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Originally published by Joanna Herzik.
To highlight some of the posts that stand out from the crowd, the editors of Texas Bar Today have created a list from the week’s blog posts of the top ten based on subject matter, writing style, headline, and imagery. We hope you enjoy this installment.
9. IRS Guidance Regarding High Deductible Health Plans and Expenses Related to COVID-19 – Haynes and Boone Benefits Group of Haynes and Boone, LLP @haynesboone
8. Once More, With Feeling: Business Entities Must be Represented in Court by a Licensed Attorney – Ken Carroll of Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal LLP @ccsblaw in Dallas
6. In A Venue Dispute, Court Held That A Personal Injury Claim Against An Estate Representative Could Be Filed In The County Where The Estate Was Pending – David Fowler Johnson @TXFiduciaryLit of Winstead PC in Fort Worth
5. ADA and FHA Quick Hits – Great Caesar’s Ghost edition. – Richard Hunt of Hunt Huey PLLC in Dallas
2. Should Law Firms Market During The Coronavirus Crisis? – Stacey E. Burke of Stacey E. Burke P.C. @StaceyEBurke in Houston
Originally published by Tiffany Dowell.
Well…a lot has happened since our last Weekly Round Up. Currently, all of my programs scheduled through March 31 have been postponed, including our Ranchers Leasing Workshop in Abilene. We have also postponed our Ranchers Leasing Workshop scheduled in La Vernia. I will ensure that my “Upcoming Presentations” page remains up to date, so to check on the status of any program, click here. We are working on some potential online programs, including launching our online Ranchers Leasing Workshop course soon.
Here are some of the ag law stories recently in the news.
*TDA now accepting hemp license applications; regulations finalized. The Texas Department of Agriculture is now accepting licenses for hemp production. [Click here for more info.] Additionally, the final Texas hemp regulations have been adopted and are now posted on the TDA website. [Click here for final regulations.] We plan to have a revised video and a blog post that provides an overview of the final regulations soon.
*Federal Judge refuses to grant Temporary Restraining Order against Kinder Morgan pipeline. A federal court judge has rejected plaintiffs’ attempts to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting Kinder Morgan from beginning construction on its Permian Highway Pipeline, which will travel through the Hill Country. The court found that the plaintiffs failed to show irreparable harm, an element required before a TRO may be issued. Specifically, the plaintiffs’ argument that the pipeline will harm the habitat of the golden-cheeked warbler, a protected species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, failed to show likelihood of irreparable harm to the species as a whole. The US Fish and Wildlife Service found the pipeline would impact less than 1% of the warbler’s habitat in the area and offered a number of steps Kinder Morgan can take to minimize the impact. Thus, the TRO was rejected. According to KUT, construction on the portion of the pipeline through the Hill Country could begin in a matter of weeks. [Read article here and Opinion here.]
*Syngenta settlement payments begin. The court has authorized the claims administrator to begin making interim payments to corn producers qualifying under the Synegenta corn litigation settlement. Initial payments are set to begin around March 20. Importantly, to be eligible for payments, producers and crop share landlords must have submitted all required paper work (including the required W-9 form to qualify to receive the interim payment). For more information, click here. According to a press release from class counsel, the majority of total payments will exceed $5,000 per farmer
TAMU AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter
*Article highlights potential farm data concerns for farmers leasing land. A recent NPR article highlights an important issue for farmers, especially those leasing land, to be aware of. Who has access to your farm data and how might that be used against you? The article discusses farmer suspicion that companies may be using that data in a way that could result in the tenant losing his or her leased ground. It is a concerning issue to be sure. [Read article here.]
*Considerations for renting or passing on grazing lease. Dr. Woody Lane wrote a great article for Progressive Cattleman discussing several critical considerations for producers when determine whether to sign the dotted line on a grazing lease. These are all topics we discuss at our Ranchers Leasing Workshop, and are helpful for prospective tenants to keep in mind. [Read article here.]
Thank you all for your support of the Texas Agriculture Law Blog. We hope you stay safe and healthy during this time.
Originally published by Alex Hernandez.
Bringing Your Work Home with You:
Remote Workspaces and The Evolution of Technology in Advanced Personal Injury Firms
I’ve been monitoring feedback within articles, news reports, and social media posts written mostly by employees from companies who have responded to the Coronavirus epidemic by sending everyone home to work remotely. One thing I’ve noticed is that overall, it’s a ‘win’ for employers and employees alike. My conclusion of course comes after weighing the positives and negatives. I thought it might be helpful to take some of the most prevalent topics from my reading and comment on them from a personal injury attorney’s perspective. Helpful to whom? Not sure, but any firm who isn’t in the know yet might be wise to not only check out my comments below, but also to do their own research…and fast.
Why did it take so long for firms to make the shift, even without taking COVID-19 into account?
From an employer’s perspective, accountability is the number one issue. From the employee’s, not being micromanaged is important. Good, steady communication can quell both concerns. When I first started employing people remotely, I tried it with my associate attorneys. I assumed they would be perfect for my experiment because they were already used to constant communication needs from senior attorneys, opposing counsel, court staff, and clients. I found for the most part, I didn’t have to remotely “stand over their shoulders” to supervise them. But these employees were used to acting like independent contractors – they didn’t need me to supervise their every move and worked more independently than my hourly staff, like my intake team, my paralegal, my case manager, etc. Of course, I absolutely have to supervise my staff who are not licensed attorneys.
So this was my next step: I started allowing some non-attorney employees to work remotely from home when they had illnesses, an atypical schedule, or school, so they didn’t miss hours or have to take sick leave or put in time-off requests. It did take a lot of trust, I’ll admit, to work through this transition with them. Think about this: as a personal injury attorney, it is an absolute must that my staff answers incoming calls. All of them. I cannot survive in a highly competitive field of practice if I can’t keep up with people’s need for legal services. Of course, accidents and injuries happen every day, so the need is there, always. As soon as I miss a call, potential clients are on to calling the next attorney. So, we had to find a balance that promoted accountability while giving employees the space to work without interruptions from me. The end result was that I was able to track task-completion and monitor incoming call response times by implementing new technology that removed the need for in-person supervision by better-facilitating communication. I’ll get into this more, below.
I sincerely believe it has been the unwillingness of ‘old-school’ firms to consider remote employment that’s contributed to the delay in making the switch. While shaking up the usual and steady routine, switching to remote employment options pushes firms into the future of litigation because it forces firm owners to try new technology, and better communicate with employees, other attorneys, court staff, and most importantly, clients. Ultimately what I learned is what timid firm owners still fear: this is a service industry, you can’t offer great service if you don’t have happy employees, and in regard to the new conditions placed on employees by social distancing and quarantine protocols due the COVID-19 epidemic, you now have the responsibility of offering ways to keep your employees on payroll while at the same time not endangering their health. You need to do make the change or your firm will quickly become obsolete.
What does it mean for your firm if you don’t send your employees home to work remotely?
Other than making a name for yourself as a fuddy-duddy, stick-in-the-mud, and overall mean boss, you may face both substantial economic losses and potential lawsuits. If you don’t give them an opportunity to work remotely under social distancing or quarantine situations, you may be liable for employment-related lawsuits. For instance, the act of requiring employees to come to the office to work, then firing them if they refuse to do, so may be seen as retaliation. Some employees may have conditions covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which you can’t violate by refusing to accommodate them.
Personal injury attorneys should be well aware of the difficulties some of their clients face when seeking medical treatment. It’s going to be infinitely more difficult now for people to get treatment if hospitals fill up with people needing Coronavirus-related testing and medical care. You should be extra sensitive, then, to your employees’ need for safety in the workplace. You don’t need to place them in a position where they may lose their employment because they won’t risk catching the virus. Doing so while knowing how hard it’s going to be to get treatment makes this an almost willful decision to put your employees at risk.
According to a United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration article, person-to-person spread of the novel Coronavirus is thought to occur “mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.” (See more at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/ ). This means that when you pack your office full of people – employees, clients, couriers, etc. – you put every single one of them at risk. There’s too much information out there right now for an employer to deny that risk.
The main lesson here is: stay safe – if you haven’t already done your research, check out the following resources I’ve either considered or implemented in my own personal injury firm that you might find useful as you make the right decision and send your invaluable employees home to work remotely.
What are some great resources for personal injury firms shifting to remote work?
There’s a lot of cool technology out there, but the bottom line technology-wise in most personal injury firms is, as mentioned above, keeping the clients coming in. Whether you’ve made the shift from office to remote work stations, or you’re still thinking it over, you need to assess, and reassess, and triple-assess (I may have just made up that term) what’s out there to help you. And, this isn’t a blog trying to promote or sell any particular software or device, it’s honestly not about that. You may find you’re not happy with the newest stuff out there, but rather the best combination of processes. You want to find a way to streamline any part of your process that’s currently piecemeal.
For instance, there’s the following types of processes in a personal injury firm:Intake – is it in line with your potential client’s expectations? Do you have a system to capture Every. Single. One? Document storage and organization – can you quickly and efficiently find that crash report or medical record you need? Templates and automation – do you have to reinvent the wheel every time you draft an update letter or create a pleading? Entering time – can you link your emails, documents, and tasks with your time and expense functions so you don’t have to go back and forth between your email account and your case management system each time you respond to a status update request? Invoicing – you’re not creating bills one-by-one still, are you? Correspondence – can you share documents from within the case management system? Send emails? Do you have a digital postal service to timestamp and verify letter correspondence?
There may not always be an all-in-one service that handles each of these processes, but there are some out there that cover a lot-in-one. The changes you need to make when going remote have much to do with taking those functions you typically perform from the office and making them remote-friendly. For instance, mail that absolutely has to go out in letter form can be sent through a digital postal service, with the benefit of a timestamp and verification of sending. Notarization of documents can be done online in many states with a special notary certification. VOIP phone systems with cell phone apps allow employees to place calls from their work phone numbers on their cell phone and, send faxes from their phones or computers. Using the same system, I can meet with my employees and clients from our separate remote locations. Not to mention, for those still concerned with accountability issues related to remote work, I can see when someone is at their desk by an activity light that appears next to their name in our messaging system.
There are tracking tools for computer activity, communication programs that use face recognition to determine when someone is at their desk so that a call can be transferred, adobe and related PDF manipulating programs, simultaneous editing capabilities in word processing programs, screensharing, and so much more.
Look for services like these that combine and streamline functions, check out their free tutorials or demos (done remotely), ask about trials or contract-free subscriptions. You can do this!
How has the Law Office of Alex R. Hernandez, Jr. PLLC prepared itself to represent personal injury clients remotely?
A somewhat consoling prospect in the face of the Coronavirus epidemic is the fact that I’ve been equipping my office personnel with the tools and technology to work remotely, albeit at a somewhat faster pace the last few weeks. I started with making sure everyone had a laptop equipped with the programs we use. I had employees work a day or two a week from home, to come up with a list of snags we needed to work out before going fully remote. This also allowed them time to adjust. I made sure all hard documents were scanned in. I ensured I had updated contact information for all of my clients. And I kept my clients informed about our progress. I was happy to find the majority were supportive. I keep my mind open and continue looking for new technology. Staying alert to the newest trends I remote work technology ensures we can continue providing the best client service possible.
Some tips I’ve gathered from my staff to help avoid snags during the transition from office to remote workspaces:
The biggest reported struggles with working remotely include unplugging after work, loneliness, collaborating, communication, distractions, and motivation. You can see that most of these have to do with a person’s work style, learning style, and personality type. I noticed some of my employees had a hard time adjusting to simply not having a paper document to hold…and this was after my office had been relatively paperless for some time. Something about holding the file in your hand and thumbing through it connected these employees to the task and aided in completion. We were able to resolve this for most with the use of a second screens. They can reference a document on a separate screen while working on their task on their laptop.
The shift to remote work is clearly increasing due to the Coronavirus outbreak. I feel like our firm is ready. Personal injury clients require a lot of communication – they’re going through a tough time, the loss of a loved one, surgeries, other medical treatments, and they need you to be able to keep up with their expectations and needs to a higher degree that clients in other areas of law. I show my clients respect by preparing my team and constantly looking for ways to better serve my clients.
The attorneys and staff at the Law Offices of Alex R. Hernandez, Jr. PLLC hope you stay healthy during this nationwide crisis. If you find yourself needing the assistance of an attorney, please feel free to contact my firm. We’re remote-ready, focusing on our team’s health so we can help take care of YOU.
Alex R. Hernandez, Jr.
Originally published by Chris Ritter.
Connect and Debrief. We are not alone. Everyone is struggling. It is hard to know this if we isolate and do not connect. Likewise, if we do not talk to anyone about what we are going through, we do not process the anxiety and we continue to experience ruminating and stress associated with the need to connect and get a healthier perspective. Connecting with others who know firsthand what you are going through can help reduce fear and hopelessness. Fortunately, there are many ways we can connect online and, if you need to talk, check out the many online connection resources on tlaphelps.org or texasbar.com/coronavirus or call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) or text TLAP to 555888.
Set Boundaries and Focus on What You Can Control. Boundaries are important for a person practicing self-care. Do you deserve 4% of your life? That is one hour per day of self-care. In order to get any time, we have to calendar it. We also have to consider limits to our work life and disconnect from the anchor of our emails and smartphones. Likewise, our minds will scan to solve every problem if we do not set a limit, such as this: Can I do anything about this issue today? If not, think of something else that you have some control over today. This can be very effective in avoiding anxiety when we have so little control over the frightening developments all around us.
Learn to Relax. For attorneys dealing with practicing during a world pandemic, relaxing can seem impossible. The mind is an instrument, but sometimes the instrument has become the master. Breathing practices have been effective for attorneys who need to relax or “quiet the mind.” TLAP’s website has links to guided meditations and other ways to relax. Whether it is meditation, running, playing an instrument, cooking, yoga, golf, or something else, it is critical that we do something physical after becoming stressed or we will remain in our sympathetic nervous system and experience chronic stress, which leads to depression.
Practice Gratitude. It can almost feel invalidating to hear someone tell you to look at the bright side. That is not what I am suggesting. I lost my wife to cancer last summer, and I cannot tell you how little interest I had in hearing about the “bright side” of anything. That said, I am certain that gratitude is an effective tool, when self-initiated, for a person experiencing complete chaos. It allows us to look at the things that we do have, that are truly good things, and it prevents our positive mind from atrophying. There are endless things wrong and endless things right in this world, so we can exert some choice in what we focus upon, at least if we practice gratitude. Science shows that thinking of three things each day that you are glad to have in your life can increase your happiness by 25%.
Use Online Resources for Well-Being. Technology has mostly been an obstacle to our well-being as we spend many hours each day connected to devices. We check our phones 150 times per day, read 120 new emails and 94 text messages daily. This was overwhelming before the virus hit. Now, aside from doing your essential work, try to limit your use of technology to finding healthy resources. The State Bar and TLAP have put a number of resources at texasbar.com/coronavirus and tlaphelps.org to help you.
If you or someone you know needs some resources for anxiety, depression, an addiction, grief, or any mental health struggle, TLAP is available to provide guidance and support at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) or text TLAP to 555888.
Chris Ritter is the director of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program.
Originally published by Cris Feldman.
Intellectual property laws aim to help businesses and creators protect their work from being misappropriated. Trademarks, copyrights, and patents can all be used in different ways to accomplish this. With trademarks, however, in certain cases it can be difficult to achieve this sort of protection when trying to protect a widely used phrase or word. This is true for major streaming platform Netflix, which has found itself in the middle of a trademark lawsuit where it has requested for dismissal of an existing mark.
In January of 2019, the company behind the popular Choose Your Own Adventure book series of the 1980’s and 1990’s – Chooseco, LLC – filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Netflix for its popular film, “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” The film enticed viewers because it was done in a ‘choose your own adventure’ style, where they could determine the decisions of the main character as the show progressed. Chooseco alleged Netflix attempted to make a profit off of the nostalgia connected to the brand’s books without permission, and that a character in the film refers to his own video game creation as a “choose your own adventure” game. Additionally, Chooseco also accused the streaming service of diluting consumers’ goodwill by linking ‘choose your own adventure’ with the “upsetting” images in Bandersnatch.
Netflix filed a motion to dismiss the case entirely, stating the phrase ‘choose your own adventure’ was only used to describe the film. Judge William Sessions III of the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont rejected Netflix’s request, citing more evidence was needed to evaluate the argument that its use of the phrase was protected by free speech concepts. The trademark infringement litigation remains unresolved, as Netflix has requested dismissal of the existing trademark, because the phrase ‘choose your own adventure’ is a generic term.
A trademark is a method of branding a product to distinguish it from similar products other companies may produce. Trademarks offer legal protections for words, symbols, phrases, logos, designs, or a combination of those that represents a good or service. For instance, the MGM lion’s roar and the Nike swoosh logo are two easily recognizable trademarks.
Trademark infringement refers to the unauthorized use of an existing trademark, service mark, or a substantially similar mark on goods or services that are related and will likely cause confusion with potential clients or customers. In order to determine if trademark infringement has occurred, the following factors are taken into account:The strength of the mark The similarity of the trademark holder’s goods or services to the alleged infringer’s The similarity of the alleged infringing mark to the trademark being infringed upon The similarity of marketing channels used for goods and services The degree of care likely exercised by those purchasing goods and services The alleged infringer’s intent behind why they selected their mark The likelihood of expansion of parties’ products or services into new markets Actual evidence of consumer confusion
Federal trademark law – called the Lanham Act – authorizes a lawsuit to be brought for infringement of either registered or common law trademark rights. Common law trademark rights are acquired automatically when a business utilizes a name or logo in commerce, and are enforceable in state courts.
Texas trademark law is fairly similar to federal trademark law; however, in Texas, one does not have to register their trademark in order for it to be valid. If the business is using the trademark in commerce in connection with goods and services it provides, that gives rise to common law trademark rights. There are still valuable reasons to register a trademark in Texas, however. For instance, registering a trademark puts other parties in the state on notice that a business has ownership rights to the mark in connection with specific goods and services. Registering a trademark also provides the business with proof it owns the trademark and has the exclusive right to use it.
Texas law also requires the trademark be used by the business prior to registering it. This is because when applying for trademark registration, the business must show it is using the mark in connection with a specific good or service. Once registered, the trademark will remain registered in Texas for up to five years.
Protecting a business’ intellectual property can be a complex process. Your company’s ideas should be protected and not infringed upon. At Feldman & Feldman, we have successfully litigated business disputes for over 40 years and will fight for your business’ intellectual property rights. If your business is facing a dispute, contact Feldman & Feldman today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.
The post Netflix Requests for Dismissal of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Trademark Amid Lawsuit appeared first on Feldman & Feldman.
Originally published by Carrington Coleman.
R2Go Transport LLC a/k/a Ready 2 Go Transport LLC v. Xellex Corp.
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-19-01246-CV (March 18, 2020)
Chief Justice Burns (Opinion, linked here), and Justices Molberg and Nowell
The Dallas Court of Appeals reminded us today that business entities in the State of Texas cannot appear in court pro se or through non-lawyer employees or members. Generally, except for the performance of ministerial tasks (like posting bond), only a licensed attorney may represent a business entity in a Texas court. The rule originated with respect to corporations in Kunstoplast of America, Inc. v. Formosa Plastics Corp., U.S.A., 937 S.W.2d 455 (Tex. 1996). It now extends to virtually all “fictional legal [business] entities,” including partnerships and limited liability companies. See, e.g., Sherman v. Boston, 486 S.W.3d 88, 95-96 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, pet. denied). “Allowing a non-attorney to present a company’s claim would permit the unlicensed practice of law.” Id. (trial evidence presented for LLC by non-lawyer “had no legal effect” and was “legally insufficient to support a judgment”). The rule applies in all courts, trial and appellate—other than small claims courts, for which there is an express statutory exception. Tex. Gov’t Code § 28.003(e) (“A corporation need not be represented by an attorney in small claims court.”).
Here, R2Go’s counsel was allowed to withdraw from the appeal. When the LLC did not obtain replacement counsel, despite having been warned and ordered to do so, the Dallas Court dismissed its appeal, because it could not proceed with its appeal without being represented by a licensed attorney.
Originally published by Energy Legal Blog ®.
In light of the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, many organisations are implementing remote working policies and limiting access to offices in order to effect social distancing measures. Notwithstanding the changes to usual working practices, organisations continue to enter into binding contractual arrangements with their commercial counterparties.
Alastair Young, Oliver Irwin, John Gilbert
Originally published by Sally Pretorius.
If there was ever a time to be thankful for technology, it is now. During the novel coronavirus pandemic, a majority of attorneys are finding themselves practicing social distancing, which means working remotely. Given our professions, many times court appearances, emergency motions, client meetings, and emergencies cannot wait. To be honest, I was skeptical of using technology for court appearances and hearings because I have been taught the value of in-person relationships and the power of in-person advocacy. However, after a call with Elizabeth Lippy from Trial Advocacy & Consulting, my mind was quickly changed. Our clients trust us to make sure we are capable of assisting them with their legal problems, and given our current circumstances, attorneys need to make sure we are able to rise to that occasion.
That being said, many courts (Collin County being one of the leading counties on this front) have begun to conduct their hearings via a platform called Zoom. To ensure we are fully capable of representing our clients in whatever platform is necessary, I dug into Zoom to make sure I was prepared to use it as an advocacy platform should the need arise. Here are some tips that should help you get started.
Creating an account
Aside from Zoom being user friendly and intuitive, the great thing about Zoom is that it’s free—for three people for up to 40 minutes. If you need more people on a call or need more than 40 minutes, you will need to pay for a plan. Even if you do need to pay for a plan, the cost is minimal: $14.99, which gets you up to 100 participants and 24-hour time limit per call (which I hope you don’t need for a hearing). To sign up for an account, you simply enter your email address and then Zoom sends you a link to verify and you are in. Once you have an account, you log in to Zoom and you are usually immediately logged in to your profile. This is where you can see the details of your account, including your personal meeting ID. You can now go in and change your profile picture and manage your account to do more advanced things (once you are proficient and ready to advance).
Pro Tip: Pin the Zoom icon/app onto your desktop for easy access.
So now you are logged in and ready to go. If you are scheduling the meeting, at the top of the Zoom screen, there is a link to “Schedule a Meeting.” Click on that link and begin to enter the details for your meeting. As mentioned, Zoom is pretty intuitive, so filling in the details of your Zoom meeting is similar to creating a calendar invite. The nice thing about Zoom is you can make it audio only or you can make it video as well. If you want video, make sure you turn on video for the host and participant. For the audio selection, I recommend keeping both clicked on so people using their computer can have the sound capability from their computers as well.
Pro Tip: If you want to mute participants upon entry so you don’t have endless chatter and lots of distractions, click that option. You can also record the meeting on your computer if you want to make sure you have a record of the call. While Texas is a one-party state, I would make sure to let the participants know that you are recording them as a courtesy. If you are setting up a meeting with a judge, I would absolutely ask permission before recording the conference as many judges have local rules and policies on recording their proceedings outside a court reporter. If you want a court reporter, you can also invite your court reporter so he or she can make an official record of the hearing/meeting/conference.
Next, click “Save” to create the meeting. The meeting is now saved and ready to share. To invite other people, copy and paste the “Join URL” and send it to other participants. I would suggest including this information in a calendar invite so people aren’t searching for the meeting information.
Participating in a Meeting
If someone is scheduling a meeting and inviting you, he or she will send you a link to join the call or send you a meeting ID. At the top of the Zoom screen, click on the “Join a Meeting” link, enter the meeting ID, and click “Join.” You should then be directed into the meeting space.
Starting the Meeting
To access meetings that you have created, click on the link called “Meetings” on the left-hand side of the screen and you will see all of the meetings you have scheduled. You can use this link to edit your meeting, add the meeting to your calendar, and to share the meeting with other people (remember the three-person limit for a free account).
When it is time for the meeting, click “Start this Meeting.” Follow the prompts to run from a browser or download and run Zoom. You will be asked if you want to join audio—click that selection to hear others and participate.
Tips for Conducting a Hearing on Zoom
Enter the conference early and make sure that everything is working properly and the features are set up to your preference—just as you would arrive early at a new courtroom to check on things and make sure you are good to go.
If you are going to have witnesses, including your client, present, you need the pro version of Zoom to invite them to participate in the hearing because there is a limit on the number of people allowed on a Zoom session under the free version. Invite witnesses and clients to the session just like any other participant (as detailed above).
The easiest way to share documents with the group is through the chat feature. There are more advanced ways, but on a basic level, the best way is to use the chat feature. I would recommend having all of your exhibits ready to go in a folder saved to your desktop. If you have your exhibit stickers added on, that would make it best for everyone present to identify the documents and keep a clear record. I would also recommend emailing your exhibits to the court beforehand, so the court is able to maintain a clear record. Once you have your documents ready to go, click on the chat icon on the bottom middle right of the Zoom screen and a chat feature will be populated on the right side. On the bottom right of that chat feature is a file icon where you can upload a document and everyone on the chat can then see the document. You can proceed as though you are tendering to the court.
Pro Tip: There is an option at the bottom of your home Zoom page to screen share when on a conference call to facilitate the exchange of information and documents. As an attorney, I don’t recommend using the screen share feature because I often have chats and emails coming through on my desktop.
It is frustrating to be on a call/conference/chat with background noise because someone did not hit mute. Zoom allows you to mute everyone. To mute everyone on a call, go to the three-dot icon on the bottom right that says “More.” Then click on “Manage Participants” and click “Mute All.” You will then be prompted to either allow or not allow participants to unmute themselves.
Turn Off Video
If you don’t want to be seen on a conference call, simply click the “Start Video/Stop Video” icon on the bottom left-hand corner.
Ensuring Uniform Views
When everyone first logs on, ask them to go to their video settings (the up arrow to the right of the video camera icon) and click the box that says “Hide Non-Video Participants.” If everyone does this and your hearing requires the questioning of witnesses, this ensures that everyone does not have to see all of the Zoom participants on their screen. Similarly, if you click “Speaker View” in the top right corner, the person speaking will be the larger screen in the middle.
It is nice to have a softening effect to your video. Under “Settings,” go to “Video” and click the box for “Touch Up My Appearance,” which adds a nice “Pretty Filter” to help out with those blemishes.
Pick a Professional Background
When logged in to Zoom, you will see on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen an icon that looks like a video camera and next to the icon a little carrot arrow pointing up. Click on the carrot arrow and select “Choose Virtual Background.” You can then visit a free background website like unsplash.com and download a free background. This way, it looks like you are in a professional background when you are really in your dining room or home office.
Speaking with your client offline
Once you get proficient at Zoom, there is a capability to use breakout rooms; however, on a very basic level, I would recommend setting up a different call with a client or session with your client to have offline conversations.
Practice makes perfect
Practice! It is going to take some time getting used to speaking into a computer monitor and looking at the right spot for the camera. Try it out with a colleague or by yourself in a practice session. We can do this. Attorneys are trained to think on our feet and adapt.
Sally Pretorius is a shareholder at KoonsFuller Family Law in Dallas. Her practice focuses on divorce, complex property division, child custody litigation, and child support matters. She is certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has received many notable accolades.
Originally published by Amy Starnes.
Editor’s Note: The State Bar of Texas is providing this collection of important links, blog posts, and media stories to keep its members and the public informed of the latest news and resources related to the novel coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the legal community.
Important linksState Bar of Texas Coronavirus Legal Resources Page — Texasbar.com/coronavirus Check the Office of Court Administration’s website for court closures or delays reported to the OCA
Texas Supreme Court coronavirus update — Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht ordered the Supreme Court Building indefinitely closed to the public Wednesday in expanding efforts to thwart spread of COVID-19. The State Preservation Board also closed the adjacent Capitol complex. — Texas Bar Blog
Big Law goes remote: Updates on law firm closures during the coronavirus crisis — Firms across the country are making decisions on whether to keep offices open amid the coronavirus pandemic. We catalog here those firms that have confirmed their plans. — Texas Lawyer
Gov. Greg Abbott on Texas bars and restaurants: Expect an announcement Thursday — “We’re dealing with something … that is not just statewide in scope, not just nationwide in scope, but is worldwide in scope,” Abbott said. — The Texas Tribune
Coronavirus outbreak could postpone Texas municipal elections until November — As the coronavirus outbreak continues to grow in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Wednesday that will allow municipalities to postpone their upcoming May 2 elections until November. — The Texas Tribune
As COVID-19 disrupts Spring Break, Texas Supreme Court resolves a key custody dispute — The COVID-19 pandemic has created urgent disputes among divorced parents about who keeps the children during widespread post-spring break school closures, forcing the Texas Supreme Court to step in with an answer. (Subscription required) — Texas Lawyer
Lawyers are supposed to plan for the worst, so how can you ease COVID-19 anxiety? — Getting out of your own head and thinking about other people’s concerns, rather than only focusing on your own, is a strategy to stay sober in the 12-step community. And it’s a good way to deal with anxiety around the coronavirus, regardless of whether you have an addiction issue, says Bree Buchanan, president of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs. — ABA Journal
From inside the Italian quarantine: lawyering on lockdown — Growing up in New Hampshire, I’m used to a degree of isolation from having to remain indoors during winter months. The isolation I experienced then pales in comparison to the conditions we’re currently facing here in Italy, where the streets are empty and constantly patrolled by Italian polizia and Carabinieri. — Texas Bar Blog
Lawsuits over coronavirus quarantines are unlikely to succeed, experts say — Lawsuits challenging COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions on public gatherings may be doomed to failure. — ABA Journal
In Texas, battles over paid sick leave linger as coronavirus spreads (audio) — Of the 193 countries that in the world, 179 offer some form of paid sick leave so workers can stay home when they’re unwell. The U.S. is not one of those countries. — KERA – Austin
Texas is urging patients to seek remote health care. Some insurance plans won’t pay for it. — As millions of Texans isolate themselves in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, state officials are working to ramp up the use of telemedicine. But many health plans are outside of their regulatory authority. — The Texas Tribune
“It’s going to hurt”: New coronavirus shocks Texas economy as length of public health crisis remains unknown — The novel coronavirus has caught governments unprepared, put people out of work and set businesses on the brink of closure. Congress is working on a federal stimulus package as unemployment claims in Texas are expected to rise. — The Texas Tribune
ICE to stop most immigration enforcement inside United States, will focus on criminals during coronavirus outbreak — United States immigration authorities will temporarily halt enforcement across the country except for efforts to deport foreign nationals who have committed crimes or who pose a threat to public safety. — The Texas Tribune
Texas prisons ramp up coronavirus protection measures — As the number of infections and deaths from the new coronavirus rise across Texas, prison officials are ramping up efforts to prevent an outbreak among the state’s 149,000 inmates. — USA Today Network
COVID-19 scams on the rise — Scams related to the pandemic are emerging, but local state and federal officials are taking action to combat such unscrupulous practices. — Texarkana Gazette
Lawsuit in Dallas federal court accuses Chinese government of creating coronavirus as ‘biological weapon’ — The Florida man filed a class-action federal lawsuit Tuesday in Dallas against the People’s Republic for creating “massive damage.” The lawsuit seeks “an award in excess of $20 trillion U.S. Dollars.” The effort, however, is not expected to be successful in court. — The Dallas Morning News
Law schools adopt pass-fail grades as they move online amid COVID-19 — At least five highly ranked law schools have said they are moving to pass/fail grading this semester—a change that could disrupt the normal law firm summer associate hiring process. (Subscription required) — Texas Lawyer
Summer associate hiring was strong, but COVID-19 prompts uncertainty ahead — While the latest hiring data from NALP shows that 2019 was a strong year for summer associate hiring, the coronavirus is raising questions about whether those summer programs will take place as expected. (Subscription required) — Texas Lawyer
COVID-19 throws a wrench into surrogacy — COVID-19 is affecting every facet of our lives, and the world of surrogacy is no exception. — Above The Law
Government guidelines urge people to work from home. So why are government workers required to come to the office? — President Donald Trump issued guidelines suggesting people avoid groups larger than 10 people. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott directed state agencies to provide flexible and remote work options to employees. But many government workers still don’t have the option. — The Texas Tribune
To keep up on the latest legal news from around the state, sign up for the State Bar of Texas’ Daily News Briefing by clicking here.
Originally published by 1p21.admin.
If you make an S corporation election and do not fix the standard language that is typically included in the LLC company agreement, you’ll void the S corporation election. This is an issue that is usually identified by during an… Read More
The post S Corp Election Terminated by Standard LLC Language appeared first on Houston Tax Attorney Kreig Mitchell.
The post S Corp Election Terminated by Standard LLC Language appeared first on Kreig Mitchell LLC – Attorneys at Law.
Originally published by Joanna Herzik.
To highlight some of the posts that stand out from the crowd, the editors of Texas Bar Today have created a list from the week’s blog posts of the top ten based on subject matter, writing style, headline, and imagery. We hope you enjoy this installment.
10. Lateral Partners and Associates: What Do You Know About Your Potential New Firm? – Cordell Parvin @cordellparvin of Cordell Parvin LLC in Dallas
9. Can A Flip of The Coin Be a Part of Mandatory Pre-Suit Insurance Dispute Mediation Process? – Chip Merlin of the Merlin Law Group @MerlinLawGroup
8. Can Application Programming Interfaces (“APIs”) Be Protected Under Copyright Law? – Peggy Keene of Klemchuk LLP @K_LLP in Dallas
6. New DOL Rules Regarding Tips and Joint Employment Face Uncertainty In Courts – Robert G. Chadwick, Jr. @chadwicklawusa of Seltzer Chadwick Soefje & Ladik, PLLC in Frisco
5. Why Your Law Firm Logo Colors Look Different in Print Format – Lisa Hopkins of Stacey E. Burke P.C. @StaceyEBurke in Houston
2. Insider Trading: The New Prohibition Act Finally Defines the Term – John T. Floyd of John T. Floyd Law Firm @HoustonDefender in Houston
1. Key Contract Issues for Creating or Revising Your Confidentiality, Ownership, and Employment Agreement – Suzy Fulton of Grable Martin Fulton PLLC in Austin
Originally published by Lisa Hopkins.
Your law firm’s logo is one of the most important aspects of its brand identity. A logo is the foundation of the firm’s entire design aesthetic, signaling to consumers subliminal messages right off the bat. Is your logo traditional with a serif font – potentially indicating a more conservative or even older law firm? Or…
The post Why Your Law Firm Logo Colors Look Different in Print Format appeared first on Stacey E. Burke, P.C..
Originally published by John Floyd.
Insider trading takes place quite frequently in the stock market. Anyone, from an everyday investor to a CEO of a successful company, can and do engage in the illegal activity.
However, prior to the current year, insider trading was not codified. That made it difficult for federal authorities to go after insider traders because they had to rely on precedent rather than law.
In other words, federal prosecutors had to use rulings from other cases to prove their own instead of pointing to specific statutes and legislation.
The Insider Trading Prohibition Act was enacted to change this dilemma. Let us explain.
To better understand the laws regarding insider trading, it is important to first identify what insider trading is. One common misconception is that all insider trading is illegal. That’s not the case. There are in fact both legal and illegal forms of insider trading.
Legal Insider Trading
Essentially, an “insider” is anyone at a director or senior officer level in a corporation or someone who owns more than 10 percent of a company’s share of votes. That definition ensnares anyone authorized to trade a company’s shares based on knowledge not available to the public.
These insiders are legally allowed to purchase stocks in their firms as well as the subsidiaries that employ them – but these trades must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Illegal Insider Trading
Illegal insider trading is the practice of trading non-public information for profit. This could be done by anyone, even if the person is not directly connected with the company. For example, a waiter could overhear a conversation between two executives of a publicly-traded company who are out for lunch. While this scenario is highly unlikely, if the waiter then sells this non-public information to someone, they could face possible indictment for insider trading.
The ITPA codifies and defines insider trading in a legal terms. The new legislation specifies that it is unlawful for a person to buy, sell, enter into or cause the purchase of securities when they are aware of any material, nonpublic information (MNPI) related to the respective security.
This includes any MNPI that would be reasonably expected to affect the market price of said security. The person must also know or recklessly disregard that the information was wrongfully obtained or used.
MNPI must be given for direct or indirect personal benefit.
The ITPA prohibits the wrongful communication of MNPI. It codifies the act of “tipping” which has previously existed only in case law. The new Act specifically make the sharing of MNPI information to another person when there is a reasonably foreseeable chance it may be misused.
Trading while aware of MNPI would be wrongful if it constitutes: theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach of confidentiality obligations or relationships among other factors.
ITPA codifies the SEC’s stance that insider trading, even without an agreement not to trade, is still a breach of confidentiality. It also adds that it is a breach of contract.
The ITPA states that a person does not necessarily have to know how the MNPI was obtained or communicated or whether or not there was any personal benefit. They may still be guilty if they were aware and chose to ignore that the MNPI was wrongfully obtained and used.
The SEC many grant exemptions to the new trading ban under some circumstances.
As seen in the analysis above, the ITPA codifies a lot of case law, transforming previous precedents into statutory law, making it easier for prosecutors to go after cases of insider trading.
Although this is an important piece of legislation, it also has implications of casting a wider net over those who may be found guilty of insider trading.
It is important for individuals who have been accused of insider trading under the new law to understand that they are entitled to their right for legal representation. Since this legislation is so new, it is recommended to find a lawyer who specializes in securities cases.
Why? Because the penalties for insider trading are pretty steep.
Individuals accused of insider trading may be charged with a securities fraud charge. These charges carry severe penalties.
The maximum criminal penalties for insider trading are 20 years imprisonment and/or $5,000,000 in fines. A non-person entity (such as a corporation) can face a fine up to a maximum of $25,000,000.
Individuals may also be held liable for civil damages depending on the circumstances surrounding their case.
With such steep penalties and in light of new legislation, individuals accused of insider trading need to understand what is at risk. If you are charged with insider trading, don’t face them alone. Find an experienced Texas securities attorney to bring into your fold.
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