San Jose Business Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Business Litigation

Some of the world’s most successful companies started as partnerships. Microsoft, Apple, McDonald’s, Warner Bros., Ben & Jerry’s, and Google are only some examples of now corporate giants that began with only two people working together to start a business. Unfortunately, many partnerships do not work as well, often because of disputes between the partners. Many of these disputes may be avoided by simply drafting and signing a valid and appropriate partnership agreement at the beginning of operations. An experienced business attorney can help you identify which issues need to be addressed in your particular partnership arrangement.

 

The law does not require an agreement

Anytime two or more people begin business operations, they automatically have a partnership. Much like a sole proprietorship, a partnership requires no filings with the Secretary of State or other formalities in order to establish the business entity. If you do not have a partnership agreement and a dispute arises, you will have little control over how the dispute is resolved. In cases without an agreement in place, California law will govern the situation and not the wishes of the respective partners, which can be problematic in many cases. For example, California law allows each partner an equal say in the management of the business, as well as an equal share in profits. This would not be fair if one partner contributed substantially more time, effort, or money to the business than the other. Therefore, not only will a partnership agreement help to avoid misunderstandings in the first place, but may also lead to a fairer resolution of any legal issues.

 

Things to address in a partnership agreement

Once you decide to enact a partnership agreement, you should ensure that all appropriate and necessary provisions are included to fully protect the rights of the partners and avoid future disputes. Some common topics covered include the following:

  • What each partner will contribute
  • How profits, losses, and draws will be allocated
  • Rules for making decisions regarding the business
  • The roles, duties, and authority of each partner
  • How and when new partners can be added
  • What will happen if a partner wants to leave the business or upon the death of a partner
  • How disputes will be resolved

In order to best protect your partnership rights, you always want an agreement that is thoroughly drafted to cover all relevant topics. An experienced business lawyer can evaluate your situation and can draft, negotiate, and review partnership agreements. Please do not hesitate to contact the San Jose office of the Structure Law Group at 408-441-7500 to discuss how we can help you today.

The robust expansion of the Internet and increased accessibility of Internet-enabled devices has provided entrepreneurs and existing businesses an easy and relatively inexpensive way to reach millions of people. One only needs to look the meteoric rise of companies like Amazon and Netflix to see the growth potential of an Internet-based business.  In fact, many types of businesses which once were required to have a bricks-and-mortar presence can now operate solely online, significantly cutting their overhead costs. One only needs to look at the rise of companies like Amazon and Netflix to see the growth potential of an Internet-based business.

Because of this potential, more and more people are choosing to start their own online business selling goods or services to people around the country and even the world. While the Internet has removed many of the barriers of entry that have traditionally kept many people from starting a business, it has also created significant and new legal issues that business owners must consider before building a website and selling their product. It is for this reason that anyone considering starting an online business should discuss their situation with an experienced lawyer. Some of the more important issues related to starting an online business are discussed below.

Type of business entity

The type of business entity you choose for your business can have a significant impact on your personal liability for business debts as well as the amount you will pay in taxes. There are a number of entities to choose from, including partnerships, limited liability companies, or corporations. The one best for your business will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of operation you are running as well as your plans for growth.

Choosing a unique business name

Prior to the Internet, small business owners did not need to be concerned about whether there was another business with the same or a similar name operating halfway across the country.  This is because local or regional businesses were unlikely to be confused with one another and were practically incapable of competing with one another. With the reach that the Internet can provide, choosing a business name that is too similar to another business’s name risks a costly and time-consuming trademark infringement suit.

Compliance with federal and state regulations

Many types of businesses are subject to federal or state regulations. Importantly, while you may be in compliance with the regulations of your state, if you do business with an out of state customer or client, your business may be subject to the regulations of the state in which your customer resides. Consequently, it is important to research the laws in any state in which you may do business to ensure that you are in violation of the applicable regulations.

Contact a San Jose business law lawyer today to discuss the legal issues related to your internet based business

An online presence has become a near-necessity for a business in virtually every industry. In addition, the Internet allows businesses to reach an unprecedented number of potential clients and customers than ever before. While the internet can be an excellent tool for growing a business, it can also expose a company to additional legal liability and regulatory oversight. As a result, anyone who has started doing business online or is planning on implementing an online presence for an existing business should discuss their circumstances with an experienced lawyer. To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced San Jose business lawyers, please call Structure Law Group today at 408-441-7500.

There are pros and cons to including an arbitration clause as part of your contractual agreements. Arbitration is a popular and can be effective forum for settling disputes between individuals, businesses, in real estate contracts and in employment settings under the right circumstances. There are two types or arbitration clauses:  non-binding and binding.

 

Non-Binding Arbitration

In non-binding arbitration, the arbitrator makes a decision to determine which party is liable and then suggests possible compensation for damages. Neither party is obligated to follow through with these guidelines.

Binding Arbitration

Binding arbitration is the opposite. The decision-maker hands down a ruling of liability and also assigns penalties. An arbitration clause can be binding in most contracts but California allows for the clause to be ignored if all parties agree to the change. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of having an arbitration clause.

3 Pros of Having an Arbitration Clause

  1. Saves Money

Arbitration is usually much cheaper than going to court and may be a viable option to save money. If the dispute continues to litigation, costly fees associated with depositions, uncovering evidence and pre-trial meetings follow.

  1. Speed of Decision

A case in litigation can take many months or years to conclude while having an arbitration clause may resolve the dispute much faster, usually averaging 475 days.  Arbitration has more relaxed rules of pleading and evidence in comparison to litigation rules.

  1. Confidentiality

Arbitrations can be held in private are subject to rules concerning confidentiality, so the parties that especially prize privacy are not exposed to public scrutiny.  Despite the fact that proceedings may be transcribed, arbitrations have no “public record.”

3 Cons of Having an Arbitration Clause

  1. Only One Decision-Maker

While litigation usually leaves the final decision to a panel of jurors, arbitration has only one arbitrator (who can be hand-picked) who passes down a decision of liability. Without an impartial jury vote, your case may be treated unfairly or receive a fraction of the required attention.  There is rarely a right to appeal if a mistake is made.  Further, arbitrators can make decisions on what they perceive to be fair, rather than what the law directs.

  1. Can Become Costly

The process of discovery is becoming more prevalent in arbitration, which not only lengthens the time of arbitration, but also the cost.   Unlike traditional court proceedings, wherein judges are compensated by the state, parties to an arbitration must pay the arbitrators out of their own pockets.  Many arbitrators charge hundreds of dollars per hour.

  1. Possibility of Unnecessary Claims

Arbitration may be taken less seriously than a lawsuit in court so some parties may treat it more like mediation. Necessary or frivolous disputes may not be weeded out through procedural processes normally applicable in court.

Having an arbitration clause can save time and money, but it may also be biased or lack the necessary procedural filters of litigation. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the legal system and determine if this is the right choice for you.

About Structure Law Group, LLP

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based law firm that serves its clients’ business, employment and real estate needs, including but not limited to business formations, debt and equity investments, employment agreements, commercial leasing and purchases, commercial contracts and related litigation.

If you suspect you may be sued due to an incident at your company, or if you’ve been served with a lawsuit, it’s important to act swiftly to protect yourself and by extension any evidence that may be relevant to your lawsuit.

Gathering and saving documentation is an important first step in protecting yourself. In court, there can be severe penalties if you fail to save all evidence that is relevant to your case, documentary or otherwise. Here are 4 things to consider in advance of a lawsuit to help ensure you aren’t accused of withholding information.

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4 Considerations if You Suspect You May Be Sued

  1. Hire Counsel

Hiring an attorney will help protect you and your business. An experienced attorney knows the ins and outs of the legal system and can advise you on how best to prepare if a lawsuit is coming. An attorney may also be able to help you avoid the lawsuit in the first place. Continue Reading

If you’ve just been served with a lawsuit summons, you must work quickly to ensure you don’t compromise any of your rights. There are firm deadlines when it comes to lawsuits and steep penalties for missing them. Here are 5 things to keep in mind once you’ve been served.

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What to do When You’ve Been Sued: 5 Things to Keep in Mind

  1. Don’t Go At It Alone

Consult an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the litigation process. Getting sued is naturally stressful and draining and having a seasoned professional by your side will put you at ease. A lawyer will be able to explain the claims against you and what they mean, and advise you of your options. Continue Reading

Sometimes, avoiding litigation in a legal dispute is the best way to achieve a resolution. Mediation and arbitration may be viable alternatives to reduce the time and money spent litigating. Here are some pros and cons to choosing meditation vs. arbitration when deciding whether or not to opt for avoiding litigation.

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The Pros & Cons of Mediation
Pros:
1. Control

In mediation, you must sign in agreement of the final decision. This gives you control over your approval of the ruling. You also reserve the right to litigate if the mediation fails, making this a less costly alternative to heading straight to court. Continue Reading

As much as you may want to avoid litigation when it comes to your business, conflicts arise and are sometimes unavoidable as a cost of running a successful business. While you and your business partners may have other philosophies on handling workplace issues, sometimes litigation is the best course of action to deal with messy company separations, distribution of assets, protecting your property, and sometimes even handling suppliers and consumers.

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As a business owner involved in litigation, you don’t need to resort to spending years in litigation or paying unreasonable settlement sums; you need to build strategies with a business lawyer so you can resolve conflicts efficiently and effectively, and maximize your ability to avoid future disputes. When litigation is initiated, it is important that it is done right to avoid unnecessary mistakes that waste all parties’ time and money.

Here are 5 common legal mistakes business owners can make when stepping into legal territory, and how to avoid them.

1. Not Taking the Lawsuit Seriously. If you know you haven’t done anything wrong, it can be tempting to avoid hiring a lawyer at all. Developing a strategy, finding and interviewing witnesses, and getting paperwork in order can all be costly to your business if not done properly. To ensure you can keep your full attention on business operations during the lawsuit, hire a litigation attorney who specializes in helping business owners.

2. Not Considering Other Options. Sometimes in sticky litigation battles, one or either party may be too eager to settle before taking full stock of all assets at stake. Mediation and arbitration may also be other options to consider before going to court to save money on fees and avoid long delays.

3. Making Decisions Based on Emotions.

Being involved in litigation can be a highly emotional experience, and it can get very difficult to make important decisions that will affect your business. Instead of making impaired decisions based on your emotions, work with a business litigation attorney to come up with a strategic plan based on a cost-benefit analysis. Remember that the dispute is business related, and not personal.

4. Keeping Information from your Lawyer. Your lawyer is there to help you navigate the process, so it’s imperative that you keep your lawyer apprised of all relevant information. Sometimes it may be overwhelming and frightening to present the “bad facts” to your lawyer, but hiding facts can seriously impact your chances of success in settlement discussions or in court.

5. Using the Wrong Lawyer. Be sure to do your research when it comes to finding a lawyer that specializes in the type of dispute you are a part of. The right lawyer will be able to provide you with objective advice that is best suited toward your business. Business can be extremely personal so it can be easy to overlook pertinent facts. To avoid clouded judgment and conquer inflexibility, always consult legal counsel to ensure your best chances of success. If you need advice or assistance on how to proceed, contact your team at Structure Law Group.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

A merger or acquisition can be a great way to grow your business. Joining forces or purchasing another company increases your market share and potential profits. There’s no real way to know if the venture will pay off. However, the proper due diligence can provide reassurance that the move you’re making is a good one. Due diligence is a multi-step process, so in this post we’re going to focus on just one part: liabilities.

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Understanding Liabilities

Any merger or acquisition comes with a degree of risk. Liabilities are the debts and obligations incurred through the course of doing business. Loans are considered a liability as are accounts payable and accrued expenses. It’s important to take a look at the total number and dollar value of all liabilities. Also, look at the company’s payment history. Are bills paid on time? Is there a record of default? These are red flags that should give you pause. Remember, once you’ve assumed liabilities the responsibility is yours.

Unrecorded Liabilities

An unrecorded liability is exactly as it sounds. This type of liability won’t show up on any records or accounting statements. Before you call off your merger or acquisition, understand that unrecorded liabilities are normal. A common example is vacation time. Let’s say an employee rolls over vacation time and, come retirement, hasn’t used it all. He or she will be owed money in exchange for the hours. This can be a substantial cost if enough employees have banked their hours. The best way to find out about a company’s unrecorded liabilities is to ask the right questions and request the relevant documents, or you can hire an experienced attorney.

Due diligence is a critical component of any merger or acquisition. Failure to do your homework can have dire financial consequences.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

contract.jpgAny business with multiple owners should have a buy-sell agreement. A buy-sell agreement, provides order and clarity should anything happen to one of the owners. In this post we’ll take a look at buy-sell agreements, how they work and what to include.

Understanding an Agreement

Let’s say you and some family members get together and form a corporation or an LLC. Things are going pretty well, the business is making money and everyone is happy. Then something happens, maybe one of your family members dies or simply decides to leave the business. What happens to that person’s stake in your company? A business without a buy-sell agreement can easily fall into in fighting and costly litigation, not to mention the impact on consumer confidence.

How to Craft a Buy-Sell Agreement

Really, the first thing you should do once you start thinking about forming a corporation, LLC or partnership is to hire an attorney. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t start talking with each other about what to include in a buy-sell agreement. Generally, you’ll want to list the conditions that would lead one owner to buy out another. This can be anything from death to termination. You’ll also want to outline the process for transferring ownership. Will the owners purchase the shares with their own money or will it be done through the business? Also, how will the sale price be determined? Some companies negotiate that upfront while others use a formula.

It’s important to be detail oriented. You and your fellow owners should understand each part of the agreement. You don’t want to be surprised later on when one of the owners sues you for paying in installments instead of one lump sum. The more specific the better. In the end, a buy-sell agreement may not only save your business, it may save your relationships.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

scale.jpgWith any luck, you or your business will never end up the subject of a lawsuit. Since this isn’t a perfect world, it’s best to start thinking about what to do if the unforeseen happens. Like most things, business litigation is an involved issue. We can’t go through the entire process in one post, so we’ll start with three basic steps to take if you find yourself in legal trouble.

Step 1: Purchase Liability Insurance

This step should happen long before trouble starts. In reality, this is one of the first things you should do as a business owner. Liability insurance protects the purchaser from the risks of liabilities imposed by lawsuits and similar claims. Say a customer slips on a wet spot in your store; your insurance would step in and handle the costs. You may want to add extra protection such as errors and omissions coverage. For businesses that have a Board of Directors it’s a good idea to have directors and officers coverage. This type of coverage protects the corporation as well as the personal liabilities for the directors and officers of the corporation.

Step 2: Separate Yourself from Your Business

Sole proprietorships are a popular business structure. Unfortunately, these entities can leave you personally exposed. In this arrangement your personal property, including your home or car, are fair game in a lawsuit. To avoid this you want to create separation by forming a trust, or consider an alternative business structure. A trust is a legal entity that pays its own taxes and can own assets. Making the trust the legal owner of the business safeguards your money and property. Also, consider forming a corporation. Trusts and corporations are miles apart in terms of regulation but offer protection to the individual.

Step 3: Hire a Good Attorney

Of course it is always advisable to have an attorney on your side before any litigation to avoid potential lawsuits. If all else fails and you are served with the lawsuit, you should immediately consult your attorney. Time is of the essence. A quality attorney can help you through the initial steps.

Finally, it’s a good idea to hire lawyers who specialize in specific fields. If you’re served with a lawsuit or anticipating one then it’s smart to hire an attorney familiar with litigation like the professionals at Structure Law Group.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.