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The Startup Gurus' Dos and Don'ts: Featuring New Leaf Legal

By Kara Lawson

How valuable is the offensive line that protects Tom Brady every week? The Patriots' answer is $11.9 million, which equals one year of combined salaries for the team's starting linemen. If you're running a startup or small business, you probably could use a few reliable offensive players on your team too, minus the hefty price tag.

The solution? It might just be Jessica Manganello and Shannon Jamieson Sadowski, co-founders of New Leaf Legal in Cambridge, Mass.

Since 2009 New Leaf has represented startups, entrepreneurs and creatives, assisting with everything from setting up their companies to selling them. Unlike a typical law firm that charges by the hour, the duo uses a unique flat-fee billing method.

"We're kind of like working with a marketing company," said Manganello. "It's all inclusive. You don't get charged extra when we have a phone call or send an email or for postage - any of that." To determine the fee, first the lawyers have in-depth conversations with potential clients to figure out the scope of work and the project. Then they create the scope and price for the project.


Attorneys Jessica Manganello and Shannon Jamieson Sadowski, co-founders of New Leaf Legal in Cambridge, Mass.
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For startups and small companies, the ability to budget for expected legal expenses helps avoid the surprise of a high invoice. "We didn't want that to happen. We also did it because we wanted to change the dynamic with our clients," said Manganello. "A lot of business owners don't call their attorney because they think, 'It's going to cost $100 for me to have this conversation.' So they don't [call] and then something goes wrong because they didn't get the answer they needed, and it costs a lot more money to clean up a mess than to prevent it."

The upfront pricing structure means that clients can relax more and not worry about the billable time during any meetings. This allows Sadowski and Manganello to learn more about them and their businesses, and provide better long-term guidance.

"We don't want them to end up years down the road and realize, 'I have to completely change my entity.' We want to know about their business so we can help them plan accordingly," said Manganello.

Both attorneys focus on corporate law. Manganello also specializes in sustainable business law and Sadowski's expertise includes entertainment law, especially copyright and trademark licensing. Some of the most common questions that business owners ask them about are entity type and independent contractors versus employees.

One important thing clients usually don't ask about is intellectual property. "Intellectual property has to transfer in writing," said Manganello. "Someone will come to us and they're really focused on which entity they should have or if they should bring on a new potential business partner [...] we can point out a lot of issues they didn't realize were going on."


New Leaf Legal's clients span a variety of industries, including artisan and ecopreneurship; music, film and video games.
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Having clients get a simple document in writing can ward off future problems if a graphic designer still technically owns a company's logo, a website developer owns its website, etc. It also helps with potential investors, who want to make sure that a business owns all of its intellectual property.

Another mistake to avoid: Getting caught up in the excitement of a new partnership without setting clear expectations, defining each person's expected contributions and getting it all in writing. "Basically you have to date for a while; you can't just jump into bed with a business partner because it's kind of like a marriage. It's really hard to undo," said Manganello.

Sadowski and Manganello's own partnership started after law school, at their first job in the same firm where they both loved working with startups and small business owners. Three years later when it was time to move on to different specialties, they realized they didn't want to and New Leaf was born.

Today they represent clients in Cambridge and Boston, across the US and internationally. They're actively involved in the community and local business associations such as Cambridge Local First and the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce. Links to those organizations, along with a terrific list of resources for startups and small business owners, are listed on New Leaf's website here.



New Leaf Legal, LLC
649 Mass Ave, Ste 6
Cambridge, MA 02139
857.228.8172
www.newleaflegal.com

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About The Author

Kara is a writer, editor and marketer with a BA and MA in journalism from California...

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