Frequently Asked Questions
Probably 90 percent of my relationships begin with a phone call or an email, which is followed by a face-to-face meeting if time permits.
Unlike large firms, we can take a little longer to establish a real sense of mutual understanding and trust.
The lack of that same understanding and trust is usually at the core of the dispute you’re having with a business or associate.
I’ve found that this is key in that crucial initial analysis, and it can often lead to a solution well in advance of costly litigation.
Any business relationship should be defined by a clear written agreement. Our relationship will be no different.
I’ll usually determine whether I can represent you when we meet. After I make this decision, I’ll give you what is called a letter of engagement.
This letter outlines the terms of our relationship and if you accept those terms, then I’m your lawyer.
The business world and business relationships in general usually don’t present entrepreneurs with isolated, one-at-a-time problems. As a result, our work together might involve several different “types of cases”.
I help resolve disputes within businesses (sometimes between owners or partners). I also represent businesses or individuals in disputes with other businesses.
For instance, I’m representing a North Carolina drywall company who did work on a hotel project here in New Orleans on St. Charles Avenue. My client wasn’t paid by the Florida company who hired it. The Florida company was owned by a man who shut the business down before moving to Kansas. That man recently died.
My job is to determine how Louisiana, Florida, and Kansas laws allow my this North Carolina company to collect what it’s owed from a Florida company, for doing work here in Louisiana, now that the assets my client seeks are likely in Kansas.
You could call this a construction case. Or a breach of contract dispute. Or a collections matter. It will also involve corporate law, because we have to determine how Florida law treats the business debts now that the owner has died. And it will involve Kansas successions/probate law, because one of the likely defendants has recently died with assets.
I help resolve disputes within businesses (sometimes between owners or partners). I also represent businesses or individuals in disputes with other businesses. Here’s a list [LINK] of the types of cases I’ve recently handled.
Paying your lawyer by the hour makes sense in almost all situations.
I started my career at an old New Orleans law firm and just about all the work I did there was billed hourly.
I believe in that system, but because I don’t have the same type of overhead big firms do, I can afford to be a lot more creative about billing than they can. You can read about some of the billing solutions I’ve created for my clients.
As a Louisiana lawyer, I aspire to perform at least 50 hours of unpaid work every year. For me, that involves volunteering from time to time with local courts for their walk-in programs or occasionally notarizing forms for a school or a church, all of which qualify as non-profits.
Other pro bono work includes authoring special interest briefs for use in cases that advance the law in a certain regard. I typically don’t have much time left over to take non-paying cases, but I’ve done so in a few instances where the particular issues were interesting to me and I felt the individual deserved a shot they just couldn’t afford.
It’s worth our time to connect if you have a special problem like this.
That will happen sometimes, and I’ll be careful to remind you that although certain ethical rules prevent me from certain types of counsel, there is a practical problem with any “pre-relationship” advice I could give you. During our work together, we’ll compile a lot of information and study it.
It might be through “discovery”, which is the process of gathering information from the opposing party in a case. It might just be your sharing your company documents with me. But until we can work through all the information necessary, and we really can’t until you’ve retained me, my answer wouldn’t be worth much.
A great attorney who mentored me used to remind the younger attorneys that sometimes an adequate (but not the best or most complete) answer can be found by just about anyone – without fancy legal research or a law degree. He referred to this as “Google-jitsu”. Once I’m your attorney, you can expect precise answers to the questions you ask, and even some answers to questions you didn’t know to ask.
But until you hire me, you really can’t rely on anything I say any more than you can rely on a basic web search.
You’ll probably have to go to court for something, but probably not for trial.
Not many cases make it to trial these days, but for some reason, every litigator feels the need to assure you that “we expect to take every case to trial”. Your goal in litigation is to get what you want without having to wait.
By taking fewer cases than bigger firms, I can immediately put a lot of time and energy into them. That often means I’m acquainted with the facts a lot quicker.
Understanding the facts early in a case usually gives us an advantage in the small battles leading up to trial. By keeping the other side on their heels, we can capitalize on that momentum. By working together, we can usually avoid the months (usually years) of drain that litigation can visit upon the parties.
The short answer is that most business litigation involves the attorneys and a judge. It’s only where the facts are murky that you may be called upon to explain where things went wrong.
At least half of my clients wind up testifying in some fashion. Usually, this involves answering 5-10 minutes of questioning during a routine pre-trial motion day, where only judges and attorneys are present.
Sometimes, it involves a lengthier deposition, which is a question and answer session at our office involving only attorneys.
If we go to trial, you’ll probably clear up any questions left after your previous testimony and depositions. Regardless of the setting in which you testify, it’s important to understand that the attorney asking you questions didn’t live out any of these facts. Nobody knows the facts better than you do, and that’s why a good client who really believes in their case is next to unbeatable.
One of the toughest lessons to learn is that sometimes judges view a certain result as just or fair, even where the law doesn’t support that result.
Those are the best issues to appeal and with most of my business clients, we agree that I’ll handle your case from start to finish, even if that means an appeal.
Quite a bit.
I’ve handled and am currently handling appeals in 4 (Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans, Gretna) of our state’s 5 appellate courts.
I’ve worked on large federal appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
I’ve worked on appeals from federal bankruptcy judges’ rulings, both directly to the appellate court and also to the federal district judge.
I’ve obtained reversals where supervisory writs were necessary.
I’ve defended appeals after my clients won at the trial court.
I’m even comfortable handling appeals in administrative matters, for businesses charged with violating city code or who want to contest a property tax assessment.
Yes. I was trained primarily as a litigator, but as my practice has expanded, I find myself just as proud of the work I’ve done with clients to make their businesses neat, sensible, and able to avoid disputes through clear and thoughtful agreements and business practices.
Understanding whether, how, and what type of business to form is one of the first steps in business success.
You can. Many people do. Sometimes, I even explain to certain clients that it’s more cost-effective for them to do so.
Most of the time, though, it’s more efficient to have your lawyer do these things in order to avoid costly corrections.
A business is just a collection of people who get together for a similar purpose.
It’s a name we give to a group and the Secretary of State is in charge of keeping track of the names used by various people to do business.
A business need only file the required articles (incorporation for a traditional corporation; organization for an LLC) and initial report to merely exist in the eyes of the Secretary of State.
I tell my clients that allowing a business to merely exist isn’t much different than a parent who feeds their children just enough Vitamin C to avoid scurvy.
A business can, but shouldn’t, exist without a thoughtfully-crafted document which sets out the owners’ rights and responsibilities between themselves. They’re called bylaws for corporations, operating agreements for limited liability companies, and partnership agreements for partnerships.
The LLC doesn’t need an operating agreement. Its members do.
Operating agreements are rarely relied heavily upon when things are running smoothly. When disputes arise between business partners (members), everyone quickly understands how important their company’s operating agreement is.
A single person can form and run an LLC.
Your reservation prevents anyone else from this state from registering to do business with the same or similar names.
A trademark is something a little different and is best protected by registration on one of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s registers. It’s possible to reserve a name in Louisiana which actually violates someone’s trademark.
Without careful planning, research, and protection of your business name/marks, you might be required to change its name or logo, even after you’d begun to do business.
The most effective way is to register the name or mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but many businesses have rights to their names and marks after years of use, even if they haven’t registered them.
Yes, and because I’ve handled a variety of disputes involving companies who feel their name or marks have been illegally used by other companies, I understand how important the initial research and decision regarding names and marks can be.
Properly registering and maintaining those names and marks keeps businesses out of the courtroom.
I’m a member of an LLC, does that mean I’ll never be personally liable for business expenses and debt?
That liability limitation is only for certain debts and there are statutes which specifically address your personal liability in various instances. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to assume that your company’s creditors don’t have rights against you. If motivated, those creditors will hire attorneys who will expose every mistake you’ve made in forming, running, maintaining, and even dissolving your business.
More than your company’s future is at stake – lack of guidance can impact you personally and it can affect your family.
Because I don’t have the same type of overhead big firms do, I can afford to be a lot more creative about billing than they can. You can read about some of the billing solutions I’ve created for my clients.
I treat these decisions a lot like pro bono decisions. On occasion, if I really feel that I can build a long-term relationship with a client and their business represents a good opportunity, I will discuss this type of fee arrangement with them.