FAQ

Frequently-Asked Questions

Question: In what state or states are you admitted to practice law?

I am presently admitted to practice in California. I was formerly a member of The Missouri Bar, but terminated my membership when I moved from that state. I was in good standing with The Missouri Bar when I left.

Question: How long have you practiced law?

I was admitted to the bar in California in 1977 and in Missouri in 1979. Since that time, I have been in the private practice of law and have also worked in businesses in which I used my legal training. For a more detailed description of my professional and work background, go to my About page.

Question: Do you have a blog related to your practice?

Yes. I blog on The Passive Voice. I do not provide legal advice on my blog, however.

Question: Now that you will be working for paying clients, does that mean you won’t blog about book contracts any more?

No. I will continue to blog about book contracts and discuss various components of publishing contracts and agency contracts on my blog. I’m not a believer in hiding knowledge. I’m a believer in spreading knowledge.

If you haven’t read my contracts blog posts, click HERE to read them on my blog. You’ll find quite a few and there will be more in the future. While these blog posts aren’t as detailed as the analysis I do for my clients, they’ll give you a sense of how I look at book contracts.

Question: I know you ask people to contribute to your Contract Collection on your blog, then you use those contracts as a basis for some of your blog posts. If I hire you to help me with a contract, will my contract go into your Contract Collection?

No. Unless you say otherwise, your contract is confidential information, subject to the same attorney/client confidentiality protections as any other information you provide to me. As an attorney, I am ethically prohibited from disclosing any client confidences.

If you decide you want to contribute your contract to the Contract Collection, you may do so. However, I will never raise the subject or make any suggestion that you do so. My default assumption is that any documents a client provides me are confidential.

Question: You make some pretty snarky comments on your blog. If I hire you, will you be snarky and sarcastic with me?

No. That would be extremely unprofessional and I would never treat a client, friend or associate that way. If you read my sarcastic commentary, you’ll see it’s almost always directed at people or organizations that I believe mistreat authors or take unfair advantage of them.

Question: In some of your blog posts, you can be quite critical of publishers and agents. Will you be confrontational if you are negotiating with them?

No. The first point I would make is my blog criticism is reserved for people and organizations behaving badly. In my critical posts, I usually point out that all agents and all publishers are not the same and many treat authors well.

My negotiation style is what negotiation experts call “Effective Cooperative.”

The “Cooperative” part means I’m ethical, fair, courteous and tactful in my approach, treating the negotiation as an exercise in problem-solving. The “Effective” part means if I don’t see my Cooperative approach being reciprocated by the other side, I adjust my approach to deal with the negotiation style of the other side. When I last did any reading in negotiation studies, Effective Cooperative negotiators were generally regarded as the most likely to generate a good result from negotiations.

If toughness is required, I can be very tough. If my client’s best interests require deviousness, I can be very devious. However, I typically begin each negotiation with a friendly and cooperative tone and, in my experience, most of my negotiations end with the same tone. An author will need to work with an agent and/or publisher after the negotiation is complete and any sort of scorched-earth negotiation tactics could harm that relationship.

In any negotiation, my client is the boss and I will keep him/her informed of exactly what is happening and clear any major negotiation decisions with my client before I move forward. It’s the client’s contract, not mine.

Question: Where do you meet with clients?

Since I expect most of my clients to be dispersed over a wide area, I typically communicate with them via telephone, email and/or Skype or a similar video calling application.

I work out of a home office which is not well-suited for client meetings. If a client or prospective client would like to meet face-to-face, I’m happy to do so when schedules and geography permit.

Question: How do I get started if I want to hire you?

Contact me through my Contact Page and include a description of what you would like me to do. In almost all cases, I will set a time for a phone call with you to discuss your needs in detail so I understand your expectations clearly. We’ll discuss my fees during the phone call.

Question: Why do you offer some of your legal services for a flat fee?

I charged flat fees for several types of legal services when I practiced in Missouri and found my clients liked to know exactly how much something would cost ahead of time.

One reason I can do this is that when I do work for my clients, I also develop systems and analytical models that allow me to provide quality legal work in less time than otherwise would be the case. If I am able to attract enough legal projects of the same type, I can become more efficient in the way I handle them.

Question: If I sign up for a flat-fee service, are there extras that you will charge me for?

No. A flat fee means a flat fee. If the job takes more time or is more difficult than I expect, that’s my problem, not my client’s problem.

I try to be specific about what is included in the flat fee service so a client knows exactly what he or she will receive before entering into a retainer agreement.

If I’m in the middle of a particular flat-fee service and a client asks me to do something more that’s not included with the original service, I’ll send an additional retainer agreement for the added service and will ask for an additional fee.

See my Sample Flat Fee Agreement for more information.

Question: Will you ever change your flat fee charges?

I’m constantly looking for ways to be more efficient in my work and evaluating the amount of time my services require. So far, the flat fee services have the same charges I began with when I started doing this sort of work for authors. If my experiences change, I may adjust my fees up or down or decide to discontinue one or more of the services.

I will not, however, make any change to the amount of a flat fee once I sign a retainer agreement with a client for a flat fee service. Regardless of profitability, I will provide the services promised for the set fee we agree to.

Question: When do I pay you?

For a flat-fee service, you pay up front. For help that I don’t provide for a flat fee, I’ll usually ask for a deposit against hourly fees to be paid up front.

Question: Can I get a refund if I change my mind on a flat-fee service?

My policy is to give every client a three-day period after I receive payment to think about our agreement and make certain they want to proceed. I won’t start work for the client until after the three-day period is complete. During that three days, if the client changes his/her mind and contacts me, they’ll receive a complete refund with no fuss.

After I’ve started work for a client, if they change their mind, I will give them a pro rata refund of their fee based on the percentage of the total job I’ve completed. Unfortunately, I can’t measure this precisely because, even with flat-fee services, each job will require a different amount of time and effort. The client will need to trust me on the refund percentage.

When I send my contract analysis to a client or otherwise come to the end of the project, there will be no refunds.

 

Question: Can I hire you like I would hire another attorney instead of using a flat-fee service?

Yes. My flat fee services are purely optional and will not be a good fit for many clients. For such clients, I will typically charge an upfront retainer fee and bill for time spent working on the client’s legal matters on an hourly basis against the retainer.

The amount of the retainer and hourly fee will depend upon the services requested. Contact me to discuss this option.

Question: I read the post on your blog in which you talked about becoming a Consulting Agent. Why didn’t you do that?

I decided to do this as an attorney for two main reasons:

1. Only attorneys are permitted to practice law. While some contract matters can be handled by a literary agent, the agent can only go so far without crossing the line into practicing law. It’s not a clear line.

If I were working for authors as a special type of literary agent, I would have consulted about contract provisions, but could not provide legal advice even if I felt legal advice was necessary. By re-activating my bar membership, I don’t need to worry about the line between consulting and legal advice and can go wherever required to help my clients.

2. Since I’m an attorney, any communications I have with clients are automatically protected under laws governing attorney/client confidentiality. An author can provide me with information knowing it will be kept confidential. Confidential information would also include my analysis of an author’s contracts and any suggestions I provide the author for dealing with those contracts.

Under most circumstances, an attorney may not divulge confidential information concerning a client unless a judge orders him to do so. It is very difficult to persuade a court to issue such an order. Since there is no protection for communications between an agent and author, the attorney/client privilege provides my clients with much stronger protection.

Question: If people read your blog posts about publishing contracts, won’t that mean they don’t need to hire you as an attorney?

In some cases, my posts may answer all their questions and they won’t need to hire me or another attorney to help them understand their contracts.

However, no amount of writing can possibly deal with all the different variations and twists in book contracts, some of which are being developed as I write this or answer all possible questions that arise from a relationship of publisher to author or agent to author.

Question: Do you carry professional liability (legal malpractice) insurance?

Yes.

Question: I have a contract with a party that is not in the United States. Can you help me with that?

Sometimes, depending upon the contract. Send me an email through my Contact Page and we can talk about it.

Question: Do you ever refer clients to other attorneys?

If I don’t have the expertise to properly handle a matter, I will politely decline to represent you. If I know an attorney who may be able to handle this type of work, I’ll ask you if you would like me to suggest another attorney.

If you would, I’ll either give you contact information so you can get in touch with another attorney or perhaps I’ll contact the attorney to see if he/she is able to help you then forward contact information to you.

If you decide to contact an attorney whose name I provide, that will be your decision and matters such as fees and services will be a subject you’ll need to discuss with that attorney.

I don’t have formal relationships with any other attorneys and don’t accept referral fees for referring prospective clients. I’m not able to vouch for the work of another attorney because I don’t work with him/her.

Did you have another question?

If you have a question you think qualifies other people would also ask, get in touch with me at my Contact Page and I’ll add it to my FAQ.