Self-Help Legal Services

An insurance agent in one of my networking groups recently explained why one insurance company in particular can consistently offer much lower rates than his competition.  By allowing customers to choose their own coverage, no agent of the company is involved and the customer assumes all responsibility for choosing his liability coverage.  Are you confident that you’d choose the right coverage for your property given your geographic area, the likelihood you’ll have a claim, and the replacement value of your belongings?  Or would you sleep better at night knowing you spoke with an agent who has knowledge of all those facts and figures and who would back you up if you had a claim?  

There is a parallel in the legal profession.  Legal forms businesses and online legal document

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How to Choose the Right Lawyer for Your Business

Open up the yellow pages to the “lawyers” section.  Pretty thick, huh?  We used to joke here in Las Vegas that the lawyers section was even thicker than the adult escort section, which topped 150 pages at one point.  In this sea of names and faces, how do you choose the right lawyer for your business?

Let’s start with firm size.  I’ve heard many business owners complain that they can never get their lawyer on the phone.  Nine times out of ten, these business owners have hired big firms.  It may be that the lawyer is overwhelmed with work, or that the business owner isn’t one of the “big fish” clients, but whatever the reason, the client is unhappy.  It’s time to decide what’s important to you – branding or

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Why Every Business Needs a Lawyer

I just posted an article about what you should do if you’re ever sued. One of the many reasons every business needs a lawyer is to deal with a lawsuit when, not if, it happens. If you’re in business long enough, you will be sued. It’s unfortunate, but as a business owner you must be prepared.

Many business owners believe a lawyer is only necessary in the event of a lawsuit. In fact, a lawyer can help keep you from getting sued. Now, I understand that most people think lawyers love lawsuits because that’s where we make the real money. While that may be true, I prefer to keep my clients out of court if at all possible because going to court is always a losing proposition, for everyone

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Why Incorporate in Nevada – Low Taxes

I recently attended a luncheon where Nevada’s Secretary of State Ross Miller spoke about why Nevada has become an attractive state in which to incorporate. Chief among them is the low tax climate. Nevada has no state personal income tax; in fact, it’s prohibited by our constitution. Nevada similarly doesn’t charge income tax on domestic or foreign corporations. We also don’t have an estate tax or a franchise tax, which can be a costly startup expense for a new business. Nevada has no gift tax, which allows business owners to pass on their property and money without having to put money in our state coffers. Businesses enjoy no tax on inventory and no tax on corporate shares or LLC membership interests. Finally, our laws are written to limit tax increases,

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What to Expect from an Initial Consultation

There seems to be a significant difference between what lawyers have been taught to provide and what potential clients expect to get from an initial consultation. I blame those TV commercials that suggest lawyers can and will solve all your problems in one meeting. No lawyer can do that and if any lawyer tells you otherwise, call someone else.

An initial consultation serves three basic purposes: 1) for the lawyer to determine whether he or she can represent the potential client, 2) for the lawyer and potential client to determine whether they want to work together, and 3) for the lawyer to explain how the representation will proceed if the potential client decides to retain the lawyer.

A lawyer cannot represent every person who calls. Lawyers are required to follow

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Personal Guaranty – Taking Scissors to the Corporate Veil

A few weeks ago I wrote about the concept of piercing the corporate veil. I received an e-mail asking what happens when someone breaches a contract he signed that included a personal guaranty. Short answer – get a lawyer. Here’s the long answer…

A personal guaranty is sometimes required for a contract. Commercial landlords often require one before leasing space, as do banks when issuing lines of credit. The terms of the guaranty are usually set forth in a separate section of the contract, or sometimes in an entirely separate contract. Personal guaranties are signed by someone not in his capacity as a business owner, but in his capacity as an individual. This is a significant difference and you should be aware of the implications when you’re asked

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Virtual Offices and Executive Suites

Virtual offices and executive suites provide a fantastic alternative for business owners who want the trappings of an office without the significant overhead.  As beneficial as these arrangements are, they can leave clients high and dry if the virtual office owner stops paying rent.

There are three rungs on this particular ladder:

Building Owner

Virtual Office/Executive Suite Owner (VOO)

Virtual Office/Executive Suite Client (VOC)

The VOO rents space from the building owner and their relationship will be set forth in a lease agreement.  Similarly, the VOC rents space from the VOO and their relationship is set forth in a lease or license agreement.  Things get tricky when the VOO stops paying rent and the building owner evicts the VOCs.  Unless a VOC’s

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Do I Need an EIN Number?

Yes. The End.

Just kidding.

The IRS, business license bureaus, taxation departments, and sometimes secretary of state offices require an identifying number for your business. Without an EIN, your social security number is used, which causes identity theft concerns. Also, obtaining an EIN is another way to distance yourself from your business in the interest of keeping your corporate veil intact.

The IRS provides a quick and simple way of obtaining a separate identifying number for your business, called an Employer Identification Number. The application takes only a few minutes, the process is free, and most banks require the number to open a business account.

So what are you waiting for? In the immortal words of Toy Story’s Woody, “if you don’t have one, get one!”

What Does a Registered Agent Do?

Last week I met with a small business owner whose registered agent had access to her business bank accounts.  A short investigation revealed this particular registered agent had formed dozens of corporations and named himself secretary, giving him access to the bank accounts.  We quickly dissolved the corporation and reformed an LLC with no one but the business owner having access to the company’s money.

Registered agents are required for businesses but serve a very limited purpose – they provide a physical location where a human being can accept service (lawsuits and official papers from the state or taxation departments) on behalf of the company during business hours.  The business owner can act as his or her own registered agent, but it may be difficult to ensure someone is available either

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Spanakopita – My New Year’s Eve Tradition

I make spanakopita, a Greek appetizer, every New Year’s Eve.  It keeps for a few days, reheats well in a toaster oven, and saves me from having to cook New Year’s Day when I just want to sleep in.  This is especially important this year because tonight I am breaking out the margarita machine I got for my birthday.

I believe the traditional recipe calls for spinach, which always tastes gritty to me, no matter what kind of spinach is used.  And requires it to be layered like a lasagna in a baking dish, which lacks the flaky deliciousness of phyllo dough.  I thought I’d share my recipe for your NYE celebration.

The trick to working with phyllo dough is to thaw it in the refrigerator, unroll it onto a

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