Interview With Blogher Business 07 Panelist Nina Kaufman

Next week at this time I will be on my way to NYC for Blogher Business 07 and I am very much looking forward to it. Not only will I get to catch up with old friends of the non-blogging variety but also many blogging friends, some for the first time face- to- face. The latter is one of those value added benefits to blogging which I will cover in my response to Toby's tag.

I am especially excited to be moderating the Day 2 Panel , How to Keep Out of Real Trouble with three experts, attorneys Megan Belcher and Nina Kaufman and Google's Karen Wickre. This panel is part of the How to Get it Right the First Time Track.

I have interviewed Megan and Karen over the last several days, and today will post my interview with Nina Kaufman. Nina is the co-founder of Paltrowitz & Kaufman LLP a New York law firm that serves as in-house counsel to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Nina also is the founder and President of Wise Counsel Press, LLC which publishes articles, guides, and podcasts on legal issues for entrepreneurs. In addition, Nina is a stand-up comedienne. No joke.

Marianne: The Blogher panel that we are on is called "How to Keep Out of Real Trouble." Keeping out of trouble when it comes to blogs seems to be top of mind with lawyers for large corporations. You work with entrepreneurs and small businesses; can you give an overview of real trouble as it relates to your clients.

Nina: What's "real trouble" for small business? A lawsuit. In particular, a big ugly complicated lawsuit (especially) with a large company on the other side. Or, involving someone who has stolen your valuable intellectual property. Small businesses don't have the war "chest to fund" these legal battles. So, like the old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," small businesses are well served trying to avoid the snares of defamation, copyright infringement, and privacy lawsuits (among others) that social media can engender.

Marianne: Over the last several weeks it seems as if use of Twitter has increased exponentially. All of this "what are you doing?" information is shared not only by bloggers but even presidential candidates. Do you see any cautionary notes that need to be extended to users and participants?

Nina: It reminds me of my mother's warning about getting a tattoo" "Twenty, thirty, forty years from now...are you really going to want it? And will it look good?" {The answer was no} While today, people may think it is cool to have their exploits around the world, tomorrow, this information will still be available. it will be cached some place, on some server, accessible somehow. And when tomorrow comes, they may not be so thrilled with the fact that the information is still available, or how it may be used against them because of the ways the laws have changed (which we can't predict today).

It presents a particular challenge for political candidates who are demanded by the public to be "transparent" and then castigated when they provide " too much information." Do I really need Twitter to provide me with a minute by minute update of where John Edwards is?

Marianne: It seems like the increased use of the internet for business collaborations, "always on" accessibility, increased participation in social networks and communities, a constant stream of new technologies, and the flattening world in general... and the frequent lack of clear definition for intellectual property ownership might be leading to a huge increase in legal disputes. Do you see this as a possibility?

Nina: The internet and social media are shaking up a lot of our expectations bout the way we work, what we can control, and how to protect it. It is not clear where the dust will settle. While we're in this in-between stage, I think there will be a lot of disputes. The boundaries between what is acceptable (legal) and not are in flux. For example, there are reports of bloggers who have been hit with lawsuits by major companies for posting negative comments. Is this an attempt to chill free speech or have the bloggers over stepped the defamation line?

Also, our ability to firmly control our work product and company reputation has decreased as we have become more interconnected. Look at the way that former Edward's campaign blogger Amanda Marcotte's musing on her personal blog affected her employment (and employer).

Marianne: What advice and warnings can you offer those at risk?

Nina: There are a handful of important guidelines that I think entrepreneurs should keep in mind when using social media for business.

  • First, before they jump on the bandwagon, they should carefully consider whether it is really necessary for their business growth. Don't do it "just because" or because "everyone else is." Blogging, podcasts, ezines, social networks--all can take copious amounts of time to breathe, update, cultivate, and grow. if you don't stay on top of it and publish regularly, you lose credibility.
  • Second, be professional. for most entrepreneurs, blogging isn't your business--it's an aspect of marketing you business. Are you presenting the right image for your company by posting scathing comments on your competitors's blogs? Just because you have the freedom and the readily available technology to say something, doesn't mean you always should.
  • Third, be original. Simply because information is available on the internet doesn't mean that you have the right to copy it wholesale. You can go a long way to avoiding copyright infringement lawsuits, for example, if you create your own content.
  • Fourth, if you have any reason to think that your next step could be a real doozy, consult with an attorney in advance.

Marianne: I noticed that you offer flat fee/package for your clients. This seems to make such good sense for both attorneys and clients...would you please discuss how this has worked for your practice.

Nina: Small businesses like certainty, especially when it comes to their budget items. They are certainly worried about legal fees and how they can spiral out of control. There are certain assignments that we handle with great frequency: business partnership agreements, company formation, certain contracts/business transactions. There's no reason that we should have to reinvent the wheel when answering the question "What do you charge for______?" It makes it easier for business owners to decide the sequence and timing for building a sold legal foundation for their companies.

For us, it takes the guesswork out of that part of our pricing structure. When you quote a flat fee price, you help remove a worry (among many) from a business owner's shoulders....creating an environment of safety and trust within the attorney-client relationship.

Thanks to Megan, Karen and Nina for this pre-conference discussion. And thanks to Toby for the idea. We will be MCing the Case Study Lab on Day 1. See you in New York!

Marianne Richmond also blogs at Resonance Partnership and Blog the Campaign 08.

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