Representing the Entrepreneur
Learning generally about entrepreneurs helps you know what to expect. Entrepreneurs don’t need roadblocks. In other words, when providing legal advice, don’t be surprised if a client acknowledges the risk you’ve alerted them to but then goes forward despite your advice. Sometimes the entrepreneur’s business needs a specific customer so badly that it is willing to sign a contract despite some contract language that puts them at risk. Knowing that entrepreneurs love success but see failure as a part of reaching that success is important as well. How does that impact the way in which you advise your client? Perhaps it doesn’t. It won’t change the advice itself but often the best course is to go beyond your legal advice (saying “no” to something). Provide an outline of the potential consequences. That way the client will know if they forge ahead, what could happen.
Another thing to keep in mind is ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4: Communications. In particular, section (b) states that “A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.” As Anne Horissian explains in her blog post, Entrepreneurs and Attorneys: Communication in the Midst of High Stakes, “Don’t assume your entrepreneurial client is an emotionally void case – the stakes can be extremely high for the entrepreneurial client, and it is your ethical duty to explain things so that they understand their options. Make sure you are keeping your client informed and updated effectively, and be aware that no matter how sophisticated a client may be, mental health and stress can pose a barrier to communication with anyone.”
Watch the short videos below for advice to law students:
💡 What have you learned that will help you in practice?