Getting started

It feels poetic to begin on such a basic subject: getting started. You may be wondering, “What does a lawyer know about helping you start a business, non-profit, movement, or campaign?” We actually have quite a lot to offer you. Many times, we can help you to think in a more procedural fashion — like when you are just starting out. While it is easier said than done, at this point, your only objective is to begin.

Take your larger goals (or problems), and break them down into smaller objectives. Applying some degree of focus to your efforts will prevent your energy from evaporating. One of the questions I like to ask prospective clients during an initial consultation is what their ultimate goal for the representation is. I encourage prospective clients to be more specific than “victory” or “winning.” I ask them to envision that moment when they feel victorious, and then to imagine what is happening on the periphery. Are they going to work at a place where they are in charge? Do they work with a few people on a really deep level, or are their interactions with other people more distributed? Do they want to grow within their current locale, or do they want to expand into other areas (and jurisdictions)? Are they more interested in quick growth by bringing on many investors and stakeholders, or are they more interested in slower growth, but with greater control over the enterprise?

These are all questions that can help you to think strategically, but where bringing an attorney into the situation can really shine, is when you start thinking about the tactics of achieving your goals. What is your model for accomplishing your goal? Do you want to start a non-profit that solicits donations as part of its mission to help certain people, or do you want to operate as a “benefit corporation” so that you can make money, but your obligation to shareholders isn’t simply to maximize profits?

Some of these questions should be prioritized over others, but the point of presenting them is not to overwhelm someone just starting out, but to demonstrate the different ways that they can begin. Eventually, these are questions that will need to be asked (and it would be prudent to consult with an attorney about them), but they can also be used to show to yourself that you are making progress — especially if that will help to keep your momentum up.

Tune in next time for an exploration of how you should think about your interactions with everyone you come into contact with!