Three Ways to Transfer the Family Business

I’ve had clients who have had to deal with business succession issues and so I invite John L. Wong to provide some insight into what business succession planning is and why business owners should think about it.   As an Orange County Estate Planning Attorney, many of my clients own some form of small business. One of the first questions I ask is: “What’s going to happen to your business when you retire or pass away?” There are two very common responses: I’m going to transfer the business to my children; or I’m going to sell the business. I could certainly go through a bunch of hypotheticals to poke holes in these two responses, but often times, if the question was phrased differently, the issue becomes much clearer. “What would happen to your business if you died today?” After some reflection, common responses are: The business would fail; The business would be taken over by an employee. So how do ensure your business is transferred under the first set of scenarios instead of the second set? How do you ensure … Continue reading

In: Contracts, Estate Planning, Guest Blogger, Hiring a Lawyer, Uncategorized, What to Do | Leave a comment

Non-Compete Agreements in California

Non-compete agreements are void in California except in certain limited circumstances.  More specifically, California’s Business & Professions Code § 16600 states: “Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.” This means that non-competition clauses in employment agreements that purport to prohibit an employee from working for a competitor or starting a competing business after the employee leaves are void.  This is true in California, even if the prohibition is limited to a certain geographic area or for a limited period of time.  This is because California fiercely protects a person’s right to work and to engage in the profession of his or her choice, including working for a competitor or starting a competing business. Under what circumstances are non-compete agreements valid in California? Although the general rule is that agreements that prohibits someone from competing or engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business is void, there are specific circumstances where a court will uphold a non-compete agreement.  … Continue reading

In: Contracts, Employment Law | Leave a comment

Severance Pay – 3 Things to Know

I’ve been on both sides of the negotiation table when it comes to severance pay.  I have drafted and negotiated them on behalf of companies as well as reviewed and negotiated them on behalf of departing employees.  This experience allowed me to understand the value of providing an employee with severance pay from both perspectives. Below are the top 3 things you should understand about severance pay.  This information is applicable to both an employer who may want to offer severance pay to an employee at termination as well as an employee who was offered severance pay along with a multi-page agreement to sign, The law does not require payment of severance unless there is a contractual obligation. At the time of employment, employers sometimes promise to give an executive level or other key employee severance pay should the employment relationship end, usually without cause, and under certain circumstances.  These circumstances may be the business’s closing or change in ownership, reductions in force, etc.  The promise of severance pay is usually offered as an extra incentive to entice top talent.  … Continue reading

In: Contracts, Employment Law, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Emoji and Deciphering Intent in the Digital Age

[Originally published as Emoji and Deciphering Intent in the Digitial Age, by Tanya Kiatkulpiboone and Andrea W. Paris, in Orange County Lawyer Magazine, June 2017, Vol. 59 No.6 on page 42.] An emoji known as “Face with Tears of Joy” was named the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2015 Word of the Year. See Figure 1. Caspar Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries, explained that “Emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders[.]” Katie Steinmetz, Oxford’s 2015 Word of the Year Is This Emoji, Time (Nov. 16, 2015, 2:08 PM), http://time.com/4114886/oxford-word-of-the-year-2015-emoji/. Nevertheless, Oxford Dictionaries have yet to add any emoji to the dictionary, not even their Word of the Year, thereby acknowledging their expressive abilities without defining them. What Are Emoji? Emoji are small images or icons used to express emotion, ideas, or things in electronic communications. They were created in Japan in the 1990s by Shigetaka Kurita, who worked for one of Japan’s largest mobile phone operators. The name originates from the Japanese terms for picture (“e”) and written character (“moji”).  Frequently Asked Questions: Emoji and Pictographs, … Continue reading

In: California Civil Litigation, Contracts, Employment Law, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

3 Strategies to Increase Your Business Profits

Many businesses recently reviewed their profit and loss statements and took a closer look at the business’s profitability. This analysis usually prompts the question “how to increase my business profits?” Although this question could only be answered after becoming familiar with your particular business, below are 3 areas where small changes, if done right, could increase your profitability. Decreasing Bad Debt If your business model does not require customers to pay for products or services in advance, collecting on unpaid invoices is likely something you are all too familiar with. However, collection itself comes at a cost to your business. Not being able to recoup that collection cost limits most businesses’ incentive to pursue collection, rightfully seeing it as throwing good money after bad. You can tip the collection scale in your favor. The default rule that each party bears their own attorney’s fees may be modified by statute or by contract. That means that where the law does not provide for recovery of attorney’s fees, you and your customers could mutually agree that if you and your customer find … Continue reading

In: Contracts, Starting a Business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What to Do: Employee Leaves With Trade Secrets

Losing an employee, especially a key employee, is difficult for any business. You’ve invested time, know-how, and resources in your employees and they in turn are the lifeblood of your business. Unfortunately, people leave and when they leave, it is usually to work for a competitor or even to start a competing business. If that employee had access to your company’s confidential information such as customer lists, customer preferences, pricing formulas, and any other information that gives you a competitive edge, you want to make sure that the employee can’t take that valuable information to a competitor. How do you protect trade secrets from a competitor when an employee leaves? I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news: If the first time you think about protecting your company’s confidential information is after a key employee leaves, it may be too late. One of the fundamental requirements under California and Federal laws that protect trade secrets is the requirement that you made reasonable efforts to keep that information a secret. Thus, if you haven’t thought about how … Continue reading

In: California Civil Litigation, Contracts, Employment Law, What to Do | Leave a comment

Do I Need a Written Contract?

You may have been in the situation where you had an agreement with someone else to do something. It may have been a family member, a friend, a customer, or a service provider. You or the other person didn’t want to go through the formal process of putting it in writing because you have a close relationship, don’t want to offend the other person, or don’t want them to think you don’t trust them. Then something goes wrong. You discuss it with the other person and now there’s a dispute as to what you both actually agreed to, or you never talked about what you two would do if x, y, z happens. Do you have a breach of contract claim? Maybe. In this scenario, your first and most difficult hurdle in prevailing in a breach of contract lawsuit is the lack of a written contract. There are multiple reasons why you would want a written contract. Here are a few: It gives clarity regarding each person’s rights and duties. The process of creating a contract forces the parties to … Continue reading

In: Contracts | Leave a comment

Arbitration Agreement: Do I Want It?

You probably signed an arbitration agreement at your last doctor’s visit, when you signed up for your gym or yoga studio membership, or when you signed a listing agreement with your realtor. The ubiquity of these agreements makes it especially important for us to understand them as consumers, business owners, employers, and employees. What is an arbitration agreement? Arbitration is one of the alternative means of resolving disputes (alternative to filing a lawsuit that is). Thus, an arbitration agreement is an agreement to take disputes out of the court system to be decided by a private arbitrator (or a panel of arbitrators) usually following a different set of procedural rules than the court. People and companies choose to arbitrate for various reasons. The process is generally more streamlined and allows for a quicker resolution of disputes. It is often times cheaper than litigating in court, and the proceedings are typically not part of the public record. Lastly, the conventional wisdom is that you reduce the risk of a run-away-jury. Do you want to arbitrate? Whether agreeing to arbitrate potential disputes … Continue reading

In: California Civil Litigation, Contracts | Leave a comment

What to do Before You Sign a Contract

Congratulations! You made a deal, reached an agreement, or resolved a dispute and now you’re ready to sign a contract to make it all official.  If this contract is important enough to you, pause for a minute, read it carefully, and ask an attorney to review it. Why? There are 2 reasons: Whoever drafts the contract will include terms and provisions that are in their favor. They have no obligation, duty, or interest (generally) in watching out for your interest. But your lawyer does. Every time I review a contract and explain the various clauses to my clients, there are a few clauses that my clients did not understand or was against their interest and invariably had to be negotiated and revised. You may have an engineering degree from MIT and be the smartest person in the room but unless you’ve seen the same clauses day in and day out and have seen their implications in the litigation context, you may not have an accurate understanding of the contract. Contract pitfalls to look out for. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. … Continue reading

In: Contracts, What to Do | Leave a comment

What to Do When a Client Doesn’t Pay

This is the first post in a new series called “What to Do” where I will discuss “what to do” in various common situations that come up in small and medium sized businesses. Feel free to send me your “what to do” question. Today’s topic is what to do when a client doesn’t pay. This is a common problem that businesses big and small face and if you’re in business, you’re selling services or products in exchange with the expectation that you will be paid for those services or products. The cost to your business of unpaid invoices is not just the dollar amount on each invoice but the opportunity cost of the investment you could make in your business from that income. Additionally, it costs your business time and money to collect on unpaid balances. Thus, the cumulative effect of multiples unpaid invoices, even for small outstanding amounts, is detrimental to your business’s viability and growth. Before starting work: For the proactive business here are some tips to help you avoid or minimize the change of having a client … Continue reading

In: California Civil Litigation, Contracts, Starting a Business, Uncategorized, What to Do | Leave a comment
Page 1 of 212