They’re there to help, not to hinder
In the Legal department, we see this happen all the time – you prepare, you plan, you see a niche to fill, you have a list of people who want you to help them too…and then the bottom falls out. You forgot to run the ideas and proposals through Legal, and you receive a cease and desist letter. Now what? I wonder how many times a scenario like this has played out in the past (and inevitably will in the future).
I know what you’re saying to yourself right now: “Legal, ick…what good are they really?” “They only want to stop me from realizing my big idea/plan.” “All Legal ever says is no. They make us put so many exceptions and disclaimers that it loses its full impact and make presentations boring.”
That may be true on some level, but perhaps if you look at it from a different perspective you might see an opportunity to create something new, fresh and, most importantly, legal. Do I work in Legal? Yes, I am a Contracts Manager, and I want to help turn your great idea into a money-making proposition for your client.
A Legal department’s purpose is to not only handle all those confusing corporate things but also provide guidance and direction to help you miss all the legal nightmares along the road. Legal people have a different perspective, and we may see a new way to make the “next great idea” come full circle or to fruition.
I know this sounds odd, but let’s look at a simple example. You have a great idea to promote a tool using colors to highlight the positive aspects of your product versus the negative aspects of other products, if any exist. You want to use yellow to highlight your product and gray to downplay another product, or the “old” way to perform a task. Maybe you’ll also come up with a catchy phrase like, “By using Product A, you’ll be able to complete your task faster and more efficiently in comparison to not using this new tool.”
The marketing or creative person that neglected to utilize their in-house Legal department is in for a big surprise. First, you could be sued for the use of the color choices as someone else used those choices in their claims, and secondly, you don’t want the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) knocking on your door because of the false advertising claims.
You must be careful making claims and absolutely must have backup to substantiate your claims. This is where the Legal team across the office can help by providing a checklist of items that need to be addressed.
Who is your target audience? Are you targeting only a certain portion of the population? Could the tool have other applications for other people? The questions can be endless. The Legal department can help you figure out the best approach to highlight your tool or service with clear and concise language emphasizing “why” the consumer needs this tool and “how” to get it.
We review so many contracts and see multiple ways to accomplish the same things. You, as a marketing or creative specialist, can probably figure out many ways to promote this new “tool,” but let your Legal team help you glide through the many traps along the way. We have other resources and processes we can rely on to make your journey a little easier.