Articles Posted in Business

CAUTION! WATCH OUT FOR THESE WAGE-AND-HOUR PITFALLSmoneycalculator-300x201

The U.S. Department of Labor has been cracking down on wage and hour infractions, and it may be time to review your overtime procedures and policies–it is all too easy to violate wage and hour regulations unwittingly.

Sometimes DOL complaints seem trivial. We lawyers have a saying–the “de minims” rule, which says “some things are too trivial to merit consideration.”

Aerial-fall-Lincolnpark-300x158Blockchain and Chicago Businesses

In September of 2015, the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society’s World Economic Forum[1] predicted that by 2025, 10% of GDP will be stored on blockchains or blockchain related technology.  If you are a Chicago business owner and you are unsure what that means or how it might affect your company, you want to speak to a Chicago business attorney as soon as possible to learn all that you can about this rapidly growing technology.

What Is Blockchain Technology?

equitycrowdfundingEquity Crowdfunding – The Future of Investing?

While nearly everyone has heard of crowdfunding, the concept of equity crowdfunding is not as well known.  For those Chicago business owners that are new to this developing area, prior to May 2016, crowdfunding was available only to accredited investors or those with an annual income of at least $200,000 or a net worth of more than 1 million, not including the value of a primary residence. Although the 2012 federal Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act[1] (JOBS) provided for non-accredited investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not authorize equity crowdfunding to begin until May 2016.

Since that time, Article III of the JOBS Act has seen 49 successful offerings with 11.5 million dollars committed according to a November 17, 2016, Forbes report[2] on the state of equity crowdfunding. While the report suggests that the large majority of startups are not yet using non-accredited crowdfunding under Title III, it is anticipated that equity investment platforms will see tremendous growth moving forward.

TechnologyLuddites and technophobes have no place in the modern practice of law, as least not according to recent changes in the rules of professional conduct.   Technology has found embedded itself into the practice of law.

Technology advances are constantly changing the way we practice just as technology is changing our lives in so many other ways.   One law firm recently brought a new associate into the firm and its name is ROSS, the artificial intelligence that does research to help with its research issues.  E-filing is being adopted in every court system.  E-discovery is changing the litigation paradigm.  Cybersecurity has become a concern of every law firm.  And Legal Zoom is dominating the legal services marketplace.

In looking to the future, we must think exponentially.  The law of accelerating returns is bringing more advanced changes and technologies sooner than we can anticipate.   Lawyers can no longer afford to be sluggish in learning and using these new technologies.

dental officeDentists face new problems with overtime for their employees.  The Fair Labor Standards Act[1] (FLSA) sets forth standards for both minimum wages and overtime pay as well as record keeping for businesses.  Whether your dental practice consists of two employees or a hundred employees spread across three office locations, federal law requires that all dental offices comply with FLSA overtime regulations by December 1, 2016.

Exempt Versus Non-Exempt Employees

In order to determine if you are in compliance with FLSA regulations, the first step is to review which employees are designated as exempt, and not owed overtime wages, versus non-exempt. FLSA rules establish three types of exempt employees[2] which are defined by an individual’s employment description rather than their job title including:

ransomwareThe Democratic National Committee is not the only victim of computer hacking[1].  In June of 2016, Bloomberg[2] reported on black market access to 70,000 hacked corporate and business servers.  Even LinkedIn was victimized by computer hackers[3] who obtained 117 million passwords.

To further complicate things, these types of cyber attacks oftentimes have a global connection.  On September 28, 2016, one of the FBI’s former most wanted hackers[4] pleaded guilty to conspiring to receive extortion proceeds and illegally accessing computers.  Peter Romar, who had been arrested in Germany and extradited to the United States, was a member of a hacking group known as the Syrian Electronic Army.  The group hacked into the computer systems of The Washington Post, CNN, the Associated Press, Harvard University and many others, then threatened to cause damage or sell data unless the business paid a ransom.

Types of Ransomware

Bellas&Wachowski5starlawyersThis story starts in December 2008 when Utah resident John Palmer ordered a couple of small gifts for his wife from the online retailer KlearGear.com. When the items were never delivered, Palmer and his wife, Jennifer, repeatedly attempted to contact the KlearGear and finally reached a customer service representative. According to Jennifer, the CSR would not give her a straight answer about the missing merchandise, so she wrote a scathing review on Ripoff Report, an online consumer rights site.

And that appeared to be the end of the story. The Palmers did not lose any money since PayPal debits an account only after an order is shipped. But fast forward three years and an email appeared in John’s mailbox that ordered him to delete the review from Ripoff Report or pay $3,500 for violating the “non-disparagement clause” of the KlearGear’s terms of service.

The Palmers refused, so KlearGear sent the “debt” to a collection agency, causing a drop in the couple’s credit rating. The Palmers sued, pointing out that the non-disparagement clause was not a part of KlearGear’s TOS when the order was placed. (A little online sleuthing found that the clause was added to KlearGear’s web site in 2012, long after the attempted purchase.)

KlearGear made no response to the lawsuit and a federal court earlier this year issued a default judgment for the Palmers in the amount of $306,750. That, finally, seemed to get KlearGear’s attention.

An email from the company dated May 19, 2014, claimed that KlearGear was “never properly served under the Hague Convention,” and that disparagement clause was included in the terms of service when Palmer made his order. Apparently, it was just somewhere other than where people looked.* Continue reading

Bellas&WachowskilemonadeThere is a horror menacing our nation. It can appear on almost any street at any time. It rarely lasts more than a few hours before quietly disappearing, but occasionally, it takes root and grows into a threat to our health and well being.

The brave men and women battling these perilous dens of disease and iniquity are not glory hunters. In fact, they sometimes seem embarrassed when the spotlight shines on them, almost as if they should be ashamed when they shutter another location.

Agencies across the country have been fighting this scourge for years, but they can’t keep up. When one location is shut down, another appears. And this loathsome enemy generally preys on our most vulnerable citizens, our children, but even the most cautious adult is not immune from the perils of a lemonade stand.