By Bobby Borg
Just mentioning the word ATTORNEY is enough to send many musicians into a state of panic. After all, how can you pay an attorney’s fees when you can barely afford to pay for your band’s rehearsal space? So, once you hire a lawyer, you want to make sure that the relationship runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible and you get the most out of each meeting and phone call. From being prepared, appointing a band representative, and keeping good records, you’ll find the following tips extremely useful. Read on:
Before contacting your attorney on any matter, be clear as to what you want to accomplish. Make a list of all the points you’d like to discuss and write a list of questions for each. Take copious notes and don’t be intimidated to ask questions on all matters for which you are not immediately clear.
Be on Time
When a band meets with its lawyer as a group, the last thing you want is to have your attorney have to repeat what already has been said for a member who walks in the door late 15 minutes late. Make sure everyone is on time for important meetings.
Appoint a Band Representative
It’s also best to appoint one band member to serve as your liaison between the attorney and the rest of the band to avoid having every member of the group call whenever they have a question or want an update on a particular matter. Appointing one member to make calls will also make life easier for your attorney himself, who won’t have to re-explain issues to each band member, and thus avoiding the awkward situation in which each member gets his own take on a matter. By having a liaison, your group can put together a list of questions, and then one individual will make the call or attend the meeting. As long as your liaison is effective in relaying information to the other members of the band, this system usually works fine. Nonetheless, at times the other members may feel they’re relinquishing control and are at the mercy of the appointed member. In these cases, your band can always make group phone calls via speakerphone so that everyone feels part of the conversation. A second solution is to have everyone attend meetings, but have only one representative do the talking.
Keep Your Attorney Informed
It’s important to keep your attorney up to date regarding business matters. For instance, if your attorney is shopping your band, and an A & R representative unexpectedly approaches you from another label after one of your shows, the first one who should hear about it is your attorney.
Keep Good Records
Keep clear records of all business correspondence and be prepared to bring copies to business meetings or to fax copies to your attorney before a phone conversation. It can be difficult to explain to your attorney from memory what a producer is offering your band. You can ask the producer to put a proposal in writing so that your attorney has something tangible to review. Another effective way of keeping good records is to ask anyone you have an important phone conversation with to put a summary of your discussion into a letter. It’s also helpful to save all e-mail correspondence in a file in chronological order.
Tell the Truth
It’s extremely important to be forthright with your attorney from day one. Your lawyer is there to help you, and if you’re working at cross-purposes the only one you’re hurting is yourself. An attorney needs to clearly understand the details of a situation in order to do his or her best to solve the problem. If someone is suing you, for instance, because you threw a bottle into the audience and cut open a fan’s face (this has actually happened), don’t tell your attorney that you have no knowledge of the incident; later someone may turn up with the whole incident on video tape, and by this time your attorney may be able to do little to defend you.
Pay Your Bills on Time
A sure-fire way to avoid putting a damper on your relationship with your lawyer is to pay your bills on time. Your attorney is running a business — just like you.
Never Sign Anything Without Your Attorney’s Involvement
To avoid a lot of potential problems, never sign anything without having your attorney review it first. After all, that’s why you retained legal counsel in the first place.