Book And Video Reviews

The Consultant's Legal Guide

by Elaine Biech, Linda Byars Swindling
Nonprofit/charity sector consultants' reference book

This book is a well-crafted, easily readable treatment of an important topic for all consultants. The authors do an excellent job of stressing that consulting is a serious business without overwhelming readers with jargon and legal process.

The book's sixteen chapters cover basic and advanced topics, from retaining an attorney BEFORE starting a consulting practice to how to handle the legal problems that may come up despite the consultant's best efforts to avoid them through good planning. Concise narrative, entertaining case studies, and solid analysis are interspersed with examples of contracts and forms a consultant can use in their own practice.

The contracts and forms discussed and shown in the book are also included in a 3.5” floppy disk. The documents on the single PC-formatted diskette are stored in Word 6.0/95 format.

One of my personal pet peeves is sole-practitioner consultants who do not treat their consulting practice as a business. The first few chapters of the book address all the contracts, agreements, and situations that a consultant faces before dealing with a client -- leasing office space, contracting for insurance, banking, telephone, advertising, and other services. It's a useful reminder that a consultancy is more than a one-man-band, and that “being your own boss” involves significant responsibility and risk as well as significant freedom and personal satisfaction.

The chapter that discusses working with nonprofit clients is written from a for-profit perspective; the stereotypical case studies center on agencies with no budgets and volunteers making promises and representations the board can't or won't honor. This is unfortunate, since most nonprofits, like their for-profit brethren, are fiscally sound, responsible corporations that can and do retain consultants in a businesslike way and compensate them based on their value.

Whether you're a novice or experienced consultant, The Consultant's Legal Guide is valuable as both a tutorial and a reference/resource work to help your practice succeed.

Table of Contents
Introduction -- Selecting an Attorney -- The Relationship of Ethics and the Law -- Setting Up a Consulting Practice -- Starting Your Office -- Contracts and the Law -- Employment Issues -- Working with Other Consultants -- Client Issues -- Clients Outside the Corporate Arena -- Unique Consulting Situations -- Protecting Work Product, Trade Secrets, and Intellectual Property -- Giving Credit Where Credit is Due -- Protecting Assets Through Insurance -- Buying or Selling a Consulting Practice -- Avoiding Legal Problems -- What to do When You Have a Legal Problem -- Glossary -- Index