Monday, March 28, 2016

Sometimes, You Just Have to Move On...

For months now, I've been fighting with the iTunes software on my home computer (running Windows 7). At some point during the holidays, the library decided to stop working and point to a different place on the hard drive (I have a feeling it had something to do with a family member who caused a blue screen of death that took a few hours to come back from). Since that time, we've had no access to our CD collection and downloads from programs other than iTunes.

Unfortunately, we have more than 40,000 songs stored on external hard drives and in download folders, so a simple switch in iTunes can take days. Even after uninstalling the software and re-installing it, the program just won't open. Many hours have been spent on the web trying to find different solutions to this problem.

But then the lesson kicks in... At some point, it doesn't make sense to keep trying to fix this problem. We have other computers. I have a family to spend time with. I have work that I should be doing. And so with that, we're abandoning iTunes on the home computer and moving on with our lives. It just didn't make sense to keep pouring time into this endeavor.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Time for a Prenuptial Agreement?

The weather is getting nicer, Easter is upon us, and wedding season is almost upon us. In my Brooklyn office, one of the associates is planning her wedding (it's hard to miss all of the wedding planning websites and other associated printouts flying out of the office printer).

With the upcoming weddings, my calendar is starting to fill up with the annual procession of people who need a prenuptial agreement before they get married. Some of them are smart and are planning ahead (their wedding is in the summer or the fall), others are winging it at the last minute (I'm looking at you folks who have April weddings and are just thinking about a prenuptial agreement in March).

Your prenuptial agreement should be drafted and signed in advance of your wedding, with both of you represented by attorneys if possible and the document reviewed in advance and signed in the presence of a notary public. The agreement is designed to cover what happens with your assets and liabilities in the event you end up getting divorce instead of leaving it to a Court to decide what to do with your finances.

Your prenuptial agreement should cover any assets you have, like real estate, retirement accounts, bank accounts and other financial assets. It should also address things like your credit card debt, student loan debt or other liabilities that you owe as you enter your marriage. You can also address whether either of you will receive alimony and the terms of the alimony in case you get divorced, but you can't agree in advance to child support or custody provisions.

In the end, your agreement is your way to map out your future and take uncertainty over your financial situation out of your purview. You likely don't know what the law says regarding your assets and liabilities (and that law can change during your marriage) and these agreements will help you address these issues in advance.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Getting Your New Company Off the Ground

I spent the morning with an interesting pair of women who are putting together a new real estate venture. They started out with their accountant (a good start), who had done the incorporation filings for them with the New York Department of State. After the filings, they got their pretty black binder with all of their corporate filings in them and the blank forms that come with it. But now what? They had no idea what to do next and that is what brought them to my little corner of Brooklyn.

The two of them, lifelong friends, knew how to do their real estate work, but had no idea how to get all of the corporate work set up. As we sat down with a table full of forms and paperwork, the clients had a glossy look in their eyes and no idea what the next steps were. They couldn't even figure out where to put the documents that they had into the tabs in their binder.

So the beginning of our morning was to get a lay of the land, see what documents the accountant had filed and figure out what else they needed. We discussed their goals, their future plans, their business plan and marketing goals. That discussion led to our discussion of their shareholder agreement and bylaws. After that we moved on to hiring decisions, contracts for customers and vendors, collections policies and corporate planning for the future.

When I looked up, we had spent 2 hours plotting out the future of an exciting and hopefully growing real estate venture for these two individuals and had an action plan for the documents and next steps that they need. These meetings remind me of the entrepreneurial spirit that many of my clients have and the limitless possibilities for their futures.

Monday, March 21, 2016

You Need A Back Up System

In the middle of the weekend errand rounds, I found myself in a longer than usual line at the butcher. When I finally got to the register, the owner was ringing people up by hand because their computer system that processes credit cards was down.

The butcher is about to expand, building an entire building next door that will nearly triple the space he has (which will be lovely, but will also impact the nature and feel of a small butcher on a weekend morning). Somehow, as they are doing work on the new building, they knocked out the power supply to the credit card processing computers.

This seemed odd to me since the other computers were working to price the food, but not to take your credit card. He and I began to talk as he took my information down by hand and he asked what do I do when my credit card processing machine is down. I told him that I had never encountered that because I have back up systems. If, for some reason, the app on my tablet isn't working, I could use an internet connection to process the payment. If the internet is down, I could use the swipe device that connects to my phone. If all of those are down, well, then nobody's paying anything.

By the time we were finishing up, I had passed along my credit card processor's information to the owner. His processor had no back up system in place for him and clearly it is time for him to upgrade or change processors.

Always hope for the best but plan for the worst (especially when it comes to something as important as accepting payments for your goods and services)...

Friday, March 18, 2016

A St. Patrick's Day Morning After DUI?

My morning after St. Patrick's Day went a lot better than some other folks. It began in New York with my seemingly endless multi-jurisdiction case. As we found out this morning, there is yet another New York filing from two weeks ago that we just found out about, and it appears that another New York petition was being filed this morning, bringing the grand total to 7 actions between the two states. As I discussed with my client, by the time all of these things are sorted out, I'll be able to teach a class on this crazy family law multi-state jurisdiction issue.

On the way back to the office, I passed a woman who had been pulled over (at 11:00 a.m.) for what appeared to be a DUI. As I drove by, she was clearly still in her celebratory attire from last night and appeared to be failing her DUI field tests miserably. If I was an attorney who practiced DUI-defense work, today seems like it would have been a good day.

But alas, not my area of law, so I kept on my path back to the office...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Was Going to Write About Debt Collection...

I was going to write a blog about debt collection. I've been working on a few interesting cases recently, some that have taken some odd twist. But then President Obama decided to announce his nominee for the Supreme Court, and now my social media feeds are filled with information about Merrick Garland.

No matter where I turn, I can't seem to escape some kind of analysis, announcement or other news and information about the nominee. 

So I guess my boring debt collection stories will have to wait for another day...

Monday, March 14, 2016

Why Does Daylight Savings Time Exist?

Each year, twice a year, our inboxes and twitter feeds are filled with stories about daylight savings time and why we do it. Once in the fall, and now in the spring. Over the weekend, the New York Times had an article by Daniel Victor about why it exists. Mr. Victor also discussed pushes by Rhode Island and California to abolish daylight savings time.

I was surprised to learn that the gasoline industry was one of the driving forces because people go out and enjoy the extra daylight, and do so in their cars.

On the other end of the day, this morning (and yesterday) felt like they began a lot earlier than Saturday morning. Today the little ones slept in, but somehow yesterday they were up at their normal time (even with the clock adjustment). The commuters at the train station seemed to be moving a little slower and the rainy morning didn't help people adjust.

Clearly it's not the way most of the folks wanted to start their week...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Things Are Looking a Lot Different

It has been long overdue, but I finally had the time to sit down and re-organize the layout of this blog and begin the re-design of my website. What I thought would be a quick morning project turned into nearly two days of edits, revisions and generally nitpicking any editorial decisions I made.

Even with the best of intentions, it has taken quite a bit of energy to fit in the design and edits in between legal work. It seems like every time I dug into a new portion or page, the phone would ring with another pseudo-emergency. Before I knew it, the end of the day would be at hand and non-work obligations would be on tap. Add in the fact that the weather has been beautiful and it's really taken a lot of energy to stay focused on this task.

But it sure feels good to get that big task off the to-do list...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Shop Local in March and Expand Your Business

On the way to the office I got into a conversation with the owner of one of the local coffee shops about the unanticipated opportunities she has this week. One of the big chain coffee stores is undergoing renovations this week and the local shop is seeing an increase in traffic as people are "forced" to go elsewhere for their morning cup of coffee.

The local shop is doing a good job so far this week marketing its unique assets (amazing pastries, locally sourced food, top notch coffee and a very strong free wi-fi). For the first time that I can remember, I was waiting in line for my morning coffee as more people discovered what the shop has to offer. The owner, seeing me, came over to chat with me as someone she recognized (another smart marketing move in my opinion).

Another smart move was watching the normally quiet cashiers and baristas doing a good job of reminding people of the loyalty program offered by the coffee shop (get some of these new customers back in tomorrow, next week, next month).

After my coffee was ready, the owner and I sat down and continued our discussion from a week or two ago about the prospect of expanding the business to have another location in another town. Where our last discussion was more serious and concerned with the ability to expand, with a long line of customers and a bustling coffee shop, today's discussion was much more upbeat and motivated towards getting the expansion paperwork going.

It is a great way to start the day by seeing that entrepreneurial spark in a small business owner...

Monday, March 7, 2016

Which Court Has Jurisdiction?

Over the years I’ve seen some interesting legal maneuvers by pro se (people representing themselves) parties in lawsuit. Last week, I spent a significant amount of time bouncing back and forth between state courts in New York and New Jersey on the same case because the other party thought his best option was to file applications in two states to try to get what he wanted.

As best I can tell, his theory was to see which court would give him the best result and then go with that action. But somehow, while doing that, he also brought multiple actions in the same state court, so we somehow had two separate lawsuits in New York and three in New Jersey – five lawsuits, all of which were based on the same sets of facts.

The judges in both states were also confronted with a variety of filing dates, in this order:
  • New Jersey Action 1
  • New York Action 1
  • New York Action 2
  • New Jersey Action 2
  • New Jersey Action 3

If the cases between the parties could have been removed to federal court, that would have at least led to a unified forum. But there’s not enough at issue to remove the cases to federal court, so we’re left to sort out the priorities in the state courts. But because the other party refuses to agree to one jurisdiction, I’ve had to file jurisdictional motions in both courts to try and sort out what is really going on.

The New Jersey judge even offered to have a conference call with the two New York judges assigned to the two New York actions to see if amongst them they could figure out what was going on, but that seems to be a logistical nightmare to administer.

The irony is, between all the actions, the judges may essential cancel each other out and all five actions may be dismissed and then we’ll have to start all over again.

Friday, March 4, 2016

It Was Supposed to be Quick...

I was supposed to be in and out of Brooklyn quickly this morning, but one of the other attorneys decided not to show up until noon, which left precious little time to finish up that appearance and get over to Staten Island for an afternoon call. Although Staten Island went quickly, I'm left to wonder where today went...