea to copy and paste your terms and conditions from a Google search or use a free T’s and C’s generator off Google?
One size doesn't fit all when it comes to Ts and Cs and it is important that Ts and Cs for a product or service provider are tailored as appropriate in relation to not only that product or service but also the risk and regulatory environment in which the business operates. Ultimately a business needs Ts and Cs it can rely on when it needs to, either to protect itself or to enforce its rights. If your Ts and Cs only do half the job then they're aren't going to help you when you need them - which is the whole point of having them to begin with.
What is a Social Media Policy and why do we need one?
A social media policy sets the tone and the organisational expectations for use of social media in the workplace - both on behalf of the organisation, and by staff in relation to personal social media accounts. Where social media is used on behalf of the organisation, the policy can authorise certain individuals to post or respond to posts on social media on behalf of the organisation and provide guidelines for language, style and tone. In relation to employee personal use of social media, the policy can establish parameters for when social media accounts may be accessed by employees while at work, and set ground rules for posts which refer to the organisation. With a robust policy in place, the organisation can implement disciplinary consequences for staff who fail to comply.
Social Media forms a large part of Small Biz’s Marketing Strategy - and quite a few retailers like to run competitions/promotions on there too. Is there anything we should know about doing this ‘correctly’?
Promotions and competitions are two different things. Any competitions need to be compliant with relevant State and Federal legislation and some States require permits to run competitions, depending on the type of competition that is to be run and whether it involves skill or chance and the value of the prizes involved. All competitions and promotions require to have published terms and conditions which are also compliant with Australian Consumer Law. We would recommend seeking our advice in relation to any competitions that an organisation intends to run to make sure all the necessary boxes are ticked.
We are also seeing a lot of influencer arrangements happening in the Social Media space - is there any advice that you can give our followers when it comes to collaborations?
Be sure you know who you are collaborating with and that the intent and approach of the other collaborators is consistent with the style and approach you wish to create, noting that you have probably worked hard to build your brand as an influencer. If you are being offered something in exchange for your promotion or endorsement of a collaborator's brand, make sure you get this in writing. Be careful if dealing with people purely over the Internet that you aren't giving away any personal information that could be used illegally. Make sure you do your own due diligence and make your own enquiries before agreeing to collaborate with anyone.
Any tips for those of us creating digital products eg; E-books and Guides?
Make sure your work and any images you use are original, or where they are not, make sure you obtain the copyright holders' permission to use any copied articles or images before you publish them. It's always a good idea to include a disclaimer with your work, and a copyright protection statement. These are both things that small business lawyers can assist with, to protect you from potential legal liability (as much as possible) and to reinforce the copyright you have in your work, deterring others from stealing it. If you are receiving payment for the eBook or Guide, set up your payment system so that the eBook or Guide is delivered by email containing a link to download, once payment is made.
Can you explain why one would need to ‘trademark’ their business name and product?
Trademarking is an important element to brand protection. A trademark protects the identity and distinctiveness a seller has created in relation to a particular good or service in the market. Trademarking not only provides immediately enforceable rights against any one else trying to use that brand name or logo (or one materially similar) but a trademark is a type of intellectual property asset, capable of ownership and transfer of ownership. If your brand becomes famous, your trademark can become a valuable asset which can be bought and sold in the future.
Our catch-cry is ‘you must profile your ideal customer’ and our businesses work in the same niche - what is it about the ‘small business’ sector that you enjoy the most?
In all things, I’m a big believer in preventative health. I work with clients to keep their businesses healthy, rather than reaping the rewards of misfortune. My goal is for my clients to feel empowered to spot and address simple legal issues themselves and know the warning signs for when you should get a lawyer involved.
I love working with small businesses as I feel like my team and I can really add value to their business and help them to understand the legal side of things!
One of our biggest learning curves from pre motherhood to post has been having double the amount of sh*t to get done in 1/2 the amount of time. Do you have any time hacks to share with us on how you juggle the struggle?
There are a few things I do but essentially looking after myself is key! I try to make sure I get enough sleep (despite still having a terrible sleeper at 3 years old!), move everyday, eat well and try to have some work free/ child free time. By doing these things it gives me mental clarity which is crucial to my job. I am also a huge fan of Asana – it allows me to manage my tasks as well as the tasks of my team and not waste time sending multiple emails.
About Jess, Sinclair + May
Jess established Sinclair + May in 2015 after years of working in top commercial firms and as an Associate to a Supreme Court judge. Jess was a finalist in the 2016 Lawyers Weekly Awards for Sole Practitioner of the Year. She is passionate about working with small businesses and keeping their businesses healthy. When she is not preparing terms or conditions or reviewing your contracts, she can be found at pilates, cooking up a storm for her family and spending time with her toddler.