The Ugly Truth About Doing Business on Social Media

“Choice, not circumstances, determines your success.” — Anonymous

Before social media, the typical business in America was sued an average of three times during its lifetime. Now that we have people and companies doing business on social media, I believe that number will probably double.

Why do I say this? Because what I’m seeing more often than not, are new business owners balancing elephants on their shoulders while walking on tightropes over shark-infested waters with their eyes closed. And here’s the kicker- they don’t even know they’re doing this.

The truth is, social media and related tools make it easy to “start a business,” and that’s great. But the reality is that many people are beginning this journey without any formal business experience. Even with the best intentions, they don’t understand or appreciate the importance of complying with mandatory rules, regulations, and laws. They’re completely unaware of the elephants and sharks in their lives.

Be Smart. Make Good Choices.

I’m a lawyer, and when it comes to doing business on social media, I want you to make good choices. To give you some context as to what I’ll be recommending, please know that over the last 32 years, I’ve helped hundreds of people start their business. I’ve also represented hundreds, and maybe even thousands of clients, with business-related claims and litigation matters.

I’ve been there, and done that, and know what landmines you need to be aware of.

Now before I dive too far into this post, I’d like to remind you that while I am a pretty good California lawyer, I’m not your lawyer. No legal advice is being given in this article. Reach out to an experienced lawyer in your state with questions or legal needs. If you need a good lawyer but don’t know where to start, I’m a big fan of the inexpensive LegalShield business model (it’s kind of like Uber for the law) which offers small to medium size business owners access to affordable legal services.

See what I just did? That’s called a disclaimer. I do try and walk my talk when sharing online 😉

With the above in mind, let’s get started. The first thing I recommend that you do when doing business online is to following these six suggestions:

#1: Do Business as a Corporation or Limited Liability Company.

A great way to maximize profits and minimize your personal liability exposure is to do business as a legal entity. The advantages include:

Reduce Personal Liability — these entities can shield you from liability for business debt or lawsuits. There’s a protective wall between your personal and business life. This wall helps protect your personal assets such as your home, cars, savings, and investments.

Reduce Taxes — these entities allow you to deduct expenses that a sole-proprietorship or partnership may not let you do. This includes healthcare, entertainment and travel expenses.

Maximize Retirement and Pension Plans– these plans can be grown more effectively and maximized faster using these entities. Additional tax benefits are also available, and these benefits result in increased profits.

Add Credibility to Your Business– these entities show that you’re serious about your business which is now registered in your state. Factors like credibility, prestige, and permanence are all byproducts of doing business as an entity.

Raise Money and Build Credit– these entities allow you more options to raise money through the sale of stock or transfer ownership via the transfer or sale of stock. You’ll also be able to establish and build a new credit profile distinct from your personal situation.

Manage Your Company– these entities allow you to use agreements that define how you will run your company and resolve disputes. Laws also control what you and other people involved in your business can and should do to run the business each day. This protects everyone involved.

Pro Tip: Most online business owners make this big mistake- They do business as a sole proprietor or general partnership. You never want to do this. There is just too much liability exposure.

Continue reading “The Ugly Truth About Doing Business on Social Media”

How a Trial Lawyer Uses AgoraPulse to Save Time, Build His Online Brand, and Bring in New Cases

I’m a big fan of AgoraPulse. I also happen to be the trial lawyer mentioned in the title to this post. If you follow me on social, this shouldn’t be a big surprise. I’m a fan– a big fan 😉

My buddy, Mike Allton, turned me on to AgoraPulse. It’s allowed me to market my firm and build my brand easily and conveniently. This powerful platform not only saves my team and I an enormous amount of time, but AgoraPulse also works while I’m in court, paddleboarding out of Dana Point Harbor, or sound asleep in the middle of the night. It’s my 24/7 perpetual marketing and relationship building tool that’s quickly becoming a favorite and essential asset in the firm.

Continue reading “How a Trial Lawyer Uses AgoraPulse to Save Time, Build His Online Brand, and Bring in New Cases”

Social Media Has Changed How I Do Business and Try My Cases.

Attention spans and consumer expectations have changed drastically because of social media. Being successful in your practice and, inside the courtroom as a trial lawyer, requires you to understand, embrace, and harness these changes to make an impact with your audience and empower them to give you the result your client is looking for.

I shared a few thoughts about this and, the misguided mantra about “failing often and failing fast” that you can watch by clicking here. 

This is a clip from last month’s live video and podcast interview with lawyer and social media expert, Brad Friedman.

HOW TO CREATE THE ULTIMATE MOBILE OFFICE- 8 Tips To Help You Stay Productive, Achieve Success, And Enjoy Your Life!

This is the view from my mobile office. In an hour, I’ll take a break, hop on the paddleboard for 45 minutes, and when done, circle back to get a bit more work done. Lisa’s going to join me a later to watch the sunset.

I’m convinced I could (almost) run my practice full time using this approach. For now, I’m simply enjoying a few hours each week outside in my mobile office environment. I’m hoping that over time, being physically in a traditional office will be the exception and not the norm.

The reality is that most of the time I’m either in court attending hearings or trying cases. When I’m not there, I’m at my law firm meeting clients, taking depositions, and working on files. The firm is located in a traditional professional office building and probably looks very similar to how you’d imagine a law firm to look.

On select days–days when I don’t have to physically be at the firm and, where I can work from the harbor, beach, or someplace else outside, this is how I get things done. You can do the same thing. It’s all a matter of planning, mindset and a result of the decisions we give ourselves permission to make.

In this post, I share the tools I use to run my mobile office. Full disclosure, while I am a Brand Ambassador for some of the services mentioned below, I wouldn’t recommend any of these services if I didn’t believe in them. That’s just not how I roll.

And one more thing. If you do set up a mobile office, please share a picture or video on social media and tag me. I’d enjoy seeing and sharing your favorite view with my friends.

Now, let’s get started…

Continue reading “HOW TO CREATE THE ULTIMATE MOBILE OFFICE- 8 Tips To Help You Stay Productive, Achieve Success, And Enjoy Your Life!”

How to Tell if Someone is Lying (Tips from a Savvy Trial Lawyer)

Every single day we struggle with trying to figure out who’s telling the truth. Social media posts, the evening news, and our daily business conversations all often revolve around each of us searching for accuracy and the true facts and story.

The problem we all face is this: How do we know if people are telling us the truth?

A decision based upon someone’s lie can harm relationships, put you out of business, and destroy your reputation in the community. When it comes to politics, a lie can turn love into hate and peace into war.

As a trial lawyer, I’m always challenged to try and figure out if my jurors, witnesses, and opposing counsel are being honest. In high-profile cases, it’s tough to determine if reporters are truthful with why they want to do an interview or have me on a panel.

It’s never easy but, over the past three decades of using the approaches I’ve outlined below, I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring our who is telling me the truth and who is lying. After you apply and practice what I share in this post, I think you’ll also have a much better handle on who’s a straight shooter and who’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

Some of the approaches I share with you in this post are based upon things I’ve learned from personal experience while fighting my client’s legal battles in court. Others are concepts and approaches I’ve learned from judges and from studying decades of research by talented psychologist, psychiatrist and other professionals. While you’ll never be 100% sure if the person you’re talking to or watching on television or a livestream is telling you the truth, the use of these techniques should help you get better at making this determination.

Three-Step Approach (When You Can Plan Ahead)

The easiest way for me to tell if someone is exaggerating a fact, misleading me, or straight out lying, is when I’m able to use what I call the “Three-Step” approach. Before talking with someone, I determine specific facts that are true and then when we meet, I naturally and comfortably incorporate questions about those established facts into the conversation.

I then listen to and watch how the other person responds to my questions and how he acts during the conversation. It’s a easy to follow process and you can do the same thing.

Continue reading “How to Tell if Someone is Lying (Tips from a Savvy Trial Lawyer)”

Do Politicians Need Permission to Play the Music of Well-Known Artists or Bands?

 

Modern electric guitar

With the upcoming November elections less than two months away, I thought it would be a good idea to answer this question. After all, music has the unique ability to energize, inspire and motivate a crowded convention hall and campaign. Political candidates know this and the smart ones also know that music is protected by copyright laws. Truth be told, many politicians and their teams just don’t care.

During the 2016 Presidential election, the estate of George Harrison tweeted out, “The unauthorized use of #HereComestheSun at the #RNCinCLE is offensive & against the wishes of the George Harrison estate.”

george_harrison

The day before the Republican National Convention started, the band Queen protested Trump’s “unauthorized use” of “We Are the Champions.”

The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, R.E.M. and Neil Young have also demanded that Trump stop playing their music at his rallies. In response, Trump looked the other way and blasted out “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” by the Rolling Stones after his next speech.

Regardless of your political persuasion, favorite band or song, what’s the deal? Do political campaigns have the right to play songs without the permission of the artist?

My short answer is probably not.

Music is copyrighted, and a proper license is normally required to play a band’s music. If you don’t have permission from the artist or management company, then you may be in copyright violation. An exception might include a politician playing a song from the convention hall’s catalog of licensed music.

Another little know fact is that if a stadium, arena or venue has a public-performance license through ASCAP or BMI (songwriters’ associations), it may be legally OK to play that song during a political campaign.

In addition to copyright issues, there’s also a valuable “right of publicity” asset that a musical artist may be able to protect. Under this theory, Mick Jagger, of the Rolling Stones would argue his voice being broadcasted at a political convention is part of his image, and only he has the right to benefit from that image. This is an area of law that is generally untested in the courts but, it appears to me that artists would be on strong legal grounds should they decide to hold offending political candidates liable under this theory.

Other legal arguments musical artists, bands, and right holders may assert include violations of the “Lanham Act” (confusion or dilution of a trademark through unauthorized use) and “False Endorsement” (implies that the artist supports a product or candidate).

In my opinion, the best legal and ethical way for political campaigns and candidates to acquire the rights to use a particular song or list of songs at a convention is to obtain written permission from the artist or management company via a limited license. This avoids all of the above problems including litigation and legal damages. Written permission also prevents misunderstands with the community’s perception as to which artist or band supports a particular candidate.

When all said and done, getting written permission is just the right thing to do.

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Related Live Video

Attorneys Joey Vitale and Mitch Jackson answer this question and more on this Wednesday’s LegalHour.live (live video show) 11 am PT | 2 pm ET.

Click here to watch and get a reminder!