Creative Service firms such as marketing, advertising, design, and public relations firms, often promote and encourage a relaxed, laid-back work culture. This is understandable given that employees and freelancers are supposed to create and be creative, without the restrictions of traditional office environment.
Yet, these companies, studios, agencies and firms are still operating a business; and valuable legal counsel is often needed to keep it running smoothly. These are some of the legal issues we can help creative service firms navigate:
Contract Drafting and Review: Drafting and reviewing vendor agreements for services provided to clients, and services received. These contracts keep the projects running smoothly, and by outlining the Deliverables and when they are due, everyone is speaking the same language.
Employment and Independent Contractor Issues: Creative service firms frequently work with freelancers, or independent contractors, for which there should be agreements in place so that the workers are not classified as employees. Hefty penalties can arise should one or more of the “freelancers” be classified as an “employee” by the IRS. These agreements should also spell out the work is “for hire” so that there is no discrepancy as to who owns the creative material. Handbooks and personnel policies are also important to assist in creating a framework and answer questions for the employees, and to comply with the myriad of employment laws.
Ownership and Shareholder Agreements: Identifying owners and shareholders, percentage and vesting of ownership, or creating unique compensation and ownership structures, should be thoroughly documented at the outset to protect the company, and its owners in the event of a disagreement between owners, disability, or even death. Even if it was not done at the outset, it can still be addressed years later and should be ideally before a dispute.
Purchases and Sale of Businesses: Acquiring a competitor, selling the business, or buying out a partner shouldn’t be complicated. If all parties have the same goal, the legal complications can be easily navigated with the assistance of counsel.
Protecting the Brand: Taking control of the company’s brand is essential and as attorneys, we can obtain trademark or service mark protection of the company name, logo, or slogan. This is a key component to a successful business, and should be done prior to establishing the business. Making sure a competitor isn’t already using your clever new slogan is critical.
Litigation Support: Yes, conflict sometimes arises. A client may not pay for services. The firm may get sued by a client unsatisfied with the project result. When this occurs, our firm can jump right in and vigorously defend or pursue the matter to a successful resolution.
If your creative company faces any of these issues, the attorneys at Dalton & Tomich have years of experience working with clients in this industry and can assist you in navigating through the legal process.