What Does a General Counsel Lawyer Do?

“What does a general counsel lawyer do?” This question comes up sometimes when we mention that this is one of the services we offer. Even though this role tends to wear many hats, here are a few ideas of what is often done in this position. 

General Counsel Lawyers Review Contracts

One of the most common things that general counsel lawyers do is review transactional documents. For example, let’s say you’re setting up a new contract with a big customer. Every single word of the contract is important. General counsel lawyers will carefully comb through it. We want to make sure our client isn’t opening themselves up to a big loophole. 

One example of a potential loophole is if the other party gives themselves an easy way to back out of a contract. To an untrained eye, the contract may seem fine. However, lawyers are trained to look for that type of language and will help the client avoid the mistake. 

Another example may be reviewing a contract with a potential business partner. Business partners are great for certain things, but they can also open up the company for a lot of pain if the contract is poorly worded.

General Counsel Lawyers Help Manage Acquisitions

It is generally much faster for a company to grow through acquiring smaller companies than to grow organically. Acquiring smaller companies opens the opportunity to leverage their existing assets including industry knowledge, talent, contacts, existing customers and technology. Acquisitions are also a great way for companies to break into a new market they’re interested in quickly. 

The problem is that acquisitions and mergers can be very messy. Large mergers and acquisitions are sometimes years in the making, but even smaller ones can take a few months thanks to due diligence. This is where the acquiring company digs into the smaller company’s financials to make sure everything is in order. 

While accountants and financial specialists are some of the most important roles in an acquisition, the general counsel comes into play as well. We verify the legal documents are well-written and won’t open the door for issues later on. 

General Counsel Lawyers Work with Human Resources

Companies large enough to have an HR person will hire us to work on various projects. For example, we may help them during a hiring and firing process to make sure they aren’t doing anything that can be seen as wrong or illegal. Certain demographics are protected against discrimination, and leadership may accidentally do something that can be seen as discriminating against that person. We help avoid those types of messy situations. 

Another example is writing an employee manual. This is something that general counsel will often review to make sure it’s not asking or recommending employees to do something against the law. That doesn’t happen often, but it’s still good to have the manual double-checked to be safe. 

There are a lot of other things general counsel lawyers do such as review patents, licensing agreements and advice on trademarks and copyrights. If you have any specific questions, give us a call at 714. 456. 9118. We look forward to helping you any way that we can.

Am I Getting Enough Spousal Support?

Sometimes we’re asked if a receiving party is getting enough spousal support. While there is a lot of gray area to this part of the law, here are a few things to consider. 

Do Both People Have Enough Money to Live On?

At a high level, the first thing to look at is whether or not one party is struggling to make ends meet. If one person is living very comfortably while the other is having to live with roommates, eat rice and beans, and can’t afford a car then there’s some kind of issue. 

This can happen both ways. Sometimes the person receiving alimony is taking a huge chunk of the payor’s income. After taxes and paying alimony, it may be the payor just doesn’t have much money left. When this happens, the alimony granted was likely too high. 

On the flip side, sometimes the awarded alimony is too low. You see this if the recipient is struggling to live even a modest lifestyle, while the payor is doing okay. 

Seems simple, right? But these are nebulous, subjective terms. Not everyone agrees on what is considered a fair amount of money to live on. Plus, think about income changes. 

One Person’s Income Changed – Does that Affect Spousal Support?

Another factor going into if someone is getting enough alimony is when income changes. 

For example, let’s say the recipient goes back to school, gets an education and lands a great job. Now their income is enough to sustain themselves, so they don’t necessarily need alimony. In that case, spousal support may be lowered or eliminated. 

On the other hand, what if the income of the payor changes? Usually if their income goes up, it doesn’t lead to an increase in alimony unless it was too low to begin with. Likewise if their income goes down, it won’t lead to a decrease. For example if someone making $200K quits their job to make $50K at a startup, the judge will probably tell them to find a way to pay the same alimony as before. The recipient needs that alimony for their lifestyle, and just because the payor wanted to switch careers doesn’t mean they can pay less alimony.

Other Factors that Come Into Play

There is more than the income factor that comes into play with spousal support. Here are the main ones, along with a short explanation of each. 

Length of marriage – How long was the couple married? A marriage that only lasted 2-3 years may not lead to any alimony at all. 

Age and health of spouses – Are they both young and healthy, able to care for themselves? Or are they older and have rising healthcare bills?

Marriage roles – Did both spouses work? Or did one stay home to raise the kids and lost career opportunities? 

Are you getting enough spousal support? It’s difficult to say without an understanding of your lifestyle during the marriage compared to now. We also would need to look at several factors such as the ones we referenced above. But if you don’t think you were awarded enough, reach out at 714.456.9118 or info@voneschlaw.com and we’ll see what we can do to help. 

Courtesy of Cuselleration

Domestic Violence Warning Signs to Watch Out For

Do you have an inkling that a loved one is suffering some sort of abuse? Here are a few domestic warning signs to keep in mind.

Domestic Warning Signs: Physical Signs

This is what most people think of when they hear the term domestic violence. Sometimes these signs are obvious to spot, other times they’re a bit more subtle. 

A few things to look for include:

  • Bruises on arms or legs
  • Swollen or busted lips
  • Black eyes
  • Hurt wrists
  • Marks on the person’s neck

Keep in mind that many times the victim will try to cover these injuries up. For example, they wear sunglasses even when they’re inside or it’s a cloudy day outside. Perhaps they’re wearing excessive clothing even though it’s hot outside.

Even if you don’t see any of these signs, there are others to watch out for.

Domestic Warning Signs: Emotional Signs

Not all domestic violence situations become physical. But you can almost always see some sort of emotional impact on the victim. 

Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Sleep habits change. Sometimes the victim will just want to sleep all the time, or complain about not getting enough sleep. 
  • Excessive substance use, such as drugs or alcohol
  • Lower interest in daily activities such as work or social events
  • Constant anxiety 
  • Easily agitated
  • Lowered self-esteem, leading to being overly apologetic or acting meek

In a domestic violence situation, the abuser is trying to lift themself up and feel better by breaking down the victim. Whether it’s done verbally or physically, the end result is often the same. The victim experiences a roller coaster of emotions and it’s hard for them to cope. This leads to some of the warning signs above.

Domestic Abuse Warning Signs: The Abuser

So far we’ve mainly talked about what you may see happen to the victim. But another way to spot domestic abuse is by looking for certain behaviors in the abuser. 

At a high level, remember that domestic abuse is about control. The abuser is expressing dominance over the victim, and it can show up a lot of different ways. 

Jealousy – Does it seem like one partner tends to get overly jealous? This shows insecurity on their part, a common trait of abusers. 

Quick temper – Is one partner always setting off the temper of the other, even with minor things? 

Cruelty to kids or animals – Remember that the abuser wants control. Since kids and animals are more easily controlled than adults, abusers often show dominance by being cruel to those weaker than themselves. 

Controlling the victim – Does one partner always have a say in what the other victim wears, says or does? That’s not normal, and is a common sign there’s a domestic abuse issue going on.

Demeaning toward the victim – Some abusers will regularly tear down their partner. They may not necessarily have a bad temper while doing so, but the constant verbal abuse is not normal and is a bad sign. 

Domestic abuse warning signs aren’t always able to be seen. Sometimes the victim covers things up, or justifies the abuser’s behavior. But if you or someone you love is involved in a domestic violence situation, give us a call at 714.456.9118. We’ll help you through it.

Should You Get an LLC for Your Business?

Should you get an LLC for your business? Well, that depends. Here are a few things to think about as you explore your options. 

Reason #1 to Get an LLC: Legal Protection

The main reason why businesses choose to file for an LLC is for legal protection. In the law’s eyes, an LLC is a separate entity from you. That means if something happens and your business gets sued, you are protected from losing personal assets. 

To illustrate, consider two examples. 

Bob is running a small business as a plumber. He decides against setting up an LLC because he doesn’t want to deal with the paperwork and fees required. One day he accidentally leaves a pipe cutter at a client’s house, and their three year old cuts himself with it. The hospital gets him patched up, but now Bob faces a big lawsuit and loses everything including his personal house, car, mutual funds, etc. 

Jack also runs a plumbing company, but doesn’t want to risk his personal assets. He sets up an LLC to give him legal protection. A similar event happens, where his negligence on the job ends up in a lawsuit. His business is in trouble and loses its assets, but Jack’s personal belongings and bank accounts aren’t taken away. 

While this incident may not pertain to your business, keep in mind that accidents happen. Patrons of your restaurant may slip and fall. That widget you made might not have warnings on the label and get swallowed by a baby. Your software might have a huge loophole that lets in tons of viruses or hackers. 

If you feel like your business is relatively risk-free and you don’t need an LLC, that’s up to you. But you’re missing out on important protection that millions of business owners won’t go without. 

Reason #2 to Get an LLC: It’s Easier to Raise Money

Most businesses require some form of capital. They don’t handle everything with cash, because they can often leverage cash to make more money. 

For example, let’s say you only have $1,000 in the bank but you know if you spent $5,000 on materials and labor, you can make $10,000 worth of product. Will you let your $4,000 shortfall hold you back? Probably not, assuming you have access to credit. You’ll borrow cash now to make more money later.

It’s generally easier to raise money as an LLC versus a sole proprietor or partnership. The extra structure and corporate entity give banks and investors more confidence that your business is here to stay. 

Pass-through Federal Taxation on Profits

For some business entities, taxes can get a little messy and complicated. Not so with an LLC, as the company’s profits go straight to the members’ personal tax returns. This means it’s easier to file your company’s taxes, because they just ride along with your personal taxes. 

This also means if you suffer a loss, the taxes you personally owe the federal government goes down. That’s something we always like to hear, right? 

Is an LLC the right entity for every business? No, definitely not. Sometimes it makes more sense to file for a C Corporation or S Corporation. But in general, the people asking us about LLCs are business owners currently operating as sole proprietorships and partnerships. In that case, we definitely recommend considering an LLC for the reasons described above. 

To get the process stated, just send us an email at Info@voneschlaw.com. We look forward to working with you. 

realtor handing keys to a couple inside their new house

Do You Need a Lawyer to Buy Real Estate?

Do you really need a lawyer to buy real estate? Or is it more of a nice-to-have? This isn’t a black and white answer, but first let’s start with the high level view. 

Do You Need an Attorney to Buy Real Estate?

The short answer is that it depends. Some states require you to have an attorney to file the paperwork. Many states don’t require an attorney. To find out if your state needs one, simply ask your real estate agent. You can also look on Google, but sometimes it’s better to get your information from the direct source.

So if an attorney isn’t always required, why do so many people use them when they buy a home? In our opinion, everyone should hire an attorney when they buy or sell a house. There are two main reasons why we say that. 

Why Should You Hire an Attorney to Buy a Home?

The first reason why you should hire an attorney to help buy a house is to manage the paperwork. There is a lot of paperwork involved in buying a home. You want to make sure someone who knows what they’re doing is there to help you handle everything. 

Something else to keep in mind is that legal issues can come up. While your agent may be good at negotiating things, they may not be law experts.

Attorneys are also very detail-oriented. They have sharp eyes and will be able to find flaws or mistakes in the various papers involved in the transaction. A real estate agent may be trained to catch certain flaws, but a lawyer may be able to better catch flaws or mistakes within the various papers. A home is likely the largest purchase you will make in your life and you can’t be too careful.

How Do You Choose an Attorney to Work With?

Once you’ve decided you’re going to use an attorney, there are several ways to find the best one to work with. 

Look at Online Reviews – What do various reviews online say about real estate attorneys in your area? Do people give them great marks, saying they’ll work with the office again? Or do they give negative reviews saying the attorney was slow, unresponsive, hard to work with, or anything else that would make you hesitate?

Ask Your Agent- Your agent is likely closing on houses on a regular basis. They’re used to sitting in these types of meetings with attorneys and know who the good ones are. They should be able to recommend one or two good ones to you. 

Ask Friends and Family – People you know may be able to give some recommendations. The main benefit of asking them is they see it from a client perspective, just like you will. 

At the end of the day, not everyone needs a real estate attorney, but we highly recommend you invest in one, because buying a home is an expensive, complex process and having an extra set of eyes is always a good thing. If you still need an attorney to help you, please send us an email at Info@voneschlaw.com or give us a call at 714.456.9118. We look forward to hearing from you. 

Courtesy of Cuselleration

A house cut in half

What is Property and Business Division?

In a divorce, what is property and business division? At a high level, it’s just like it sounds. It refers to how much of a couple’s property is divided between the two parties, as well as how a business is divided. This can be tricky though, as there are a number of factors that go into the division. 

Property Division – The Basics

During a divorce, most of the assets owned by the couple are considered to be jointly owned. These can be both physical assets and monetary assets. For example:

  • Homes (houses, condos, townhouses)
  • Furniture
  • Cars
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Mutual funds
  • Precious metals such as gold or silver
  • Collections and antiques
  • Jewelry

Because these items make up the bulk of wealth for most families, they play a significant role in the property division part of the divorce. That said, there are a few exceptions that arise from time to time. 

Property and Business Division – The Exceptions

Even though most of the assets owned by a family are considered during a divorce, some tend to be left out and remain in the hands of a particular owner. Here are the most common exceptions.

  • Property owned prior to the marriage. Note that if the spouse is added to the title, this is more likely to be considered an asset that can be divided during the divorce. 
  • Pain and suffering money received from a personal injury judgement, assuming it wasn’t put into a joint account or all spent. 
  • An inheritance received by one spouse, assuming it isn’t incorporated into the rest of the family’s assets such as using cash to buy mutual funds in a joint account.
  • A gift received by one spouse from a third party. For example if your in-laws buy a car for your spouse and it’s only in their name. 

Notice a theme? The general theme is that if assets get brought into the family and are considered owned by both parties, it won’t be an exception anymore. 

Business division is also something that can get messy.

Business Division in a Divorce

Several things go into the business division in a divorce. 

First – Is it operated by just one spouse who started the business before the couple was married? If so, there is a better chance the business will not need to be divided. Even though the income from the business may be considered during the alimony and financial support piece of the divorce, the business and its assets may not need to be split between the couple.

What if the business was started during the marriage, and both spouses participate? Maybe they both work for the business or maybe both owners tend to use the business funds as their own personal money to pay for things like meals, clothes, cars or vacations. In those cases, the court is more likely to have the business divided up. 

Every property and business division case is different. For more personalized advice and guidance, please give us a call at 714.456.9118 or send us an email at info@voneschlaw.com

Courtesy of Cuselleration

What is a Marital Standards of Living Assessment?

The marital standard of living (often referred to as MSOL) is essentially a measure of the lifestyle enjoyed by a couple during marriage. It is most often used during a divorce case to help determine how much support one party should pay the other. 

Several things go into this evaluation.

Marital Standard of Living Assessment: Income

As you can imagine, the total income of the two parties is one of the most important factors. The lifestyle of a family with an annual income of $50,000 per year will be very different from one that makes $300,000 per year. 

That said, one thing to keep in mind is it’s rare for both parties to be able to enjoy the same standard of living once separated. That’s largely because living expenses are now doubled. Whether you have a $200,000 house or a $500,000, it’s always easier to just pay for one home than two. 

Another thing to consider is increases in income. Let’s say the standard of living used to be a lifestyle based on $50,000 a year. If the higher-paid party (who is the one giving support to the other) suddenly gets a huge promotion and starts making $125,000 a year, they won’t necessarily need to increase their support by a proportional amount, ie. 2.5x as much. However, the courts might make them increase support to help the other party reach that same lifestyle enjoyed at the $50,000 a year point. 

Marital Standards of Living Assessment: Savings and Retirement

Income isn’t the only factor that comes into play. The amount of money regularly contributed to things such as savings and retirement can also come into play.

For example, let’s say after taxes a family brings home $80,000. They are very frugal and like to save money, so they put away $50,000. 

In that case, they’re essentially living on just $30,000 a year. 

This will be considered during the MSOL assessment. It will be noted that the lifestyle didn’t include a lot of eating at restaurants, going on lavish vacations, owning expensive cars, etc. In this case, the amount of support necessary may be lower, since the lifestyle didn’t require as much cash. 

MSOL Assessment: Both Spouses Matter

Sometimes it seems like the party giving support to the other is the “loser.” They’re going broke just trying to pay the support deemed necessary so the lower-paid party can enjoy the same lifestyle they used to have.

This isn’t how it’s meant to be. Assuming one didn’t get a major increase in income, there shouldn’t be a huge disparity between their lifestyles. If one is able to comfortably live similar to how they used to and the other is almost bankrupt, there’s an imbalance that needs to be remedied. 

A material standard of living assessment isn’t a black-and-white thing that can be figured out in a day or two. It takes a lot of digging to understand how the family lived, and what kind of support is necessary to help both parties still be able to live as close to that previous lifestyle as possible. For more personalized guidance, click here to contact Von Esch Law today.

Courtesy of Cuselleration

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act? There’s a lot we can say about it, but this article will keep things brief and high level. We’ll talk about three main things: what the act is, who enforces it, and what it means to you. 

What is the American Disabilities Act?

Often referred to as ADA, the American Disabilities Act was put in place to help protect the rights of people with disabilities. These protections fall under several areas:

  • Jobs
  • Transportation
  • Communications
  • Public Accommodations
  • Access to state and local government programs and services

The act is divided into five titles, and each of the five titles is enforced by a different agency.

Who Enforces the American Disabilities Act?

Title I refers to employment, and thus is protected by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As you would expect, the purpose of this title is to prevent employers from discriminating against someone just because they have a disability. Part of this comes into play with having employers restructure jobs or make changes to a job site to accommodate the person’s needs. 

Title II refers to state and local governments. An example of the type of protection involved is transportation systems such as bus or rail. The system must be able to accommodate for the needs of people with disabilities. It is enforced and regulated by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Title III is public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, bars, golf courses, movie theaters, etc. The idea is these places should have the facilities necessary to allow people with disabilities to access these sites. Like Title II, it is also regulated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Title IV refers to telecommunications. Telecommunications companies must be able to offer specific services to accommodate people with disabilities. For example, those with hearing or speech disabilities should still be able to communicate via telephone.  Title IV is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission. 

Title V is for miscellaneous provisions for the ADA as a whole.  

What Does the American Disabilities Act Mean for You?

The short answer is – it depends. 

Do you manage a restaurant? That falls under Title III, so it would be good to make sure your facility is accommodating to people with disabilities. The most common ones that people think of are wheelchair ramps and having big enough bathroom stalls that a wheelchair can fit. 

Did you have someone with disabilities apply for a job? If so, Title I may be more of what you’re interested in. Be aware that if they are the best candidate and you hire them, you may need to make changes to your job site or restructure the job to accommodate their needs. 

At a high level, the American with Disabilities Act isn’t too difficult to comprehend. However, as you get into the details of what qualifies as a disability and what rights people have, it gets more convoluted. If you need a defense for the ADA or have questions call us at 714.456.9118 or send us an email at info@voneschlaw.com. We look forward to hearing from you. 

Courtesy of Cuselleration

Is a Purchase Order a Legal Contract?

Is a Purchase Order a Legal Contract?

The world of purchase orders and contracts can be a bit confusing sometimes. We’ve put together a short article outlining the similarities and differences between the two to help you sort them out. 

Purchase Order and Contracts Basics

Let’s start by talking about each of these documents. A purchase order is a document from a buyer to a seller that orders a product. It should include everything the seller would need to know including quantity, price, a description and a delivery date. 

When a purchase order is accepted by the seller, it does become a legal contract. The seller is acknowledging they will sell the items on the purchase order for the prices listed, and abide by the terms and conditions. 

Note that the seller does not have to accept the purchase order. It isn’t considered a legal contract until it’s accepted by the seller. 

A contract is a document that outlines descriptions and costs of goods. It also contains terms and conditions. 

This gets confusing, because it means a purchase order can be a contract. However, that doesn’t mean all contracts are purchase orders. One way that might help is to think about the timeframe. 

Short Term vs. Long Term

A purchase order usually refers to something that has a short duration. The terms may be to deliver in a couple of hours or in 2 years. Either way, the duration is relatively short compared to how long some contracts can go. 

A contract can often be a long term document. For example, it may specify that the buyer will purchase items from a seller for up to 3 years, without going to the market for competitive bids. Or it might outline how the buyer and seller manage freight and transportation of the goods. 

Another way to think about it is guidance. A contract gives guidance to how purchase orders should be executed. 

Terms and Conditions in Legal Contracts

Another example to explain the differences between purchase orders and contracts can be seen in the terms and conditions. 

A purchase order will usually have some kind of terms. For example, there will be a delivery date, address, and payment terms – such as Net 30 (meaning the buyer needs to pay for the goods within 30 days.) 

A contract will usually be more specific, thus making them useful for complex transactions and relationships. For example, it makes sense to have a contract when a company is offering marketing services to another one. It might break down the expected results, how the marketing agency will be paid, how long the two parties will work together, reporting methods and more. 

For physical goods, a contract might be used to specify certain aspects of the product such as size, weight, performance, cost or lead time. This makes sense if the buyer is paying the seller to develop a new product. 

Is a purchase order a contract? Once it becomes accepted by the seller, yes. However, the world of contracts and POs is a convoluted one, so if you have questions call us at 714.456.9118 or send us an email at info@voneschlaw.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Courtesy of Cuselleration

Divorce

How Long Does Getting a Divorce Take?

How long does getting a divorce take? There is not a definitive answer for everyone. A lot of factors come into play such as where you live, how quickly the pair can come to agreement on terms of the divorce, and more. 

Here are a few things that affect the overall timing.

How Long Does a Divorce Take – Waiting Period Requirements

One factor that plays into the time required for a divorce is the waiting period.

A waiting period is often referred to as a “cooling off” period. It is the length of time required by certain states before a divorce can be filed or finalized. This gives the couple time to work things out. Sometimes divorce papers are submitted as part of an emotional outburst, and this helps rectify things before they’re set in stone.

Every state has a different waiting period. Some, such as Nevada, are very short. You only have to wait 14-28 days after filing the divorce papers before it can be finalized. Others take much longer. In California, you need to wait 6 months and 1 day after the papers were filed until you can get a divorce.

This is generally a good thing, because it ensures the couple is ready for this major life change before it legally happens. Some families are able to work things out and stay together, and this long timeline gives them a better chance of that happening. 

How Long Does a Divorce Take – Separation Requirements

A separation requirement is the amount of time the two people must be separated before getting a divorce. The reason for this is similar to the waiting period. It gives the couple some time to re-evaluate and determine if divorce is what they really want.

Not all states have a separation requirement. In that case, the couple can actually still live together during the divorce. This usually happens if children are involved, so at least they can still have both parents around. In California, it’s possible for people who are divorced to keep living together. 

What Else Affects How Long a Divorce Can Take?

Besides the waiting period and separation requirements, the main thing affecting how long a divorce takes is the back and forth between the spouses and their attorneys. There are generally disagreements regarding a few factors

  • Who gets the house
  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Financial assets

There is no blanket black-and-white policy with how to manage these. Each divorce situation is different, and sometimes it can take months to come to an agreement. Even though some people are able to figure these things out and be divorced quickly, others draw it out to get as much as possible from the separation. 

Are you ready to file for divorce or has your partner filed papers? Give us a call at 714.456.9118 or send us an email at info@voneschlaw.com. We look forward to helping you through this difficult situation. 

Courtesy of Cuselleration