Archive for the ‘General’ Category

To Small Business Owners— Remember, Your Small Business is a Customer Too

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

By: Brian A. Mills, Esquire

The first rule of small business is that the customer is always right. Have you ever made a concession for a customer or client because he or she asked? And why do you do this? Because you value the relationship with the customer and want their business.

In the same vein, small business owners should remember that the businesses with whom they do business similarly value the relationship. All too often, we come across small business owners who are having difficulty with their bank, landlord or other vendors and when we review their loan documents, lease or business agreement, we find provisions that likely could have been negotiated to alleviate the burden of the situation for which the client came to us.

Don’t be afraid to tell your landlord that you want to have your lease reviewed by an attorney. Perhaps you can negotiate more favorable terms such as eliminating or limiting any personal exposure pursuant to a personal guaranty. Likewise, your lender might agree to eliminate prepayment penalties or other punitive provisions within the standard form loan documents. These are but two examples where an ounce of prevention might be worth a pound of cure. The bottom line is that when your business is doing business, it never hurts to ask. Seek the advice of a good attorney before signing a lease, loan documents or other agreements for your business. Your lender, landlord or vendor wants your business too and will likely make reasonable accommodation to keep your business happy– after all, the customer is always right!

Would you Post Your Credit Score on Facebook?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

I would advise against it, but this site lets you do just that. I understand that Facebook encourages (some would say it does more than encourage you, but I digress) you to spread private information about yourself to every corner of the internet. However, this is a little like teasing your social security number, one digit at a time, so thieves can have whatever access they need to your information.

These services can be useful under the right controls as a cheap first line of defense against identity fraud and similar scams. However, broadcasting any information about your credit or personal financial status defeats the purpose of the protection the company is offering.

How Reachable Should a Lawyer Be?

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Alexi Darling: “Marky, Give Us A Call 970 4301…Or At Home Try 863 6754…Or My Cellphone At 919 763 0090…Or You Can Email Me…At Darling Alexi Newscom Dot Net…Or You Can Page Me At *answering machine beeps*

-from the musical “Rent”

I mean, I understand that clients need to know your office address. They want the office phone number, and maybe even a direct line. They want your office email address. But a home phone? A cell phone? (Nevermind a pager almost nobody wears a pager nowadays.) A home email address?

They’re called “office” phone numbers for a reason. Theoretically, there is supposed to be a dividing line there somewhere. If you have to give somebody eighteen different ways to contact you so that you’re sure they can reach you, then it’s time to rethink your communication standards, your work life balance and style, or how important this client really is.

In Soviet Russia…Lawyer Fires You?

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

In Soviet Russia

Can your lawyer fire you? Some people don’t realize it, but a lawyer absolutely can fire a client. When you become a client, you usually have to sign some sort of agreement or retainer letter. It outlines the responsibilities of the lawyer to you, and of you toward your lawyer. Mostly, the requirements are that you follow the lawyer’s advice, pay the bills on time, and return phone calls and provide information the lawyers needs to do his/her job. When a client cannot do so, the lawyer can sometimes have no other choice but to file a “Motion to Be Relieved As Counsel” and, in effect, fire the client.

What were you thinking? Actually, don’t answer that.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

An ordinance in Blairstown, NJ regulates the planting of shade trees:

171 2. Shade trees. The streets of the township shall be used for the purpose of public travel only, with such other use of the same as is necessarily connected with public travel. Shade trees may be planted along the streets, highways, and alleys, but not within the prescribed limits of the same. Such trees shall be planted so as not to obscure light and air [Ed: ?!] and shall not be so close as to interfere with the lawful use of such streets, highways and alleys. They shall be properly trimmed by the owners of adjoining premises. No person shall wantonly or negligently cut or destroy any such shade trees without the consent of the owner of the adjoining premises and of the Committee and occupants.

Is Avvo a Good Substitute for Legal Advice?

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Asking Questions on Avvo: Illustration by Example

I’m going to make my point just by showing you a few things. Let me first make clear that I really like Avvo and I think sometimes it even helps people out. I also like it because they get a ton of traffic and their visibility is wonderful.

But watch this. Here is an excerpt from the terms of use on Avvo, put in very tiny print so that it doesn’t take up the whole page:

9. No Attorney Client Relationship
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And yet, when you ask a question, you will often see this as a substantial portion of the answer:

LEGAL DISCLAIMER
[Attorney] is licensed to practice law in [state or states]. [Attorney’s] response here is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter in question. Many times the questioner may leave out details which would make the reply unsuitable. [Attorney] strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their own state to acquire more information about this issue.

Quick Thought On Rental Properties: What is the Rent Security Deposit Act?

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

N.J.S.A. 46:8 19 is where you can find what is called the Rent Security Deposit Act in New Jersey.

The Rent Security Deposit Act requires the landlord to put your security deposit in a separate bank account that pays interest. The landlord must tell you in writing the name and address of the bank where the deposit is being kept, the amount of the deposit, the type of account, and the current interest rate for that account all within 30 days of getting it from the tenant, and annually thereafter.

If the landlord does not comply, the tenant can give the landlord written notice telling the landlord to use the deposit, plus seven percent interest per year, toward the rent. This is nice to know because it protects tenants from landlords who might run off with the tenants’ money.

But please be careful: when you use this act as a “sword” rather than as a “shield,” being aggressive (or worse, being a bully and using it as a “club!”) you take the grave risk of alienating your landlord. And unless you’re looking to move anyway, think twice before making an enemy out of your landlord.

I Love Law & Order, but I Hate Jack McCoy

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

And the thing is that I really do like him, as a character. Sam Waterston is absolutely brilliant.

The only point I’m trying to make is that Jack McCoy, the lawyer, is everything you DON’T want to do in trial. People watching him (unfortunately, now in reruns) elegantly and succinctly tear down defense attorneys and defendants, summing up each case in two minutes flat and often using some sort of physical gimmick, get the idea that this is how you conduct yourself in court. If a lawyer actually acted like this in court, they’d get fined, laughed at, and thrown out. Not necessarily in that order.

If you think that you have any idea how to conduct yourself in court or in legal proceedings as a result of watching legal shows on TV, you are dangerously deluded. I’m as big a L&O junkie as anybody else, but it’s just entertainment. Please, nothing more.

Are the people you meet giving you energy or taking it away?

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Matt Homann posted the following tidbit on his blog:

Not sure whether to take that client? Here’s a great test from Milton Glaser he uses to avoid toxic people:

[T]here is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them. Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energised or less energised. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.

[end of Matt’s post]

I really wish I would have thought of this, because you can use this well beyond the client-lawyer relations arena.

The full blog post is available here.

Being “Ready” and Being “Prepared”

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

There’s an old chestnut about lawyers being one or the other, but not both.

Lawyers who have been around the block a few times can be “ready” to make an argument in no time flat. They have done it before, they know the nuances, and they know how to adapt to facts they may not have caught the first time around.

Lawyers who are “prepared” know the facts, but they still need to put together the argument itself. They need to be able to adapt and roll with the punches as their adversary comes up with something unexpected.

The nice thing about a mid-sized firm like Maselli Warren, PC is that we are both. We have the experience to be “ready” at a moment’s notice, and take the time and care to be well “prepared.” Give us a call if you have a question, and let us show you what we mean in person.