Category: Business litigation lawyers

When a Business Partner Dies: Dealing with All the Changes

Running a business can be one of the most rewarding yet stressful experiences you will ever enjoy and endure. You may have fulfilled a lifelong dream, and perhaps even had a business model just waiting in your pocket, looking for the right time to strike out on your own. Once there, you were probably surprised to be weighed down with issues like employees and turnover rate, human resources knowledge to be attained and applied, complexities of working with vendors, the challenges in making payroll, dealing with clients (and keeping clients) and so much more.

Partnership issues can be extremely complex too. You may have had a long-term friendship with an individual before starting a business together, and that bond can remain strong. Others may have several partners, some who are more like investors than actual participants—while yet others may be married couples working together. Personalities and how much time you spend together have a lot to do with your success in working and staying together, much like a marriage, and if financial stress or other issues begin to plague your business, there could be serious strain on your partnership.

The strain is usually even worse if one partner dies. You may be in a serious state of bereavement, to begin with (and the grieving period, of course, may stretch on indefinitely), along with having lost a major player and contributor in your business. And just as it so often is with losing a family member, everyone may be wondering ‘what to do now,’ and how to fill the empty space they have left behind in your company. At this point it is time to read over that business partnership contract we very much hope you created during the inception of your business.

It is prudent for everyone involved for you to have a clause stipulating what would happen to the partner’s shares in the event of their death. Would you be given the right to buy out any heirs first? Right of refusal is critical to discuss; otherwise, you could find yourself with your partner’s spouse or nephew taking over part of your company. It might be surprising for them to desire to do so—and especially if the new party is not feeling exactly welcome—but there is a good chance they may want to sell too. In that case, you will again need a good business attorney from a law office like the Bolender Law Firm to handle the transaction.

Do you need legal assistance with a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

new business

Starting a New Business: Five Things to Know

Starting a new business could be one of the best things you ever do in life; of course, as you are probably aware, it can be a major risk too. Many businesses don’t make it, but there are usually common denominators as to why. One thing you can count on, however, is that there will be a lot of hours spent in your new business, and for most new business owners there are countless hours logged in sweat equity. And no matter how prepared you are, even if you went to business school, there will be quite an education along the way. Here are five basic things every new business owner should be aware of though:

  1. There will be many long hours and you may be your only support system: Count on being exhausted. And count on everyone else asking why in the world you would want to put yourself through such an experience. Others with a strong career/work drive may understand, but in the beginning, this business is your baby—and it will probably keep you up late and wake you up early too.
  2. Capital is your main priority and will remain so for quite some time. The number one killer for small businesses though is lack of proper capital. You may have enough to get you started (and for many, just coming up with the funds to get into business is a tremendous challenge), but cash flow and backup capital are necessary. Without funding, your business could easily go belly up.
  3. Partners may not be as fun to work with as you originally hoped. This is a big one. Although you may have gone into business with a childhood buddy and all the trust in the world, a business partnership contract is key—and founding your business is the perfect time to do it as everyone is happy with one another and an airtight conflict resolution clause can be included.
  4. Hiring employees, and keeping them, can be extremely challenging. Look for experience in the individuals you bring on board, but more than anything, try to get a feel for whether they have good character—and a personality you would like to be around for years.
  5. Keep the meetings short. Nothing can suck up your time like a morning or afternoon meeting that takes up half the day. Not only are you losing half the day, but so are your employees. And time is money!

Do you need legal assistance with a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Business Partnerships

Business Partnerships: Can a Spouse Take Over Shares?

Owning a business is full of challenges; in fact, there may be days when you wish you had never come up with that original mind-blowing idea that set you in motion for working long days and nights, expending all that proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, and often feeling like more time is spent at the office with employees and those engaged in business partnerships than at home with your family. The irony is that while you are busy trying to make a living and sock away the dough for your family, you are forced to leave them for long periods of time. That doesn’t mean you forget about them though—and on the contrary, as family is first in the mind for most of us all day.

While it is important to make sure your family is covered in your will and all estate planning, this could play a part in your business partnership also. This critical contract should cover a long list of items to foresee that everyone is protected, beginning with items like who the officers and shareholders are, and what titles they hold in the business, if any. General job duties and pay should be outlined, along with discussion of other financial issues such as when profits are distributed each year.

What happens, however, if you or another partner were to die? Who gets your shares in the business? This should be established when you are forming the partnership contract, as there may be some discussion regarding how you want to structure it. You may want to consider whether you would want the right of refusal to buy the other partner’s shares should they die or want to leave or discuss the best structure if you do want to leave your shares to a surviving spouse, other family member, or outside party. If this is not agreed upon by all in the contract, it is usually not possible, by law, for a third party to be ‘substituted’ for a family member or other partner.

Speak with your business attorney about creating an airtight partnership contract. This is key in the beginning, and especially when everyone is getting along. A dispute resolution clause should be included also, establishing what type of resolution all parties would turn to in the case of a legal issues, whether that would be litigation, mediation, or arbitration. Details such as what county the resolution would take place in and who would pay attorney’s fees are usually included too.

Do you need legal assistance with a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

establishing boundaries

Establishing Boundaries in the Business Partner Agreement

Business partners can offer the best and the worst when it comes to sharing a business, which is why you should always have a business partner agreement. In the beginning, it can be enormously helpful to have a partner in crime, someone to brainstorm with, and a likeminded soul to open a new company with. This allows you to share financial burdens, which can be considerable not only in the beginning but can also continue throughout the life of your business as you must keep up requirements in maintaining capital. A business partner can handle a large portion of the workload along with you, and help you not only decide how to run the business but move forward in hiring employees, independent contractors, establish intellectual property, and more.

Just as you should have structure within your company though, you should have structure in your business partnership. This all begins with the partnership contract. And while you may have known this partner for many years—most of your life even—it can be extremely valuable to have everything in writing, comprehensively. Like any other relationship, the partnership should have boundaries, beginning with titles that outline roles; for instance, you may be the CEO and in charge of all the major decision making while partners will operate in other upper management capacities. Establish percentages that each partner has in the company, and delineate job duties also, although they may continue to be fluid over the years.

Difficult decisions for the future can already be put into place with the business contract too. What happens if one partner dies? What if a partner wants to move on to other interests and sell their shares? Speak with your business attorney about outlining how all these issues should be dealt with so you don’t end up with a new partner you didn’t plan on later or lose out on having first right of refusal to buy your partner out. Include a dispute resolution clause too, outlining how any legal issues should be resolved, whether in litigation, mediation, or arbitration. It is also typical to decide where such action would take place and who would pay attorney’s fees.

Do you need legal assistance with a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

 

trade secrets

Trade Secrets & When Protection Becomes Void

The realm of intellectual property may seem vast, but the bottom line is that it only applies to the branding of your business and what you need in terms of logos, slogans, service information that you want the public to be aware of, and then protection of artistic works and inventions. Most businesses do begin building a brand right away, along with creating information that may need to be copyrighted. Technically, the definition of what is protected by copyright is an artistic expression of work. This can be relevant to a business in many cases though, from certain marketing materials to legal documents to computer programs, spreadsheets, works of architecture, and so much more. This type of intellectual property protection is crucial when you are expending large amounts of money and time on important projects, and when you must worry about infringement by competitors.

Protecting trademarks and service marks is just as vital, to avoid theft of branding mechanisms that play a vital role in helping customers (sometimes around the world) remain familiar with what you offer, whether goods or services. Patents protect what you may be creating within your business, giving you exclusive rights to manufacture and sell your invention for up to 20 years.

All intellectual property is related to trade secrets, which the United States Trademark and Patent Office considers to be the ‘fourth form of intellectual property,” as follows:

“Trade secrets consist of information and can include a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process. To meet the most common definition of a trade secret, it must be used in business, and give an opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.”

And although it may be assumed that your employees realize they should not be giving out any information about the trade secrets of your business, think again! People talk, competition is fierce, and without proper legal protection, your trade secrets could walk right out the door. Protection of your trade secrets can be diminished if you do not take care of them properly though. This means securing and identifying them properly, using caution in terms of any accessibility, and making sure that everyone who works with you knows that such information must stay within the business. Without such measures, you may lose all protection of trade secrets, in line with guidelines from the USPTO.

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Are Differing Management Styles Wrecking Your Business Partnership?

A business partnership may be one of the most important relationships you have in life, and it helps if your management styles are in sync. From the beginning, one or more other individuals may be part of that spark, that inspiration, and the business model that leads to founding a new company, along with changing your life forever. And while much of your enthusiasm and continued involvement in a business will be based on success as the years go on, it is vital to put just as strong a foundation under your partnerships as you do your company overall.

Your personality will have a lot of bearing on your style at work, whether you are operating as the CEO, upper or middle management, or working in a creative or technical capacity. You may have a tendency to be a more autocratic leader, while one of more of your partners prefer to consult with employees routinely about matters, offering a more democratic atmosphere at work, as well as mentoring those you work with, coaching them along in their career and taking joy in watching them grow as individuals—benefiting your company in turn as they are a happy and valuable part of your team.

Conflicting management skills can be the precursor to dissolution of or the diminishing of a partnership, much like that of a typical family dynamic. Along with that, managing of finances in the business, clients, marketing strategies, and so much more requires fluid teamwork and partnership. Without positive support from your main people, your business may flounder—and fast. All these issues can begin eroding your work life and continue to cause negative repercussions, which is why it is critical to head off such problems initially with the business partnership. By outlining your specific titles and roles, you know what is expected of you within the company, as well as what you will be paid, when and how profits are distributed, and what happens in the case of a dissolution; more importantly, there should be a dispute resolution clause written into your contract, detailing how any legal disputes would be handled, where, and who would pay for attorney’s fees.

Do you have questions about a business issue, or do you need legal assistance regarding a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

managing partners

Business Owners & Managing Partners—Keep those Minutes Updated

There may have been a lightbulb moment when you—and perhaps with a partner or two also—came up with a breathtaking idea, an invention that you knew would be in great demand later if you could just turn it into reality and become business owners or managing partners. Along with the latitude to work on and build your own business model, being your own boss means setting your own hours, making your own decisions, and being in much greater control of your life and its direction. Hopefully, there is the potential for making a good living, as well as the possibility for helping other people in your community or maybe even around the world.

There are numerous downsides to owning a company too, from typical daily stressors like managing a team to figuring out how to keep cash flow running properly. There are a variety of different little headaches in between also, and many of them relate to corporate administrative tasks. While they may seem like the easiest to procrastinate on, they can multiply out of control before you realize it. If you do not have someone handling these tasks for you, or if they need to be delegated, do so as quickly as possible. Scheduling corporate meetings, keeping up with all the records, and tending to the minutes is a perfect example. Keeping of the minutes is required for tax purposes and by federal law, and in most cases if you are the head of a traditional corporation or are the managing partner of another type of formal business entity (depending on state law), notes must be taken during at least one meeting per year.

Keeping the minutes for your company may be as simple or as complicated as you deem necessary, with notes usually expected too from meetings between shareholders, activities such as hiring new employees and giving them raises, bringing in new officers, and financial events like taking out loans or opening new accounts.  All in attendance during such meetings or events should be noted, with the minutes kept in a secure location with the rest of your corporation’s important paperwork.

Do you have questions about a business issue, or do you need legal assistance regarding a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

business disputes

Most Entrepreneurs Will Have to Deal With at Least One Business Dispute

If you are a business owner in the US, then you probably understand what a double-edged sword such a venture can be–and one that may sometimes lead you into business disputes. The initial idea of controlling your own fate and your own career, making your own schedule, and reaping the financial rewards of your hard work and success can all be enticing; however, there are also many responsibilities to handle that can be extremely stressful—especially in the first years. The greatest anxiety may be over money and making sure you have enough capital to keep going, but equal to that is the challenge of keeping the customers coming through the door in what may be a very competitive marketplace.

Because you may be dealing with so many different entities, there is the chance for a business dispute or lawsuit to arise at some point. While you could be forced to face a liability issue due to an incident like a customer slipping and falling or becoming harmed due to a product you prepare or sell, there could also be a problem with a business peer. This could also be a business partner. And although you may be tempted to head to court or throw in the towel regarding what could be a relationship of many years, consult with your business attorney about the best course of action. You may also be forced to deal with a wide range of employee issues over the years. By educating yourself and your human resources department as much as possible, you should be able to ward off problems before they occur, from payroll or overtime issues to sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

Many business disputes arise with vendors too; for example, if you own a restaurant, you may have very close dealings and even personal working relationships with food vendors. These are people you probably talk to several times a week and when something goes wrong or there is an accounting discrepancy, tensions can run high—especially when everyone is working in a fast-paced industry known for causing stress. Tempers can flare, and conflicts can escalate beyond what you may ever have imagined. It is important however, to take a step back and consider the future of your business before ending a relationship that you may struggle without later.

Your attorney may suggest mediation, as it offers a more casual atmosphere for resolving legal issues. This form of alternative dispute resolution is more affordable and usually faster too. The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all business litigation matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

buyout agreements

Buyout Agreements Should Be Airtight

As a business owner, you take on a multitude of responsibilities that may not have been part of the original starry-eyed dream; in fact, the world of commerce continues to become more complicated as human resources issues grow around the US, tax laws are ever changing, the economy is unpredictable, and the marketplace is fiercely competitive for most industries today. But what about issues within your own business foundation, such as partnerships? Whether you own equal parts of the company or you control most of it, solid business contracts should be created in the beginning.

The beginnings of any startup can be both an extremely stressful but forward-thinking time. Full of excitement and positivity for most, if you are working with one or more partners, it is probably like the honeymoon phase of a marriage in some ways. You can’t imagine ever dissolving your business relationship; after all, you are in it together. And partnerships in business do offer a wide range of benefits. You can share duties, share the stress, create products and services together, watch your company grow (not unlike a family), offset financial burdens as you work together in providing capital to the company, and set goals for the future. While the going is good, however, get that partnership contract in place, and cover all the bases—even if some of them may be uncomfortable in discussing what could happen in the future.

The partnership agreement should outline the typical basic structure such as who is involved and who will do what. Titles should be agreed on and included in the agreement, as well as payment and profit-disbursement structures. Even more importantly, there should be a concrete dispute resolution clause—and creating this while everyone is on good terms can be vital to the success of your business should there be a major falling out or even a lawsuit later. This allows you to discuss how a dispute would be handled, where, and even who would pay attorney’s fees. Along those lines, there should also be comprehensive clauses covering what happens in the case of dissolution and/or a buyout. Will you want the right to buy out the partner’s shares? Will they be able to hand down their shares to family members or others outside the organization? Just as the partnership felt like a new marriage in the beginning, dissolving or completing a buyout may feel strangely like a divorce. And you must work just as hard to protect your assets!

Along with having the business assessed properly for valuation, there will be significant paperwork to be handled by your business attorney. Keeping the situation as civil as possible can be key to everyone parting ways with success, and your lawyer acting as the negotiating party could be a vital part of this action. The key is to hedge your bets in the beginning and uphold your partnership contract to the end.

The Bolender Law Firm will advocate on behalf of clients through litigation, arbitration, or non-binding mediation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

domain name

Protecting Your Domain Name

Building a business today consists of numerous new factors, in comparison to times past. There is very little focus on getting those business cards printed and letterhead made—after all, it’s a paperless world, and most of us spend time communicating about commerce online rather than in person these days. The major priorities are still the same. Do you have enough capital, and will it last long enough to keep you going through the lean startup years? Are your products or services innovative enough? What about partnerships, establishing a team of employees, and contacting vendors?

Bringing customers in the door is key as always, but your domain name can be the portal to millions online—even around the world. It may or may not be accompanied by a trademark but is in many cases even more vital to your success. While other intellectual property is maintained through application, registration, and licensing through government entities like the United States Patent and Trademark Office or the U.S. Copyright Office, your domain should be registered and protected through a reputable registrar. There, you are able not only to purchase your domain name (something like example.com) but also a select a variety of different intervals for renewing, or auto-renewals—with this being central to the protection of your address. If you forget or neglect to renew (a more common problem for those with multiple domains to manage), this is where you could become vulnerable, as someone else could intercept or purchase what could be a very popular domain name choice address for their own.

Having a strong password is vital, as well as a domain transfer lock so that it can be switched to anyone else without your permission. You may also be able to register your domain through the USPTO if it clearly identifies the products and services that your company offers to the public. Aside from that, you may also have your trademark (denoting products, usually with a symbol or design meant to gain familiarity with the public) or service mark (often this is a slogan describing what you do) listed on your website, and it should be duly protected no matter what. Even though intellectual property technically does belong to you as soon as you create it, registration through the proper office means that you have much greater legal recourse in the case of infringement.

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!