Navigating Legal Risk and Compliance with Alex King

Episode Summary

Alex King is a key player at the Duckbill Group as our legal counsel, as well as the founder of his own law firm, Archetype Legal. In this episode, Alex shares insights on his role in helping startups and small businesses navigate legal complexities, emphasizing the importance of risk analysis and compliance. He explains that attorneys highlight risks, allowing business leaders to make informed decisions. Alex recounts his experiences guiding clients through various legal challenges, from hiring decisions to office leases. Corey discusses the unique legal scenarios faced by the Duckbill Group and highlights the benefits of Alex's unique approach. 

Episode Video

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

Show Highlights: 
(00:00) Introduction
(02:10) What Alex does for the Duckbill Group as legal counsel
(02:42) The role of an attorney for startups and established businesses
(07:20) Similarities and differences between what the advisers at Duckbill Group do and what Alex does as a lawyer
(11:56) Alex’s ability to provide context to legal decisions that would otherwise be missing
(22:07) How negotiating hiring contracts can work out if done wisely
(25:09) What Alex wishes people knew to make interacting with attorneys easier

About Alex:
Alex King is an attorney and the founder of Archetype Legal PC, a law firm dedicated to helping entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses take practical legal steps to achieve their business goals. In addition, he is a Business Advisor for Pacific Community Ventures, a nonprofit supporting small business growth and job creation in low-income communities. His experience includes corporate law, business operations, and strategic planning. 

Links Referenced:


Alex: Some client wanted to pay for my services in Bitcoin. And being a novice and not really knowing what it was, I said, no, I think we'll stay with standard cash. And that definitely came back to bite me significantly.

Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I'm Corey Quinn. I've mentioned periodically that my wife is a corporate attorney because last time I checked this morning, she was. But people often misunderstand that to think that, oh, she must handle all of my obviously Massive legal needs because I shoot my mouth off for sport as well as a living.

That is in no way true. Alex King is the founder of Archetype Legal and our outside general counsel. Alex, thank you for taking the time to speak to me in one of those rare moments where I don't think billable hours are being applied to it, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Alex: No billable hours here and it's a pleasure to be here, Corey.

Thanks for having me. This

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To learn more, please visit panoptica. app slash last week in AWS. That's panoptica. app slash last week in AWS. I've always enjoyed working with you. And to be fair, I've worked with a number of attorneys over the course of my career. Not always in the way that people would expect me to have to have to deal with attorneys, but One of the reasons I don't find myself getting my short suit off three times a day is because I know where the lines are, and there are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes that, that make sure that I's are dotted, T's are crossed, and I actually understand what concepts such as defamation tend to mean, which is not most of what you do for us, I want to be clear.

Went off and started your own firm years ago, and we were one of your initial cohort of clients. You have effectively handled all of the heavy lifting around, uh, the formation of the company at the Duckbill Group. You've handled a number of strange issues here, and Something that has surprised me consistently is how frequently you refer us to other attorneys outside of your core area of practice.

So let's begin with a very high level here for folks who do not have consistent ongoing dealings with attorneys, both professionally and socially. Where, what is the actual role of an attorney when you have a business, startup, small business, or otherwise? What is the purpose of paying you folks?

Alex: Well, it probably depends a little bit on the field.

I can only speak for us, but in our That standpoint as kind of corporate counsel. We're primarily trying to, you know, have like a two bucket approach, right, both from a risk analysis, trying to make sure we're not going to step into some type of a mess, as well as ensuring that the house and the foundation of the company is on solid ground, such that if we were ever to be audited as part of some kind of situation, If the company were to someday be sold or someday be acquired or raised capital or whatever that might be that we kind of have all of our records in a row have been compliant throughout to avoid kind of liability that can come with that.

And so, you know, we are kind of collaborating with the people in charge at the top, such as yourself. And other colleagues at Duckbill and your firm to try to kind of be that kind of support system to make sure that's all aligned.

Corey: I think that globally there is a dramatic misunderstanding, and most of the companies play into this a fair bit, that lawyers are the ones that set the ground rules that say, oh, you're not allowed to do this, hard no, full stop.

I've never known that to be true. My experience has always been that you identify risks, and you identify risks, But the decision is basically not something that we're able to delegate. It's something that we have to solve for ourselves, for better or worse, once we have all the relevant inputs and can accurately and reasonably identify likelihoods and risks.

I wish it were otherwise. I wish we could just say, tell us what to do and we'll do it. But the answer always becomes, it depends. Is that a common failure mode for people who are dealing with attorneys? Does it ever go away? Am I just a particularly slow student when it comes to these things, which is.

Alex: No, I think you're spot on.

I think that ultimately a good attorney in this kind of role is going to be able to explain in very clear terms what the risks might be, what the downsides could be, and what the upsides could be from taking a various approach. From that point, it's ultimately, in our opinion, the board's decision, the CEO's decision, whoever it's kind of delegated to, to have to kind of make that choice.

I mean, as a fellow small business owner, I mean, I wish this statement wasn't true, but in no way can I say with certainty that for, you know, the six years we've been around, we've followed the law to, you know, exactitude at every, at every position. And you kind of have to ultimately Try to kind of decide, okay, if I'm going to tip the scales here, what part of this concerns me more than others, but outside of the person potentially being like a general counsel inside a very large firm, I don't think it's outside counsel.

It's their role to tell you exactly what you must do. Absence some situations where probably is a little bit more black and white.

Corey: There's I guess a, a craving for certainty in areas in which I do not have expertise. Uh, it feels like you and Dan Shapiro, our CFO, who's been on a previous episode of this podcast, uh, team up to almost sing in stereo at, at Mike and I around the idea of anything coming to taxes of this is not tax advice or advice around anything touching that.

It's great. I guess it's time for us to actually talk to a tax attorney around these things and lo and behold. They still don't tell us what to do when we talk to a tax attorney, but they don't have to disclaim everything they say through a lens of I am not up to speed on the latest nuances of this tax, this tax code aspect.

There's a, from my perspective, it's not even about being upset to pay taxes. I enjoy living in society. I just find the process of adherence to be nebulous. And usually I'm okay with nebulous requirements, except this one carries the force of law in a way that few other things do. I, I just want that entire thing to go away to someone else and tell me to whom to write a check and how many zeros go at the end of it.

And then, at most, just give me a thing to sign, don't make me read form after form after form. Unfortunately, that fantasy does not generally adhere to the way the business will work.

Alex: Yeah, and that, that, I understand that frustration. I experience a similar frustration, whether it be, you know, my own advisors trying to figure out how I could handle my firm and taxes and finances.

And so I've found that a question I will often ask them, and if I'm going to do this as the customer, I should probably have the same courtesy back to the client, is what would you do? Right. And so frequently I will couch that as an answer to clients saying like, if it was my call or if this was my decision, I would lean towards this.

And here is why, while also giving the other opportunities such that it's not seeming as though like it should be solely in my hand.

Corey: There's an interesting divide in that we're a consulting company. The only thing that we provide is advice when you distill it all down. The, the client gets to figure out what it is that they're going to do based upon the findings that we present.

We identify costs, risks, options, etc. But the ultimate choice is up to them. That's all that we do. We don't do any actual quote unquote actual hands on implementation work. You sort of straddle a weird line there, because you absolutely provide advice in the way that we've just been discussing, but you also do a lot of form filling and actual handling of filings for us and the rest.

Do you view those as being effectively two different types of work in the way that we do, or is that sort of part and parcel of being an attorney and that's not really how you view the nature of your work?

Alex: No, I think, I think that's spot on. I mean, I think that we ultimately, I'll give you a really quick example, right?

A lot of times with AB5 and the new kind of labor laws that have come down as far as classifying people as employees, there becomes this interesting middle ground of like, Hey, I kind of want to check out this person. I kind of want to see if they're going to work. But ultimately, the way in which I'm probably going to use them for the first two to four weeks is probably closer to an employee, right?

We lay out the concerns, the potential liability, explain that to them. But then as we're talking about it, they ultimately decide, I hear you. I still want to classify them as a consultant. Can you help us prepare that agreement? We then execute on the choice. So I agree that it allows us to kind of actually then get our hands dirty and, and, and do the work.

Whereas, as opposed to just saying like, here's the potential advice, now we're going to step aside.

Corey: I know that obviously you can't necessarily talk about the specifics of any client work, but I brought my own example that we can talk about. As, I don't think I've mentioned this on the show before, but this is our first week, as we're recording this, in an office that we have taken in downtown San Francisco, in the financial district.

And when I went on entirely too many office tours with too many brokers talking to folks about where we were going to, to find ourselves, we finally found an office and then we got, uh, a lease is what they call it. This feels like a textbook that I could knock off a table and inadvertently kill a small to mid sized dog with.

But it was a, but it was, okay, this is great. Do I just sign this and wind up sending it back as is? And I read the thing, and it was hilariously one sided. So I sent that over to you folks, and got back in return something that was also hilariously one sided in the opposite direction. One of my favorite red lines was the entire massive paragraph only had one word changed, and it went from tenant to landlord in the responsibility section.

And it was great seeing some of these things. I half expect to be laughed out of the room, but apparently this is a very normal, process when you're dealing with real estate negotiations, something I have never done in anything other than a personal, uh, personal contact. That was, that was a fantastic experience from my perspective.

And I was also delighted by the fact that there were two versions of every document that we got back. One of them was, all right, here's our thoughts, comments, and the rest. And if you agree with all of this, great, here's a second document that has those red lines in a format you can send externally that doesn't show our internal conversations and thought process around it.

It was, oh wow, less work for me in Microsoft Word, which is always a blessing. And that was just, that was just a, it felt like a white glove experience in an area that I knew absolutely nothing about.

Alex: Yeah, and Elise is a great example, right, is where like, you know, it's context is so important. Right. And I, we often try to kind of talk this through with clients, which is like, Hey, how bad do you want the space?

Also, what's your business? Are you a first time business? Or are you somebody that has a proven track record that would allow us to negotiate the actual owners, not having a personal guarantee much easier. If we can prove like, Hey, this business has a solid background, it's unlikely to fail. And so that's where it's like, you can't just have a cookie cutter approach to the problem at hand.

Certainly, there's going to be some stuff that like almost no matter the tenant, uh, and their background, you're going to want to push forward to try to kind of level the playing field, but, but it just comes down so much to the facts and circumstances, and so that kind of circles back nicely to what you talked about where it's like, hey, listen, like, We're going to understand the problem and try to kind of apply this solution.

But at the end of the day, some of it still is going to come down to like, I really don't want to lose this space. I'm nervous. We're being too aggressive here. And so I want you to kind of taper it down, even though if we were that aggressive, it would technically be better for you. You know, if we could get them through, we have to kind of balance how the landlord might react.

Corey: It also is helpful, given the nature of how we do our business, that we're, at any point, given the size of our company and the fact that we run this place like, you know, responsible grown ups, at any point during this process, we could have cut a check for the entire value of the lease term at any point to, to basically handle any weird issues that arise.

Like, well, hypothetically, in an acquisition, who does responsibility lie with, etc., etc. It's It's not that big of an office. It is not a material component of this business's future. So, worst case, all right, here, the lease is now paid out, we're done, we're gone. The end is a nice, comfortable place to find ourselves in.

But there's, there's always the question of, is this even going to be an issue? In some cases, yes, massively. And you were great at identifying those as well as highlighting areas that, at scale, this becomes important, but it's likely not going to be for you. The context was so incredibly helpful.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, and that's, that's so different, right?

From a startup that has a term sheet in hand to have millions of dollars potentially in the bank account in two to three months, however, kind of the deal goes and in anticipation of that starting to lock in an office space. But Hey, we've seen deals fall apart. And if the three founders are personally guaranteeing this lease and now, you know, something goes sideways.

COVID hits, who knows? The world kind of gets wonky on us. It's a lot scarier. And so, you know, that's where we have to kind of like, kind of lay this out, explain the risks and help the client make a more informed decision about how to possibly attack the next step.

Corey: Few things are better for your career and your company than achieving more expertise in the cloud.

Security improves, compensation goes up, employee retention skyrockets. Panoptica, a cloud security platform from Cisco, has created an academy of free courses just for you. Head on over to academy. panoptica. app to get started. I have to say, I don't necessarily know that we are that unique, but it feels like we probably push the boundaries of what most businesses our size tends to have as far as legal questions.

For example, I don't know how many of your other clients come to you as like, we're a small consulting company, and we're negotiating an office lease, and we want to make sure our contracts are great, and negotiating deals with clients. And also, we have a mascot that's a psychotic, uh, cartoon platypus that periodically does parody songs of, uh, lampooning various executives for their birthday.

Uh, what do we have to worry about as far as As effectively, parity being a protected version, a protected option under fair use doctrine, etc, etc. It seems like we sometimes are kind of all over the map as far as the legal questions we bring to you.

Alex: In a good way. I mean, I, I very much enjoy that. Uh, it makes it interesting, and yeah, I mean, I think there's usually two buckets.

And this is just my definition. We have clients that are small businesses. And as you and I talked about over dinner, those are the ones that are actually just trying to make money year over year. That's my definition. Uh, a little bit more every year is great, but they're not necessarily trying to kind of 20x, 100x somebody's money.

And then there's startups who are okay being kind of lost leaders for a long period of time until they're acquired. Uh, Duckville falling into that again. Uh, kind of more small business category, but with obviously a little bit more personality being exuded, uh, because so often, like, consultants, I find, are just trying to effectively say, like, Our reputation is going to be on our work because, you know, they're very good at it as opposed type of thing, as opposed to kind of saying, like, actually, we are going to allow some kind of creative marketing or other outlets or leveraging technology podcast platforms.

So we definitely don't have as many duck bills in our portfolio as I would like, because duck bill is a lot of fun. But you're spot on that like, yeah, I would say you're attacking it from from a unique perspective.

Corey: Something else that arose from that dinner that I've mentioned with a few people since we had dinner and I found that there was a certain universal level of surprise that that was a thing.

And I in turn was surprised that anyone was surprised. But you mentioned at one point when I asked, Oh, where do your various clients come from? Which, you know, as someone who has a business, I kind of want to know if you discovered something great as far as getting your brand out there. It turns out that you've discovered some of the same things that we have discovered, which is word of mouth works super well.

But something you mentioned about a client that you had without ever disclosing their identity. Was that it started out as you were reviewing an equity agreement for an employee who is taking a job. It's, oh yeah, that makes sense. But when I've talked to people about that, I've heard a lot of surprise that, wait, as an employee, when you're, when you're signing an employment agreement, you You have a lawyer look at it and validate that the, look at the equity thing?

Like what, what negotiating power do you have? Well, apparently more than these people tend to think. How often do you find that you're doing reviews of things like employment agreements, equity agreements, and in those scenarios, how much latitude does someone have to really push back?

Alex: I would say that the latitude to push back is probably not significant.

In other words, you know, If the offer letter is that it's going to be a four year vesting schedule, one year cliff, it's, if it's going to be this amount of options, if it's going to be this or that, um, I find that a lot of the value because look, having either drafted or reviewed probably at this point, thousands of these type of situations, I mean, I can get through these documents pretty quickly and, and provide a pretty solid framework that is just.

For a lot of people, um, my brother included who, who joined us as startup and had, you know, stock options, I'm able to kind of explain like, Hey, this is actually how these work. This is actually how you're going to see value. And there's strategy and standpoints as far as like when to exercise with potentially could have like real long term gains for you.

So I think the value exercise, if you're going to engage a lawyer, as somebody that's joining a startup is not through the lens of. Hey, I'm going to be able to now negotiate all of these very customized, very favorable terms. That's usually not it, so much as making sure A, it aligns and there's not kind of, you know, something wonky that just is an administrative error.

B, explaining kind of how, you know, this is going to work and the value that can be done. And then C, I mean, this may sound incredibly simple, but I, I've had nightmare and horror stories of people because, you know, the language always says in the offer letter. Subject to board approval, we will grant you X, right?

And then they just assume that that offer letter has done it, right? They've been granted the options, they're good to go. And two years later, because startups move quickly, they forgot to ever do it. Now they're valued at an entirely different time. Um, everything is messed up. Maybe they're even leaving the company and they've never received them.

And they've potentially lost out on a ton. So even just kind of beating them over the head of like, do not let this pass without actually receiving your option and executing it and save people a ton of like, you know, and again, it sounds so simple, but when you're in the heat of it, you're getting a new job and all this stuff, this stuff slips through the crack.

Corey: It's easy to do that. There's so much paperwork that feels like it's pro forma, but a lot of that is important and accrues benefit directly to you. I have found that employees have always been somewhat surprised in the aggregate to learn that you can absolutely negotiate a job offer. Taking the first offer is always something that doesn't feel like it's, it's the right path for an awful lot of folks.

And I see that even, my lease story is a perfect example of this. There's this sense that if you push back with red lines, you're You'll get, you basically just torpedoed the entire conversation and the deal is off the table. I've heard a couple of scattered stories of that happening to employees when they try to negotiate their offer letter.

And generally either it is a psychotic startup environment where they don't understand how business works, or very rarely, well okay, send me the email thread. And then it's, oh dear. Yeah, the way that you, the way that you pushed back on this, if someone is on the other side reading this, of how does this person think a negotiation is supposed to work?

They're suddenly waving a giant red flag. We have a great excuse to not proceed with this. Whoo, we dodged a generalized bullet on this. That, that tends to be the two scenarios that I have seen. I, I don't think you ever lose anything worth, that is worth keeping if you negotiate politely in your own behalf.

And sometimes there is no flexibility in these. But I've never, as a business owner myself, I've never held it against someone when they come back and negotiate with me on those things. I can't imagine doing that.

Alex: Right, and I think it depends on the negotiation, right? If you kind of, you know, you're asking to triple your salary or whatever, obviously there's always ranges.

But there can just even be tactics that go a really long way, right? And it depends on the size of the startup and where it's at in its life cycle. But a tactic we've seen work for people is Look, like the option price is still incredibly low. It's still at a very low valuation. Maybe this party is leaving, um, some other job opportunity in which they, you know, got a big exit, so they actually do have a decent amount of cash on hand.

And, you know, the offer letter says we're going to give you this at four years, one year vesting schedule. Maybe it's easy to negotiate. Hey, listen, I'd be prepared to exercise all of this now. Like, can you let me do an early exercise? On this option so I can start my holding period so I can increase the chances that downstream maybe I will get qualified small business stock exemption at the time we exit.

Those type of things don't change the number of options you got, they just kind of change the procedures and for both sides that can be a win win like neither side can feel the startup can feel like they're not giving up too much and the other side can feel like they're further along to like a higher up time.

Corey: It's always interesting when people read advice on the internet instead of actually talking to someone who can look at the specifics of their situation and come off with, frankly, ludicrous ideas. Like, I've talked to people before who are saying, Oh, well I'm going to ask if they can increase my 401k match.

It's, Yeah, absolutely not. It would be easier, without exaggeration, for them to reform the company as a differently structured entity. Because there's a law called ERISA that explicitly dictates whether or not, how you have to handle equity compensation in the retirement context. Or any kind of compensation in the retirement context.

And asking that on some level, it shows a certain lack of sophistication on the part of the asker. So again, a big part of where I have found value in working with you is not only getting the guidance, and yes, I admit, in my case, getting the forms filled out, that, that is helpful, but also in understanding what the unspoken expectations and norms are in these things.

Because you don't necessarily want to be the only person who has ever flagged a particular aspect of an agreement if that's not material to what it is you're trying to get across.

Alex: Very good point. And just to kind of circle back to the lease discussion earlier, every lease I've ever reviewed, Literally, I think, 100%, all the, the landlord says every time, like, this place is not ADA compliant.

Or, or, I'm sorry, we have not actually certified that it is ADA compliant, is what I meant to say. And so, you certainly can revise the language to be like, you are now going to certify, but I think that would probably show poor form and, and seem as though you don't really kind of know where you can't, what buttons you can push.

And that's the same thing absolutely applies when it comes to like offer letters, what can be kind of asked for, how your equity compensation, everything can be restructured. And so again, I think you're, you're spot on that. It goes back to like an advisor such as ourself, hopefully at a pretty reasonable cost.

Can, you know, potentially add a ton of value and save you both a lot of heartache in the negotiation, um, as well as hopefully downstream issues of ensuring things like you actually got the equity.

Corey: It generally helps to also have the follow up aspect. Oh, make sure that those forms that you said, that they said were on their way to you actually made their way to you.

It's, it's a lot of I dotting and T crossing. But where I think that people get it wrong in the corporate sense is when they see, when they talk to lawyers, what they're expecting is certainty, but last I checked, you folks are very good at your job, but I've never met anyone who has been able to consistently predict the future.

If so, on some level, it's why bother passing the bar? Why not instead go in a different direction and, you know, go and retire in three weeks after you buy your own chain of private islands? The future is always uncertain and it comes down to likelihood and risk.

Alex: For sure, I mean, uh, I still remember, and I, I don't even want to go back and look, uh, because I think it will depress me too much, but I would say this was probably 2014 ish.

Some client wanted to pay for my services in Bitcoin, and being a novice and not really knowing what it was, I said, no, I think we'll stay with standard cash, and That definitely came back to bite me significantly, so, yeah.

Corey: For what it's worth, we have always said that ourselves. Like, would you accept payment in these weird things?

No, we'll accept payment in cash, though. That works reasonably well. And, of course, no one does this with physical cash anymore, but that's beside the point. It's, if you had known what was coming and were able to predict things, then, yeah, you would have absolutely done that. But, at the same time, it's also weird to sit here and say, Well, perfect foreknowledge.

Wouldn't you have bought a lot of Bitcoin? No, I would have hit the Powerball six weeks in a row. That's what I would have done. And yeah, it becomes, it hits the point of almost absurdist fantasy when you start thinking about, well, if only I'd done this one thing differently. I am curious, as far as when you deal with customers, clients, prospective clients, etc.

What do you wish that people knew to make dealing with you, I guess, lower friction? What, what misunderstandings do people bring into these conversations of not really knowing how to interact with attorneys that might trip them up?

Alex: Well, I think anytime you're interacting with a professional, whether it's an attorney, a dentist, uh, you know, it's scary, right?

And, and especially if you're kind of a first time founder, it's also scary because you don't really know what to expect as far as kind of billables go. And I think the niche we hope to have kind of parved out stems a lot from the fact that like the whole way in which we become lawyers, it's kind of silly.

If you really think about it, I mean, we go through these years of law school, then we take a test that my humble opinion doesn't prepare you that well for being a lawyer, and then you're immediately a lawyer, right? And if you go to work for a large law firm, you're immediately told to build 2000 hours and be an expert on this type of, and as a result of kind of those infrastructures.

You know, they, they're kind of forced into these associates billable hours being most of the time, at least when I've been exposed to it quite a bit higher than even mine. Right. And so the goal for us is going to be, Hey, listen, we know this is scary, but because of lower overhead, because of the way we've kind of structured and because we're really just kind of trying to serve you, not trying to serve everybody that's out there.

We can offer you a hopefully, you know, at least compared to the market, a cost effective approach that is really transparent, that allows people with, you know, at least some gray hair and 10 plus years of experience to kind of be servicing you on this. Um, and so, you know, it allows for hopefully that billable to be in a range that is digestible in light of the stage your business is at.

Whereas, you know, if you're a larger law firm and there's definitely an incredible place for large law firms, They need that billable to be much higher to justify it. And so we, we hope to be able to kind of be that sophisticated source for them without it being as scary as thinking like I am signing up for 25 legal fees right out the gate.

Corey: I have always. had very little compunction against asking a professional a very direct question of, Okay, and for my planning purposes, what should I expect this to cost me? And so the only time I don't get a clear answer on that is when I'm dealing with medical professionals because of the magics of insurance.

Maybe 10? Maybe 1. 2 million? It's a surprise. We'll find out after the fact. Which is, frankly, barbaric. But I've never gotten a bill shock scenario from any other TORM professional where I should not have, where I, I've been surprised by bills, but I always either think to myself, I should have asked. And I've also never asked and then been surprised by 10x of what the prediction had been.

Because even by asking that question, people remember that. And then, okay, this work is evolving and it's turning into more than we expected it to be. I should throw a flag on that so people are not surprised after the fact. That's something that I think, at least from my perspective, has served me very well.

Just in terms of level setting and making sure everyone's expectations are clear on that. Budgets exist and money is fungible. You can move them from thing to thing, but it helps to know it's coming so you can make value judgments on it. There's no sense in spending 10, 000 in legal fees on something that has maybe a 300 upside.

Alex: Completely agree. And, you know, we, we try to get in front of that actually, because we believe that's the quickest way to like retain somebody long term. And so for the first couple of projects, like we, We really try to be forthcoming. You know, we're not doing anything on a flat fee. We don't really believe that's fair to either side because it's just too many variables.

But we will say like, hey, to kind of tackle this, we think it's going to be in the three to four and a half hour range. We think it's going to be in the 60 to 90 minute range. We think it's going to be 25 hours. And here's why. And then it allows to set kind of a parameter that then we stay close with them on talking it through so that as you're saying, or at the end of the day, someone's not like, well, you kind of told me three to four and a half hours, but I just got a bill for nine.

Why was that? If that's the case, like we really kind of want to be in front of that because otherwise, We think, we at least kind of assume they might pay us for the nine, but they're probably never going to work.

Corey: Exactly. At some point, I've gotten surprise bills that just seem insultingly high, and it's okay, I'll pay it without comment, and that will, and they don't know it at the time, but that is the last time we do business with them.

For what it's worth, I have no idea what your bills look like for us, because to be frank, they are not material to the business. They do not rise to the level of me having to pay attention to that. Our CFO knows to the penny what your bills are, and He is exquisitely good at flagging things historically from expenses in various categories.

This doesn't seem right or this seems high. Never once has a fee from Archetype been the subject of one of those discussions. So I guess on some level I'm trying to say is charge more? But you've built definitely a sense of reassurance from my perspective. It's always been a pleasure doing business with you folks.

Alex: Yeah, I mean, I've definitely have heard that before, not necessarily so much from the customer, but I've sat down with other, you know, heads of small law firms and their philosophy is kind of like if people aren't kind of complaining about their bill and you're probably not charging enough. I get that. I just, I'm so much more comfortable in the other realm, um, because of the fact that I just think it builds so much goodwill.

Let's say I can charge hypothetically five, let's call it 10 percent more. I just call that a marketing expense. Okay. That's just going to cause more people to feel good about working with you, as opposed to the other way around of always kind of pushing the boundaries.

Corey: I'm also a big believer of not making it an onerous investment decision when someone's debating whether they should seek your advice on something or not.

That's the reason that we do go fixed fee only when we do our engagements, but we've also are focused on a very specific problem that we're able to put bounds around very effectively. People say, Oh, do you do this for other cloud providers instead of just AWS? No, because that's a great way to wind up not understanding the nuances of this and either massively overcharging or other, on the other hand, charging way too little and then having to basically work.

in ways that cost us money to do the work. All billing models are terrible, just hourly for a lot of things is the easiest and least terrible of the options.

Alex: Yeah, I think for us, there's often just so much, uh, unpredictability with kind of the third party. Let's use, like, raising capital as an example.

Right? Like, it's it's We've, we've done deals where the opposing law firm is pretty quick on due diligence. We've done deals where we've done, you know, we've gone over like a single agreement for weeks to make sure the other side's like comfortable with something like an IP assignment. As a result of that, we feel like it would just be inequitable.

We'd either have to charge kind of on the really high end out of fear that it's going to go a ton of back and forth. And then that would penalize the people that the deal went really smooth and vice versa. So it's, it's just kind of hard on our side to feel like too flat bill, but I. I totally can also appreciate from the customer's perspective where there is some kind of nicety and to know exactly what it's always going

Corey: to be.

Yeah. There's a definite, there's always, there's always trade offs in any decision you wind up making. If that isn't the, uh, the soul of, uh, negotiating a contract, I don't really know what is. If people want to learn more, where's the best place for them to find you?

Alex: On our website, archetypelegal. com, we've worked pretty hard to try to kind of tell our story, explain the services.

That we are offering and show some of our personality as far as like what the vibe would be like if you were to kind of engage our firm, so. Um, hopefully people can kind of contact us there for anybody that's listening. We'd love to hear from you. It's just my first name, Alex at ArchetypeLegal. com. And, and that, those are kind of the most, you know, easiest ways for people to get in touch.

Corey: For what it's worth, you have my endorsement as well. I really want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I appreciate it.

Alex: Of course, of course, I cannot wait for another opportunity to break bread and a seafood platter with you over dinner.

Corey: I look forward to it, though we're holding out next time for a seafood mesa because plateaus just aren't big enough.

We're going for all of the seafood, the end, full stop. Alex King, founder at Archetype Legal, I'm cloud economist Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you've enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five star review on your podcast platform of choice. Whereas if you hated this podcast, please.

Leave a five star review on your podcast platform of choice, along with an angry, insane rant of a comment that you clearly did not have reviewed by legal counsel.

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