I'm working on a tech startup that involves a specific industry.
Because the industry is regulated, I decided to get a lawyer to sign off on my system and tell me whether I would need to change anything.
I contacted a law firm who specializes in this industry, and the main lawyer at the firm previously held a senior position in the relevant regulatory authority and still has friends in senior positions etc.
I met that main lawyer and I gave him a flowchart of the step-by-step process of the system and how it would work, and although it may or may not be patentable, in my opinion it is a new and original idea and could be very profitable within the specific industry.
We talked about the relevant legislation and how the system would work, and he told me how it can be done and what I would need to do to ensure there were no regulatory issues.
He said that a key part of making it work would be to have a clear contract with the companies that we connect to the system, to make it clear exactly what my system's responsibilities are, and that they are within the boundaries of what is permissible under the regulations.
He said I should pay for that consultation, but that he would talk to his friends who are still working in the regulatory authority and get their opinion, while drafting up the contract I would use when connecting companies to the system.
I paid for the consultation and then he emailed me a summary of what we had talked about, as I described above (how the system would operate, relevant legislation, what is permissible under the regulations, that the key would be a contract that makes it clear what my company's responsibilities would be to companies who connect to the system).
In the email he also said the work he was willing to do for me as described above (contacting friends in the regulatory agency, getting their opinion, and drafting up the contract that I would use). He said that his friends could have some political motivation and might disagree with his opinion that it can be done legally, but said that in that case we would proceed anyway because he is confident that it can be done lawfully.
In the email he asked me to confirm that he should start that work and draft the contract etc and he confirmed how much it would cost. I sent an email back confirming that he should proceed, and I paid for that first consultation.
He sent an email 2 weeks later saying that he needed more time to finish everything, but that he could finish soon.
Then he didn't contact me for a month, and since then I have not been able to contact him. He doesn't respond to my emails or calls, and when I call his office I am always told that he is "on the phone" and will call me back soon, but never calls me back.
I think his position is extremely valuable to me. He has expert knowledge of the regulations, has worked for the regulatory authority in a senior position, and has friends who still work there in senior positions. If there was any question of whether my system was operating lawfully, it is likely that he would be contacted by the regulatory authority for advice, as he is an expert.
So I think I can't do it without him because I would not be confident that I had drafted the contract correctly. Also, because of his relationship with the regulatory authority, I would consider my relationship with him as a kind of insurance that I am willing to pay for. Surely I would have no issues from the regulatory authority if their expert has signed off on my idea.
Because he seems to be avoiding me, I worry that he may have decided to take my idea and work on it by himself for his own profit, and that he has no plan to finish the work he agreed to do for me. He could easily take the flowchart I gave him and give it to a software company to have a system developed.
As I understand it, he offered to do certain work for me which included drafting the contract I would use, getting advice from his friends in the regulatory authority, and signing off on the project as within the boundaries of the legislation for a specific price, and I agreed to that and told him to proceed, so I believe he has some responsibility to me for that.
Whether he starts a copycat company might be a separate issue. He could copy my idea even if he did the work that he agreed to do for me.
Of course, if he doesn't help me it will be extremely difficult for me to start, and because of his relationships with people in the regulatory authority, it may be impossible. It's also possible that when he contacted his friend, his friend had the idea of copying the idea, in which case my situation would be much worse.
It's also possible that he is just extremely slow and busy and is working on it for me now. Regardless, I'd like to know what I can do if he does not complete the work and starts a company that does the same as what I had planned to do.
If he never contacts me and I find out next year that someone is doing exactly the same thing, can I sue him for the money I lost for not being able to complete this business?
Would it matter whether I could connect him to that copycat company?
Can I do anything else now? Does he have some responsibility to do the work that we agreed to, or can he somehow talk his way out of it? Can I get a court order requiring him to do the things he offered to do in the email that I agreed to, for the price we agreed to?