This year I have had the pleasure of hearing Attorney Rob Schenk speak several times. His engaging style, sense of humor and southern charm draw you in. But don’t let that good ole boy demeanor fool you. This man means business when it comes to the law, and how it affects the wedding industry professional.
Rob’s first choice for his career was to be a Rock Star – after all who wouldn’t want that! But when stardom didn’t seem to be in his future, he realized that he enjoyed writing, arguing and performance, all skills that make a great lawyer.
I asked him how he laser focused in on the wedding industry as a piece of his business. He shared that he dated a wedding photographer for many years. He reviewed her contract and found it to be lacking. She was a creative person, brilliant at her art but not necessarily knowledgeable about the law.
Rob revamped her contract to better protect her and her business and the word spread in Atlanta that he was the go to guy for wedding photographers. Inquiries from other wedding professionals came in for contracts and then for legal representation, which has blossomed into a niche practice.
We discussed a few thoughts on what self-employed persons should understand about the law and how it relates to their own business.
- Selecting an appropriate business entity is the first task. The law allows business owners the ability to shield personal assets from creditors and/or lawsuits through various business formations. Understanding what entity might best protect the owner’s personal stuff is essential.
- After that, the business owner needs to understand that contract law is designed to protect the parties to a transaction, not be a confusing waste of time. Working with written contracts goes a long way towards helping the business owner keep revenue and protect their business from liabilities.
- He highly advises that small businesses work with written contracts. A written contract sets the rules for whatever the transaction will be. It governs the parties’ conduct. It lays out the parties’ obligations. At the very least, a written agreement works much better than a handshake simply for the fact that memories fade. Did you promise to provide 8 hours of coverage? Did they agree that you would be paid a portion of the total wedding cost and not your normal hourly planning rate? Having a permanent written reminder prevents cobwebs forming in your client’s head about how much is owed and how much is expected.
And finally I asked him about the best way to avoid lawsuits. I loved his response – NEVER hide the ball! In simple language, don’t wait until the last minute to tell them there is a problem. Contract law expects that mistakes are made. Own up to them. Try to make them right. When a business owner goes out of their way to correct a problem (or ‘breach’), it shuts the door to a lot of extra claims that may be brought by the Bridezilla down the road.
More about Rob – Rob Schenk is a trial lawyer representing wedding and event industry professionals. In 2013, Rob created WeddingIndustryLaw.com, an online resource of legal news and education. Rob’s expertise has been featured in Huffington Post Weddings, Above the Law, The Knot, Wedding Market Chat, Evolve Your Wedding Business, Wedding Industry Rescue, and Mobile Beat, and he regularly speaks at wedding industry conventions nationwide on various legal topics. Rob is licensed to practice law in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, California, and New York, and maintains principal offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee.