Winds of Change: The Hurricane That Moved Attorney Gano Lemoine Across the Country
Winds of Change: The Hurricane That Moved Attorney Gano Lemoine Across the Country
LegalZoom legal plan attorney Gano Lemoine grew up in a small town in South Louisiana and probably would have continued practicing law in New Orleans were it not for Hurricane Katrina. Though he fortunately did not personally experience the devastation that affected so many, for him, the hurricane triggered a life change.
As with many of our legal plan attorneys, Gano brings expansive knowledge and depth of experience to his practice to help people with a wide variety of legal needs. While he helps plan members with estate planning, real estate, and other personal matters, the primary emphasis of his practice is representation of small- and medium-sized businesses. He helps with any number of business legal issues from drafting or reviewing business contracts to acting as outside general counsel for small businesses.
Learn more about Gano, his legal practice in Oregon, what he sees as the greatest benefit an attorney can provide a business owner, and why he believes the perception of attorneys has changed over the years.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the law?
My dad was an attorney in a small town in South Louisiana. I grew up going to his law office every day after school. I would see clients there and hear him talking to people. Since it was such a small town, I often knew the people that he was meeting with and I saw the effect that his involvement as an attorney had on their everyday lives. Between that and his constant encouragement, I ended up pursuing a legal career.
What types of law have you practiced throughout your career?
I started my career in corporate defense working for a law firm that had Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies as their primary clients. It was interesting and it was tremendous training on being a lawyer because you're working with companies that have unlimited budgets and want to pursue every possible angle in their own defense. However, this was often difficult for me because I was having to work against the same kind of hard-working folks that I had grown up with.
After a few years on the defense side, I jumped the fence and started practicing plaintiff's litigation law, representing people in toxic tort chemical exposure cases and chemical plant explosion cases. I did that for about 10 years and then Hurricane Katrina hit.
What happened when Hurricane Katrina hit?
At that time, I was practicing law in New Orleans. After the hurricane, I made a career and location change and signed on as general counsel of a startup video game company in Oregon, an entrepreneurial company that brought me into the fields of business transactional law and intellectual property.
Eventually, I started my own law firm in Oregon. These days I still do primarily business transactional law, drafting contracts and helping small- and medium-sized businesses operate. I also do some carefully selected personal injury cases.
Was Katrina the reason you moved to Oregon and shifted fields of law?
Yes. If I hadn't experienced Katrina, I may still be in New Orleans practicing plaintiff's litigation law. Katrina was sort of a catalyst that made me evaluate my life up to that point, and realize that a change was in order—and maybe overdue. In a sense, instead of having a midlife crisis, it was a hurricane that made me reevaluate my life at about the midpoint.
How does working with a lawyer benefit a business owner?
I think an attorney can best benefit a business by bringing a practical perspective. Very often, the business questions that I get are focused on the issue of “Can I win in court?" if this comes to a dispute. I often counsel business owners that once you end up in court, in a sense, you have already lost because it is time-consuming, expensive, and a distraction from the core business. The best thing to do is to try to conduct your affairs and construct your contracts so as to stay out of court.
Most people think a written contract is important in case you have to go to court to prove your case. What I often tell people is that the purpose of a contract, on its best day, is to help two parties think about the transaction they're planning—all of the details that might come up—and then pre-negotiate each of their desired requirements. A good contract simply memorializes the good clear thinking of two parties to prevent a misunderstanding in the future and keep everybody out of court.
What are other examples of ways an attorney can help a business?
I assist with anything a business needs to do—drafting, or analyzing and commenting on, any kind of contract from a nondisclosure agreement to a technology licensing agreement, to an independent contractor or consultant agreement, to trademark filings and registrations, trademark defense, to cease and desist letters.
What kinds of clients do you work with?
I have a really broad spectrum of clients. I work with a number of intellectual property clients: app developers, software developers, video game developers. I also have real estate developers, an electrical circuit board and electrical products manufacturer, and a zip line manufacturer—as well as filmmakers, screenwriters, an antique car restorer, and several plumbing companies—as clients. When you boil it all down, business is business. Sometimes the products or services are different, but the core priorities are generally the same: legal protection, avoidance of liability, clear contracts.
Do you find that most business owners—from those operating established businesses to new startups—understand and recognize the importance of working with an attorney in running their business?
I'd say the established businesses definitely recognize the importance of using an attorney. I think one of the ways that startups go wrong is that they try to avoid small legal expenses, just as a cost-saving measure, and very often it ends up costing them a lot more money because they didn't know what they didn't know.
Very frequently, they try to save a few hundred dollars by not using a lawyer. They download some completely unvetted contract from the internet and use that. In the end, what they used may end up not protecting them in three or four critical ways that potentially will cost them tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars later.
In fact, one of the benefits I see of the LegalZoom document library is that, even if those are not quite customized contracts, they've been vetted, and they're very good and well-drafted, so it makes a great starting point for small- to medium-sized businesses.
It sounds like contracts are really important for a business.
Written contracts should be the everyday foundation of every business. One of the problems I see constantly is that folks try to do business through verbal agreements, which may be enforceable but are difficult to prove.
So, having everything in writing is key.
What's been the most gratifying thing for you in your work with small businesses?
It's always gratifying when clients tell me that what I did helped their business. Whether it was to help them get past a problem, help them get through a transaction, or, particularly, help them through a dispute and bring peace, so that the business and the business owner can get back to work.
What does being part of the LegalZoom legal plan attorney network mean for you?
I think the beauty of LegalZoom is that it brings legal services and legal advice to people who would otherwise feel like they just couldn't get the legal advice they need. So, it definitely democratizes access to the law and to legal advice.
The other thing is that so often people's legal needs are relatively simple and straightforward, but they don't know where to start and they're intimidated about going to a lawyer's office to ask for help. LegalZoom makes that assistance accessible. It lets them, in a sense, get legal services from the comfort of their own home.
Working with LegalZoom has made me realize that things that often I view as relatively simple and straightforward—simply because this is my business—may be intimidating for other people. Often, with just a phone call, they get a lot of peace of mind and comfort because they are able to either confirm what they were thinking or understand when they are going off in the wrong direction.
Do you think people's perceptions of attorneys have changed over the years?
I think so. I think people definitely see attorneys in a more down-to-earth way than they used to, in part because there are so many more attorneys. People are much more likely to have attorneys who are friends or neighbors than, say, 30 or 40 years ago. And the way that legal services are delivered now is so different. Back then, attorneys were put on a pedestal to a great extent. Now, people realize that attorneys are just people with specialized knowledge.
Last question, what do you enjoy most about being in Oregon?
Nature. It was one of the primary reasons that I moved here, to be in close proximity to the mountains and to the beach. And just outside of the city there are streams, hiking trails, and mountain biking trails; in the winter there is skiing and snowboarding.
To speak with Gano or an independent attorney in your state, sign up for a LegalZoom legal plan and get guidance on business or personal matters for a low monthly fee. To learn more about the attorneys from across the country who are part of our network, visit our Legal Plan Attorney Directory.
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