Mike Munter: Hey, Dan, how are you doing? Nice to meet you today.
Daniel Lopez: Hey Mike, how are you doing? Nice to meet you, too.
Mike Munter: Yes, we were introduced by a mutual friend, Randy Kirk.
Daniel Lopez: Right. Randy is a great guy. He has some amazing experience. I’m very fortunate to have him as part of my network.
Mike Munter: Before we get started with questions about what you are doing with your business, can you just give us a little bit of background, like where you were raised, where you are from, and maybe your college—bring us up to this point?
Daniel Lopez: Cool. Yes, I would love to do that. I’m Daniel Lopez—I was born in Queens, New York. I like telling people it’s where spider man is from and where Fifty Cent got shot. When he was shot, we went to the hospital where I was born for his treatment—which is a nice little weird tid-bit I throw in there (laughing).
Very early on, my mom moved me to a small little city called Union City, New Jersey, and I pretty much grew up there. It was an amazing experience—someplace that is different from pretty much anywhere else in the world. It’s an immigration hub in the United States, where I grew up speaking Spanish in high school. It was just a way different way of seeing the world. I played baseball through high school and that actually got me to college where I played baseball as well.
I played baseball at Rutgers in Newark, and I graduated from Rutgers with a degree in criminal justice— which is kind of a weird choice, but I tell people the reason I did it was because it allowed me to practice baseball as much as possible. It was a lot easier than being a chemistry major or math major or any of that smart stuff.
After college I spent a year trying to play professional baseball. I got cut a lot. After that, there were little things where it was like, I need to find an actual career here, and maybe baseball is not it. And actually, yesterday was opening day for the MLB. It was very a sad day sometimes, but ultimately, it worked out.
You know at Rutgers, every spring, we would start our season in California because the season starts in February. February is absolutely freezing in New Jersey—there is usually snow on the ground. We came to California for a couple of weeks to get away from it and start our season. And I love the area. We played teams like Pomona and La Verne and those schools here in the inland empire, as well as Occidental and teams like that.
When it came time to deciding what I was going to do, I knew I wanted to leave New Jersey. For me, it was between Washington, DC and California. It was almost a coin flip. I ended up coming out to California, went to law school here, finished law school, and spent some time working for different law firms. Now I’m here and I own my own law firm, which is not something I thought I would ever say in my life but here I am and it’s awesome—I love what I’m doing.
Mike Munter: That is pretty cool. Well, you and I share a similar interest in baseball. I didn’t play like you did, but I did work for the AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles for about 12 years.
Daniel Lopez: Very nice. What did you do for them?
Mike Munter: I worked in the front office, started at the very bottom as a telemarketing agent. I would call people at their house and try to sell them baseball tickets while they were eating dinner. And 12 years later, I was the general manager and running the team—responsible for about a $5 million budget.
Daniel Lopez: That is awesome. Have you gone to any like the winter meetings?
Mike Munter: Yes, I went to the winter meetings probably, I don’t know, maybe five or six times.
Daniel Lopez: It’s an amazing experience. Before I became a lawyer, that is actually what I thought about doing. I was thinking about going into baseball operations and that was kind of where—I still love baseball and I’ll think about like what I could do with it.
The last few years, I was going to winter meetings. I went to one pretty recently in San Diego and Las Vegas. It’s a crazy and amazing experience. My hats off to those guys and hats off to you because it’s not easy to make it to where you are. It takes a lot of work and a lot of determination because I know it’s not always the most stable kind of job.
Mike Munter: Well, minor league baseball is all sales. You are probably experiencing that now as a lawyer starting your own business.
Daniel Lopez: Definitely, definitely a lot more so than I ever thought I would be doing ever.
Mike Munter: How did you transition because it sounds like you started out in criminal justice and then moved over to more business law?
Daniel Lopez: In undergrad—I’m completely honest, I picked criminal justice because it was the subject that allowed me to practice baseball the most. I wasn’t thinking about my career or at anything other than I want to play baseball as long as possible.
When you do that, it limits you what classes you are going to take and how you build your schedule in the best way possible for practice. That’s how I ended up with that major, but it was not until I went to law school that I really discovered what I wanted to do.
I was very fortunate. I had this amazing professor and Professor Lowsa. She also owned her own law firm and practices intellectual property law, but it was through her class that I figured out this is some really awesome stuff.
Daniel Lopez: This is something that I really want to do and help people manage—which came with the trademark side of it. There were some other intellectual property classes that I really enjoyed for instance—the law school I went to, they were the first school to offer a course on video game law, which is a fun way of saying intellectual property rights (laughing).
It was—we talked about topics that I had always been curious about as a kid. For example, growing up, Michael Jordan, was not on NBA live the game and everyone always wondered why isn’t he on there? Right? Barry Bonds was not on the All-Star baseball game and the MVP show and all these other games. For me, I was like why is he not on here? He’s the best player on the planet. How is he not in this game? It was that curiosity which led me to the class and I loved it.
Daniel Lopez: I learned so much—it was topics that I could related to. In law school, you have to write a paper before you leave. The paper that I decided to write was about licensing rights in sports video games. I got to spend my semester—you have to write the paper in the semester—I got to spend that semester researching things like Madden and video games, running sports, and I just loved it. It was a fun way to do what I want to do and still get the education part of it. It was great.
Mike Munter: At that point or how many years did you spend working for other law firms?
Daniel Lopez: I started interning right when I was in law school. The first place I started, I was practicing housing law back home in New Jersey, where rent control is one of the bigger issues out there because it is a metropolitan city. That is what the big issue is there.
After that, I practiced at a few different law firms. At one, I was kind of the ringer. I only got hired there because I had a softball team and one of my buddies knew one of the lawyers. He was like, “Yes, come along!” (laughing) That firm did more business law. I got really good look at that world and what it required, how they treated their clients, all of that behind the curtain, how it works thing. That was an internship.
Then after law school, right after graduation, I started practicing at a personal injury law firm. You know, after law school, you are really just trying to find a job, right? I mean the bills are coming in and you’ve got your student loans. I took a job at a personal injury law firm and I was a litigator, which not all people know that just means I went to court, trials, and work like that. That was my role within that law firm. I spent a little bit over a year there and I got to do many of the things I needed to learn there. It was a great experience with a great people. I just could not do personal injury law long-term.
It’s a bit of a moral thing, right? Unfortunately, you are hoping when clients come in that they have the worst injury possible because that’s how your bottom line goes up (laughing). And just morally, I could not do it, but they are great people. I was lucky enough to be on the plaintiff’s side. So, you meet and measure people on that side, but ultimately I always knew that my goal was to do business law. It happened where the opportunity came up and I said, “it’s time to do it.”
Then I did and it’s been an amazing, I’m so glad I made that decision.
Mike Munter: Can you walk me through the psychology of that—what are you thinking like you left? It sounds like you left a paying job—did you, was it that you ramp one down while you ramp the other up or was it just a cold clean break and you went off to do your own thing?
Daniel Lopez: No, no. Before I did this, I had a conversation with my professor actually, and she had never hired an associate before, at least not at my level. It was one of those things where she was thinking like, “Hey, I’m thinking about doing this. I might offer you a job. I might not.”
When that happened, my world and my mind started racing. I thought this could be a really great opportunity. It allowed me to do things that I wanted to do. My whole mindset and my whole spirit lifted. Unfortunately, that opportunity did not come through, her law firm was not ready to do that. It ended up being a great decision by her—on her part.
After that happened, I went from feeling so high to now feeling so low. I’m going to work now feeling like I don’t really want to do this. I mean, I had gotten so excited to try something else out. At that point I decided that I had to do it for myself. It created the opportunity—I never ran a law firm before. I never ran a business before. So, I told myself to start learning this stuff and that’s what I did.
I started learning about business. I started learning about the law firm business, how to run that because it is a little bit different than running some other businesses. I told my boss at the time that I was doing it—I’m very honest. I tried to be as open as I can with people.
I let them know that I was thinking about doing this. I told my boss that I have this plan and because it was a different area of law, he was supportive. He said go for it, you have our support, you are not taking our clients away—it’s all good sort of thing.
For a long while there, I was kind of pulling double duty. I would work my nine to five at the law firm. I would have worked on my business before that and after that—it was very tiring. Eventually, I got to a point where I was comfortable enough to say it’s time to take this business the whole way. So I quit.
My boss knew was coming too. We talked about it. We, we still email each other and it’s a nice connection like that. It pretty much just came from knowing I wanted to do more and it was life changing. I love it. I feel so fortunate to have all those experiences that led me here.
Mike Munter: So you had a soft runway in a sense.
Daniel Lopez: Definitely a soft runway. I funded myself through my other job. A lot of those first startup costs, which are some of the hardest costs were for new business owners, I was able to use off my other job earnings. As an attorney, you can make a decent living. It was not like it was too, too hard. I was very lucky in that. It was a soft runaway to get where I was going.
Mike Munter: But when you did go hang out your own shingle and start your own business. Did you have any clients at that point?
Daniel Lopez: Oh, not much (laughing). It kind of all connects back to baseball. One of the things I do in my spare time, which is not a lot of spare time, but I just love doing it—I’m on a podcast. I’m the host of a baseball podcasts—we are called diamond talk. It’s part of a larger network of sports podcasts, a sports group called, SAW Sports Productions. At first, a lot of my clients, or the majority of my clients were friends or were just people in that network of sports people that had their own businesses.
If someone was starting their own business—they needed an LLC—they would ask me to help them with it. For another business, I had already met the woman who owns this business through one of the business training activities that I was doing. She needed a trademark. I helped her with that. And it that’s how it started.
Just one person here, one person there. It was rough at first. I did not go into that work having a client list—a lot of the hustling and finding those people did happen after I quit the job.
Mike Munter: Yes. Yeah. Well, thankfully you had a lot of good relationships that were able to—
Daniel Lopez: Yes, I was very lucky.
Mike Munter: Well, looking at your website, it looks like you and I share the same idea that people should become entrepreneurs and build a business—build a brand. Do you want to talk about where that idea came from?
Daniel Lopez: Absolutely. I mentioned my professor and trademark wall, and when I started trademark line, when I first found out about it—I loved it because it was about entrepreneurs protecting what they had. It was about helping someone who created this amazing product, and thiking how can I make sure that it goes from point a, to as high as it can go. Right?
In trademark law, when you’re learning about it, you learn about companies like Coca Cola, you learn about the companies like Nike, you learn about those big companies. But one of the cool parts is you also learn about small companies that you may never hear about, and you don’t understand the impact of what you are really seeing, until you learn about some of those cases.
For instance, if you are a mom-and-pop shop and you have this great product, especially now where we can sell anything online—and we are in the social media age—where if someone goes to a restaurant and you have this amazing item that is just specific to your business, nowadays that is find-able anywhere you go.
Why should other people profit off of your good work, off of your ingenuity, off of your blood, sweat, and tears that got you to where you are going? That’s what trademark law protects. You mentioned why people should go into entrepreneurship. Well, people do that. Usually, it is more than just about the money. You know, you can work and make money. You can invest to make money.
Usually, it is about building something bigger than themselves. That’s why I started my law firm. I don’t see it as something for me. I see this as eventually this is going to be bigger than I am. In regard to brand protection, it’s more than just trademark, right? You have to do the other stuff too, but does that mean trademark law?
I saw it as a vehicle of going from a product that you are selling to, let’s say a circle of 50 people, to potentially selling something globally. If you don’t set that up the right way, it can hurt you. That’s the way I learned trademark law and trademark was technically about consumers and making sure consumers do not get confused. Obviously, the benefit of that is the business owner. It is very important that business owners establish their brand because at the end of day, your brand is you.
Mike Munter: Can you give me an example? Are we talking about someone who has developed a software service or a product?
Daniel Lopez: With trademark law it could be any product or service that is an interstate commerce. If you are a software company and you have this piece of software, that’s going into computers and manufacturers know this and they hear the term—I don’t I want to say Microsoft, cause that’s way too big. Let’s say a random name, let’s call it detailed software. Right? Your software is really good. It’s something that people want to use.
Well, you have to protect that because it’s very easy, especially with software, there’s not a lot of—there’s no physical parts of it—so if it’s downloadable, it’s something that you want to make sure that people are downloading it from you instead of a competitor or a counterfeiter, which is another part of trademark law.
But to your larger question, it is any business that has a product or service that is being put in front of people. By that, I mean it can’t be something that is internal, right? If I’m a business and I have a special name for my employees, let’s say I work for Google and I call my employee to Google-ites. I can’t trademark that because I’m not selling anything to the public. It’s just something that’s used internally.
Mike Munter: Interesting. I imagine that must get very tricky with digital media.
Daniel Lopez: It is extremely tricky with digital media because it’s one of those things where not everything is “trademark-able”—there are certain things that you can’t trademark and it’s a long list of things. Especially in, like you mentioned, digital media, not everything works as a source. Sometimes people think that is the trademark, but really what they are trying to protect is their copyright or a patent depending on what that is. There are more ways to protect than just trademark. But when it comes to growing your business, the trademark, in my opinion is the best tool and the tool that you should use the most.
Mike Munter: Now is trademark the same as intellectual property?
Daniel Lopez: Intellectual property is like a bundle of sticks, right? And trademark is one stick in that bundle.
Mike Munter: Got it, okay. You have got the business going now—what is your vision for it?
Daniel Lopez: This is going to be—I have very lofty goals. I’m not going to lie to you. I see a lot of businesses out there that they say they are legal services, but they’re not. I’m not going to name them but they rhyme with Legal “Boom.”
A lot of people will confuse that with actual legal service. Unfortunately, a lot of what I do in my practice is fixing the mistakes they made while using services like that. And it’s costly. A lot of times it can ruin someone’s entire business just because they don’t know what they are doing. People don’t understand that those are just bots or what is it called? They are just taking what you put down and putting it in the correct form.
There is no legal analysis–if you get yourself in trouble, those companies can be like, “we just did what you told us.” And that is a national brand, right? That’s something that’s national.
I think one of my goals is—this is a very lofty goal because law firms typically do not go this route. I want My Brand Esquire to be a national service where we are helping businesses in every state—as much as we can right now. We are a little bit limited in the services we can offer.
We don’t do things like employment, law. We don’t do practice related to mergers and acquisitions, but my goal is to eventually get attorneys in here that will cover that side of things. I want this company to be a resource for business owners, no matter what size they are. I want companies to say they have a problem or a question and call My Brand Esquire for assistance. I want them to contact My Brand Esquire and see how we can figure this out. That is the goal. The goal is to be the go-to person for business owners.
Mike Munter: Got it. A personalized approach. Yes.
Daniel Lopez: Yes. For me, it’s more important to have good people than it is to just get the work done. One thing with me is that the company is value-based—everything we do is based on value. One of things that is different about my law firm compared to other business law firms is that we try to stick to a flat fee type of billing as much as we can.
What that means is if you come to us for a project, we want to tell you what you are going to spend right off the bat. If it goes over that amount, that’s on us—that’s our fault. We’re not going to charge you more than that because the truth is we typically know what something is going to cost. If we find a trademark, it should not be an hourly charge. We know how long that takes.
One of our differentiators is that we offer that flat fee billing as much as possible. Obviously, there are sometimes that we can’t do that. There is always a project that we can’t apply that to. Instances where we can’t calculate that because there are other factors typically. But for the most part, everything we do is on a flat fee basis.
Some of the other things that we have changed is that we want our customers to be able to contact us. A lot of people haven’t worked with business law firms before, but typically they charge by the minute or by the email. If you send them an email and they take 10 minutes to read it, they are like here’s $200 bill—we read what you sent us, we know you need help, but you hired us. So pay us. We’re eliminating that. We want to make sure that when people have questions, they can ask us. That’s what we are here for at the end of the day. We’re here to help people.
Mike Munter: That is annoying. It seems—correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re sort of in between. Over on this side, we have Legal “Boom” who is a computerized, automated version of legal services. Then maybe over on the other side, we have like these high-end law firms who are charging by the hour, as you said, or they are charging by the minute.
Sometimes it’s—the clock is running and you don’t even know it. You are coming right in between and saying, look, we can help you control costs a little bit. We have done this work. We know what it is going to cost. This is what it is and we want to be transparent about it.
Daniel Lopez: Absolutely. Transparency is the biggest point. There have been times where my job is not to make—honestly, I’m an entrepreneur—and being an entrepreneur means making money and generating funds and making sure that your business is profitable. But I’m also a law firm and I think that there should be a societal part of that—that we’re helping people.
As an entrepreneur, I know how annoying it is to not know how much I’m going spend on something. Right? If I can’t put it down as part of my marketing or my budgeting plan, then that annoys me because I don’t know how much I will need to save up for it—the “I don’t know how much it’s going to be” part of it. I think we offer a service to business owners where we say look, “This is what you are going to be getting, and that way you know what you’re doing.”
For instance, one of the things that we offer is packages for businesses. In those packages, it offers a certain amount of work, right? Whether you need—however many documents you need, but the point is, you know what that is. If you want to roll that to next month, go for it. You can budget for that instead of saying, “Oh man, I just got charged X amount of money by this law firm. I had no idea I was going to spend that much.”
I think that’s frustrating. The other thing is “being on the clock.” Nothing annoys me more than that term because if people are calling a law firm, nobody wants to call a law firm. No, it’s not like calling your friends. It’s not like, “Hey, what good news do you have for me?”
Usually, you call because you need something. If you need something, there’s a cost that comes with that, but that should not be when running a business. The risk of getting in trouble in your business is not worth it because of not asking the questions. Because of that, if you have a question, we rather you ask us and let us help you figure that out. Instead of wondering, “do I really want to ask this question? I don’t have 300 extra dollars this month to call this lawyer to find out if I need this or not.” Those are some ways that we are different.
Mike Munter: So business owners are your target. Do you or have you carved out a specific niche, like at a certain size business or a certain type of industry?
Daniel Lopez: If I was carving out a niche, the niche has carved us actually. I don’t know if that makes sense. We started with a certain mindset of what we were looking for and what I figured out was what people need so much more help with their business than what I initially thought they were coming in for.
Initially, this was a trademark firm—that was my focus, but after working with that, I knew about business. Alright, that’s what I studied when I was in law school. I had companies come to me and the rest of their company was not where it needed to be. So, as a person who was an attorney and knew all this, I felt wrong, not helping them in a way that addressed all the help they needed.
It developed from that. For instance, a lot of the people we help are people who are starting their businesses. That means they are coming to us for an LLC. They are coming to us for a trademark. But what I learned from having those conversations, what I figured out, as long as people don’t really know what it means for their business—education ends up being a big part of it.
If you are a person thinking about opening a business, we love to help just because at the very least we are pointing you in the right direction. One of the things that we also do is we want to make sure you are starting off on the right foot. We don’t—we are not just going to file your paperwork and say, “see you later.”
We offer services at a very effective rate that helps you with your business planning. It helps you with getting off the ground. It helps you with—even if it’s just having someone to talk to. The way I see that—it’s a very minimal investment into making sure that you are doing things the right way.
Because I got that education. I paid for that. I want to pass that forward because if I did not learn that who knows what I would have done wrong, you know? I could have gotten a lot of trouble.
Other “niche” parts of the work is that the bigger the business, the bigger their legal needs are. That means drafting contracts, drafting agreements, those are things that businesses—they should have that examined, regardless of what size you are, you should have that examined. That is what is going to take you to court or not take you to court more than likely. We work with businesses of all sizes, but the larger the business, the less services we offer essentially. We kind of focus more on certain things.
Mike Munter: Yes. Well, the cool thing that about you is I feel like you are in there with “us” because you are a fellow entrepreneur, who’s also a lawyer. You get—you’ve talked about earlier, you get the idea that it is a lot of work to actually start the business and to grow the business.
Daniel Lopez: Absolutely. It was funny—when I was first looking into being a business lawyer, obviously I Googles stuff, everybody Googles stuff, right? (laughing) I was Googling business lawyers and what people have to say—reviewing a whole bunch of websites on business lawyers. One of the comments that somebody had made that really irked me was that you don’t want a business lawyer that is too into business because they are no longer thinking about the law and they just want to be an entrepreneur.
I thought that was ridiculous. That’s the most ridiculous thing ever. I will say here, there’s nothing special that you learn in law school that you do not apply to your own life. Yes, we do get a specialized education, but we are not special people. We are all doing the same stuff.
It all translates into all fields of life. To me, if you have an attorney that also has a business who is business-minded—I tell people sometimes it’s not worth it for you to do this. This is going to be a waste of money. If you do this on your business, you may want this, but I’m telling you—it’s money out of my pocket, but I am telling you right now, this is a waste of money. Do not do this.
I get to say that just because I know what it’s like from the business standpoint. Sometimes it does mean me saying to them, “Hey, look, you should not do this right now. This will be better, if you get this done sometime down the road.” And if you are just a standard lawyer, all of this is work for you. All it is, is another case or another document and it shouldn’t be like that.
Everything should be about building for the future. Whenever I have a consultation with my clients, it’s about their goals. Because if they have a different goal than what they originally came in about, then we are going to talk about how we can get them to that goal. It’s And not always what what they come in with—that’s the bigger part.
Even with the LLC question, not everyone needs an LLC, right? It’s a great thing to have and I would say about 90% of people who have a business need it. But that 10%–if you’re not, if your liability isn’t very high and it’s not going to help you with your tax advantage, why you would spend your money on that? Especially in California, where you have to spend $800 a year just to keep your LLC. Those are some of the ways I come at it. I do look at things from a business owner’s perspective, more than just a legal perspective.
Mike Munter: Well, I can tell that you are passionate about entrepreneurial-ism.
Daniel Lopez: Yes, I think so. You know, I didn’t think I was! It was not something I grew up thinking, “I want to be an entrepreneur.” I just fell into it. I ended up loving it and people like yourself who are—in my opinion—in entrepreneur’s corners and are trying to make sure that people have that information—that’s so important. There’s a lot of bad information out there. If you find a source that is really just trying to help you and not coming from a place of “give me your money now”—it’s a lot different. Yes, that’s a fair statement (laughing).
Mike Munter: Yes. Right now, how long have you been on your own now?
Daniel Lopez: On my own, we just made, or I just made a full year, essentially two weeks ago. It’s a fairly new company. It’s not like—I’m not going to lie to you. I have not been doing this for a decade or anything. I think you can tell by my face that I’m not a great aired, experienced attorney but yes, I’ve been on my own for about a year now. Actually since COVID started.
Mike Munter: Sounds like your business start coincided when COVID hit.
Daniel Lopez: Yes, well, I mentioned that my professor made the right, the correct move by not hiring me. That’s what I meant by that. After we had our conversation, about two months later was when COVID started and that downtime—because working in personal injury, it was a lot of car accidents—the one thing there was not a lot of during that time was cars on the roads.
We had a lot more time to do some more things. I was just stuck at the office longer than I had to be sometimes because we just did not have as many people coming in. It gave me the time and a little bit more of the mind to be able to do that instead of focusing on having to grind that out at work.
Mike Munter: Cool. Well, this question might be a little redundant, um, but what are you most excited about for the future?
Daniel Lopez: That’s a good question. I’m actually excited about moving back to the East coast. I’m originally from the East coast. I’m living here in California and I’m still going to have a big presence in California. I’m not leaving and saying, “See you feel later.”
I’m still going to have a huge presence but the whole reason I did this was for my mom and my whole family. I’m a Dominican—I don’t know how much you know about Dominican’s, but we have a huge families. I’m sure you know from your time in minor league baseball, we run deep, right?
We have huge family that have a billion cousins and they all live back on the East coast. I’m getting to that point in my life where I’m starting to think about things a little more seriously—more like family-wise and eventually having kids. I’ve had a girlfriend who has a ring fingers that is itching. I know that’s the next step in that.
I’m excited about the future. I’m going to have—it’s going to be a bi-coastal law practice, but I’m also going to have an office on the East coast. I’m really excited about that and how that’s going to flourish and work. That is the thing I’m the most excited about coming up.
Mike Munter: Well, cool. It sounds really exciting. You must be incredibly busy right now, growing this business and getting it going.
Daniel Lopez: Yes, you know what? Yes. (laughing) Zoom has been a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that I can make more meetings. The curse is now that I have a lot more meetings. It is one of those things where—I wake up at four 30 in the morning. This is just what I do. I’m working through—basically until I fall asleep later on that night sometimes.
It’s all part of it, right? Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. Anyone who says it’s easy, probably is not doing it right. Or they might have some help that some other entrepreneurs might not have, but it’s part of it. It is one of those things where I’m planting the seeds now and planting those seeds takes a long time. It takes a lot of hard work. Yes, I am extremely busy.
Mike Munter: Do you have any hobbies or contracted to help right now?
Daniel Lopez: We contract up when we need it. Our next move is to hire an employee. You know, I mentioned the move to the East coast before I do that. I will be replacing myself with someone here in California—an attorney here in California. We already have people in mind—already looking at options, things like that. That’s already in the works. It’s just about timing now and making sure that’s the right thing to do at the right time.
Mike Munter: Cool. This first person that you hire, will this be a hundred percent employee, or are you looking to do an equity split?
Daniel Lopez: I’ve thought about it. It’s probably going to be a hundred percent employee right now. Every entrepreneur can talk about this a little bit but it’s hard to give up equity. It is not necessarily about the money aspect of it. It’s about the control and about the vision.
It’s hard to find someone who has exact same vision as you do, right? I see it all the time—people talking about they are true partners—they start a business and they were best friends. Then somewhere down the line, things just fall apart. Now it’s not the same vision and someone’s doing something different and it’s not best for the business itself.
I want to avoid that as much as possible just because I do see it every day. There’s a lot of horror stories out there. I’d want to keep it just by myself and hire a full-time employee. But I do have people that I would go into an equity role with and it’s a very short list of people (laughing). It’s something I’ve thought about—it might not be the first thing I do, but down the line I do think that I will have more partners in the business.
Mike Munter: I have great story about that. I have a former client of mine—he was in the real estate business and we were talking about it because I had done some real estate stuff as well. We were talking about house flipping and taking on a partner in that. He said, “Mike, don’t do it.” He said, “I tell you what you do, partners are just trouble. Every time you think about your partner, I want you to substitute the word trouble.” (laughing) Which is funny. I would then think, “what does my partner, what does my trouble think? Well, I have to consult with my trouble before I can make that decision.” (laughing)
Daniel Lopez: (laughing) Absolutely. And here’s the thing—it doesn’t even start that way, right? Everyone starts with good intentions. No one starts with saying, “Oh, I really want to make this guy’s life hard.” But the thing is that everyone’s different and everyone’s life transpires in a different way. What is good for you now is not going to be good for you five years from now.
Yes, that’s good. Your friend made a good analogy there because that is trouble a lot of times. And just to put a quick plug out there, if you are going to get a partner at any point in your business, make sure you all have agreements in place. That is one of those things that I see most often, where there are not any agreements in place. And it literally turns into having to close the business.
It literally turns into having to piss off your clients because there’s going be so much turnover that—you think those people are going to be happy with you? No, you are changing your whole company and now there are things that are involved with that. If you ever do work with partners or anything like that, getting an agreement in place, that’s a no brainer. That is something that—it sounds like it should be rudimentary, but a lot of people don’t do that. If more people did that, maybe I would not have a job (laughing) but more people—if you take one thing from this whole interview—get those agreements in place.
Mike Munter: Yes, well I think becoming an entrepreneur is pretty risky. Maybe it feels better to go at it with somebody else, but then before you know it, you’ve got trouble (laughing).
Daniel Lopez: Yes, yes. It is risky. There’s no guarantees of success. And even if you do feel better doing it with somebody else—let me tell you a quick story. Because this happens quite often too.
Sometimes people partner with somebody and they partner with somebody because they have a specific skillset. They think, I have the idea, I have the fire, but I don’t know how to do this. If I partner with this person, they can do this thing and it’s going be awesome. What happens sometimes is that person’s role is actually really easy to do. It’s something that you should have hired someone to do.
Now, you have a company that’s 50-50, and you are doing all the work, you are making the rounds, and that person—we can’t really blame that person. They did what they were supposed to, but they are still going to collect 50% of the profits because you made them the partner.
It’s really important to have that conversation with somebody who can take a look and see, instead of just saying, “let’s partner up.” There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it and being an entrepreneur is something you should do, but you should not take it lightly because there are long-term ramifications to it.
Mike Munter: Absolutely. Well, this has been a lot of fun. I have to ask you before we go, do you have time to be a mentor? Would you—is that something you would consider right now?
Daniel Lopez: Absolutely. It is all about giving back and the way I see it is that I’m trying. I’m trying to change the way that people look at law firms. I want people to want to want to talk to their lawyers. I want people to not feel like every time they talk to a lawyer, it’s just money out of their pocket.
With mentorship, maybe it’s like starting a Cult (laughing) No, I’m completely joking. With mentorship, I think that –I love to be a mentor. Anytime that I do have a law students who ask me questions, I make sure that I answer them,to the best of my ability, because it is really important—if you feel you have something good going, you should keep that going beyond yourself.
Mike Munter: Awesome. Daniel, thanks a lot for coming on. I appreciate it.
Daniel Lopez: Thank you, Mike. It was an awesome time being here. I did not know you had been a minor league GM. We would have met five years ago. I would have been in your phones: “Give me a tryout!” (laughing)
Mike Munter: (laughing) Alright, take care.
Daniel Lopez: You too, Mike.