How To Get a Free Consultation with Ruth Carter

Photo by Don McPhee

Photo by Don McPhee

I’m excited to share that I’ve teamed up with Gangplank in Chandler to offer free legal mentoring services on the first Monday of the month from 1pm until 4pm. I can see 3 people for 45-minutes each every month at no charge.

Hello Beautiful by Gangplank HQ from Flickr

Hello Beautiful by Gangplank HQ from Flickr

My legal mentoring hours are a great opportunity to informally bat around your ideas and questions about your projects and business. Coming to my mentoring hours does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. We won’t have any ongoing obligations to each other unless we decide to create a formal working relationship.

Gangplank provides free collaborative workspaces in Arizona, Virginia, and Canada. They provide the physical and social infrastructure for creative people to launch their startups. These are wonderful places for freelancers and new business owners to work. In Arizona, Gangplank has locations on Chandler, Avondale, and Tucson.

I love working with Gangplank. They have a fantastic group of dynamic people who have an enormous amount of creativity and drive. They have a very informal environment and they do incredible work. It fits brilliantly with my desire to be the approachable lawyer who wears t-shirts.

Skulls & Stripes by Gangplank HQ from Flickr

Skulls & Stripes by Gangplank HQ from Flickr

Gangplank in Chandler is located at 260 South Arizona Avenue. Their events calendar shows their mentors’ availability and also all their other events like their weekly brown bag presentations, hacknights, and workshops. They have a wealth of other mentors too who provide assistance in the areas of business, leadership, marketing, design, finance, and technology.

Gangplank is in charge of scheduling the mentoring hours so please check their event calendar for my availability. You can book a mentoring appointment with me by emailing them at

Please note: my mentoring hours at Gangplank are not for my ongoing clients with whom I’ve created an attorney-client relationship. These appointments are for people who think they might need a lawyer, people who just want some general legal information, law students, anyone else who wants to chat for an hour.

You can connect with me via TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTube, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Affordable Legal Services for New Business Owners

One Upon a Time . . . a Direct Line to the President of the United States by AGeekMom from Flickr

One Upon a Time . . . a Direct Line to the President of the United States by AGeekMom from Flickr

Some of the lessons I’ve learned in my first year as an attorney is that a lot of entrepreneurs, especially those who are operating on a shoestring budget, don’t seek out legal services when they start their business. There seems to be three main reasons why a new business owner does this:

  1. They think it’s too expensive.
  2. They are afraid it’s going to be complicated.
  3. They don’t understand the legalities of starting a business.

None of these are valid reasons for not calling a business attorney.

I recently attended a business seminar where a young man admitted he put off creating a business entity for years because he thought it was going to be hard. He was blown away by how easy it was. His fear put him at serious risk because until he created an entity, he could have lost his personal assets if the business was found liable for causing damage to someone because he didn’t have an entity that separated the business’ assets from his personal assets.

Before you assume you can’t afford legal services, call an attorney and ask what you need and what it will cost. Even if you can’t afford everything a lawyer could do for you, a lawyer who understands your situation will work with you and your budget. They will tell you what you can do on your own and likely provide resources to help you do it. They can tell you when it’s worth it to pay an attorney to do something for you, and the ramifications you could face if you don’t.

When you can’t afford to have your attorney draft a document for you, ask them if you could purchase a consultation to discuss how you could do it yourself or if you could draft it yourself and pay them to review it. There will be times when it’s cheaper and better use of your time to hire an attorney to draft the document from scratch than to try to write the first draft yourself. Call the attorney you’d hire to review the documents first to make sure that’s going to the best course of action. It might be more expensive to fix what you wrote.

There may also be organizations that provide cheap or free classes and consultations for business owners in your community. I spend three hours on the first Monday of the month providing free legal mentoring at Gangplank in Chandler. These services are a great way to get your needs met while keeping you within your budget or to free up more of your budget to afford your business’ legal needs.

If you’re a new business owner or thinking of starting a business, please call a business attorney in your community to discuss your legal needs. I’ve worked with enough clients to know that it’s easier and cheaper to do things right the first time than to clean up the mess that results when you don’t.

You can connect with me via TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTube, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Celebrity Trademark Woes

Ivy Leaves by D H Wright from Flickr

Ivy Leaves by D H Wright from Flickr

In the last week there have been a few stories about celebrities running into trouble with prospective trademarks. I thought I’d break down the two major stories I’ve heard.

Blue Ivy
Jay-Z and Beyonce had a daughter earlier this year and named her Blue Ivy Carter. (Why do celebrities give their kids such stupid names?) According to the news report, Jay-Z filed an application to trademark her name within days of her birth. It seems very strange to me that a high priority of a new parent is starting a product line based on their kid’s name.

To have a trademark, you have to select a mark and the product or service you’re going to use it with. A mark can be anything that will differentiate your product or services from the competition – a word, a tag line, a color, a scent, a sound, etc. Its purpose is to inform consumers about the source and the quality of the goods they’re buying. Once you register a mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, no one can use a similar mark on similar goods and services because it might lead to consumer confusion.

Jay-Z’s trademark plan hit a bit of a snag. When he applied for the trademark, he was likely informed that there are several registered trademarks featuring the phrase “blue ivy.” One is an event and wedding planning service, another is an online furniture retailer, and another is a retail store that sells clothing, jewelry, accessories, and giftware.

Jay-Z and Beyonce could register “Blue Ivy Carter” as a trademark, but not to sell a good or service that was similar to one of the existing registered marks. It appears they’ve registered the mark for skin care products, baby products, ring tones, key rings, and accessories among other things. The list is disgustingly extensive.

The best part of the trademark record is where it says, “The name ‘BLUE IVY CARTER’ identifies a living individual whose consent is of record.” That’s funny.

The other trademark story I heard recently involves the Kardashians. Apparently they plan to release a makeup line called Khroma Beauty that is expected to be sold in Sears and CVS Pharmacies. The problem they’re running into is the fact that there’s a salon called Chroma Makeup Studio in Hollywood that sells its own Chroma brand of makeup. I couldn’t discern in a quick search if the studio owner had registered the trademark.

The general rule in trademark is that it’s not enough to have a different spelling of the same word as your competition’s mark. For example, if someone owed an “Alligator Furniture Store” in your city, you probably couldn’t open a competing store called “Allig8tor Furniture.”

Even without registration, the owner of the Chroma mark gets the exclusive rights to use his mark in commerce wherever the market has been established. If nothing else, he might have a valid argument to keep Khroma makeup out of the stores near his studio. He’s asked the Kardashians to change the name of their makeup.

When selecting a potential mark, it’s a good idea to check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to see if someone has already registered the mark you want to use on similar goods and services. If they are, you’ll have to pick a new trademark.

It’s also prudent to run a simple Google search to see if someone is using the mark in commerce without registering it. If they are, you’ll have to consider whether it would be better to pick something new or use a similar mark knowing that the other user has the exclusive right to use the mark where they’re established. If you register your similar mark, you can use it everywhere in the country except the areas where your competition established itself prior to your registration.

Feel free to connect with me via TwitterGoogle+Facebook, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Avoid Piercing the Corporate Veil

Shadow Theatre by tamadhanaval, Piercing the corporate veil

Shadow Theatre by tamadhanaval

After I published the blog post on starting a business in Arizona, someone asked me if there was anything wrong with using PayPal to accept business payments if their PayPal account is connected to a personal bank account. I cringe when I hear stories like this.

One of the benefits of creating a business entities is it limits your liability. If you have a corporation or an LLC and the business gets sued and loses, the prevailing party can only take the business’ assets if the business is set up properly. They can’t go after your personal home, car, bank accounts, or other possessions.

You get this protection by keeping the business assets and your personal assets separate. Your business needs its own bank account, credit card, etc. You should pay for business expenses with the business accounts and personal expenses with your personal accounts. If you don’t keep your accounts separate and you lose in a lawsuit, the prevailing party could make the argument that the business is not a separate entity but is merely an alter ego for you. If that happens they can take assets from the business and your personal property to collect their damages.

Creating an LLC is a good start to protecting yourself against personal liability, but it may not be enough if you don’t keep your business and personal accounts independent from each other. Services like PayPal are so easy to use that it will be simple to create separate accounts for business and personal use.

If you have questions about whether you’ve properly set up your business to protect yourself against liability, please contact a business lawyer (like me) in your community.

Feel free to connect with me via TwitterGoogle+Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.