So Your Business Has a Legal Problem – 8 Useful Tips on What to Expect From Your Lawyer
As a business owner, you are normally escaped your feet with the difficulties of operating your organization. The last point you require to stress over is a lawful problem. Numerous organization individuals delayed taking care of a lawful problem since they do not recognize where to turn, do not have the moment, or most often, are afraid of how much it will certainly set you back and also how much time it will take.
Legal concerns come in numerous forms:
· A customer failed to pay an account in spite of many assurances. · You simply obtained a letter from a government firm. · You simply found out that your previous supervisor has actually established a contending business as well as has actually swiped your finest consumer as well as one of your vital employees. · You have just been sued for $100,000. · A person informed you that one of your basic type agreements will not stand in court and also you are stressed over it. · You have a disagreement with your property manager. · You have an issue with a United States or European consumer. · Your company has been disparaged on the internet. · You just found that your warehouse manager has been sexually pestering a women employee. · A worker is damaging your business but intimidates to file a claim against if you fire him. You are not sure just how to handle it. · You are included with an Office Security Insurance coverage insurance claim.
These examples are simply the tip of the iceberg of the kinds of lawful issues business individuals run into regularly.
Tip # 1 – Look for lawful aid at the initial sign of an issue
Intend a rival has actually been passing off its organization under your name and also it’s costing you consumers and sales yet it’s tough to approximate the quantity. Unless you act quickly, it may be far too late to look for an injunction from the Court. If you assume you have a claim against another celebration under a contract, a restriction duration starts to range from the moment the contract is breached and also typically expires 2 years later. It’s not a great concept to leave the claim to the eleventh hour.
If you have a concern with a staff member who is functioning unacceptably, it’s important to create a lawful method as early as feasible. The longer you wait, the much more it may cost your business.
The brief factor below is that it is very important to seek advice as quickly you spot a trouble as well as prior to anything has actually been done to make it even worse. Dilemma monitoring is constantly extra costly as well as lengthy than very early action.
Suggestion # 2 – Have a team of legal representatives to call on when you need them.
Every service needs to have a group of on-call lawyers. This is more economical or challenging than it sounds. All you need are the telephone numbers and email addresses of relied on company, work law and lawsuits lawyers. Depending on the nature of your organization, you may additionally need an intellectual property attorney, that takes care of trademarks, patents and also copyright. You may even need a tax attorney because not all tax obligation concerns can be solved by an accounting professional.
If the quantity of your lawful dispute is extremely little, such as a claim or grievance by a customer for $1,000 or much less, it will be uneconomic to employ an attorney. The good news is, there are various other practical sources. The BBB has a dispute resolution process which allows BBB services and also their consumers to settle conflicts by arbitration or arbitration. You do not require a legal representative and the only expense is a small administration cost. More details about this procedure is offered on the BBB website.
If your case is in the Small Claims Court ($ 10,000 or much less), you might need a paralegal that specializes in these sort of cases. Paralegals are now regulated by the Law Society yet they are not legal representatives as well as they are not a replacement for a skilled lawyer.
Pointer # 3 – Discover what to anticipate when a disagreement occurs.
As a service individual, you have learned that success is typically the outcome of building partnerships. The partnerships you construct with your legal representatives can be just as crucial to your company success as the ones you have with your consumers, providers, banker and also insurance policy broker. A connection with your legal representative built on shared trust fund and also respect will certainly conserve you numerous sleepless evenings over the years and most likely make or save you a great deal of money.
There are several methods to locate great lawyers for your business:
Ask company partners or relatives if they have somebody to recommend. If you get a suggestion, find out even more about the firm and also the legal representative by using a few of the study techniques below. · The web is a very beneficial source for discovering an attorney however you have to beware. Any type of lawyer can provide with numerous on the internet lawful directory sites. Anybody can have a flashy web site. You have to pass the flash to locate the compound.
When seeking a legal representative on the net, try to find somebody who has experience in the field you call for. The first name on a Google search may not be the very best choice. Some legal representatives have actually composed thoroughly regarding the law. This is a valuable sign of know-how and standing in the legal community.
Some lawyers checklist instances they have actually been involved in on their sites. Broad lawsuits experience in intricate company issues over several years is a great sign of competence.
The Regulation Society of Upper Canada (Ontario, Canada) has a lawyers’ recommendation solution. The service supplies a name but you have to inspect the details out yourself. · The Regulation Society certifies experts in a number of locations of practice. Accreditation as a professional signals that the attorney has actually accomplished a greater criterion of experience in his/her location however qualification isn’t obligatory. Lots of skilled lawyers have lengthy experience in a field without getting qualification. You need to determine if this is very important to you.
· If your trouble is outdoors Ontario, locate a regional legal representative initially. Many companies have connect with legal representatives worldwide as well as have the ability to describe lawyers in the USA or various other nations. Refers between colleagues are often extra effective.
When you call, don’t anticipate the lawyer to resolve your company problem over the telephone. The first conversation is for the lawyer to identify whether s/he can represent you and also for you to assess whether the lawyer shows up to have the skills to manage your trouble If you have a legal problem the legal representative thinks his/her company can deal with, an office meeting will be organized.
In organization matters, legal representatives customarily bill a consultation fee for the first office meeting. At the meeting, the lawyer will give preliminary or urgent advice and develop a go-forward strategy. The lawyer may be able to give a partial fee estimate and will ask for a retainer to cover some of the work. No lawyer can guarantee the outcome. At this early stage, there are usually a lot of unknown matters. While the lawyer may be able to give you a partial fee estimate in a litigation matter, it’s impossible to say with accuracy how much it will cost. It depends on too many unknown factors.
It will be then up to you to decide whether or not to hire the lawyer to represent you further. The decision you make will depend on your sense of confidence in the lawyer. Has the lawyer listened to you? Have your questions been answered? Does the lawyer appear to understand your problem? Has the lawyer presented the risks and downsides of your case? Every case has risks and costs. Beware of a lawyer who tells you only what you want to hear without assessing the strengths of the opposing party’s case.
Some lawyers will accept a monthly or annual retainer which entitles the client to telephone advice a few times a month. More complicated issues require separate engagements.
Tip # 4 – The least expensive lawyer is unlikely to be the best person to handle your legal problem.
Consider this scenario: you are looking for a lawyer for a complicated lawsuit. You call Mr. Jones, who answers on the first ring. You tell your story, which has many facts the opposite party disputes. Mr. Jones says, “You have a great case. I’m sure you’re going to win.” When you ask how much it will cost, Mr. Jones says “Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay me anything unless you win. Just come on down to my office and we’ll get started.”
Beware of any lawyer who tells you this. While Ontario lawyers are permitted to charge their fees based on contingency, i.e. a percentage of the result, this type of fee arrangement is only rarely applicable in business cases. It never occurs when facts are in dispute, recovery is uncertain or if the amount is small.
When you retain a lawyer, you need a trustworthy advisor, who will point out the weaknesses of your case as well as the strengths. A litigation lawyer who is waiting by the phone for your call and tells you exactly what you are hoping to hear may be too hungry or too inexperienced to manage your case. He may be in over his head and will bail out as soon as your case takes a negative turn. By then, your legal situation may have worsened. It will be more expensive and perhaps impossible to repair it.
Even worthwhile cases require careful analysis and risk assessment. An experienced litigation lawyer will typically do his by for fees on an hourly basis plus GST and any out-of-pocket expenses necessary for your case.
Good litigation lawyers are often in court, at mediation or other litigation procedures, at meetings or discovery. However, good litigation lawyers always call or respond by email within 24 hours. In case of urgency or vacation, the lawyer will arrange for someone in the office to contact you.
Tip # 5 – Prevention is better and much less expensive than litigation.
Legal problems are like computer crashes– they are bound to occur, it’s just a matter of time. Unlike computer crashes, some lawsuits can be avoided. Often, businesses owners deal with legal matters only when a crisis arises. They look for the least expensive lawyer to draft their leases, contracts, corporate and employment agreements without regard to skill, competence and experience.
Sometimes, business owners avoid legal steps like failing to make a shareholder agreement, failing to file a trademark application or failing to prepare a non-competition and non-solicitation agreement with a key employee. When served with a lawsuit, they ignore or tear the papers up in anger. These business owners will be caught short when the inevitable occurs. While litigation or arbitration may still occur when there are written agreements in place, you will be in a far more secure position if you have taken precautionary steps before the dispute occurs. If you respond to correspondence and legal papers promptly, you will be better protected than if you ignore them.
Competent legal advice is available for matters such as corporate organization, leases, the wording contracts and other documents you use in your business, partnership and shareholder agreements, your relationships with your employees, your company’s trade names, logos and website, your regulatory compliance, your risk management and litigation prevention techniques. It’s all important to arrange legal affairs to ensure that your personal liability is limited in the case of a claim against your business.
Ensure that the legal issues affecting your business are in good order. This is likely to save you a lot of money and grief in the future. You might even consider having a legal audit or a “business legal checkup”. We plan to write about this topic in a future article in this newsletter. Preventative legal advice may be expensive but it is just as important as fire insurance.
Tip # 6– Don’t assume that ‘going to court’ means ‘going to trial’
If you haven’t been involved in litigation before, you may not appreciate that more than 90% of cases settle before trial. While a trial (or even an appeal) is not always avoidable, lawyers use techniques to try to resolve cases at earlier stages. Business people are looking for certainty and to limit expense and exposure.
It’s never a bad idea to negotiate a settlement with the opposing party but the timing and approach will depend on the case. It is best to negotiate from a position of strength. This may mean holding off negotiations until enough facts and documents have been disclosed to favour your position.
Mediation is another technique lawyers use to achieve settlement before trial. Mediation involves a neutral mediator, who is usually an experienced lawyer, acceptable to all parties. The parties and the lawyers prepare briefs to explain their positions to the mediator. On the mediation date, after an opening session, the parties retire to separate rooms. The mediator will “shuttle” between the parties until an agreement is worked out or an impasse is declared. This process produces a high rate of settlement even in very complicated cases.
Tip # 7 – Understand the risks of the litigation process: Why do lawyers emphasize settlement?
Even if you have an airtight case, your lawyer will still recommend settlement. Lawyers assess risk every day. Even the most airtight case could have problems at trial. The judge may prefer the evidence of the opposing party over yours. The other party’s expert witness may be more persuasive than yours. These are just two of many possibilities. A trial is always a last resort.
Another good reason to settle is that even if you win at trial, the case may not be over because
The legal costs awarded by the court to a successful party are only a partial recovery of the legal costs payable to your lawyer. · If you lose at trial or if the opposing party does better in court than their settlement offer, you will have to pay a portion of their legal costs. · There may be an appeal which could delay payment for two years or longer.
Until a final judgment is granted, a defendant is rarely prevented from dealing with his property – unless the property is the subject of the lawsuit (or some other exceptional situations).
The judgment may be unenforceable. The opposing party may be insolvent or go bankrupt. You might not collect anything. · The defendant may conceal his assets or transfer them to family members to make the debt difficult to collect. A separate lawsuit may be necessary to find the defendant’s assets or to declare the fraudulent transfer void.
The defendant may have assets outside Ontario. A lawyer in the jurisdiction where defendant’s assets are located may have to be retained to collect the judgment.
A settlement involves a resolution both parties can live with. If the case involves the payment of money, there won’t be a settlement unless payment is made.
Even with these concerns, some cases can’t be settled. The positions of the parties may be so far apart that a trial is necessary. As the case progresses, you and your lawyer will have to revise and update your strategy and estimate the legal cost and risk of each stage of the case. Keep in mind that the opposing party is dealing with similar risk assessment and cost issues as you are.
Tip # 8– Be a good client.
From a lawyer’s perspective, a good client is a business person who does the following:
Presents all the facts of the case fairly without exaggeration or deception. Tell your lawyer everything; not just the facts that help you. The rest of the story always comes out and usually with adverse consequences. · Considers the lawyer as a trusted advisor and advocate.
Has a well-organized set of relevant documents.
Provides other documents and information promptly when requested.
Accepts that every case has weaknesses and works with the lawyer to develop a strategy to minimize the weaknesses.
Recognizes that the lawyer can not guarantee the outcome but can only provide effective advocacy to produce the best result, often as a result of negotiation or mediation.
If an examination for discovery or trial is required, takes the time to prepare to testify.
Asks for clarification on all matters that are unclear.
Understands that in litigation matters, it is impossible to predict the fees accurately but that the lawyer will gladly provide estimates of imminent steps in the case.
Pays retainers when asked and settles interim accounts promptly when rendered.
Considers the lawyer’s recommendations carefully and provides reasonable instructions.
One of our firm’s clients is a technology business which started as a family operation and has grown to the point that its brand is now accepted and recognized globally. Our client’s president knows hows to get the most out of his professional advisors. He is always respectful, trusting of professionalism, intelligence, experience and competence. He is prompt in responding to requests for information, appreciative of good advice and excellent service. He works hard but he usually has a happy and cheerful attitude.
Our client expects is professional advisors to have the same enthusiasm for their work as he does for the operations of his business. And another small matter: our client pays every professional account within 48 hours of receipt. He believes that if he had to challenge his lawyer or accountant’s bill, the professional relationship is not a healthy as it should be. Our client expects fair treatment, excellent service, sound advice, creative strategy, experienced advocacy and determined, no-nonsense negotiations. And he gets all of them in spades! A lot of business people who are dissatisfied with their professional advisors could learn a lot from him.
These tips offer no assurance that your legal matter will turn out exactly as you expect. However, by following our suggestions, the resolution of your business dispute is likely to be a less expensive, less time-consuming and less stressful experience and possibly more successful. Keeping your business legal affairs in good order permits you more time to focus on making your business flourish.
When in need to speak with a lawyer, in a hurry!
This is not a time you want a lawyer to postpone a consultation.
You need immediate questions answered and results, which is why Rose Sanders Law Firm, PLLC specializes in obtaining quick legal solutions for clients in Houston, TX. We will work closely with you to understand your situation and your goals, and then build the best strategy to achieve them.
Rose Sanders Law Firm, PLLC
1 Greenway Plaza Suite 100, Houston, TX 77046