By Monroe Mann, M.E.
Unstoppable Artists, LLC
Co-Author, “Guerrilla Networking”
By Monroe Mann, M.E.
I’ve known about contracts and legal matters for quite some time as a 7-year business owner and given my many contractual forays in the worlds of showbiz and publishing. And over the
years, I have learned just how important it is to have a legal education—so much so in fact that I am now a 2nd year law student.
Why did I enroll in law school? Because lawyers run the world. Because if you don’t know how to negotiate a good deal, you’re never going to be much of a success—in business OR in life. Because hey--it would help me earn more respect from my clients and allow me to help them in even more ways.
Consider this. Just today, I was on the phone with two important people: one was a new showbiz coaching client; the other was a Final Cut Pro video editor I am hiring. The last words I said in both conversations? “Great! I will write up the agreement this weekend and get it off to you to take a look at.” And that is how dreams are made!
Folks, knowing how to draft your own agreements, knowing how to negotiate a deal that is a win-win for everyone; knowing how to protect your interests so that you don’t kick yourself a year from now—THIS is why I love the law; this is why I am going to law school; this is why I am writing this message to you today. I want to share with you the importance of a basic understanding of the law. Whether you go to law school is completely irrelevant—what I am saying is that no matter what, you absolutely NEED to become familiar and confident in your basic legal abilities. If not, you risk having the wool pulled over your eyes time and time again.
But fret not! This is why I am writing! To help you! To that end, I have shared with you below my top three summer legal lessons. Don’t just read them. MEMORIZE THEM. Assimilate them. Make them a part of your inner psyche. No joke: these three tips will do more for your success and well being than reading an entire legal casebook.
Without further ado:
1. Always get it in writing. ALWAYS. I don't care if it isthe most mundane matter, and I don't care if you have been best friends forever: GET IT IN WRITING. Even if it is just preliminarily an email agreement, GET IT IN WRITING. Just a small and minor deal? GET IT IN WRITING. If you have something in writing--anything--it is better than an oral agreement. As Hollywood producer Sam Goldwyn once said, "An oral agreement isn't worth the paper is printed on." Of course, some things you just need to act on immediately or are so ‘small potatoes’ that it doesn’t seem necessary to get it in writing. That may be true, and everything may work out successfully. Nonetheless, your best bet is still to GET IT IN WRITING. In some way, shape, or form, GET IT IN WRITING. Even if it’s on a paper napkin, GET IT IN WRITING. Do you sort of maybe possibly understand what I am trying to tell you? GET IT IN WRITING OKAY?!
2. Everything is negotiable. Whenever someone tells you something is non-negotiable, it simply means you haven't yet made it worth their while to negotiate. For instance, if you are trying to get a part in someone's film as an actor, and the producer (who is looking for money) continually refuses to audition you for the part by stating, "look, it's non-negotiable, I already have the part reserved for my friend," don't give up. Just think, "What WOULD make it negotiable?" For instance, "How about if I invest $1 million into the film?" Or, "What if I could guarantee distribution through Lion's Gate?" Or, “What if I do all the legal work for the project?” Make sense. Just figure out what they want, figure out a way to provide it, and voila, everything—at the bare minimum--BECOMES negotiable. I’m not saying it becomes easy, but it certainly does become negotiable. So no matter what anyone says, always remember that EVERYTHING is negotiable. It’s simply up to you to figure out exactly how so.
3. Someone who represents himself has a fool for an attorney. Perhaps you have heard this expression. And to a large extent, it is true. While some people (even attorneys) do argue their cases and handle their legal matters competently themselves (called 'pro se' in legal jargon), in more cases than not, it will usually make sense to have someone else represent your interests. Someone with more expertise. Someone who is disinterested and non-emotionally attached to the matter at hand. But here’s a big caveat: please do not implicitly trust your attorney. YOU are the one who is going to win or lose the case, or win or lose the deal, and hey, you are paying the attorney, not the other way around. In other words: TRUST YOUR GUT. More often than not, if you're not careful, an attorney/agent 'just looking out for your best interests' will be such a pain in the butt and so ‘stubborn’ during negotiations that you end up losing the deal. Don't lose the deal because your attorney or agent is 'just trying to protect your interests' by making unreasonable demands! That is the stupidest thing I have ever witnessed! Instead, make it your job to ensure that your attorney doesn't lose the deal for you. In the end, if you can negotiate the deal yourself—great. But if you do decide to bring on an attorney or agent, first listen to their advice (of course) but then, it is up to you to make the final decision. YOU are the CEO of the company, and it is you who has to ultimately live with the results.
Please note that the above are just a few tips and are NOT legal advice. If you need an attorney, let me know: my company Unstoppable Artists is close partners with a great firm with a great name: Mann & Mann, Attorneys at Law. And if you’re interested in a free 20-minute career and business consultation, let me know.
On that note, folks, I look so forward to meeting you all… AT THE TOP!
And yes, feel free to send me an email.
Masters of Entrepreneurship
CEO, Unstoppable Artists, LLC and Loco Dawn Films, LLC
P.S. – You can now find Unstoppable Artists and my celebrity talk-show, Before the Big Break, on Facebook. Join us!
Books by Monroe Mann:
The Theatrical Juggernaut – The Psyche of the Star
Battle Cries for the Underdog – Fightin’ Words for an Extraordinary Life
To Benning & Back – the Making of a Citizen Soldier (Part I)
Guerrilla Networking (with Jay Conrad Levinson)
Start Your Own Coaching Business (most recent book, Entrepreneur Press, July 2008)
Guerrilla Marketing on the Front Lines (Contributing Author—Now Available)
Watch Monroe’s original Big Idea interview with Donny at:
www.UnstoppableArtists.com (Monroe’s coaching and publicity firm
Additional Related Websites.
www.LocoDawn.com (Monroe’s tv and film production company)
www.ActorsFilmSchool.com (Learn how to make movies with Monroe!)
www.RunningForFamous.com (Monroe’s 7-piece ROMP band)
www.Amazon.comwww.BN.com (Where you can read about all of Monroe’s books)
www.IMDb.com (Where you can read about Monroe’s film/tv credits)
www.FutureOscarWinner.com (Monroe’s personal site)
www.GMarketing.com (Monroe’s co-author Jay Levinson’s website)