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Creatives Learn Law helps Colorado microbusinesses navigate the legal world

//Creative Learn Law Founder Allie Moore works in her home office on Feb 17. Here, Moore drafts contracts for clients ranging from photographers to graphic designers. Photo by Roxanna Carrasco | photography.roxie@gmail.com

Pondering the very different worlds of small, creative pursuits and the sometimes confounding landscape of the law, one might think the two have little overlap. Though, Creatives Learn Law Founder Allie Moore would contest that assumption.

No stranger to the plight of freelance creatives, Moore was a photographer for 10 years before graduating law school at the top of her class in 2017. She continued her photography while working some of her first legal jobs—clerking for Colorado Supreme Court Justice Brian Boatright and an attorney fellow position in the Colorado Attorney General’s office. 

Her creative colleagues recognized this gold mine of information and would often ask her legal questions pertaining to their roles.

“I would always have to say, ‘Oh, I’m not your lawyer. I can’t answer that question specifically,’ but there were no lawyers,” Moore said. “Even if you go to business law events, there are no lawyers that target really small businesses or set up services in a way that makes sense for solo entrepreneurs.” 

Moore said that many people in microbusiness and creative industries have never spoken with a lawyer and don’t know where to go with legal questions. After seeing that gap, she moved forward to found Creatives Learn Law in 2019, aiming to offer legal services to creatives and small businesses in a way that honors their larger visions and gives them the practical tools to get there. The practice covers clients in Colorado, with a second, licensed attorney in Michigan.

Rather than joining the rat race that can come with a career in law, Moore instead embraced what many of the folks she helps value as well: the freedom and joy that comes from working for yourself in support of a larger vision for the world. 

Though Moore pointed out that her clients often work in more low-risk industries; compared to someone like a surgeon or a person building a house, it’s unlikely that a creative will experience massive losses. In that, she typically starts by telling folks they don’t need to be as intimidated as they are.

“I think that lawyers can be really good at fear-mongering, and I actually don’t think there’s that much to be scared of,” Moore said. “It’s really worth it for people to spend even just an hour understanding the landscape of the laws most likely to affect even just a freelance business. Once you look most of those issues in the face and understand them, it should feel better, not worse.”

Among these relevant topics Moore covers, she helps folks consider whether or not they need insurance—which she always recommends—or understand what forming an LLC does, so people can make informed decisions on whether these options are right for their businesses. Though, Moore’s work is largely spent in the realm of contracts.

“That’s kind of the cornerstone of what prevents liability in their business, what helps them define their boundaries and answer some of the existential questions of how they want to show up for clients,” Moore said.

She said around 80% of clients seek contract assistance whereas Moore usually drafts a couple of versions for different lines of service. However, she said it’s been fun over the past year to help some of her clients to hire their first employees, advising them on how to become an employer, employment laws to be aware of and fostering a relationship with returning clients as their businesses blossom.

Moore also says that the “market void” surrounding legal information for creatives and small businesses has closed a bit since she started the firm in 2019, largely from lawyers and accountants taking it upon themselves to share resources through blogs, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, newsletters and other avenues.

“In general, I’ve definitely gotten the impression that people are eager for the information,” Moore said. “When I want to do more speaking engagements, podcast guest interviews, community networking groups—Usually, when I reach out, people are like, ‘Yes, our members need to hear this information.’”

Moving ahead, Moore is focused on creating accessible information. She already has a 45-minute class to introduce some of the legal challenges these folks may face, and she’s currently working on a new class, which will be a series of recorded videos with sample documents for new employers, such as teaching how wage and hour law works.

“In terms of development, in terms of growth, I’m really coming into an anti-capitalist mindset, which I appreciate a lot. I’m not interested in expansion or empire-building … I’m not looking to grow, but I do like the idea of putting out more resources.”

Ultimately, even if folks find they cannot invest in a lawyer, or might not have the ability to take on the additional cost of insurance, she offers some passing words of wisdom to folks traversing the small-business space:

“A lot of mitigating risk is clear communication and treating people with respect. …Treat people with good customer service, try to memorialize things in writing—even if you agreed over the phone—just follow up with an email, and be as clear as possible. Keep good records, and that’s going to take care of a lot of your risks.”

Though, once folks are ready for additional legal support, Moore said they are often grateful they made the leap.

“That’s the best part of my job, is I do hear a lot of, ‘Well, I feel so much better.’ Which is really nice. Yeah, I’ll never complain about hearing that.”

 

 

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