An Affordable Trademark Attorney
As an affordable trademark attorney, I occupy a strange niche. JPG Legal has just hit $5 million in total revenue since I launched the firm online in mid-2017. In that time, I’ve developed a clear picture of our target client.
Or rather, both of our target clients, because the members of our target audience approach us from two very different perspectives. Some of our prospective clients see us as a cut-rate “budget” law firm. Others see us as an overpriced extravagance.
One Client’s Budget Law Firm Is Another Client’s Bespoke Boutique
To conventional trademark attorneys who bill by the hour, who file about 30 trademark applications a year, and who don’t acquire their clients online, I’m a high-volume “trademark mill.” To them, any client who hires me is putting their business at risk for the sake of saving a few bucks. And to businesses with revenue of $10 million or more, I’m the budget law firm that they choose because they’re in a recession or because their current attorney’s fees are too high and unpredictable.
But to everyday people who rarely have reason to even hire lawyers, I’m an expensive alternative to LegalZoom and to self-filing. To them, the idea of paying $300 an hour for a conventional law firm to handle their trademark application isn’t even being considered. There’s no way they’re going to submit themselves to that kind of opaque expense for the sake of protecting their side hustle. So it’s either a “budget” firm like mine or no law firm at all.
To these entrepreneurs, I’m the responsible option. They hire me and they feel safe because they sprang for a real attorney rather than going the cheap route. I’m well aware that many of my clients are straining their small budgets when they hire my firm, and I greatly appreciate that they’re putting themselves through the stress and second-guessing that results from this expenditure, even if it will give them more peace of mind in the long run.
I remember when I first launched my own business with a $5,000 budget. I designed my own logo rather than hiring a designer. I built my own website on WordPress rather than hiring a developer. I formed the LLC myself rather than using a filing service. And I built my own Google Ads campaign rather than hiring a marketing expert. I had some experience in graphic design, website development, and marketing. Not a lot, but enough to try to tackle these tasks on my own.
This resulted in my being able to put my entire $5,000 budget toward Google Ads. It turned out to be just barely enough money to get the ads to start paying for themselves. That led to a permanent, self-sustaining loop that allowed me to quit my day job two months later.
My biggest advantage, however, was that I didn’t need to worry about finding an affordable trademark attorney. I didn’t have to choose between retaining a “normal” law firm, hiring a “budget” lawyer, or filing without an attorney and hoping for the best. And because of that, I dodged one of the toughest conundrums faced by any new business.
Trademark registration is arguably the one starting block that you can’t skimp on when starting a business. A minimum viable product in any industry can start rough and get patched up later, whether it’s a software application, an online store, or a first production run. Logos can be revised, websites can be updated, ad campaigns can be refined.
But if you choose the wrong brand name, or you fail to protect it, your entire business may be doomed right out of the gate. Without a trademark conflict search, legal opinion, and filing by an attorney, you’re putting everything at risk. But even with that being the case, many business owners are still tempted by unlicensed legal service providers.
Two Very Different Marketing Approaches for the Same Service
As an affordable trademark attorney, I find myself in the position of trying to convince two different parties to accept two separate, contradictory ideas:
Idea 1: Forget LegalZoom, We’re Worth the Extra Money
For any given small business, a firm like mine is a much better option than LegalZoom. Not only will we increase your new business’s chance of survival, but we’re also a better deal when you factor in the extra services that are included in our packages at no extra cost. This includes office action responses, communication with the USPTO, and legal advice.
New businesses should stop thinking of LegalZoom as the “affordable” option—it’s not even that cheap! LegalZoom’s main package—essentially a service that makes you pay to file the application yourself—costs only $150 less than JPG Legal’s Basic package.
A family friend of a lawyer at our firm paid $249 + $350 for LegalZoom to try to register his brand as a trademark. He assumed that a lawyer would be too expensive so he didn’t even do the kind of search that would let him see our pricing. LegalZoom screwed it up and now his application probably can’t be salvaged, even by a lawyer.
People think LegalZoom is the cheap option, which is wrong. Going to USPTO.gov and filing by yourself is the cheap option. LegalZoom charges you serious money just to fill out a slightly more user-friendly form than the USPTO’s, which they then copy and paste into a USPTO application.
My colleague’s friend paid $599 total to file with LegalZoom when our Basic package would have cost him $749. Not only would his application have been prepared and filed by an actual attorney, but we would have continued to represent him if anything had gone wrong.
LegalZoom has done an amazing job of convincing the general public that they are the do-it-yourself option for savvy people who want to save money by avoiding high legal fees. My colleague’s friend simply assumed he wouldn’t be able to afford a law firm, and that idea was so strong that he didn’t even do a basic Google search, which would have told him in a few seconds that this idea was completely wrong.
Can you imagine how frustrating that is for those of us who work at law firms that cost around as much as LegalZoom? No matter how effective our Google Ads and SEO are, some people will just go straight to LegalZoom without even shopping around.
In reality, legal service providers like LegalZoom are the worst of both worlds. They cost almost as much as some law firms, but they expose you to the same risk you would have by filing directly to the government, if not more. Even the services that cost under $100 like Trademark Engine are still a rip-off for the same reasons.
You’re basically playing a game of telephone with the USPTO. LegalZoom or Trademark Engine asks you questions that resemble the questions on the USPTO’s form. They then charge a fee for them to copy and paste your answers into the USPTO’s form. This means you’re answering copies of the government’s actual questions, and the government is receiving copies of your answers to the copies of their questions. Anybody who’s gotten information from second-hand sources, or has received mail merge emails from spammers, knows how many errors are caused in situations like this. Why would anybody pay money for this service?
Idea 2: Forget Other Law Firms, They’re Not Worth the Extra Money
We’ve just discussed the people who think law firms are too expensive for them. Now it’s time to discuss the people who think some law firms are not expensive enough for them. Many well-funded entrepreneurs and managers of established businesses are used to working with conventional law firms and don’t want to put their companies at risk by working with a firm that doesn’t fit their expected mold.
But for most of those businesses, a firm like mine is a better option than a conventional law firm that bills at an hourly rate. We cost a lot less than these law firms and our pricing is predictable, which allows companies to fit us into their budgets and projections. The quality of service is also similar enough that you shouldn’t feel guilty for choosing us even though we’re the “budget” option.
On the whole, I’d say convincing people to move away from expensive law firms is a much easier task than convincing people to move away from cheap legal service providers. While many lawyers look down on “high volume” firms like ours, JPG Legal’s large quantity of clients has allowed us to streamline many common trademark processes and charge less money as a result. Do you really feel better paying an expensive attorney to spend an hour doing something that it takes us 10 minutes to do?
Not only do we work more efficiently, but we also have a large body of institutional knowledge that we can make use of in strange scenarios that only happen with every 500 or so trademark applications. For lawyers who file 30 to 50 trademark applications a year, these problems don’t come up often, so they don’t know how to handle them. And of course, they bill their clients for the time they spend finding out what to do.
Our firm files over 1,000 trademark applications a year, so we’ve seen pretty much everything and can handle unusual problems quickly. We maintain detailed internal reference files that we all check regularly when dealing with USPTO office actions. Even when we encounter new problems, our flat fee billing model means we don’t charge our clients for the time spent learning how to fix them.
Similarly, our volume of about 50 trademark applications a month keeps us well-informed on the latest developments in trademark law. One major example is Amazon Brand Registry access. We help about 25 Amazon sellers file their trademark applications every month, so whenever there’s a major change in the requirements for enlisting in Amazon Brand Registry, we know before most of our competitors.
These arguments certainly help when trying to convince a company to hire us. But ultimately, I believe we’re winning them over because even officers at established businesses sense that the old law firm model is antiquated. Other professional services like human resources, payroll, and bookkeeping are becoming more streamlined as software companies and startups are “disrupting” those industries, so why is it still so unpleasant and expensive to hire trademark attorneys?
This line of thought, which lingers in the back of the mind for a lot of these managers, comes to the forefront when a recession hits. Suddenly these managers are being asked to cut costs. Rather than worrying about getting in trouble for choosing a “less safe” law firm, they’re now worrying about their companies becoming insolvent because their law firm is too expensive. This is when they do a Google search and find us, along with our competitors. They then choose us after comparing us to the handful of other affordable trademark lawyers out there with similar flat fee models.
Affordable Trademark Law Firms Make Sense for Everybody
Convincing these two different sets of customers to hire us presents an interesting marketing challenge. Some of our clients need to be convinced to spend a couple hundred more dollars up-front to save money in the long run, while others need to be convinced that they can spend thousands less and still work with qualified attorneys.
In an effort to appeal to both groups, I try to focus on what features are included in our packages and how much they cost. To some extent, the packages sell themselves. Whether a client considers us the expensive option or the cheap option, a firm like ours makes the most sense.
Have you ever found yourself occupying a strange niche in your industry? Have you faced any interesting marketing challenges? Leave a comment below!
Click Here to Learn More About Our
Trademark Registration Packages.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter.