the Zealous

08 Jul 24

Excerpts from José Ancer, Don’t Use Your Lead Investor’s Lawyers:

Principle: If your lawyer makes more money off of your investors than he does from you, he’s not really your lawyer.

If someone made you an offer to buy your home, but suggested that you use their real estate agent in the process, you’d hopefully immediately notice a problem with such an arrangement.  Most people would.  That being said, here’s a very common scenario in the early stages of a startup:

Investor (to Founder): Hey, we’d love to work with you guys on a possible investment, but first you need to get your legal stuff cleaned up.

Founder (eager to get investment): Awesome. But I don’t know any good startup lawyers.

Investor: No problem, I know a great startup lawyer, [X].  We’ve worked with him on several deals. I’ll put you in touch.

The problem with this scenario? When things go sideways.

14 Jun 24

Many lawyers take a belt-and-suspenders approach to clauses that are intended to transfer copyright ownership from the developer-vendor to the customer with respect to the customer’s deliverables it is paying for, when representing the customer. “Let’s call it an assignment,” they say, and “let’s also call it a work for hire, just in case.”

The problem here is that in certain circumstances, it can be crucial to know with objective certainty whether copyright has been assigned, or whether ownership of it passed automatically via work-for-hire doctrine under applicable copyright law (such as the US Copyright Act’s definition of work made for hire in section 101).

31 May 24

From Charles Silver, A Private Law Defense of Zealous Representation, U. of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 638 (2020):

Moral philosophers object to the ethic of zeal, also known as the fiduciary duty and the principle of partisanship, because it requires lawyers to ignore any adverse effects that lawful actions beneficial for clients may have on third parties. For example, when representing a landlord, a lawyer may not refrain from evicting a tenant family that is behind on the rent for fear that the children will wind up on the street. Because harms inflicted on third parties normally bear on moral assessments, philosophers contend that lawyers who ignore them are amoral, immoral, or morally stunted.