Ep. 22: Elevate Your Brand’s Legal with Mairin Van Shura

In today’s episode, we are joined by Mairin Van Shura. After an unfulfilling decade practicing law and experiencing worsening chronic health conditions as a result, Mairin Van Shura left the corporate rat race in pursuit of a more rewarding, free, purposeful life. She sold her house and 99% of her belongings and moved abroad. Mairin started her business, Solivagant Legal, to help other entrepreneurs easily protect their businesses without the high cost and hassle of hiring a lawyer via DIY contracts templates and other legal resources for their businesses. 

Tune in as we dive into all things legal including contracts, trademarks, and so much more. 

In this episode, we discuss:

  • [2:08] How Mairin started her business 
  • [6:48] Mairin’s thought process behind her decision
  • [12:27] Common legal pitfalls new business owners experience
  • [18:53] Must haves in your legal contracts 
  • [22:58] How to make sure your contracts and website policies are legally sound 
  • [25:35] 3 non negotiable policies that every online business owner with a website needs 
  • [28:18] Advanced legal agreements you will need in place as your scale 
  • [34:26] The importance of trademarking and what that process looks like 
  • [40:56] One thing Mairin wished more people knew about legal in the online space

How Mairin started her business 

In June 2019, Mairin was sitting in Cuba completely burnt to a crisp and thinking about her life. She knew she had a pretty good life but still felt like she was meant for something bigger. Leading up to this moment, Mairin had lost about 75% of her hair and no one could figure out why. This moment became a  kind of catalyst for everything to come.

Mairin started researching and taking her health more seriously in addition to focusing on upleveling nearly every area of her life and figuring out what was and wasn’t working. She quit her law firm job, sold her house and most of her belongings, and moved abroad. From there, she started her own business. Mairin had some experience working with entrepreneurs while she was at the law firm and decided she wanted to create a business that could help business owners in all stages of their business journey. 

Mairin’s thought process behind her decision

Although Mairin has experienced some ups and downs since starting her business, she truly doesn’t regret becoming an entrepreneur. Mairin says that she would take her hardest day as an entrepreneur over her best day working for someone else in a heartbeat. 

Common legal pitfalls new business owners experience

The three legal pitfalls that Mairin has seen a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with are scope creep, late or default payments, and boundary violations. For example, Mairin works with a lot of social media managers and agencies and thinks it’s extremely important to clearly define what you are going to be doing for your client. Your clients may not be familiar with industry specific terminology so it helps to clearly spell it out for them to eliminate confusion. If you are including engagement as a part of your social media management package, clearly define who it is you will be engaging with and how often it happens so your clients are kept in the loop. 

The second legal pitfall is boundary violations. Mairin often sees entrepreneurs not being specific about the number of rounds of revisions their client gets so then clients take advantage and request frequent revisions. Then the service provider feels frustrated because they are doing all these additional revisions without any extra compensation. 

The third legal pitfall is with late or defaulted payments. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that you can ever fully prevent but you can minimize these occurrences by having a rock solid contract with strong payment terms and a late payment policy. 

Must haves in your legal contracts 

It is important to get really granular in your contracts and think about what problems you have experienced in the past and what your boundaries are. You also need to consider the scope of the work that is being done, when it’s being done, what you’re promising and what you’re delivering so that this can be clearly outlined in your contract. 

Mairin believes that contracts can be both offense and defense, because if you have a great contract, it protects you and also minimizes the chance of anything bad happening in the first place because you’ve so clearly defined your boundaries and what you are doing for the client. This leaves very little room for misunderstanding so the scope creep, boundary crossing, and late or default payments are less likely to happen. 

How to make sure your contracts and website policies are legally sound 

Mairin’s rule of thumb is anytime you are collecting payments, you need to protect those payments so having a contract is important for even one-off projects in your business. You can either hire a lawyer to help you create a customized contract or utilize a DIY legal contract like the ones Mairin offers on her website. 

When starting their business, most entrepreneurs don’t even think about website policies. Mairin can actually count on one hand the number of business owners she’s worked with that had the correct policies on their website. Most business owners don’t realize the importance of having a legally compliant privacy policy on their website – but without one, we can be fined. 

3 non negotiable policies that every online business owner with a website needs 

The first policy you need is a privacy policy. This one is absolutely critical and you can be fined if you do not have one on your website. 

The second policy you need is a terms and conditions policy. This will outline what’s permitted on your website and what isn’t. It also protects your content. 

The last policy you need on your website are disclaimers. This is especially important for coaches to have but any business owner that has testimonials or affiliate links on their website should include disclaimers as well. 

Having disclaimers is a liability shield that basically says that anybody who comes to your website is assuming the risk and you as the business owner are not liable if they use or misuse their information. 

With testimonials, if someone decides to work with you they can’t assume that just because a certain client 10xed their Instagram following that they are going to get the exact same results.

Advanced legal agreements you will need in place as your scale 

The biggest thing Mairin sees that most entrepreneurs need in place as they scale is related to hiring. At that point, entrepreneurs already have a contract to send their new clients during the onboarding process but they likely don’t have an independent contractor agreement yet. 

If you’re planning on bringing on any team members, whether contractor or subcontractor, you need a lawyer drafted independent contractor agreement. This agreement will lay out the exact terms of the relationship, confidentiality terms, and more. Mairin’s independent contractor agreement includes a non-disclosure agreement that is built into the contract. This is essential when bringing people to work with you in your business so that you are protected from your team members going rogue with your important information. 

Oftentimes when hiring an online service provider they already have their own contract so it’s fine to sign their contracts but make sure you have a lawyer review the contract before you sign. Then, you can have them sign your NDA so that you have that additional layer of protection. 

Another agreement you may want to have in place especially once you start doing collaborations with others is a collaboration agreement. Many business owners don’t know the copyright laws that govern joint venture work. Anytime that you work with somebody else on a collaborative project, you create what’s called joint work. 

In the US under copyright law, both parties have equal rights in that joint work so they have equal ownership, equal rights to determine how it’s marketed, how it’s sold, when it’s sold, and when you stop selling it. What a collaboration agreement does is spell out who owns what and what happens if there’s a disagreement so it is absolutely crucial to have once you start partnering with others. 

The importance of trademarking and what that process looks like 

Trademarks are critical when it comes to running a business. You can trademark a brand name, group program name, logo, or phrase. For example, Nike has trademarked the “just do it” slogan in addition to the Nike swoosh logo. 

When you trademark something, you can prevent anybody in the confines of your industry from using that same name, logo, phrase or anything that would be confusing to the public. Mairin often says that you don’t own your brand until you have a trademark because someone else could just come along and trademark that brand and then you are out of luck. 

Most new business owners don’t think about trademarks, especially after looking at the price to hire a trademark lawyer to handle the process for them. Then they decide to just put it off until they reach a certain point in their business. This is a huge problem because you could be infringing on someone’s trademark without even realizing it. 

Even if you can’t afford to hire a trademark attorney, at the very least you should perform a trademark clearance yourself before you launch anything to make sure that you aren’t infringing on anyone else’s trademark. As your business grows, you can then work with a trademark lawyer to trademark your brand, podcast, or signature course so that you own that name. 

When it comes to trademarks, a lot of people don’t realize that it isn’t just about preventing others from using that name. It also opens up more exclusivity, credibility, and it’s also great for SEO which are all amazing benefits to your business. 

One thing Mairin wished more people knew about legal in the online space

When it comes to legal, you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s not necessarily intuitive and you’re not going to be able to figure out everything from Google. Getting legal can be extremely empowering and give you a great peace of mind. It also doesn’t have to be this painstaking process. You can get DIY contract templates that are incredible and will protect you or you can work with a lawyer to help you create the customized assets for your business. 

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