Terms You Can Expect to Hear During Business Litigation

Business Litigation

As an attorney experienced in business litigation, I work with a wide variety of clients.  They can include business owners, executives, employees, salespeople, vendors, etc.  Any time that you are engaged in a conflict with a business, a business attorney is the best person to take your case.  This will ensure that you have the best opportunity for receiving your desired outcome.  If you are unfamiliar with the legal process and suing because of a disagreement or having been wronged, it can be overwhelming not knowing what to expect.  I take the time to explain everything in detail so that my clients can be prepared, and that includes discussing some of the legal terms that will be encountered.  With that in mind, here are some terms and definitions that you should know.

  • Plaintiff.  If you are suing someone, you are the plaintiff.  For example, if you are suing a business because they violated the terms of your contract, you would be the plaintiff. 
  • Defendant.  In a civil case, the defendant is the person or entity that you are suing as part of your business litigation. In the example above, the defendant would be the business that violated the terms of your agreement. 
  • Compliant.  The complaint is your lawsuit.  It is the written document that names the parties that are involved in the case, what you are claiming happened, and what you are seeking by way of restitution for resolving the issue.  It must be filed with the court and served on any party that is involved in it. 
  • Discovery. In business litigation, discovery is both important and extensive.  This is the process we go through to obtain information on what happened along with the parties involved.  We typically start with interrogatories which is a list of written questions we need to have answered.  We will also ask for the production of specific documents.  This is where business litigation can become tedious.  Document production might include all written correspondence, including emails.  We may also ask for copies of bank statements, contracts, purchase orders, etc.  The list can be large depending on the details of your case.  We will review the answers and information that comes back and use it to prepare for court.  We may also conduct depositions where we ask the other party questions under oath with a court reporter recording the answers.  This too can be referenced in court.
  • Mediation.  There are times where mediation can be helpful.  This is a non-binding negotiation session where both parties work through attorneys to try and resolve the case.  Since it is non-binding if you do not agree, the trial can continue as planned.
  • Arbitration.  When taking a case, we always want to view any contracts that are involved.  One clause that we will check is whether or not arbitration is mandatory.  If it is, or if this is a preferred option, you can present your case before an arbitrator.  This is done outside of court but can also be legally binding. The benefits are that your case will be heard faster. 

As a business litigation attorney, I am happy to answer your questions and discuss your case in further detail.  For more information, give me a call.

Make Things Easier for Your Family With Help From a Probate Attorney

Probate Attorney

As a probate attorney, I understand how difficult it can be to both plan for your future and to consider the inevitability of death.  While no one wants to face this eventuality, life will eventually demand it.  What you can do is prepare for it so that your estate and your family are in the best position possible.  This is important because, upon your death, your family should be allowed to grieve, rather than deal with complex legal issues.  Unfortunately, this is often the case, and the stress of the situation can drive a wedge between family members. You can help to prevent some of this conflict by planning ahead. 

As an estate planning and probate attorney, I often recommend taking the time to set up a Living Trust.  A Trust is an entity just like a person or a business.  When you establish a Trust, you can transfer most of your assets to it while you are still alive. There can be explicit instructions for how the assets are to be kept or distributed and any assets that you transfer into the Trust will be exempt from the probate process upon your death.

What a probate attorney does?

As a probate attorney, I work with families (heirs) to take an estate through the probate process.  This is done at the state level.  The estate is presented to the court, and both creditors and heirs have the opportunity to make a claim.  The court will generally designate funds to be paid to the creditors that make a legitimate claim.  The funds that are left will be available for paying taxes and distribution to heirs.  This is where much of the conflict comes in.  If, for example, you have a vacation home and three children, they all may lay claim to the home, even if your will says otherwise.  While a will is good for directing where your assets should go, the court will listen to arguments from your heirs and may make adjustments based on what they hear.  This poses an issue because it can interfere with your wishes being carried out.  When funds are moved into a Trust, they do not go through probate and this part of the process is largely avoided.  There are, however, some assets that cannot be held in the Trust so in many cases the probate process is still necessary though only slightly.  If you hire me as a probate attorney now, I can work to preserve your wishes by representing the estate after your passing. 

A probate attorney can help to keep more money in the estate.

As an estate planning and probate attorney, I can also work with you to identify various strategies for saving your estate money in both taxes and fees that may be incurred after your death.  I can help you to develop a sound legal strategy that ensures your wishes are protected both in life and in death.  

Statistically, You May Need a DUI Attorney

DUI AttorneyAs a DUI attorney, we know that most people don’t think that they will ever be pulled over for drinking and driving.  In fact, most people don’t plan to drive drunk. They simply meet up with some friends for a drink and end up having one too many.  Whether due to stress, not eating enough food or being overly tired, it can hit you suddenly, and if you are driving home, you may see those red and blue flashing lights behind you.  Regardless of how upstanding of a citizen you may be, drunk driving can happen to the best of people.  Instead of being embarrassed, however, you need legal counsel.  This is a serious charge and if you are convicted it will go on your criminal record, so don’t treat it like a speeding ticket.  Instead, call us for help.

If you still think that this could never happen to you, here is what you need to know –

Around one-third of all driving fatalities in the U.S. are due to drinking and driving.  In fact, every 51 minutes someone dies from an alcohol-related crash.

Based on self-reporting, there are 112 million incidences of driving while under the influence in the U.S. every year.  That number could, understandably, be higher since it depends on people being honest about whether or not they were impaired. That is a lot of drivers and a large opportunity for an accident to take place or an arrest.  As a DUI attorney, we know that you can never be sure which time will be the time that you are pulled over, so it is better to simply have a designated driver or order some food before heading home.

The biggest culprit of drunk driving is people under the age of 44. Specifically, the largest age group is between 21 and 24.  This makes sense considering that this group is just learning what their tolerance level is and by being newly legal to drink, tend to drink way too much.  If you are a parent with kids in this age group, it is a good idea to spend time talking to them about this issue. You may even want to offer to give them a ride on their night out.  While this may not be top of your list for a fun Friday activity, it could keep them and their friends safe and out of trouble with the law. As a DUI attorney, we can help if you or one of your kids does drink and drive.

If you are pulled over, regardless of how much you have had to drink, you need legal assistance to be sure that you aren’t convicted and that if you are, the penalties are minimal at best.  You cannot take for granted that you will be let off the hook because this is your first offense.  Whether it is your first or third, the courts take this seriously, and you should respond accordingly by calling our office right away.

When Is It Time for Business Litigation?

Business LitigationWe specialize in business litigation and have found that in most cases, people would prefer to avoid going to trial.  This is understandable considering if you do go to court it can be more expensive and take longer than if you settle outside of it.  For this reason, we often recommend attempting to mediate first.  As an attorney, we can initiate mediation where the other side comes with their attorney, we sit in opposite rooms and try to negotiate.  This can be an effective way to resolve conflict and at, bare minimum, will clearly demonstrate where each party stands and what issues neither one are willing to budge on. While this works some of the time, there are many instances where it simply won’t and litigation then becomes your only option outside of arbitration for resolving the dispute.

One challenge that businesses often face is finding a lawyer that is willing to go to trial.  Most business attorneys won’t, opting instead to do things outside of the courtroom.  There is certainly a need for lawyers to establish corporations and handle contracts but this can leave businesses in a lurch when they need more and their attorney doesn’t offer it.  If you are in this situation, we recommend that you give our office a call. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever use your attorney again, only that you need more services than what they are willing to offer.

When we engage in business litigation, it is important for us to understand the facts of the case. In this type of law, evidence is extremely important because very often disputes are subject to interpretation. In fact, that is why many business disputes arise in the first place. Two parties view a situation differently or interpret a contract from different points of view and this leads to a conflict that cannot be resolved without the help of a judge.

Since we need to build a strong case, we will typically want to see the following:

  • Contracts.  If you and the other party entered into a contract, we want to see it.  We will also need to see any addendums or side agreements that went with it.
  • Emails.  If you have an email chain of correspondence, this can be helpful for us to review.  We can read them and determine if there is anything that can prove why what you believe to be true – is true.
  • Financial documents.  Money is at the root of most business disputes so we will need to see any financial documents that back up your claims, show the loss you suffered, create a paper trial, etc.
  • Formation documents.  In the case of a partnership dispute, we will need to see your business formation documents to understand how the company was set up in the first place and to determine what rights each party has.  This will also be necessary for proving that you have the right to sue on behalf of the company if that is what you are trying to do.

As a lawyer specializing in business litigation, we are an expert at helping you to navigate through what can be a difficult situation.  If you need help, call us for a consultation right away.

Family Law and the Process of Getting Divorced After Fifty

family lawIf you are considering a divorce, call our family law office to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.  Every couple and family is unique and so is their divorce. While it may only take a day to get married, getting divorced can take months and is far more complicated.  While it is common to think that divorcing couples are typically younger, there is a rising trend among the over fifty crowd to get a divorce.  If you are in this category, we recommend seeking guidance since it can be more complicated than it seems.

In those over fifty, we have found that it typically isn’t a monumental event that triggers divorce but simply a desire to bring the relationship to a close.  If you and your spouse are getting along but don’t want to be married, you may be able to resolve your divorce through mediation.  This is often a good solution for those over fifty, especially if you have been together for a long time and know how to compromise with each other.  Mediation is a non-binding method for reaching an agreement on how to divide assets and debts.  Since it is non-binding, there is no real risk of trying mediation.  Each party attends with their attorney and negotiates back and forth until a solution is reached.  Very often, small things like household furniture are divided first.  Then you can move onto the cars, homes, bank accounts, etc.  The benefit of mediation is that you can focus on what you can agree on first. This can allow you both to get into the spirit of compromise which can often help in resolving some of the larger issues.

When you do reach an agreement, those items will be written up in a document that each party can sign.  If there are things that you can’t agree on, you can try mediation a second time or have them decided by a judge in court.  As a family law office, we can represent you both in mediation and in the courtroom so that regardless of how the divorce plays out, we can help you to get through it.

One issue that the fifty and older crowd often struggle with is how to divide retirement assets.  Regardless of whether one spouse was working or both, this can be a complicated issue.  Even if the account is in one persons’ name, there is a case to be made that the account was possible due to the support of the other party.  We can review all of your assets and your retirement accounts in order to make a recommendation as to the best way to divide them.  If you have liquid assets that can be used to buy one party out of the retirement accounts, it can be easier.  If not, we may have to come up with a creative way for how to distribute payments down the road.  Regardless of how complex your financial situation is, we can help you to sort through it in our family law office.

Call a Patent Attorney Before Pitching Your Idea to Investors

Patent AttorneyAs a patent attorney, we work with a lot of designers, engineers, and entrepreneurs with excellent ideas.  Many of our clients ask us if they need to file for a patent prior to seeking the investment capital necessary for bringing their idea to market.  The answer is largely circumstantial, however, as a lawyer, we always recommend filing a patent first in order to protect yourself.

The challenge that many entrepreneurs or inventors face is how to seek funding while remaining protected.  Taking an invention from concept to initial production and then to market, can be extremely expensive.  Seeking investor capital is often the only way to move the project forward.  Here, however, are a few things to keep in mind when speaking with investors.

  • Prove your concept.  Most investors are looking for you to prove your concept and as a patent attorney, this can be dangerous.  For example, if you manufacture your invention in a limited quantity to see if it sells, someone could steal and knock off your idea.  If you don’t have a patent or patent pending, it will be difficult to prove that it truly was your idea.
  • Intellectual property.  Investors may also ask about your intellectual property (IP).  From an investment point of view, having IP that is defendable is important.  This goes back to the same concern as above.  If you put your invention out there and it is indefensible, someone could use your ideas, flood the market, and there would be no way to seek compensation.  Having a patent or patent pending, however, can protect you.
  • Know your audience.  When speaking with a group of investors it can be difficult, if not impossible, to know what other businesses or investments they are involved in.  You may, for example, be speaking with someone that has heavily invested in your competition.  While you would hope that they would disclose this information, don’t count on it. This is a particular risk when presenting to a large group or investor forum.  If you don’t have a patent on your invention, you should be cautious with what information you divulge.

The best way to protect yourself from your ideas getting stolen is to file a patent before talking to anyone, and that includes investors.  We understand that the process can be time-consuming and costly.  However, it is worth it to ensure that you don’t lose out on the opportunity to benefit financially from what you have created. After all, the biggest challenge that you face is someone producing your invention and gaining market share without a way for you to prove that you invented it first and own the rights to it.  Once someone has saturated the market, competing with them after the fact will require significant amounts of marketing capital. Additionally, you will have lost your first movers advantage.  With that in mind, we encourage you to seek the assistance of a patent attorney to ensure that your rights and your future are protected.

Speak With an Oil and Gas Attorney for Questions About Your Gas Royalties

oil and gas attorneyAs a Texas oil and gas attorney, I work with a lot of clients that have financial interests in a well and feel that one of the parties involved is not providing them with accurate information or the full benefit of their royalties.  This can be a complicated situation and to get started, I recommend that you set an appointment and bring any contracts you have with you.

Ensuring that your rights are protected in an oil & gas investment or partnership, begins with the contracts that you sign in the first place.  While many people prefer to do business on a handshake, this is not how you want to enter this industry.  The complex nature of the oil & gas business requires that you establish a firm contract from the beginning so that you can receive the royalties you are entitled to down the road.

In Texas, for example, leases are typically written so that if oil is found on your land and you have a company drill there, you will receive an ongoing royalty based on the oil that is found.  Typically the royalties are not diminished by the cost of producing the oil but the post-production costs, transportation, and taxes may be deducted from what is owed.  This is where having a contract comes into play.  If you don’t have one, your agreement will be interpreted by the court system in a dispute, and this is what they are likely to fall back on.  However, if you have a lease drafted from the beginning, we can include specific language that can further protect your rights while outlining the other party’s responsibilities.  As an oil and gas attorney, we can help you to draft this agreement prior to allowing anyone to drill on your property or if you are an investor, we can help by drafting investor documents and agreements prior to you putting cash into the deal.

With a contract in place, we can help you to determine if the other party is living up to their end of the bargain.  This often involves reviewing financial statements to ensure that the payments you are receiving are the ones that you are entitled to.  As an oil and gas attorney, we can review the income statements that they provide you and if there are further questions, we can engage the help of one of our trusted financial experts.  A thorough analysis will help us to determine what you should have been paid in comparison to what you were paid.  With this information in hand, we can very often negotiate with the other party and reach an agreement without having to go to court.  This is preferable simply because it gets you paid faster and will cost you less money in legal fees.  If, however, they are unyielding and refusing to negotiate or settle, we can file a civil case in court and seek a court order that would require them to pay you anything owed.  To discuss your case further, call and schedule a consultation.

You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer if a DUI Attorney is Representing the Other Side

DUI AttorneyPersonal injury DUI attorney, our work starts with understanding that if you have been in a car accident, caused by a drunk driver, the law is on your side. However, you must understand that there are those who will prefer to offer you a settlement that is a pittance of what your accident, injuries, and anguish are worth in order to avoid having to make proper restitution. As a personal injury attorney, we want to point out that if you have been hit by a drunk driver and a prosecutor files charges, these will be criminal charges.

A DUI attorney will be defending them, attempting to justify their client’s bad decisions, avoid any sense of responsibility, and leave you the victims bearing the emotional and financial weight of a drunk driver colliding with you. Remember, if you are the victim of a drunk driver you will still need an injury attorney to file a civil case to make sure that they, and not you, are held responsible for the damage caused.  This is the only way to receive financial compensation since criminal charges do not equal financial damages for you.

A DUI attorney is going to do the best they can to prove that alcohol had nothing to do with their client’s rash actions or driving that lead to you being injured. Every year in this country over a 10,000 people die because of a DUI related accident. Even worse, over 32% of accidents that do tremendous damage to property, health, and the mental well-being of the victim are as a result of a drunk or high driver. Knowing this most insurance companies, and even some personal individuals, will hire an attorney who is tasked with making the least amount of restitution possible, sometimes even as low as 10% what your actual injuries and damages are worth. In cases like this, and in fact in all cases when a DUI attorney or insurance lawyer is involved, you need to have your own strong representation to ensure you’re your rights are protected.

Proving damages is not as difficult in Texas as it is in some other states. Unlike other states, a Texas DUI attorney will have a much harder time proving their client’s BAC did not have anything to do with the accident. We will work with you to gather a preponderance of evidence, in order to show that the person driving under the influence was, in fact, responsible for any and all damages you may have incurred during this accident. Given that the state has a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking or adults drinking with a blood alcohol count of 0.08 or higher, we will need to ensure that the BAC (blood alcohol content) tests are included in evidence when presenting our case for why the other party was negligent and, therefore, responsible for the accident.

Presented correctly, we can ensure that the drunk driver is held responsible for actual damages, which are assessed based on the extent of your injuries and the damage to your person and property. Given the right circumstances, we are also able to recover punitive damages in a Texas-based DUI case.

DWI Attorney Shares How to Calculate Your BAC

DWI AttorneyAs a DWI attorney, we have a lot of clients that ask us when it is safe to drive.  Most people would prefer to avoid getting pulled over and charged with a DWI, so this is a fairly standard question.  In our opinion, if you have had something to drink and feel that you need to ask that question, you probably shouldn’t drive. By the time you are questioning your sobriety, you may be best asking a friend to drive you home.  Our motto is better safe than sorry.

However, if you are planning a night out and want to avoid having too much to drink there are several tips you can keep in mind.  For the most part, you want to stay under one drink an hour in order to keep your BAC below 0.08 percent.  One drink is defined as one beer, one glass of wine, or one shot of hard alcohol. If you drink an extra-large beer or a mixed drink with several shots in it, you have to calculate that as what it really is and not underestimate your consumption.

As a DWI attorney, we also know that this is not an exact science so while it is a good idea to have less than one drink per hour, you could still get over the legal limit by following that rule.  There are other aspects that also factor into how your body will process alcohol.  For example, if you haven’t had anything to eat all day, one beer could go to your head.  Simultaneously if you are sick and not feeling well, your body may not process alcohol like it normally does.  Being overly tired can also negatively impact how you feel and how you drive for a bad combination.  Pay attention to whether or not you have any of these other factors and if you do, either don’t drink or get a ride home.

There are also some websites that you can use to get an idea of how your body will respond to drinking.  Not only is each person different in how quickly they process alcohol but things like gender and weight play a role.  As a general rule of thumb, women, for example, don’t process alcohol as quickly as men do.  This means that if a man can drink a beer an hour without a problem, a woman might only be able to drink one every seventy minutes.

If you want to test out your weight and gender to see what you can drink per hour visit http://bloodalcoholcalculator.org.  We do not endorse this site, nor do we attest to its accuracy.  This is simply an informational tool that you can use for reference.  It lets you run scenarios based on how much you are drinking and what you are drinking in order to calculate an estimated BAC.  When we ran some test scenarios we found that weight seemed to be the largest single factor in determining if someone was over the legal limit after having something to drink.  For example, a man weighing 150 pounds could be over the legal limit by having three drinks in an hour.  If, however, a man weighed 250 pounds the site said they were clear to go.  Again, as a DWI attorney we do not endorse this as an exact science so if you are ever concerned that you may be intoxicated or shouldn’t drive – don’t.  Call a cab or a friend, instead.

The Challenges of E-Discovery in Business Litigation

Business LitigationWe represent clients in need of business litigation services and regularly find that preparing for trial can be one of the most cumbersome tasks that management has to participate in.  Trial preparation used to be more simplistic with witness testimony and the gatheingr of evidence.  With the digital age, the landscape has changed and e-discovery is making preparation more time-consuming.

Big data has changed the landscape, and each business and employee has a large digital footprint that can often be reviewed as part of litigation.  Electronically stored files, emails, chats, and information can all be used as part of litigation whether for your defense or because the other side requested a subpoena for it.  With that in mind, we advise businesses to create a plan for how to store, sort, and retrieve data in a cost effective way prior to ever engaging in litigation.  If it’s too late and a lawsuit has already been filed, here are some ways to retrieve what you need.

  • Email.  Most IT departments will keep copies of emails and back them up on a continuous basis.  Speak with your IT department to see if this is the case.  If you are using a cloud based system this can also be helpful as it is easy to login and view emails in an inbox and in the trash.  The key is finding the emails that you need.  In business litigation, there may be that one email that proves your case.  When looking for it, consider any keyword that may have been used in the title or body of the email.  You can also search by name or date though this requires having specific knowledge of the incident.
  • Cloud storage.  If your company is using cloud based storage like Google docs, it can be easier to store documents, keep a record of them and access the documents at any time.  Your IT department should have a copy of each employee’s password or administrative access to get into both emails and the cloud document storage at any time.  This is essential for ensuring that documents can easily be found when you need them to be.  Even documents that are private should be shared with someone in the IT department. This can help you in the event that an employee is let go and then sues you.  The IT department can then access their files and determine if anything is there that can confirm your version of the events and your case.

As your attorney, we will discuss what information is needed to help build your case so that you can speak to the IT department about how to retrieve it.  If, on the other hand, you are being asked to produce documents for the other side, we must consider whether it is an appropriate request and if it puts your business in jeopardy. For example, if someone in your organization signed a confidentiality agreement with a client and you are being asked to produce email documents that are tied to their account, you could be in violation of that agreement by turning them over.  With that in mind, we will need to carefully review any requests for document production and e-discovery to ensure that by complying you do not violate any other standing agreements while engaged in business litigation.