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The Game of Startup Life - Advice for Startups

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by Startacus Admin

David Williamson works for Coles Solicitors. He is an experienced writer and mostly writes on legal career topics. Here he uses the boardgame "The Game of Life" as a metaphor for the legal struggles you can face when starting a business.

"Starting your own business often means you're young, creative, and bursting with ideas. It doesn't mean you have a law degree. And the legal system can be scary.

It can destroy your ideas and enthusiasm and spark in one fell swoop. All of a sudden, the best ideas and most prolific exercises of imagination can take a backseat to unknown regulations that tank your project.

I have friends who have started their own companies with great ideas and great people, but missed a few legal details that proved fatal. They were probably like you, idealistic, energetic, and advice for startupsexcited about the possibility of doing something new and invigorating in the world – and making bank on it. In this article we offer tips for successfully navigating the legal matrix wherever in the world you are.

The game of Life, the actual board game, is fairly instructive in this matter. At the beginning of the game each player begins without education, money, family, or a home. As you spin the centre numerical wheel and move your game piece along the board you begin to collect the essential elements of life. You can choose to go to college for an immediate price but long-term gain, or immediately begin making meagre money with little education. Your options of profession are limited. Choosing the education route, however, you are able to choose from a broad range of careers including doctors, lawyers, accountants and the like. With an education, career and salary in place you can then choose a home commensurate to your situation, just like life, right?

Things get interesting when you have a family medical emergency and (depending on where you live of course) may have to cough up, no pun intended, thousands for the appropriate care. Getting your taxes done is a hassle and expensive. Legal assistance, is occasionally required – that is, unless you are a lawyer yourself. Similarly, taxes may get done for free if you’re an accountant, and family medical emergencies pose significantly less expense and concern if you’re a doctor. The game is true to life, except that it’s not just your personal career that counts, it’s your connections with family, friends, professional colleagues – your whole network plays an integral role in daily functioning. It’s kind of like a small town where you know the baker who delivers your bread twice a week in exchange for the contracting work your son did remodeling the baker’s kitchen. Exercising your connection within your network is a key to startup success. Without a community of support, you will not succeed.

To this end actively seek support from a variety of professionals who you can assist in their time of need, and who will answer your solicitations. This is not to say, oh I need a lawyer friend, ummm where do I find a lawyer? But rather, actively seek a diverse network of friends and professional relationships by diversifying your circles, your activities, your professional realms. It takes time, but having a variety of friends and professionals at your disposal is invaluable to your success. It doesn’t come together overnight. You have to work at it. But it will become evident very quickly at a watershed moment of support that you have done the work and are reaping rewards.

The legal matrix of regulations that your startup is facing is certainly daunting, and I guarantee that you will not be able to navigate that world as effectively as possible without the competent guidance of a lawyer. Now, that’s not to say that you won’t be successful until you can afford a lawyer, because this is a big step financially for any organization to take. The best advice we can offer is to solicit legal advice from your lawyer network as often as you possibly can.

But before you can solicit advice, set up a legal strategy circle with your team. Get everyone some coffee and sugary treats and brainstorm like hell every possible legal scenario that could arise from your project. Trust us; it’s far more expansive than you will be able to initially anticipate. Get creative. Be outlandish. Yell out ideas at each other of the most absurd uses of your product possible. Is there any way that you could run into copyright infringements? Will children be using your product? What are the ramifications of that? How could people abuse your product? How could others use your product to abuse others? What laws could be broken by using your product? What are the international laws and regulations involved? Will your product be used internationally? How does that change the landscape in which you’re operating? What about financial regulations? Is there payment involved? What kind of tax laws are you working with? The questions are endless and specific to your business.

Possibly the scariest scenario coming out of a legal strategy circle is the liability issue. Are you going to be put into a position where you will be liable for the death, injury, or extra-legal activities of others? Think about Craigslist, for example. It’s a great idea: an international peer to peer shared marketplace. What about when drugs start flowing through the site? Prostitution is solicited? Paedophiles begin preying on the young? It gets complicated very quickly. McDonalds is another great example: Remember the woman who spilled boiling hot coffee in her lap and sued for millions? Even an enormously rich and powerful company like McDonalds had overlooked the commonsense scenario in which serving hot coffee could be dangerous for customers. These are things you will need to anticipate.

Once you’ve brainstormed every scenario of legal need, approach lawyers in your network and ask them to exchange legal services for any you are able to provide. Perhaps a combination of services and money would be the most appropriate combination. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Everyone has needs that are amenable to barter. Find that need and barter for the most effective advice you can procure. Take their advice and run with it. You’ll be successful, up and running in no time. Good luck!

David Williamson works for Coles Solicitors. He is an experienced writer and mostly writes on legal career topics to help fresh law graduates in getting internships and job opportunities. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Published on: 3rd May 2013

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