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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Representing Yourself: Can You Hire a Lawyer to Help with Portions of the Case? | UTLRadio.com

By: Peter J. Lamont, Esq. - New Jersey Business Attorney & Host of UTLRadio.com

Today I want to talk about something that has come up recently. A number of phone calls have come in and it's been from pro se litigants, people that are representing themselves in a lawsuit. One of the questions that has been very popular is, is it possible to handle a portion of my lawsuit by myself and then try to get an attorney to come in and maybe appear at a court conference or help me with settlement negotiations? Is that something that can be done? 

When you're representing yourself there are certain things that you find easier than others. One of the things that I always think is more difficult for a pro se litigant to do is to appear in court or to negotiate a settlement on their own behalf. It's particularly difficult to negotiate your own settlement because there's really no buffer. If the other side is saying to you, "Will you take this?" you can't go back and say, "Hold on, let me talk to my client." I guess you can but you'd probably have multiple personality disorder. That's not going to work. Having an attorney help you negotiate a settlement, that's really beneficial.

To answer the question, is it something that you can do? Can you bring an attorney in later on in the case to help you with particular sections of the case or tasks? The answer is yes, but let me make you aware of one thing. When an attorney comes into a case they have to submit papers to the court to let the court know that they're going to be formally or officially representing you. In doing so they become attorney of record for that case. Basically what that means is now they're obligated to handle your case, your matter, in a professional manner, in a way that an attorney should represent a client. They can't just show up for a negotiation or show up in court and then say, "I'm done," without a formal understanding between you and them of what the expectations and limitations are.
When you're going to retain an attorney for a limited-scope task you have to make sure that you're very clear with the attorney. You have to say to him or her, "I want to hire you to do this." That way they can give you a limited retainer and they can explain to you, "Here's what's going to happen. My representation of you will terminate at this point." If they become attorney of record in a case you might have to substitute them as council back to yourself and that's something that you're going to have to work out with the attorney before you or they agree to help you with your case.
Another thing that people often overlook is the idea of ghosting, a lawyer who might help you write or review legal documents on the back end, where they're not necessarily attorney of record. They're just helping you with some of your demands and maybe your complaint, maybe a motion. Maybe they're helping you with some research, but your name goes on the paper. They're not formally representing you in court. That's something else that can be done.
I think it's a good question and it's good knowledge to have because a lot of times I think a pro se litigant says, "I tried to get a lawyer at the beginning of the case. They were too expensive. They weren't interested in my case," and then they give up. They say, "I couldn't get one for the beginning of the case. Why would somebody come in now?" I just want to let you know that hiring a lawyer later on in the case to help you with particulars in that case is something that you can do. You just have to find the right attorney.
If you have questions about this topic or any of the topics that you hear us discuss please feel free to contact me. You can do so at info@UTLRadio.com. Also, don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and our YouTube channel because we're constantly providing free business and legal content, giving you updates, how-tos, instructionals, and things of that nature that you could find helpful.

In fact, if you go to UTLRadio.com right now there's a link on the page that provides you with a free download, the Top 10 Tips of Legal Writing for Non-Lawyers. It's a good little booklet. It gives you the top 10 things to avoid and the top 10 things you should be doing when you're doing your own legal writing. Check that out, it's free, at UTLRadio.com. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Do Small Business Owners Need an Attorney to Review their Commercial Lease?

Most small business owners often act as their own legal counsel for a variety of what they consider to be “simple” legal matters.  Such “simple” matters often include reviewing and negotiating commercial property leases.   While I firmly believe that a lawyer is not needed for every small business legal matter, reviewing a commercial lease is one of those matters that should almost always be done by an attorney.  In response to that statement, many small business owners would say, “But why? Aren’t most leases just form documents anyway - there is nothing to negotiate”   

While its true  that many commercial landlords use form documents, it is not true that there is no room for negotiation.  More importantly, just because a lease is a form document doesn’t mean that there are not adverse provisions in the lease that you might want to avoid.  In the course of my career I have seen thousands of commercial leases. Most of the small commercial leases are based off of standard forms. However, I would estimate that almost 75% of small business commercial lease agreements are modified, to some extent, by the landlord or his/her attorney. 

A commercial lease is not something that a small business owner (or anyone for that matter) should sign without having a complete understanding of the terms and conditions.  Often times, small business owners feel compelled to take the first commercial space that looks “good enough” and fits their budget. They simply sign the lease without understanding the implications of the lease, their rights or obligations.  A qualified attorney can help a business owner fully understand their obligations and remedies under the lease and help him/her decide whether the lease is worth signing.  

So, what are some of the things that an attorney will be able to assist small business owners with relative to a commercial lease agreement? Well, before I answer that questions I must point out two important issues. First, most leases are negotiable even if the landlord says he is not willing to negotiate. Second, in my opinion there is no property worth signing a unfavorable lease for. Now let’s get into the issues that an attorney can help identify and protect small business owners from. 

Slanted Leases It is a fact that most commercial leases are “slanted” in the direction of the landlord. An attorney is trained to examine the lease provisions and determine which ones are so one-sided that they need to be modified.  Sometimes a lease is so one-sided and the landlord so unreasonable that no matter how “perfect” the space is you you should walk away. 

Personal Guarantees Personal guarantees can sometimes be “hidden” within the body of the lease.  I have spoken to many small business owners who didn’t realize that they had signed a personal guarantee until they were being sued personally by the landlord. When you sign a personal guarantee you are agreeing to accept personal responsibility for debt, liability and other situations.  A personal guarantee can eliminate all protections that you might have had from your corporate structure (i.e. LLC, Inc.)

Common Area Maintenance Fees (CAM) It is really important to make sure that your CAM is not dependent upon the total rented square feet.  Rather, it should be based upon the total rentable square feet.  This is extremely important because astronomical CAM fees have put many small businesses out of business.  

Competition There are few things worse than moving into your new space only to find out that the landlord just rented the space across from you to a competitor.  An attorney will be able to make certain that the landlord will not be permitted to rent to your competition. 

“Dangerous” Tenants  I don’t mean that the tenants are”dangerous” in the sense that they could cause you bodily harm, rather I mean that whatever they are selling could have a negative impact on your business.  For example, I was involved with a client who was a pediatrician.  This doctor had negotiated her commercial lease without an attorney.  She was one year into her ten year lease when the landlord rented the office next to hers to a magazine publisher and photographer who published and photographed pornography.  Even though they were not photographing nude models in the hallway, the pornographic element was enough to cause many families to find a new pediatrician.  

Negotiations  Under most circumstances you will get more accomplished if an attorney negotiates your commercial lease than if the small business owner or his/her real estate broker attempts to do so.  


It is important to remember that there is really no such thing as a “small” or “simple” commercial lease.  A landlord-slanted lease has the potential to damage your business, sometimes beyond repair.  While there are many legal and quasi-legal matters that small business owners can handle on their own, reviewing and signing a commercial lease is not one of them.  

If you would like more information about this topic or have general legal questions, please feel free to contact me at (973)949-3770 or via email at pl@pjlesq.com Offices in: New Jersey & New York.

© 2010-2015, Law Offices of Peter J. Lamont & Associates. This Update is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney/client relationship between the firm and any readers or recipients. Readers should consult counsel of their own choosing to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances. This Update may be considered attorney advertising in some states. Furthermore, prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

#180 Business & Legal Q&A: Should Entrepreneurs Take a Vacation? | UTLRadio.com

Published on Sep 2, 2015
On this episode we answer the following question submitted by Mike G. of Paramus, NJ:

"I started my own online marketing business two years ago. I have one employee who I totally trust. My wife & kids keep asking to go on a vacation but I feel too guilty leaving the business even for a week. What is your opinion - should entrepreneurs take a vacation? Thank you and keep up the great work with the show."

Don't forget to subscribe to the YouTube Channel!

UTLRadio: http://www.UTLRadio.com
Legal: http://www.peterlamontesq.com
Twitter: @pjllaw
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Tel.: (973) 949-3770
E-Mail: info@UTLRadio.com
E-Mail: plamont@peterlamontesq.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

UTLRadio.com Back to School Scholarship

Understanding Business with Mia Redrick | UTLRadio.com

Published on Sep 2, 2015
Peter talks about his recent show with Mia Redrick. Mia Redrick, The Mom Strategist™ mentor, entrepreneur, life-style brand and a best-selling author of Time for Mom-Me:5 Essentoial Strategies for A Mother's Self-Care and Time for Mom-Me:365 Daily Strategies for a Mother's Self-Care empowers moms to live fully. She believes that you can achieve your goals in motherhood and teaches mothers her strategies and formulas to make it happen. For more information: http://miaredrick.com/

You can listen to the full show on Blogtalk here: http://tobtr.com/7844647
You can listen to the full show on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/1...

For more info or to contact UTLRadio:
Web: www.UTLRadio.com
Legal: www.Peterlamontesq.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/pjlamont1
Twitter: @pjllaw
Tel. (973) 949-3770
E-mail: Info@utlradio.com
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Thursday, June 18, 2015

UTLRadio: Understanding Business Host Peter J. Lamont with Kimberly Guilfoyle | UTLRadio.com

Streamed live on Jun 18, 2015
On this episode of Understanding Business, Host Peter Lamont will be speaking with Kimberly Guilfoyle, who currently serves as co-host of FOX News Channel's (FNC) The Five and as part of a rotating panel on FNC's Outnumbered. She is also the author of national best seller Making the Case: How to Be Your Own Best Advocate.

If you want to call in with any questions or comments you can call in during the live show at (347) 855-8831.

In Making the Case, Guilfoyle interweaves stories and anecdotes from her life and career with practical advice that can help you win arguments, get what you want, help others along the way, and come out ahead in any situation.

For more info or to contact UTLRadio:
Web: www.UTLRadio.com
Legal: www.Peterlamontesq.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/pjlamont1
Twitter: @pjllaw
Tel. (973) 949-3770
E-mail: Info@utlradio.com

Don't forget to subscribe to the YouTube Channel
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