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“Success is beating the odds, doing it my own way, and having no one to blame but myself.”

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The Watson Firm is the entrepreneur’s law firm. Founded by Tripp Watson, The Watson Firm is dedicated to turning fantasy businesses and dream jobs into successful enterprises.

Tripp Watson is from a family of entrepreneurs. Building a business is in his blood. After attending college at Washington and Lee University and graduating with a double major in Economics and Politics, he then received a J.D. from Cumberland School of Law and an M.B.A. from the Brock School of Business. He currently practices in Alabama and Tennessee.

Tripp Watson, The Watson Firm - Owner - Attorney

MO: How influential was growing up around entrepreneurs to your decision to launch a firm dedicated to helping start-up companies succeed?

Tripp: Growing up around entrepreneurs was very important to me. I developed a very different definition of success . I learned, from a very early age, the importance of budgeting, risk management, and opportunity cost. When I looked around me, the happiest, most successful people that I knew all owned their own businesses. Being able to set the direction of your own life and having control over what you do is very powerful and life fulfilling. Entrepreneurship is a mentality that leads to personal happiness, and not just financial success. I had friends that wanted to get the good grades, so that they could go to the good school, so that they could get the “good job.” And then what? That didn’t seem like such a happy ending to me. Success is more than a nice salary with a pension waiting in a couple decades. Success is beating the odds, doing it my own way, and having no one to blame but myself. Having to live a couple years on a shoestring string budget but calling my own shots was more than worth the stability a traditional job would’ve offered without significant say-so.

MO: what innovative legal services are you providing to your clients?

Tripp: I do not bill by the hour. The billable hour is unfair to attorneys, it’s unfair to clients, and there’s not a single statistical measurement that shows that billing for time leads to an increase in quality of work. In fact, there are multiple measurements that show that billable time results in greater inefficiency, less motivation to achieve realistic goals, and greater stress. Therefore, I do most of my work for a flat fee. Some of my services are provided à la carte. For example, I quote a price for trademark registration, you pay me by credit card, and you never get another bill for me. End of story, everyone’s happy. Another service I offer is General Counsel services. Just like a salaried lawyer in a Fortune 500 company, small businesses can pay my firm a monthly flat fee retainer, and those businesses have unlimited access to an attorney to handle any number of matters including incorporations, registrations, and general legal and business advice. For companies that are starting up, and have no idea what their cash flow will be, this service removes so much guesswork from a significant line item on their budget.

MO: how did you manage to become cash-flow positive within 4 months of launching?

Tripp: it was a combination of two priorities of mine: sales and budgeting. In the legal community, “sales” is taboo, and many attorneys even see it as “beneath” them. However, I came from a sales background. I knew the essence of sales was identifying a problem and providing a solution. The reason sales folks often get a bad rap is when the problem isn’t real or the solution is inadequate. When I deal with legal issues, the problems are real, and because I am able to call my own shots, I get to make sure that the solution perfectly fits that real problem. From day one, I made effective, honest sales a high priority for my business. Secondly, budgeting is everything. I budget my time, I budget my energy, and I even budget my stress level, in addition to fundamental monetary budgeting. I don’t show up to the office just to sit there, because that is time I spend away from my family and friends, so I get to work and take care of business. I know it’s the same way for my clients. If they have a legal issue that keeps them up at night, they do not want for it to be taken care of next month, or even next week. Because I effectively budget my time and energy, I can move their issue into the pipeline and provide a solution much quicker. These two priorities fast-tracked my business.

MO: SOPA (or the Stop Online Piracy Act) has been getting a lot of attention these past few weeks. As someone who deals with intellectual property law issues, what do you think of SOPA and what are the possible implications for entrepreneurs if the bill is passed?

Tripp: SOPA, and its European cousin ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), has many potential chilling affects on Internet commerce. For one, it brings a sledgehammer to a problem that deserves a scalpel. For years, legal standards required a state of mind to prove egregious misappropriations of property. SOPA is the most recent, and largest, foray into strict liability for intellectual property offenses, which means motive is not required. Tack on the fact that the United States government has, for nearly 20 years, had an explicit policy of staying out of Internet affairs, SOPA is a 180° turn on Internet policy. The ability to completely shut down an entire website for even a single violation of intellectual property, even if accidental, will tie up vast amounts of for fear of violating someone’s intellectual property somewhere. While marginally this may not appear to be a significant problem, because SOPA also applies to referring websites, with the ability to shut them down as well, the aggregate effect of the legislation will have significant chilling effects to online discourse and commerce.

MO: If your best friend was about to start a new business what advice would you give them?

Tripp: My father always told me, “Find something you’re good at, and don’t do it for free.” I have expanded that rule into 3 rules: First, you have to love what you do. If you don’t like doing what you do, you’re not going to be doing it for long. People know when you hate your job, and they don’t want to hire somebody that hates doing that type of work. Secondly, find something you do better than anybody else, and don’t be afraid to brag about. The era of the full-service business is over. The proliferation of information on Internet has made it easier than ever for anyone to be able to do basic tasks on an acceptable level. They are looking for somebody that excels in an area, and they are willing to pay that person. So if you’re the best, tell somebody, because the person that’s looking for the best is not necessarily going to know that it’s you unless somebody tells them. Finally, ditch the rest. If you were already the best at one thing, it is not worth your time to do everything else. Take the time to find someone to help you out in the areas that you need help and trust that person to handle that task. Give them just enough rope to hang themselves, and if it doesn’t work out start looking for someone else sooner rather than later. As one of my business school professors once said: hire slow, fire fast. If you keep these 3 rules in mind, you will be successful.

MO: What have been the challenges of changing the traditional legal industry model?

Tripp: The biggest problem that I run into it is often that consumers have been conditioned to expect legal services to be expensive, unpredictable, and inconsistent. An overwhelming majority of lawyers provide fantastic legal representation, but there’s a disconnect when it comes to paying for those services. The billable hour standard has been the industry standard for only a generation, but nearly everyone expects to pay their attorney based on the time they spend on their case. Many clients will pay their attorney the same amount whether they win or lose the case. If you bought a car, and that car broke down as you were leaving the dealer lot, you would expect a refund. Why don’t we expect the same thing for attorneys? Encouraging clients to expect better has been one of the most difficult things I’ve run into.

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