Business Topics

The Importance Of Written Release Agreements

A well drafted written release agreement can protect your company from a lawsuit. A release is a written agreement where one party releases the other party from potential liability usually in exchange for a payment of money or some other form of consideration. That consideration can take the form of a release by the other party of the first party.

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OMG AT 2:00 A.M.

At some time or another, most business owners have awakened in a panic – or similar emotion – in the middle of the night thinking about:

• What might happen if I am unable to continue to run my business?

• What might happen if a key employee leaves my business?

• Is my business really saleable?

• What if I lose a key customer?

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Online Sales Tax

Saying that the internet has changed the way we live is an obvious statement. The internet has transformed our forms of communication and our use of language as well as the way we conduct business.

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Go Paperless – Do Good

A few years ago our firm made the decision to go paperless. (Yes we are lawyers and we have a fondness for paper and cannot completely eliminate it, but the advantages of going paperless were simply too compelling, so we have digitized all our files and systematized our access to them.)

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Top 10 Tips for Small Businesses

An important list we’ve created with the Top 10 Tips for those who own, or want to own, a small business. Naturally, we feel that the success of a company includes its preparation for any legal ramification.

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Rolling Stone Trademark

Take a quick look at these images of tongues. Are they confusingly similar? Do they leave you with the same commercial impression?

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Small Business Tip: Beware of Personal Guarantees

I have represented several individuals in the last year who signed personal guarantees and then were sued on that guarantee. If you sign a personal guarantee, you have to be willing to pay on the debt if the main borrower, whether it’s your business or your child, fails to pay.

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Small Business Tip: Trademarks

Business owners routinely ask questions about the names, logos and phrases they use to sell, advertise, and promote their goods and services. This brings up the issue of what is a trademark/service mark and what can be trademarked. A name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or any combination thereof that a business associates with its goods and/or services can be projected as a trademark.

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Small Business Tip: Social Media Policies

This past year, I learned how to use Facebook for business. I had a personal Facebook page for several years but was not an avid user. About six months ago, I went to a basic social media class and started a Facebook business page. I learned how to post, use pictures, tag, schedule future posts, use hashtags, etc. Now I post legal tips everyday to my Facebook page and I am slowly building an audience.

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Small Business Tip: Written Contracts

I had a case a few years back where my client sold her home health business to a “friend.” The two friends decided not to get a lawyer and instead used a form contract for the sale of the business. Of course, a dispute arose after the contract was signed. The buyer had made a down payment on the purchase of the business and then was supposed to make installment payments to pay off the balance.

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Limited Liability Company Laws

Recently, while representing a client in a lawsuit between members of a limited liability company (LLC), we realized there is potentially a gaping hole in Arizona law with respect to member relationships of a LLC.

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Small Business Tip: Employee Benefits

If you own, or want to own, a small business you should make sure that you are promoting your employee benefits to your company’s advantage. A small business owner’s main concern when deciding on what benefits to offer to employees is: “How much is it going to cost me?” This is a valid concern that has to be considered in conjunction with obtaining and retaining employees.

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Small Business Tip: Employment Policies

All companies, large and small, need a written employment handbook that describes the policies that must be followed. When I talk to an employer or an employee about a legal issue, one of the first questions I ask is: is there an established policy that governs this issue?

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Detach Yourself from Technology

Last month, I was fortunate enough to take a family trip back East to Cape Cod. I was reminded of how pleasant it is to be detached from technology, and truly enjoy living in the moment. We have all become so dependent on our cellphones, laptops and tablets, that we find ourselves easily distracted from family and friends.

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Construction Contracts

We often advise general contractors and subcontractors on construction law and litigation matters. Now that our economy is strengthening, it is plain to see that there is an increasing amount of residential and commercial construction projects being undertaken. This also includes residential remodeling.

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Small Business Tip: Employment Laws

If you’re in business, your purpose is to make money. To make money, you need to hire workers. If you hire workers, you need to know and comply with the various state and federal employment laws in effect.

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Small Business Tip: Employee or Independent Contractor

As a small business owner, it is important to properly classify workers as either employees or independent contractors. Unlike employees, independent contractors are not covered by employment, labor, and related tax laws. Therefore, a new business owner might be tempted to misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying payroll taxes, benefits, and other liability.

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Small Business Tip: Insurance and Taxes

Several small business owners have come to me recently with questions about whether they should pay their workers as employees or independent contractors. To understand this issue, you have to first understand why a small business owner would not want to have employees.

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Small Business Tip: Create Your Corporate Shield

The purpose of creating your corporate shield is to “shield” you as an individual from liability. This means that if a lawsuit later develops against your company, the lawsuit would be against the company and not you as an individual.

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Trademarks

Business owners routinely ask questions about the names and phrases they use to sell, advertise, and promote their goods and services. This brings up the issue of what is a trademark and what can be trademarked.

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Non-Compete Agreements in Arizona

Over this past year I have had several clients who left a job and came to me because they had signed a non-compete agreement with their former employer. These individuals were concerned that the non-compete agreements they had signed would prevent them from getting new jobs. This concern was valid as non-compete agreements may be enforceable in Arizona depending on the facts of each case.

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Small Business

Big is out – small is in. Nationally and here at home, the sun has set on big business. The heyday of the small, locally owned business has dawned. Technology and social media gives smaller companies a worldwide market presence. A company run by a small but dedicated team can respond and adapt at lightning speed to customer demands and market micro-trends, while giant corporations waste precious time on committee meetings, policies, and procedures.

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Too Pretty? You’re Fired!

While Donald Trump is famous for his, “You’re Fired!” line, it is usually said because one of the contestants on his show The Apprentice has failed at achieving their given task. As well, most employers are thankful for the continuity of trusted, longtime employees. So why would a dentist from Iowa fire his best dental assistant that had worked with him for over 10 years? According to an article on CNN.com, dentist, Dr. James Knight fired Melissa Nelson for being a threat to his marriage, and she sued him for gender discrimination.

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Severance Agreements

Lately, I have been reviewing and negotiating severance agreements for a variety of clients. The main reason an employer offers severance pay is to obtain a broad release from the departing employee to prevent the employee from suing the employer. The normal practice would be for the employer to notify an employee that s/he is being separated from employment and present the employee with a written severance agreement.

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Icann Says That You Can – the Next Big Internet Change

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) is proceeding to add numerous internet extensions (generic top-level domains or “gTLDs”) to the well-known “.com”, “.org”, and “.edu” we have grown to know and love. Approximately 1,930 applications were submitted including truly generic names like “.city”, “.computer”, “.business”, and my personal favorite, “.beer.” But others such as “.ferrari”, “.google”, and “.hbo” in the wrong hands could pose a threat to established brands and dilute intellectual property rights. The application fee was steep – $185,000.

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I-9 Compliance

After the form is completed by an employee, the I-9 must for kept by the employer either for three years after the date of hire or for one year after employment is terminated, whichever is later. The form must be available for inspection by authorized U.S. Government officials. Surprise audits have recently become more common, and penalties for non-compliance are being assessed. Several million dollars have been assessed for seemingly innocuous paperwork violations. Penalties for failure to comply with the employment verification requirements, whether intentional or not, can range from $100 to $1,100 per violation. Civil penalties for knowing violations can range from $250 for the first violation up to $11,000 per violation for repeated violations.

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Employers Working

With Arizona having the second-longest border with Mexico, it is not surprising Arizona has been at the forefront of the national debate on immigration policy. Senate Bill 1070, requiring police to verify the immigration status of persons detained, also contributes to Arizona’s prominence in this area.

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Registered Stat Agent

Want to know the price of having a good registered agent? Try $1.26 Billion. In a recent lawsuit filed against PepsiCo, the Judge awarded a plaintiff $1.26 Billion when PepsiCo defaulted due to its registered agent not notifying PepsiCo of the lawsuit. The article enclosed discusses the lawsuit against PepsiCo in more detail.

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Always Be marketing

As the New Year rolled around, I, as I am sure many of you, either made resolutions or set new plans in motion. One area of business that gets a lot of attention, especially in the beginning of the year, is marketing. Budgets are created, plans are drafted, presentations are scheduled, etc. Most of us focus on either keeping existing clients happy and/or attracting entirely new ones.

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New Beginnings

I love April. Baseball season starts and I am hopeful about my two favorite teams and looking forward to many hours of baseball in person, on TV and, yes, radio. Spring in the valley is always a great time for us photographers and even weather in the 90’s is welcomed because it is still a treat to have sunshine and warmth. Holy days bring family together. This year my two sons came home for the holiday. We enjoyed sharing our tradition with Muslim family friends and a Christian friend at our Passover table. Our holiday service is a very old one passed on for many generations since at least (as far as we know) the 15th century! It was incumbent for me to pass on the tradition to my sons (promised grandpa on his deathbed that I would) and my obligation was fulfilled this year when they both showed their ability to conduct the service in the ‘old way’. I feel like a weight has been taken off my back.

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Thoughts for Tough Times

Through hard work and divine grace, we were able after seven years to re-pay the dissolved firm’s principal creditors dollar for dollar. My experience during those tough times is one of the reasons why I have empathy for all those facing trying times now.

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