Monday, September 22, 2014

Mediation Isn't Just for Big Cases Anymore!

Mediation as a method of alternative dispute resolution has steadily grown in popularity and use since the 1980s.

Most people are familiar with the idea of court-ordered mediation for civil and family law cases.   But many people don't know these facts about mediation;

  1. If you have a dispute with another party, you can choose to hire an impartial mediator and go to mediation before filing a lawsuit. 
  2. You can find a private mediator on your own or with an attorney's help.
  3. You can ask for a judge to order mediation in a case if it hasn't already been ordered.
  4. There are different types of mediation, and different fee schedules (which depend on a variety of factors).
  5. Yes, it really is confidential.
  6. In some situations, you may be able to get free, low-cost or sliding scale mediation.
  7. Mediation can benefit your case by clarifying the issues, or helping you settle a few of the issues on the list, even if it doesn't lead to a complete settlement. 
  8. Mediation may ultimately save you money. 
  9. In some situations, a court order or contract may require mediation prior to filing a suit.
  10. Mediation and arbitration differ from each other in several important ways, but are both part of the process called Alternative Dispute Resolution.    
Don't miss out on the potential benefits that mediation can offer you.  Going to mediation is not "showing weakness" or "giving up". It is simply another avenue to a solution. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Americans With Disabilities Act - A Quick Summary of Where to Find Information

The Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA") is an important civil rights law. If you have not been involved directly with the law in any way, you may be uncertain about what it is. Even if you have had reason to use or refer to this law, you may want to have a handy summary of the basic points, and a list of links for more information.

If you own a business, you should be familiar with the portions of the ADA which affect your business.  There is a free, excellent governmental publication ("ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business") which can help you do just that. It is well-written and includes examples and illustrations that help make a complex subject understandable.  This primer deals with accessibility in public places, tax credits, service animals and answering telephone relay calls.

Title 1 of the ADA prohibits discrimination in Employment.

The title I employment provisions apply to private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions. Employers with 15 or more employees are covered. 

The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It applies to recruitment, advertising, tenure, layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all other employment-related activities.

Employment discrimination is prohibited against "qualified individuals with disabilities." This includes applicants for employment and employees. An individual is considered to have a "disability" if s/he has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Persons discriminated against because they have a known association or relationship with an individual with a disability also are protected. (from

The website also has valuable information about how the ADA applies to state and local government and how it applies to public accommodations, 

Other links about the ADA: 

Main ADA website

U.S. Department of Labor

US Department of Transportation Accessibility 

Federal Communications Commission Disability Rights Office 

Keep this information handy so that you can find quick answers about the ADA when needed!

Kalish Law Office - Family & Business Law - The Woodlands, Texas 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Decisions to Make About Your Will and Estate Plan

If you are making a will for the first time (or updating one for the first time in a long time), this handy list will help guide you. No matter how small or large your estate, the answers to these questions are important.

  1. Who will be the ultimate beneficiary of most or all of your estate?  
  2. What if the person(s) in item #1 dies before you do?  Who will get their portion? 
  3. What "special gifts" do you want to make, if any?  (You can give instructions about your pets or specify who gets an heirloom or a cash gift).
  4. If you have minor children- who would you want to raise them if you are unable?  
  5. If you have minor children - who would you want to take care of their finances?
  6. Who would you like to name as your executor?
  7. Who would you like to name as alternates for guardian, trustee, and executor? 
  8. Do you have any instructions about your funeral, burial, or would you like to specify cremation? 
  9. What is the total value of your estate? 
  10. Do you have a special situation that needs attention?  (For example: step family, common law marriage, same-sex marriage, domestic partnership, property in one or more states/countries, disabled child or adult who is a beneficiary of your will, spouse with dementia, small business depending on you, or any other personal concerns)?
An experienced Texas wills and trusts attorney can help with your estate planning and can tailor the situation to your specific needs.    

Often, visiting the attorney is the easy part. The hard part is going home and making the decisions about what you want. The job can be accomplished by sitting in a quiet place and writing down your desires. Then the attorney can draft an estate plan that works for you. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Five Life Principles to Help you Stay out of Trouble

In several years of practicing law, our firm has seen a lot of people in distress.  

Some problems are simply unavoidable. However, practicing a few basic principles can make you much less likely to get into legal trouble.

  1. Know your rights- If you know your legal rights in a situation you are less likely to give in when you shouldn’t, creating a hassle for later. You are also less likely to aggressively defend a position that is unreasonable (or unprovable).
  2. Choose your battles- another way to say this is “don’t sweat the small stuff”.  Unfortunately when it comes to legal issues, it is NOT all small stuff, but a lot of it is.  You may be “right” but how much energy to you want to divert to proving it? Decide what’s worth it and what isn’t.
  3. Listen to others and try to understand- Many, many lawsuits (and divorces) begin because of a misunderstanding that grows until it leads to huge problems. This is why mediation works so well; it allows people to see the situation the way the other side does.  And this is why paying attention to people’s feelings is a practical, proactive strategy to stay out of hot water and is not a frivolous waste of time.  And why treating people compassionately when you have bad news for them may help prevent them from trying to strike back at you.
  4. Pay Attention.  Read the fine print in contracts, ask questions, ask to get things in writing, ask for clarification and don’t sign or say “yes” until you are sure. If you see trouble on the horizon get legal help before things get out of control and try to stop trouble in its tracks.
  5. Stay organized & informed-   Use all your resources.  There is plenty of information available online to guide you.  For example, this blog is written with the specific intent of providing helpful information to families and businesses.  Other good online resources provide information about governmental regulations, law and risk management procedures.  Docket important dates so that you are aware of expiration dates and filing requirements that affect your personal life and your business or profession.
Avoiding trouble can become a lifestyle, in the same way as healthy living.  Don't ignore simmering problems, and don't hesitate to create strategies to minimize legal risk in your business and personal life.

Kalish Law Office - Family & Business Law - The Woodlands, Texas 
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Divorce is Hard on Pets - Don't Forget About Them

Divorce is hard on everyone, especially pets.  Here are some things to consider if you are divorcing and have one or more pets:

  1. Pets can suffer greatly (and silently) when family life is upset.  They can't tell you what's wrong so be aware of any changes in behavior.  Talk to your vet when indicated. 
  2. Keep pets safe. Animal cruelty is illegal, period. Threatening or hurting a pet is a form of family violence.  Make a police report or seek a restraining order if violence to a pet happens or is threatened. Ask for help in keeping your pet safe temporarily if necessary.  (Additional local information: Friends of Montgomery County Texas Animal Shelters, Montgomery County Crime Stoppers on Animal Abuse, Montgomery County Women's Center).
  3. Give thought to your pet's future. Your pet trusts you and you have a responsibility.  Who is going to get the pet in the divorce? Will there be visitation or sharing of expenses during and after the divorce? (some people do choose to "share" the pet after divorce- ask your attorney about this option).
  4. Costs of pet care should be figured into your financial picture. When you tally up your monthly expenses for your attorney and for the family law judge, make sure pet care (including medical and grooming) are included.   
  5. You can't just walk away. Divorce can be stressful and scary.  Taking the time to be sure that an innocent animal is taken care of is the right thing to do.  Make sure that you are honest with yourself and others about what is right for the pet and your family. Once everything is over, make sure that the party who has the pet also has the pet's medical records, favorite toys, bed, feeding schedule, and anything else that will help make the transition go more smoothly. Your pet may go through a "mourning" period while getting used to a new situation. 
A final word.... Every year many innocent pets lose their homes and security due to divorce.   In a few cases, it may be done to protect them from family violence but in most cases financial problems, emotional issues, stress, moving, and work schedules are to blame.   If you absolutely must find another home for a pet because there is no other option, choose very wisely.   You can: 
find a no-kill shelter, an animal rescue group (Citizens for Animal Protection, Operation Pets Alive) a Breed specific rescue group (they usually take mixed breeds too).   All shelters and groups are not alike, beware and be thoroughly informed. Most shelters and volunteers are severely understaffed and overworked. There is no guarantee that your pet will be adopted, or that your pet will not have to stay in a crowed, stressful situation.

A pet is a family member.  Children (and adults) can be traumatized by the loss of a pet but can be helped emotionally by the continued presence of a loving pet.  Don't underestimate what your pet does for you. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Five Excellent Resources for Small Business

Whether you are thinking of starting a business in Texas or you already have one, here are five excellent resources that are available online to help you find information.

Of course, none of them are a substitute for the advice of a business attorney for your particular situation, but these resources can guide you and give you a wealth of information.

Five Excellent Resources for Texas Businesses: (If you are in another state, your state probably has resources similar to these on the web.)

  1. Small Business Administration.   Staring a business, choosing a location, laws and regulations, taxes, licenses and much more. 
  2. Texas Workforce Commission for Businesses and Employers Information about recruiting,  hiring, training, unemployment tax, employment law.
  3. The Texas Secretary of State Corporations Division : About start-up, choosing an business structure, name availability, trademarks and assumed name.
  4. The Texas Attorney General Consumer Protection : Consumer protection, scam warnings, protecting against cyber crime.
  5. Texas Wide Open for Business ; Starting and growing a business, choosing Texas, incentives and resources. From the Office of the Governor. 
When it is time to consult a lawyer. A lawyer can help with your start-up,  growth, risk management, asset protection, as well as helping you manage any legal problems you might have. 

Many small business owners choose to have a consult with a  business attorney solely in order to choose an attorney to work with in the future should the need arise.  

Attorney Bob Kalish

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ten Things to Consider Before Starting Your Own Business

1.     Can I go it alone & if not, what legal arrangements might I need?  If you are not going to be a one-person operation, will you need a partner? An equal partner?  How will you decide how work/finances are divided? If hiring employees, are you familiar with the laws about hiring, firing, overtime and other workplace issues? 
2.     Where will my work come from and will my plan get me in trouble? Don't just assume that you can take your customers with you if you leave your present job. Are you under any type of non-solicitation agreement from a current or former employer?  What advertising restrictions, if any, govern your field? 
3.     Do I need a business entity to be formed? Whether you need to stay a sole proprietorship or set up a formal LLC or other business entity deserves some consideration. A business attorney can consult with you and go over all the benefits of each choice. 
4.     What are the Federal tax requirements? If you've always been an employee, you'll need to become familiar with a whole new set of laws.  You'll also need to discuss tax considerations when you decide whether or not to set up as an LLC or other entity. 
5.     What are the state requirements? You'll need to become familiar with the Texas Workforce Commission, state laws, tax liabilities and reporting requirements for your business, as well as any licensing laws and industry requirements (such as TABC licensing for serving alcohol). 
6.     What are the local requirements? Do you need a local license for what you do? How about a building permit for renovations or an alarm permit for your security system? Do you need to file an assumed name certificate in your own (and possibly other) counties?
7.     What are the industry requirements? Depending on your past experience, you may have this one all figured out. But if you are stepping into a new territory, there may be some things you haven't even considered.   If you are a licensed professional, don't forget to review rules and regulations published by your licensing board. 
8.     How can I manage my risk?  This may include having contracts drawn up to use with your suppliers or customers, creating a safety program for your workers, and making sure you have an emergency plan written out. 
9.     How can I keep up with the management requirements? You must be organized if you are going to be successful in your business.   What tasks can you do, which tasks can you delegate, and which tasks can you hire out? 

10.  Where can I get support?   Having a business attorney you can trust, an accountant or bookkeeper on your side, and other business people to ask for advice can be a tremendous time and money-saver.