About

Welcome! My name is Peter Kovalsky. Since becoming a lawyer, I've been serving corporate, startup, and social entrepreneur clients of many sizes and in many industries. Because this often involves effectively acting as in-house counsel, my legal experience has ranged from intellectual property, to securities, to commercial contracts, to corporate governance, to compliance, and beyond.

Before I became a lawyer, I made a living writing documentation, user manuals, and assorted support materials for a Silicon Valley startup. At the same time, I moonlighted as an editor and translator for a major European university.

I've found that what I excel at and am passionate about falls at intersection of these things. Through my broad experience in law, tech, and philosophy, I've become an expert at breaking systems down to understand what they're made of in order to identify loopholes and workarounds. From my years of experience as a technical writer and translator/editor, I've honed a mastery of communicating complex issues and concepts in ways that are structured and accessible, without sacrificing clarity or precision.

I've also been on both ends of the startup/attorney relationship, can read and write code, and genuinely love helping people reach their goals. 

In short, my value add is helping you figure stuff out and explain stuff quickly, effectively, and affordably.

If you'd like to see an example of my commitment to making legal materials accessible to non-lawyers, click here (pdf) to see the engagement letter you'll sign to hire me if you're a business or entrepreneur (though the interactive components won't work right unless you download the file).

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Bio at a Glance

Born in Moscow. Moved to the States in '92. Nerdy about tech, languages, philosophy, travel, systems, games. Living in the Bay Area, technically, but let's be honest, here  really, I live in cyberspace. Possibly part robot (maybe).

Credentials

California bar member

UC Irvine School of Law, JD, class of 2013

  • Community Economic Development Clinic
  • Pro Bono Achievement Award
  • Law and Economics Society (founding member)
  • Space Law Society (founding member)
  • Intellectual Property and Cyberlaw Society


UC Santa Cruz, BA Philosophy, class of 2007

CELTA (Cambridge Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults)

 

 

 

Services for Businesses

Consulting

Got a problem but don't know what kind of attorney you need or how to find one? Not sure how to get the most out of the lawyer hours in your budget? Getting stuck in endless back-and-forth emails as your lawyer asks for more information? Let me help you get oriented, identify the legal representation you need, and equip you to communicate all of the relevant information to your lawyer without all the rigmarole. 

 

Education

Trying to figure out the difference between stock options and restricted stock units? Or how trademarks work? Or why there's a big ALL CAPS block of text yelling at you in the contract you've been asked to sign? Running into communication problems because every time you say "IP" your lawyer hears "IP" (a term of art that means different things in business and law)?

Lawyer-hours are expensive and conversations with lawyers have a tendency to end up in confusing legal jargon. That's because the majority of lawyers' professional time is spent interacting with other lawyers. Lawyering consists largely of increasing precision at the expense of clarity. The result is that most lawyers are highly trained specialists who have a hard time communicating about legal concepts with non-lawyers. 

Let me get you up to speed cheaper, faster, and without taking your lawyer's attention away from the important work of handling your legal needs.

 

Legalese Translation

It's incredibly common for businesses to struggle to implement, on a technical/practical level, the advice they receive from their lawyers. Having spent time on both sides of this relationship, I can help you turn your lawyer's advice into explicit, practical action items, tailored specifically to your business and/or engineering process.

 

Belt and Suspenders (Second Opinion)

It's important to trust your attorney, but it's also important to be sure you're getting the best advice possible, particularly if your issue falls outside your attorney's primary area of expertise  as they say in Russia, "Trust, but verify," With an overview of your issue and your lawyer's advice, I can arm you with additional questions to ask your lawyer, or work with your lawyer directly to provide a second set of eyes on the project. 

Peter’s help has been invaluable to me as a first-time small business owner. He has helped me revise contracts and explained trademark and copyright laws in terms I could understand. He talks about law in plain English, but is still thorough and precise. I recommend his services without reservation.
— Halley, game developer
I recommend Law Explainer without hesitation or reservation. Wielding clarity and depth with equal ease, Peter’s counsel removes barriers to progress for me and my clients. He’s assisted me with protecting IP, ensuring fair and clear partnerships, and more. Peter is a high-value asset, period.
— Ian, consultant
After having had Peter’s support as a technical writer at my previous company, I was eager to bring him aboard as a legal advisor for my current venture. He’s helped us protect our trademark, assess a domain name dispute, and navigate a cross-borders acquisition, and also provided other routine corporate consultancy services. In a fast-paced, high-pressure growth company environment, Peter’s combination of business savvy, legal expertise, and clear communication has been invaluable.
— Alex, founder and CEO

Services for Attorneys

Consulting

Every lawyer sometimes gets stuck in the mud, trying to figure out an ambiguous statute or judicial opinion. For all those times when you need to talk through a problem, find a loophole, get confirmation that you haven't missed something, or just brainstorm, I'm in your corner. 

And because I don't charge by the hour, you can quickly get another set of eyes to review that agreement or run worst case scenarios with you at a great rate, regardless of complexity or necessary time.

 

Education

We've all had clients who need their hand held, who get in your way (and their own) by hounding you with questions or by misunderstanding legal fundamentals. While it's understandable that the client wants a complete picture of what's happening with their business and what they're paying you for, this also puts you in a difficult position: your job is to handle their legal needs, and you can't do that if you're stuck handling their legal education.

With my wealth of experience communicating complex ideas and concepts simply, I can provide your client with the information they need and free you up to zealously represent their interests. I can liaise directly with your client or prepare materials for you to share with them, specially tailored to their particular issues and level of sophistication, whether they're a seasoned pro or just starting out. 

Peter has a strong legal mind because he understands not only the contents and details of U.S. law, but also the first principles that underlie that law. I have frequently sought his insight on how to approach my own legal problems, especially in contract interpretation and drafting. Although I am primarily a litigator, my work has required me to review, analyze, and draft contracts, especially in the intellectual property context. On several occasions, I have reached out to Peter for his thoughts and insights on the structure of such contracts, including the ramifications of drafting contract provisions one way versus another, and strategic and substantive considerations for why the contract should be structured/designed one way versus another. He has helped me develop confidence in my legal conclusions concerning these issues.
— Sam, patent attorney

Services for Creatives

Realism Review

If you're writing a book or screenplay involving legal scenarios, I can help you maintain realism and immersion by making sure your courtroom scenes don't sound like nonsense and your narrative twists the ones involving legal issues, at least  don't raise eyebrows.

 

Speculative Legal Systems

If you're building a whole new world that includes laws, rulemakers, enforcers, and so on, I can help you ensure that those systems are appropriately coherent and functional. Whether you're creating fictional laws for fictional worlds or doing thought experiments  e.g., "What would a legal and social system look like if it was impossible to inherit wealth?" I can help you design, develop, and debug those systems.

 

Ruleset Analysis

If you're developing a game, that game will consist in large part of rules. Those rules have to cohere and avoid contradiction. As an avid gamer, an experienced writer-of-instructions, and a lawyer with a knack for finding gaps and loopholes in rulesets, I can help you thoroughly map rule interactions to fine tune your design, prevent conflicts, and reduce ambiguity. (Alternately, if part of the point of your game is having the players argue about the rules, I can help you find the most fruitful ambiguities.)

When I was writing my first roleplaying game, I ended up with a large, difficult manuscript. Peter helped me sort it out, trim up the language, rehabilitate my clumsy writing, and many other fixes. He brought a level of professionalism to my first book and I am eternally thankful for his diligence and patience with my novice misconceptions. Thanks to this kickstart, I have gone on to write more books and I bring many of the things I learned from Peter into my work to this day.
— Greg, game designer

Sample Services

For Businesses 

How-to-talk-to-your-lawyer
Describe your concerns and I'll teach you how to explain them to your lawyer efficiently and without miscommunication.

Legal fundamentals
I'll give you a crash course on whatever legal concept or term you're struggling with.

Legalese translation
I'll translate your lawyer's abstract legal advice into explicit, actionable steps.

Risk assessment
I'll review your lawyer's advice to make sure nothing was missed, and help you discuss any concerns with them productively.

For Attorneys

Second-set-of-eyes review
I'll examine and provide detailed feedback on your advice, assessment, or other work product.

Talking through a problem / strategy
I'll help you identify risks and think through a problem, situation, or strategy.

Prepare materials
I'll create bespoke educational materials for you to pass on to your client.

Liaise directly with a client
I'll equip your client with the legal knowledge they'll need to best take advantage of your services.

For Creatives

Realism review
I'll assess the legal plausibility of your work and help you improve it if necessary.

System development
I'll work with you to design, develop, and debug a fictional or hypothetical legal system.

Ruleset analysis
I'll assess your ruleset to identify and resolve conflicts or other problems.

Pricing Policy

 

My personal stance is that charging hourly rates creates conflicting incentives for everyone involved, particularly given the typical rates of lawyers and consultants. Instead of wasting time and energy balancing the quality and thoroughness of my work against your desire to save money, I charge you a flat fee and put all that time and energy into giving you great service, no matter how long it takes. 

If you're a strong believer in the billable hour, contact me and we can work it out on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, my services are available on both a flat-fee one-off basis and on a subscription basis. Subscribers will get priority if there's a scheduling conflict, and subscribers who pay up front for longer periods will get a better deal.

For business and attorney consulting, pricing will be as follows:

  1. I speak or correspond with you: starting at $150
  2. I create materials for your own use: starting at $225
  3. I create materials for you to share with others: starting at $300

Subscriptions will also be available as follows:

  1. Any 3 projects per month: $450 (bronze)
  2. Any 5 projects per month: $700 (silver)
  3. Any 20 projects per month: $1,250 (gold)

If you're a nonprofit, social enterprise, or a solo practitioner, special rates may be available.

Because creative work varies so widely in scope, I don't have preset rates for it  contact me and we'll figure it out. Don't be shy! I love helping creatives do their thing.

Contact

I'd love to hear from you! Please be aware that while I'm a lawyer, I am not your lawyer. For this reason, please don't say anything in your initial email that you wouldn't want to see in the Sunday paper we can get into the more sensitive stuff later on.

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