Our Newest Client: a Dog Named Bear (with photos)

Our firm’s newest client is a dog named Bear! Check out the photos below of Bear and you’ll see a bit of why he just received his fourth consecutive invitation to the Westminster Dog Show (this one in New York in February 2013).

Bear is a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. He recently defeated the top-ranked dog in his breed at the Hot Springs National Park Kennel Club Dog Show. A few weeks earlier he defeated the number one ranked dog of all breeds at the Bayou Kennel Club Dog Show.

When not at shows, Bear puts his skills as a registered therapy dog to work at local hospitals. On top of that, he is both an upland pointer and water retriever and has two hunting titles.

In celebration of becoming Bear’s barristers, three new domain names now point back here:

http://www.TheFirmForPaws.comhttp://www.PuppyLaw.comhttp://www.TheFirmForPets.com

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New Client Comments Posted

Over on our “client praise” page you will see we just added these comments:

I cannot thank you enough for all your assistance over the years. You have been a godsend to me.”

and from another client:

“Your professionalism in dealing with the agency speaks louder in what it does not say directly than in what it does say. Your writing covers a very sharp filet knife designed to cut to the issue and get the result.  I also appreciate your continued calm, focused approach. You have more than earned any and all fees. I cannot imagine going through this without your guidance and support.”

As noted in the disclaimer on that page, every case is different and the outcome depends on the facts involved, but our goal is to leave every client as pleased as those quoted on the page.

Employers Beware: Unacceptable At-Will Language

http://www.NLRB.gov

The National Labor Relations Authority recently distinguished acceptable at-will language from wording that may give the misimpression that even a collective bargaining agreement could not change that status.  Here’s the language referenced by the NLRA press release that one of their judges found unacceptable: “I further agree that the at-will employment relationship cannot be amended, modified or altered in any way.”  By contrast, the language found acceptable limited who with the employer had the authority to change the at-will arrangement, rather than requiring the employee to agree (by signing handbook) it could never be modified.

“At-will” employment refers to the situation in which an employer or employee can end their relationship at any time, for any reason that is not illegal.  In other words, an employer would not have to show it had a good reason for firing the employee, or even give a reason at all.  Many states–including Texas–have at-will employment as the default status for the employer-employee relationship.

How to lose a case in 10 days

If you are one of the rare clients or attorneys who want to lose your case, a recent decision in a federal employee discrimination suit provides valuable direction:

1.  Seriously fail to comply with the court’s rules–don’t settle for technical violations.

2.  Don’t cite to specific evidence in the record when you are fighting summary judgment.

3.  Avoid citing cases that apply to the particulars of your case–reference only very general principles.

4.  Fail to ask to correct your errors when noted in your opponent’s reply brief.

5.  Most of all, treat judges “like pigs, hunting for truffles”–don’t you dare direct them to your case’s strong points.

The case is RODRÍGUEZ-MACHADO v. SHINSEKI, ___ F.3d ___ (1st Cir. Nov. 21, 2012).  Worth a read.

Biz/Feds: Fewer After-Hours Emails, Orders the Boss

Outlook aspects

Today’s Washington Post reports that both private and public employers increasingly are telling staff to not spend their evenings and weekends answering emails. Some are trying to avoid overtime claims from non-exempt employees, others burnout. One of the villains here is that compulsion to cc: ten other people on every email–and then on the replies.

If Internet providers could figure out a way to charge a penny per recipient after the first fifteen, we might all be better off. If you are like me, you get way too many mass emails a day from people whose idea of a good time is forwarding political half-truths and other shocking (i.e., not fact-checked first at Snopes.com) news. Add spam to that burden.

Email is a marvelous productivity tool and can reduce legal expenses as compared to phone time. But when misused, it’s another curse of modern life.

Now, why not email this post to a 1,000 of your closet friends?

Biz/Feds: Secrecy and Litigation

Getting sued or about to sue someone else? There is an old saying from the New Testament that often applies: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

Put another way, build into your calculation of the value of settlement versus fighting the potential damage from a formerly-closeted skeleton putting on some of your dirty laundry and dancing around in front of a jury.

The rules of evidence are intended to keep unrelated matters from distracting judges and juries. But your opponent’s lawyer is likely to give some thought to how to apply those rules in a way that makes it more likely incriminating facts will be found relevant to what is admitted into evidence.

As well, what you get asked by the other side’s lawyer in a deposition is generally much broader than what eventually is admitted into evidence. Unless a question is being asked to harass you, the fact it is not directly on topic generally is not a valid reason for you refusing to answer it. (Depositions are one of the reasons lawyers aren’t often winners of popularity contests.)

Don’t let a few stupid mistakes you’ve made keep you from pursuing justice—chances are the other side has made some too. But neither should you assume you can guarantee your most serious errors from the past will remain hidden.

Above all, give your lawyer a heads-up about your skeletons—because the more often your lawyer is surprised by what the other side uncovers about you and your claims, the greater the chances you will be surprised by how badly you lose.

Biz: Use a standard lease form?

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Using a standard lease agreement seems like a great way to save time and money–perhaps even to get you to the beach a bit quicker.  They vary in quality, from the one-pager to the type that may be provided by a real estate broker.

Whether one is right for you largely is a question of how much you have at stake.  Are you renting a storage shed or tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of commercial space?  As well, some leases are written to favor the landlord, others the tenant.  Which is it for the standard form you have been given?

The biggest question may be not what the boilerplate provisions say, but the special provisions you and the other side want to add.  That’s where spending $500 or $1,000 on an attorney up-front can save you thousands of dollars in later litigation.  An attorney can make sure what the parties think they are saying is likely to be what a court would conclude they were saying.  If you have a question or concern about a lease for a Texas business or non-profit, get in touch with us.