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Good Business Avoids the Courtroom

There are some primary business truths you can take away and nail on pieces of old carved timber across your office wall. One of those solid truths is that it is always better to avoid a legal fight than to get yourself into one. Often the problem is that conflict becomes a personal pride decision rather than a business one.

The Cost of Defending yourself in a Courtroom

Lawyers are expensive. In a globalised economy you may have to defend yourself in the United States, Barcelona, Sydney or Bangladesh depending on the people in the conflict, the prevailing legal system in play and the nature of the contention. You don’t get to choose the legal venue as your home ground.

That means legal conflict involves hiring lawyers, possibly investigators and more than likely travel and accommodation for repeated visits to the place of hearing.

You should quickly get the point here. It’s unlikely that any legal issue you choose to battle will be in your 5 mile radius, during the lunch hour, without personal and financial cost – it risks your business. If cashflow is the blood of a business then legal action can be a slashing of the wrists (however you might envision it as a running of the bulls in Pamplona).

Employ Legal Advice Early (Before you Publish)

The other carved in timber truth about legal advise is hire well and hire early. The simple fact of life is you should talk to professional legal representation at the earliest stage – certainly before you call other businesses out to a noon showdown and most definitely before you publish to the Internet.

Because the moral high ground won’t get you very far in a court of law if you’ve constrained yourself to the gumboots you wrote and yelled in public.

A good case as an example right now is The Oatmeal versus FunkyJunk playing out across the Internet. Semi-famous guy has content repurposed and does a public outing. A while later, outed repurposers (notice I’m trying to avoid being sued for taking any side in this stouche) demand $20,000 or they’ll take the guy to court and he responds with a slap in the face proposal to raise that $20,000 and donate it to two charities, sending the repurposers a nice photograph of that cash.

To his credit, Coudal Partners report The Oatmeal has raised $118,000 in a day or two. However, I’m not sure the populist Internet vote will count for much unless those dollars are repurposed rapidly to pay for legal representation. The bottom line of any legal stouche is you have to put bums on seats in the courtroom. And that, sir, is prohibitively expensive.

Publishing on the Internet is… Publishing

The real issue in that legal complaint isn’t that FunkyJunk is right or wrong. Or that The Oatmeal is right or wrong. The real issue is that anything you write, blog, tweet or capitalise on the Internet is published to a broad audience. Just like you were a newspaper. Just like you were News of the World.

So the choice to out your product-repurposers may backfire. Because when you write things on the Internet you’re just as subject to the law as the alleged repurposers of your content.

The law doesn’t really care that you were in the right when the stouche began. And it’s not the Internet that needs the burden of proof about allegations or rebuttals.

Conclusion: Avoid Litigation & Litigious People

So before anything gets said in public or in publishing (note the similarity of those words) you should hire legal counsel. To save you money, to avoid conflict and to maximise your chances of being treated as fairly as you deserve under the relevant legal framework.

My business advice is to never seek out litigation or do business with litigious entities… it’s just too expensive. My business advice is to never publish outings unless you’re sure you can afford that fight. My business advice is that you’ll make more money doing stuff and facilitating win-win situations than you ever will with an angry hammer. Think about it. Bleeding cash all over the concrete in front of the world is never going to be good for business.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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