Photo: J.Paye & Associates

Johnetta Paye is a transactional attorney and entrepreneur based in Chicago, IL. She started her law practice, J.Paye & Associates, in 2008 during the height of the recession. Eight years later, she has continued to grow her business with high-end clients in a wide range of services which include: business law, intellectual property law, entertainment, litigation, real estate and Africa practice. As a transactional attorney, she reviews, drafts and negotiates contracts for her clients as well as advises them on various business entities to form. She got a second to sit down and chat with Blavity’s Creative Society and discussed her knowledge and expertise in this area of business.

One way that Paye helps advise her clients is by establishing ways to protect their brand. A brand is important because it's more than just a symbol or an idea, it's a representation of what you and your business stands for. 

“The most common thing that I have seen brands make when establishing themselves is not doing their due diligence and research before investing in creating a brand.” 

Protect your brand

A lot of that research goes into filing for a trademark and also looking into the availability of that trademark. Ideas and intellectual properties must be protected as well. Once a brand has secured a federal trademark, they are able to use the ™ symbol. This allows for other businesses and entrepreneurs to know that you own that mark and that it is your brand.

One member of the Creative Society questioned that if they had a federal trademark but wanted to change it later, what would they do? Paye replied by saying, “when a company applies for a federal trademark, it can select the different categories it intends to use the mark (i.e. apparel). If the brand/company later wants to add another category they can amend their application to add additional categories (i.e. digital magazine).” It can cost around $225-$375, not including legal fees, depending on the specific category. To register a trademark or a patent, she suggested that you go to the and for copyrights. For business entities, LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, etc. she suggested that you go to the Secretary of State website in your state or small business development center.

Business structure

Another member of the Creative Society said that she was given advice to set up an LLC, but also heard that an S Corp would make more sense for a small business that doesn’t intend to have a lot of employees or shareholders. She asked which one was the most suitable for her business. “I get this question a lot from startups and entrepreneurs,” Paye said. It really depends on the goals, objectives, and risk tolerance of an entrepreneur. 

“I will say that for all my entertainment clients, I advise them to operate as an LLC to limit their liability. They do not want to be contracting to provide services in their personal name. If a startup just has a few members and is not looking to sell shares, then they can operate as an LLC. The tax implications for different business entities varies and this is something that should be considered as well.”


One thing that people often over look or leave out of a contract that may effect them in the long run is the termination clause. The contract does not always specify how the agreement can be terminated, as well as the obligations and responsibilities of each party if the agreement is in fact terminated.

“Clients often come to me when things have gone bad or astray. They want to know what options they have under the contract.”


Paye has been practicing law for quite some time and has come across many unique clients. Along the way, she says the best part of her job is helping people accomplish their dreams.

“I enjoy working with clients who are creative and committed to the project that they are working on or the business that they are building.”

At J. Paye & Associates, their mission is to make sure each client receives personal and quality legal service that is atypical, bold and cutting-edge. "They know their ABCs" as she calls it. Some of her clients in entertainment include films (A Sunshine Day at the 2016 Black Harvest Film Festival), film projects (Eugene Bush of E-Tre Productions), and musicians (Hypnotic Brass, Belo from Do or Die, Tressa Thomas from “The Five Heartbeats” and “Star Search”) just to name a few. She has worked across all spectrums with real estate projects as well as savvy business clients. She enjoys what she does and is open to working with anyone to help further their success. If you need legality advice, service, and/or have questions about your business, please check out her website and contact her with any issues and requests.

What is your business? Is your brand protected? Let us know in the comments below!

Learn more about the Creative Society here.

Want more content like this? Sign up for Blavity's daily newsletter!