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Error 2: Waiting Too Long to Involve a Lawyer

As I mentioned earlier, you should get a lawyer whenever you need guidance in a particular situation. One common mistake lots of photographers make is not involving a lawyer early in the foundational stages of the business. Having a good lawyer on your team is an essential part of running a successful creative business. Not just any lawyer, either—you need someone with experience in copyright-related matters.

Involving a lawyer in the early stages of your business can help to minimize the chances of conflicts down the road. Your lawyer might not need to look at everything you do, but he or she should put together a set of basic forms for your business; for example, your standard performance terms and conditions, a typical cease-and-desist letter, and so on. This preparation can help you to establish standard practices associated with certain aspects of your business; if disputes arise, you’ll have some confidence that you’re starting from a good place. Too often, photographers try to cobble together key documents from agreements they’ve signed in the past, examples they’ve found on the Internet, and so on, leading to inconsistencies, confusion, and all sorts of trouble if you end up in court—or even just threatening to go to court (or being threatened by someone else).

Having an established relationship with a lawyer can be helpful for the same reason that having a general understanding of copyright can be helpful: When you need a lawyer, emotions probably are running a little high. When time is of the essence (as in an infringement situation), meeting with dozens of lawyers to find the right one for your circumstances is the last thing you need.

To find lawyers in your area, consult with your state or local bar association, and check for online search tools to help you find someone with experience in copyright issues.

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