As a business owner, you probably try to avoid business litigation at all costs. Business litigation is a drain on your time, disrupts your life, interferes with your daily business operations, and can take an emotional and financial toll. Despite the best efforts of businesses, sometimes business litigation becomes necessary. If you have been sued, or you need to file your lawsuit, it is essential that you choose the best possible lawyer to represent your case. You need an experienced business litigation lawyer with an in-depth understanding of your case who will advocate strongly for you throughout the entire process. Below, we have listed some of the most important things to look for when hiring a business litigation lawyer to represent you.
1) What are the Qualifications of Your Lawyer?
When you are facing business litigation, you need an experienced lawyer who is familiar with business litigation. Take time to review your potential lawyers’ qualifications. Find out how much trial experience your potential lawyer has, as he or she will need to be experienced in court should your case go to trial. While most business litigation lawsuits settled before going to trial, there is always a possibility yours will go to trial. Lawyers who have recently begun to practice may not have the experience needed to represent you in court.
2) Will Your Lawyer Listen to Your Goals and Needs?
One of the most important aspects of hiring a lawyer is to make sure your lawyer will listen carefully to your needs and goals. You want to hire a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable and who will take the time to focus on and listen to your concerns. If your lawyer seems too busy to listen, or uncomfortable when answering your questions, that is a sign that you should look for another lawyer. You need a lawyer who will quickly understand your case, listen to your goals, and explain the process to you as you go through it.
3) Which Lawyer Will Handle Your Case?
In some law firms, you may meet with one lawyer but be assigned to a different lawyer. During the initial interview, it is essential to ask who will represent you throughout your business litigation. Will your case be assigned to a less experienced lawyer or even a paralegal? If you want a business litigation attorney to handle your matter all the way through, it is important to make your expectations known upfront.
4) How Much Does the Lawyer Charge?
During your initial interview, you may want to ask how your lawyer will bill you for services. In business litigation, most lawyers will bill by the hour. Many lawyers also require new clients to provide an upfront retainer, a lump sum amount paid before they begin working on a case. The lawyer will deduct money from the retainer as he or she works on your case and bills you for the hours worked.
While it is impossible to know precisely how much your total legal bill will be, your lawyer may be able to give you an estimate. Should your matter end up going to trial, the total expenses will be more significant. However, there is always a potential that the court will award you legal fees in the end. Understanding a ballpark estimate of your legal fees will help you plan for the future.
5) What Type of Client Agreement Will You Need to Sign?
Before your lawyer officially begins representing you, you will need to sign a client agreement, sometimes called an engagement agreement. This document will state your lawyer's fee structure, the amount of an upfront retainer, and any other terms that your lawyer requires for representing you. It is important to carefully read over the document to understand what the legal representation will involve. Once you sign this agreement, you will enter into a binding contract, so ensure that you ask your lawyer to explain anything in the contract you do not understand.
6) What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Case?
An experienced lawyer will be able to tell you the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Sometimes, it can be difficult to hear about your case’s shortcomings, especially when you have been wronged. However, it is beneficial to have an accurate evaluation of your case, rather than learning about the weaknesses down the road. Anytime you are involved in business litigation, there is always a certain amount of risk because there is no certainty when a case goes before an arbiter, jury, or judge.
7) What Charges Will I See on My Bill?
During your initial consultation, you can ask about what types of fees will show up on your bill. In most cases, your lawyer will charge you out early, and he or she may charge a lower fee for paralegals or other office administrative staff who work on your case. If you see any changes that you were unsure about, it is important to discuss them with your lawyer and understand the law firm’s billing practices.
8) What is the Likely Outcome of the Action?
It is impossible to predict the future, but an experienced business litigation lawyer will often be able to help you understand the likely outcome of your case as you proceed through the process. For example, if you are in settlement negotiations, an experienced lawyer will often have a feel for how the negotiations will proceed.
Contact Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration Today
Attorney Donna Solomon has decades of experience in the area of business litigation. She is board certified by the Florida Bar as an Appellate Specialist and a Business Ligitagor. She is also one of only three certified attorneys in both appellate practice and business litigation. She is a Certified Public Accountant with an MBA in Finance. She focuses on getting to the heart of the matter. Contact Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration today to schedule your initial consultation.
If you are involved in the broker-dealer industry, you will likely come across a dispute that needs resolution. What are your options as a stockbroker, investment firm, or investor? FINRA is a government authorized, not-for-profit organization that oversees broker-dealers in the U.S. and provides mediation and arbitration services. FINRA helps resolve disputes between brokerage firms, individual brokers, and investors.
Mediation and arbitration are two quick and inexpensive ways to resolve issues between these parties. When a dispute involving the business activities of a broker or a brokerage firm comes about, an investor can file a claim for arbitration or request mediation via FINRA. The incident must have happened within the last six years. If you are involved in a dispute, you may be wondering whether you should engage in mediation or arbitration. Below, we will explain some of the differences between the two processes.
Arbitration is typically cheaper, faster, and less complicated than litigation through a trial. Arbitration is more formal than mediation, and it can resemble going to court in some ways. During the arbitration process, the parties involved select a neutral third-party arbitrator. The arbitrator will work with the parties to effectively resolve the dispute at hand. At the end of the arbitration process, the arbitrator will issue a decision, also called an award. This decision is final and binding on all parties involved.
The parties select arbitrators used by FINRA. They are independent and have experience with financial disputes. While arbitrators are not themselves judges, and the arbitration process happens outside of the court system, the arbitrator’s decision is final. FINRA helps the parties facilitate the arbitration process by making a forum available according to the rules set forth by the SEC. However, the FINRA does not itself play a role in deciding the outcome of the case. The arbitration process is different from mediation and the court system because it uses rules set up by the SEC. While the arbitration process does cost money, it is often significantly cheaper than the cost of going to trial.
One of the main advantages of arbitration over going to trial involves the public nature of trials. In most cases, the arbitration process is confidential. Once the parties submit documents to the arbitrator, these documents are not made publicly available. Court filings often are available to the public. When the arbitrator reaches the conclusion of the case and makes a decision, the award is posted on the arbitration awards online database, which is publicly available.
Arbitration Decisions are Final
Sometimes, people assume that if they are not happy with the decision made by the arbitrator, they can appeal the decision in a court of law. This is not the case, however. By submitting to the arbitration process, you waive your right to have the matter heard by a judge in the court of law. Instead, the arbitrator or a panel of three arbitrators will listen to the arguments made by all of the parties involved. The arbitrator will study any witness testimony, physical evidence, or documentary evidence before making a final and binding decision. The arbitration process can take up to 16 months before the final decision is made, especially when a hearing is involved.
When the dispute involves a monetary value of over $100,000, the parties must submit to an in-person hearing before a panel of three arbitrators. When smaller claims are involved, the parties can go through the Simplified Arbitration Process, in which the arbitrator determines the case after reviewing all the materials presented by the parties. The simplified arbitration process is faster because it does not require the parties to attend an in-person arbitration hearing.
The Mediation Process
The mediation process is less formal and more flexible than arbitration. The parties involved can initiate the mediation process anytime before they begin arbitration. They can even request mediation during the arbitration process before the arbitrator makes his or her final decision. Sometimes parties prefer the mediation process because it is not as formal, and it is a voluntary process that either party can choose to stop at any time. Despite the mediation process being voluntary, it often has success—over 80% of mediations reach a resolution in which the parties agree to a settlement.
Because the mediation process is not as formal as arbitration and does not require a hearing, it often moves more quickly than the arbitration process. The arbitrator's final decision is legally binding. With mediation, the mediator does not need to make a final decision or impose a solution. The parties can choose to end mediation and not sign a legally binding settlement agreement. However, if they do reach an agreement, they can sign a legally binding settlement agreement.
The mediator involved in FINRA disputes has expertise in the subject matter involved. This helps both parties feel as though the mediator understands them. In court settings, both parties have their attorney who represents their interest. The core process is adversarial by nature. On the other hand, the mediation process is more open, and solutions face. In other words, the mediator does not work for one party or represent only one party’s interests. Instead of the mediator’s goal is to work with both parties to find a solution that works for everybody.
Attorney Donna Solomon is an Experienced FINRA Arbitrator
Attorney Donna Greenspan Solomon is a FINRA-approved arbitrator. She is also an AAA Arbitrator and a Florida Supreme Court Qualified Arbitrator. She has the technical legal skill to effectively arbitrate investment disputes, as she is certified as a Business Litigator and an Appellate Specialist with the Florida court. Contact Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration today to schedule your initial consultation.
Real estate disputes are common, and they come in all shapes and sizes. When real estate issues come up, litigation can often be necessary. Turning immediately to the courts is often the first reaction of the parties involved. When people feel as if they have been wronged regarding property transactions, they may feel inclined to take an aggressive approach.
However, in reality, extended real estate litigation can be emotionally and financially draining for all of the participants. When real estate buyers and sellers, as well as landlords and tenants, can mediate their differences out of court, everybody benefits.
Consider Your Non-Negotiable IssuesLitigation is almost always unpredictable, stressful, and expensive. One reason parties often benefit from mediation is that they still maintain control over the outcome of the dispute. In other words, they aren’t waiting to see how a judge will rule in their case and risking that the judge will rule unfavorably.
Before you start the mediation process, it is important to consider what your bottom line is for certain issues. For example, if you are involved in a dispute of commercial real estate and you are the seller, consider the lowest amount you will accept for the property. Do not make your bottom line known to the other party, but you can discuss it with your legal representation. You can always work backward when it comes to a strategy for better determining your button line. In other words, start with your ideal amount and then work backward.
Consider Attorneys’ Fees and How They Play Into Your CaseYou will need to consider attorneys’ fees and costs when you engage in a risk analysis. Even if the other party is willing to meet or exceed your absolute bottom line, the legal costs associated with your case could drop the ultimate settlement so low that you cannot pay your fees and costs and still come out ahead. Typically, unless a real estate contract states differently, each party in a dispute has to bear their own attorney’s fees.
If you are not able to pay for your own attorney’s fees and costs, you need to factor in the expected total into your recovery amount. The good news is that mediation is almost always significantly less expensive than litigation. If you do have a reasonable expectation that you will be able to cover your attorneys’ fees and costs reimbursed by the other party, this should factor into your mediation strategy.
Keep an Open Mind During the ProcessMediation is completely different from litigation. During litigation, the parties need to follow rigid rules of procedure. A somewhat aggressive approach is necessary to succeed in litigation. On the contrary, mediation allows the parties to discuss their problems and talk openly. You do not need to communicate through your lawyers during the mediation process like you need to do during litigation.
During mediation, you can take the time needed to try to understand the point of view of the other party. Instead of coming in with your mind made up, try hard to keep your options open. The mediation process relies on both parties being willing to make concessions and try to find creative solutions.
The more you let the mediation process work, the faster the process will likely go. Mediation is often the proffered way to resolve disputes because it saves everyone involved significant time and money. Instead of spending weeks paying to prepare for a stressful trial, you can instead spend your time in a series of lower stress mediation sessions.
Compromise When NecessaryIn mediation, you have the option to compromise with the other party so that you can achieve a satisfactory outcome regarding your real estate dispute. On the contrary, after litigation, only one party wins, but they can still ultimately lose when the cost of litigation wipes out all their earnings. One of the benefits of working with an impartial mediator is that the mediator has the best interest of both parties in mind.
Thus, the mediation process is best able to address certain power imbalances between the parties. An effective mediator will not let one side trample the other side, but will listen to the goals and needs of each side to spur them on to find a solution that works for both. With a quality mediator, neither party should feel like they are being taken advantage of or treated unfairly.
Concentrate of the Legal Issue, Not the Other PartyBy the time a real estate issue gets to the mediation stage, both parties may already have developed harsh feelings toward the other. While understandable, focusing on fighting against the other party who may have wronged your business will not help the mediation process move forward. One of the most important things you can do to help the mediation process move forward is to focus on the actual real estate issue at the center of your dispute.
As hard as it can be, putting aside your frustrations regarding the other party as soon as possible can be incredibly important. Some mediators allow the parties to vent their frustrations in the beginning, then ask the parties to agree to engage in a productive discussion on the issues. Your mediator can help you and the other party lay out all of the issues that you need to resolve.
Contact Solomon Appeals, Mediation, and Arbitration TodayFounding attorney Donna Greenspan Solomon has decades of experience when it comes to mediation. She offers mediation services to those already represented by lawyers. As an experienced litigator, she understands the importance of hiring a mediator who understands the underlying substantive area of business litigation. She is a proactive mediator who gets to the heart of the dispute and patients help the parties resolve the issue. Contact her today to schedule an initial consultation.
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At Donna Solomon Appeals, we are pleased to report that we have won in our appeal of a 2018 contempt of court case. Our client, John Carter, is a Palm Beach County lawyer. In 2018, County Judge Marni Bryson sentenced him to 30 days in jail after convicting him of contempt of court. This case presented a miscarriage of justice. The same judge who entered into a heated verbal dispute with Mr. Carter convicted him of contempt of court and sentenced him.
The legal team at Donna Solomon Appeals is pleased with the well-reasoned decision. We believe that this decision will help protect the rights of lawyers who have been charged with contempt. Lawyers, just like every other citizen, have a right to a fair trial, especially when the possibility of jail time is on the table.
The Appellate Court’s Ruling
Attorney Donna Solomon worked with her husband, criminal defense attorney Mark Solomon, to secure justice on behalf of Mr. Carter. Donna Solomon appealed Judge Bryson’s decision to the Circuit court, as the original case took place in county court.
On July 1, three Circuit court judges, Rosemarie Scher, Scott Suskauer, and Cheryl Caracuzzo, issued the ruling in favor of Mr. Carter. Specifically, the judges agreed that County Judge Bryson was in error when she did not recuse herself from Mr. Carter’s contempt hearing.
The court record showed that a high level of animosity took place between Mr. Carter and Judge Bryson when Carter initially appeared to represent his client. The Circuit court also ruled that Judge Bryson should not have ordered Mr. Carter to undergo an evaluation for his mental health and that she should not have refused to set a bond for him.
Ultimately, the Circuit court panel determined that Judge Bryson’s issues with Mr. Carter as a person were enough to necessitate her recusal. The fact that she stated that she could not take Mr. Carter seriously showed that she was not able to oversee his contempt hearing in an unbiased manner.
The Background of the Case
In March 2018, Mr. Carter entered the courtroom of Judge Bryson to represent his client in a DUI case. Mr. Carter was attempting to convince the court to reinstate his client’s bond. His client had missed an appearance in court. Mr. Carter told the court that he never received notice for his client’s hearing. Judge Byron said that Mr. Carter had signed the notice to appear.
Mr. Carter contended and continues to assert that he did not sign the notice of appearance. He told the judge that the signature on the notice was not his signature. Next, Judge Bryson and Mr. Carter engaged in a back-and-forth verbal dispute. Mr. Carter, who has been practicing law for over 35 years, noted that the verbal altercation was unlike anything he had ever seen.
Carter told Judge Bryson that she was “disrespectful to the people of Palm Beach County” and that he was “appalled” by her behavior. He also brought up that he had heard other employees share similar complaints about Judge Bryson. Upon hearing this, Judge Bryson stated that she would recuse herself from the DUI case and leave the courtroom. Before she left, Bryson said, “I’m recusing myself from his case because I just can’t -- I can’t take you (Carter) seriously.”
Contempt Charges Against Mr. Carter
Soon after the courtroom incident involving the hearing notice, Judge Bryson issued contempt charges against Mr. Carter. The grounds for the contempt charges were based on Mr. Carter’s statement that he did not sign the court document. Judge Bryson presided over Mr. Carter’s contempt hearing. At the hearing, Judge Bryson played a video of Mr. Carter walking up to the clerk’s desk.
When Mr. Carter walked back to his client, he had a handful of papers in his hand. The video did not provide conclusive proof that the defendant was walking back with the notice of the hearing. The court clerk did log a signed hearing notice into the online filing system for the Palm Beach Clerk of Court. Still, Mr. Carter maintains that he did not sign the notice and that the court should investigate who signed the contract. Bryson convicted Mr. Carter of contempt of court and sentenced him to 30 days in jail.
The Impact of the Judge’s Ruling
We hope that the Circuit Court’s ruling will help attorneys receive fair hearings for contempt. The panel of judges ruled that, in most cases, trial court judges may only preside over contempt cases “when the contempt charge does not involve disrespect to or criticism of that particular judge.”
When judges make it explicitly clear that they are biased against an attorney, they should not overhear that attorney’s case. Mr. Carter has a new hearing scheduled with a different judge, County Judge Robert Panse. Mr. Carter plans to request that Judge Panse dismiss all of the contempt charges against him.
The Importance of Hiring a Skilled Appellate Court Judge
The circuit court’s ruling demonstrates the importance of hiring an experienced lawyer to represent you in appellate courts. The appellate process is significantly different from the trial court process. Appeals cases require a lawyer with excellent research and writing skills with an eye for detail. Your appellate lawyer needs to have the skills to make compelling, written legal arguments.
Contact Our Law Firm Today
Attorney Donna Greenspan Solomon is an accomplished appellate attorney. She is one of few lawyers in Florida to have secured certifications in Appellate Practice and Business Litigation. Donna has a record of success in appellate cases within the areas of real estate, insurance coverage, personal injury, and employment law. If you need a skilled appellate lawyer, we can help. Ms. Solomon has been “evaluated for Professionalism and tested for expertise. Contact her law office today to schedule your initial consultation.