Lawyers Are Not Businessmen

First, go watch this video about how one of Apple’s lawyers stuck it to the feelings of a little girl.

Now, according to the story, Apple changed their corporate practices when responding to “letters from children.” But that’s not the point! They shouldn’t be responding like that to their customers. I understand that Apple does not want to run the risk that some jerk might write to them with an idea that Apple was already developing, and that this jerk might sue Apple because he wants to be paid for offering the idea— as though ideas by themselves were worth even the paper they’re printed on (but that’s a different story). The point is, Apple’s lawyers were right to point out the risk, but a little marketing prowess would have saved this situation before it even happened.

When it comes to our own ideas and our own feelings, we are all little girls. Except that we adults tend not to forgive so freely as children. And we have the actual money.

Would it be so difficult just to explain, politely, that there are people in the world who would sue us for using their ideas. We’re sure you’re not one of these people, and we wish we could consider your ideas. But because we don’t know you, we can’t even read your letter. We’re very sorry. But we hope you will continue to enjoy your iPod.

(By the way, there are many forums, on the Internet, filled with iPod enthusiasts who would love to discuss your ideas with you, although we can’t recommend any particular forums. Also, we sometimes get wind of good ideas through the Internet. Hint, hint.)

Bottom line, which I’ve been meaning to get to: Small businesses are just as susceptible to this disease as big companies like Apple. You may need a lawyer for legal advice. But always remember, he is not the businessman. He doesn’t know your market. He doesn’t know your customers. And he doesn’t go bankrupt when they all desert you. So use your own judgement. It’s your neck on the line.