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Independent Contractor VS Employee: Architecture + law with lawyer Nico Becerra

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Welcome back to another week of Design Create Inspire. Last week we had our first guest, Rouben Mohiuddin, sharing what it is like to teach during a pandemic.

This week, we bring on our second guest, an individual I have known since I was a kid. Being from the coastal surf town of La Jolla, California, everyone knows everyone, as the beach is the focal point of our community.

Nico Becerra, is one of those people and is now a successful lawyer, specializing in business and employment law for entrepreneurs. Just like me, his path was not linear, rather encompassing the roles of professional surfer, Starbucks barista, salesman, and model before choosing law.

To introduce Nico, I will refer to his bio:

Nico Becerra is an entrepreneur at heart, but a lawyer and operator by trade. Nico is currently the President/CEO of his law firm, N. Becerra, APC out of San Diego, California and he is licensed to practice in both California and Washington state. He also provides business consulting and business coaching through his consultancy, The Becerra Company. In his role as a business attorney and business consultant, he works to assist his clients in building legally sound and strategically effective business strategies leveraging technology and human capital in their operations. His passion is building teams that thrive in a collaborative work environment while helping individuals identify and hone their strengths to complement a well-built business. Nico has over fourteen years’ experience working in Operations and as a business consultant for a variety of industries. Having previously overseen ten departments and a team of 130 employees as the Director of Operations of a financial services firm. Nico’s background also includes work as an employment defense attorney working with small to medium businesses in various industries helping his clients take their ideas to the next level while navigating today’s challenging legal landscape and building sound business and employment practices into their operations.

Nico is not your parent’s lawyer, he is not your traditional suit and tie lawyer. Rather, he is a tattooed, inclusive lawyer whose passion is to normalize working with a lawyer.

To start, I was curious about Nico's leap from professional surfing into law. While the transition may seem unconventional, Nico’s time in professional surfing after high school allowed him to take a step back and reflect on where he saw his life heading. During his years of traveling and surfing the world, he was also in school getting his undergrad degree in Business Management, ultimately working for his father’s firm with the intention of taking over the company.

During this time, Nico gained valuable knowledge, learning how to run a wide variety of businesses, from a two-person operation to a 130-person operation. This experience taught him firsthand the approach and perspective of helping individuals in his community, one’s he had spent days on the beach with, how to start a business safely, protecting yourself and your business, while being successful.

Now as an owner of multiple businesses, Nico is passionate about helping his clients build their business, bringing their passions to life. Unlike other attorneys, Nico has been a business owner, allowing him to change his approach to his clients, relating directly while guiding them through the law.

Independent Contractor vs Employee

On the architecture side of things, California recently passed AB5, a law regulating independent contractors. Under this law, California decides, based on sought out steps, whether or not an individual hired as an independent contractor is or is not legally considered an independent contractor.

Essentially, AB5 was put in place to protect individuals from being misclassified and not gaining the rights that employees receive.

Due to the current economy, AB5 is gaining a lot of traction due to the Uber and Lyft drivers, as they have been classified as independent contractors, not receiving lunch or rest breaks, or additional benefits.

A handful of architects rely on and hire independent contractors for drafting, virtual assistants, and other virtual work when working on a project. While the homeowner to architect relationship is a clear example of an independent contractor, the homeowner hiring an architect to perform a specialized skill set, hiring a student, virtual assistant, etc., more often than not falls under an employee relationship, unless the individual markets themselves as one who performs these specific tasks, such as drafting.

There are many different ways one can be classified, employee, independent contractor, sole proprietor, just to name a few. On this week’s podcast, Nico talks a lot about the differences between the titles, how to legally document each individual, and general advice on which direction may be best for your situation and setting up your company.

Just like an architect, people always assume hiring a lawyer is going to be complicated and expensive. One of the many things Nico and I can relate to is playing a variety of roles with our clients. While I am a designer and an architect, Nico plays the role of personal, professional, and business advisor.

Additionally, Nico and I share the mentality of having the right clients, rather than having all the clients. The value of having clients that you “mesh” with is the most important part to a successful business, allowing yourself to attract the right clients.

To gain more insight on Nico’s advice, tune into episode six of Design Create Inspire here.

If you are interested in beginning a business, or just gaining some business advice, feel free to contact Nico Becerra, Esq. via:

Instagram (@thenewagelawyer)

Nico’s final words of advice: your business exists separate from you.

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