Legal ease

No matter how smoothly you’ve negotiated a deal which suits creative and client alike, getting it all in writing can be fraught with problems.

If the lawyers aren’t properly briefed, or don’t understand the creative process, they can screw things up completely. Their priority and obligation is to protect their clients from what they perceive to be negative implications of a deal, but the restrictions they often try to impose can be highly destructive to a business relationship that needs room for change and adaptation.

Company A needs some innovative ideas which their in-house teams have been unable to supply. They go to an outside creative agency for fresh input and negotiate a deal where the teams will collaborate to create something inspired and market-disrupting. However, legal departments from both camps fail to agree on the ownership of the intellectual property that would result from sharing knowledge already expensively acquired. In the name of the faceless shareholders the lawyers insist that trade secrets cannot be divulged, even with comprehensive non-disclosure agreements. Consequently, when upper management is finally shown the results of the collaboration, there’s nothing new. The costly exercise is deemed a failure and the creative consultants branded unimaginative. The real lack of imagination however, lies with the lawyers.

The legal instinct may be to ensure the company is protected from potential exploitation or loss of assets, but without openness and the flexibility to make mistakes, the creative process may be too restricted to deliver innovative, quality results. In the long term, the company suffers a far worse fate than the leakage of a few ideas; it suffers from creative paralysis and slowly turns into a dinosaur – all because the managers assigned to stimulate innovation were unable to override the legal departments.

Young, innovative companies have little regard for the fear-based decisions of seasoned lawyers. They take risks and expose themselves to failure on a regular basis – that’s what being a creative entrepreneur is all about. For them, the dinosaurs make easy, lumbering targets.

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