Seeking Residence in the United States is a Big Step

There are several routes to living in the United States for prospective Vietnamese immigrants. Immigrating from another country, or helping another person immigrate, is a daunting proposition. However, armed with a little knowledge and the proper legal assistance, Vietnamese immigrants and their families will find the journey to calling the U.S. home far easier.

Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visas

A visa is a permit that allows the holder to enter the United States. Generally, there are two types of visas: non-immigrant visas and immigrant visas. Both of these visas are obtained through a country’s American consulate.

A non-immigrant visa indicates an intention to visit, or to stay only temporarily; after this period, the individual is expected to return to their home country. In general, only immigrant visas allow for permanent emigration to the United States. However, applicants should keep in mind that the U.S. Department of State issues temporary visas to applicants who are coming to the U.S. because of a spouse or a fiancée, which last for a limited time so the applicant can apply for a permanent residency visa. This process, as well as other situations where an individual with a non-immigrant visa applies for a permanent immigrant visa, is known as “adjustment of status.”

Green Cards, Families and Employment

To immigrate to the U.S. on a permanent basis, prospective Vietnamese immigrants must apply for an immigrant visa, also called a “green card.” A green card provides lawful permanent resident status, which means that the immigrant may reside in the U.S. indefinitely, with full legal sanction.

To obtain a green card, the prospective immigrant needs to provide a reason for emigration from their home country. The two most common types of immigrant visas applied for by Vietnamese applicants are family-based visas, meaning the applicant has a family member already living in the U.S. and wants to join them, and employment-based visas where the applicant has a job opportunity in the U.S. or whose current job is being transferred to the U.S.

green cardsOther Routes to a Green Card

There are other routes, however, that Vietnamese immigrants can use to apply for a green card. For instance, religious ministers from Vietnam working in the U.S. can apply for a permanent visa, and so can investors and job creators from Vietnam.

Additionally, the State Department allots several thousand visas each year for the so called “green card lottery”, which awards green cards randomly to applicants from less-commonly represented countries. Owing to the significant number of Vietnamese immigrants coming to U.S. each year by other means, typically very few lottery green cards are awarded to Vietnamese immigrants.

There are a finite number of green cards available each year in many of the categories. Potential immigrants or their family members can check with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to CIS, to find out how many (if any) are available for a given year.

Applying for a Green Card

First, a potential immigrant must send their application to CIS. Once CIS approves this initial application, the immigrant may proceed with the full application according to CIS’ guidelines, and provide all supplementary materials.

The prospective immigrant must submit fingerprints at a location which the CIS provides to them. The fingerprints are used to conduct a background check. The applicant must also attend an interview at a time and place CIS designates.

Applicants also need to submit to a full medical examination, and provide all corresponding records. They should also submit a document called an affidavit of support, which establishes a sponsor’s support of the immigrant’s application.

 The immigration law team at Brownstein & Nguyen has helped thousands of clients with their immigration needs, including immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications. Contact us for the legal support you need and count on in pursuing U.S. residency, citizenship and other immigration needs.

The Business Litigation Process

For those facing the prospect of a lawsuit (either as a plaintiff or defendant) for the first time, it can quite daunting and scary. Numerous questions will arise about the process, what to expect, and how to prepare for what’s to come. An experienced business litigation law firm in Atlanta, below we outline the basic steps in the litigation process for you. Understanding a little about these steps may help ease some of the anxiety that naturally arises from the unfamiliarity and uncertainty of being involved in a lawsuit.

Litigation Process

Within the business litigation process, there are generally up to seven steps. No case is exactly like another, so remember this is just a guideline and may change according to the specifics of each case.

Step 1: Consultation

Busy Court JudgeA client must first meet with a business litigation lawyer to discuss the specific facts of their situation. The lawyer will review any relevant documents and counsel the client regarding their rights and whether one or more claims may be pursued on the client’s behalf. An experienced attorney will also focus on the best strategy to achieve the client’s specific goals. Conversely, if the client has been sued, the consulting attorney will assess the merits and relative strengths and weaknesses of the case against the client, and determine the best strategy for defending the lawsuit. He or she will also determine whether the client has viable counterclaims that should be asserted against the other party. In any event, this consultation should take place as soon as possible. Time is of the essence, as delays may lead to the loss of rights on behalf of the client.

Step 2: Investigation

After the initial consultation and once retained by the client, lawyers at Brownstein & Nguyen set to work carefully reviewing and analyzing all relevant information and documents pertaining to the client’s matter, researching relevant legal authorities and precedents, and collecting evidence to support the client’s claims or defenses. Due diligence is an important step to ensuring that the client’s interests will be properly presented and protected in the litigation.

Step 3: Preparation and Filing

After completing our investigation, the attorneys will prepare and file the appropriate pleadings with the court. A pleading is a legal document filed in a lawsuit, and includes a complaint filed by the plaintiff, or person bringing the lawsuit, and the defendant’s answer (defenses) to the complaint. For a new lawsuit, we carefully draft a complaint that contains relevant and material facts and the applicable legal claims to be presented on the client’s behalf. When defending the client against a lawsuit brought against him or his business, the same care is taken in preparing an answer with all appropriate legal defenses. On occasion, depending on the case and court rules, we may also prepare one or more procedural or substantive motions to filed with the court in response to the plaintiff’s complaint. Such motions could include a motion to transfer venue or to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction, inadequate service of process, or failure to state a legal claim.

Step 4: Discovery

Once the parties have filed their initial pleadings, a case will typically progress into what is commonly referred to as discovery. During this phase of litigation, both sides have the opportunity to request and obtain information and evidence both from each other as well as third parties who are not involved in the case. The purpose of discovery is to both learn more information about the issues in a case, as well as to develop evidence to be used at trial. During discovery information is gathered through various means including depositions, or oral examination of witnesses, interrogatories or written questions, and document and evidence requests, and subpoenas. Depending on the particulars and complexity of the case as well as court rules, discovery can take anywhere from 6 months to several years.  

Step 5: Pre-trial Motions

Once discovery is completed, the parties have an opportunity to present pre-trial motions to the court. Typically, such motions either help narrow the issues for trial or deal with matters that help streamline a trial. Examples are a partial motion for summary judgment where a party asks the court to rule on one or more discrete legal issues; a motion in limine that asks the court to rule on specific evidentiary issues expected to come up in trial; or a motion for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings in which a party asks the court to rule in their favor based on the record without a trial. After the parties have filed their motions and presented written arguments, or briefs, in support or opposition to them, the court may hold a hearing to allow oral argument by the attorneys before the court issues its rulings (usually by written order).

Step 6: Trial

After all of the preparation, discovery, and pre-trial motions and rulings, the case is finally ready to go to trial. The plaintiff has the right to go first in the U.S. legal system, presenting evidence through witnesses who testify before the jury or fact-finder. The defendant has the right to question, or cross-examine, the plaintiff’s witnesses during their testimony. After the plaintiff has presented his case, the defendant has an opportunity to present his evidence, during which the plaintiff may also cross-examine or question defense witnesses. After the parties have presented all of their evidence, the attorneys will give closing arguments and in a jury (as opposed to bench) trial the court will instruct the jury on the law that must be applied in reaching in a decision in the case. The jury will then deliberate and give its decision. Trials vary in length depending upon the complexity of the case and variables involved such as the number of witnesses and the evidence that has been gathered.

Step 7: Post-Trial

After the conclusion of the trial, the court will render a judgment based on the jury verdict or court decision (in a bench trial). Either party may then file post-judgment motions or file an appeal. Depending on the case and court, there are several levels of appeals that can take anywhere from one year to several years to conclude. Alternatively, if a monetary judgment is entered by the court after a trial, the winning party may take legal action to collect on the judgment such as a garnishment or property levy.

Brownstein & Nguyen – Representing Business Litigation Clients in Atlanta for over 25 Years

The business litigation process can be complex, lengthy and costly. With the importance of understanding the legal process in a case, including legal and procedural issues, meeting court deadlines, presenting the best arguments to advance a client’s interests, and developing a winning strategy, it is critical to have an experienced, knowledgeable, and effective lawyer on your side. If you have a business dispute, are considering filing a lawsuit or have already been sued, contact the offices of Brownstein & Nguyen for a consultation today.

Requirements for a Legally Enforceable Contract

The last year for which U.S. Census data is available (2010) showed there were 12.6 million job losses in the private sector. Within the same time period, the Small Business Administration collected data showing that nearly 600,000 small business “deaths” occurred. The reality of these numbers brings home an important fact: business contracts and employment contracts must be thoughtful, well-written documents that will be legally enforceable. There are several basic requirements that must be met for every contract.

Mutual Assent or AgreementRequirements

The word assent may be defined as both a noun and a verb. As a noun, its meaning is described as “a deliberate approval of known facts offered by another for agreement, consent, or acceptance.” As a verb, assent means “to agree or concur.” In both forms, mutual assent, or assent by all parties to a written agreement, is the first prerequisite of every legal contract. This is also sometimes referred to as a “meeting of the minds.” Every contract should clearly explain precisely what the parties are agreeing to, so a stranger to the agreement can read it and understand what the parties intended without resorting to outside or “parole” evidence.

Clear Terms and Definitions

All important terms use in a contract that have specific, non-ordinary meanings should be clearly defined. For example, if an agreement refers to an “effective date,” or the date on which a contract begins, that date should be specified. If a contract refers or relates to specific property, such as real estate, equipment or personal property, the property should be clearly identified. For example, real property should either be defined by a common street address, tax map parcel number, by reference to a recorded plat, or similar precise method. The term or length of time in which a contract is to be valid must be identified, either with beginning and ending dates or by reference to a specific period of time (days, months or years). Price, compensation or other monetary aspects of a contract must be clearly laid out. There should be no room for interpretation when such key terms of a contract are properly addressed. In addition, all other material aspects of an agreement such as services to be performed should be plainly spelled out, so there are no ambiguities. Again, the goal of a good contract is to clearly express the parties’ agreement so that no outsider (like a court, arbitrator or other decision-maker) must later divine what was intended at the time the contract was written.  

Compliance with Laws and Public Policy

Contractual agreements must take into consideration federal, state and local laws as well as public policy. If a business is regulated or otherwise affected by particular laws, any contract relating to that business must recognize and abide by those laws. For example, a contract relating to the sale of alcohol to the general public must ensure compliance with local liquor laws and ordinances. Any contract that is found by a court to violate or circumvent the law or public policy – for example, a contract for gambling in a state or locality where gambling is prohibited) – can be declared void and unenforceable as against public policy.

A disputed contract may well be the result of an error, carelessness, lack of thoughtfulness or planning at the time an agreement is written. In an effort to avoid or at least mitigate the effect of future disputes, careful consideration must be given when drafting and revising contracts. As many likely (and even unlikely) scenarios as possible should be considered and addressed. Even with careful planning and proper drafting of an agreement, however, contract disputes can and do still occur.

Whether you are facing business litigation or need to draft or negotiate a strong contract to protect your rights, expert and effective legal representation is advised. If you find yourself in a legal dispute, call the Atlanta business litigation and breach of contract attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen for a free consultation. 

How do I become a naturalized citizen?

To understand how to become a naturalized citizen, let’s first take a look at what naturalization is. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), “[n]aturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).”

NaturalizationEnacted in 1952, the Immigration and Nationality Act has seen many changes over the years. However, the Act, together with voluminous regulations and administrative decisions, is still the primary source of current immigration law. All portions of the INA may be referenced on the USCIS website.

The INA outlines the requirements necessary for naturalization. There may be different criteria depending upon the situation, but generally the following citizenship requirements must be met for naturalization:

  • Possess a green card or be a lawful permanent resident
  • Be at least 18 years of age (as outlined on Form N-400)
  • Provide evidence of having been physically in the United States for 30 months
  • Prove that you have been in the state or USCIS district you reside in for at least 3 months

Naturalization or citizenship applications for adults (Form N-400) and for children (Form N-600) may be filled out without the assistance of an immigration attorney. However, with 21 pages to complete on Form N-400 and 9 pages to complete on Form N-600, it can be difficult to complete the applications properly. Additionally, while the USCIS offers Tips for Filing and Frequently Asked Questions, navigating the legal naturalization process can become a complicated and hazardous task for unsuspecting applications. All too often we have seen cases where a simple mistake on an application has significant adverse consequences for the applicant down the road. Hiring a qualified immigration attorney often makes the difference in being granted citizenship or being denied. Unfortunately, there are far too many cases of vulnerable immigrants being preyed upon by the incompetence, or worse, outright fraud of lawyers and non-lawyers claiming to have immigration experience. For this reason, one should never allow a travel agency, notary public, or other non-lawyer or business to submit an application to the USCIS on their behalf. Also, before hiring an immigration attorney it is a good idea to check their license, credentials and background to ensure they are in good standing and have no prior complaints or actions against them.

Contact the experienced and successful immigration law team at Brownstein & Nguyen for the confidence and support you need in pursuing U.S. citizenship and other immigration needs. 

Partnership, Shareholder & Business Agreements – Ounce of Prevention

Ben Franklin once observed “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Perhaps that is why in 1752 Franklin helped to form the first fire insurance company of the colonies. In present day Philadelphia, one can still tour the city and see the fire insurance marks used over 200 years ago.

Wrongful Termination AtlantaIt is just as true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to establishing and operating any business. Just as one would never dream of owning a home without having proper insurance in the event of a loss, insightful business owners seek competent business counsel and legal advice at the beginning of new business ventures. They understand that as a business grows, so too does the prospect of facing potential legal problems. In an effort to be proactive, owners forming a new business, partnership or a joint venture, or considering the sale of an existing business interest, know that obtaining strong legal representation at the outset is a necessary and worthwhile investment. Establishing clear guidelines for the ownership, management and operation of a business, including the rights and responsibilities of owners, in business formation documents and agreements can save time, money and headaches and salvage potentially disastrous situations down the road.

With over 25 years of experience in business matters and litigation, Brownstein & Nguyen has assisted countless clients navigating important legal issues pertaining to their businesses, ranging from relatively simple to highly complex matters, both in and out of court. When we meet a new business client, our experienced business lawyers know what questions to ask and which legal documents and relevant agreements need to be reviewed to quickly assess the legal health of a business and make recommendations for necessary improvements. When a new client comes to us with a brewing legal problem or business dispute, we are able to immediately focus in on the relevant issue(s), gather the pertinent facts, perform a limited document review, and advise the client of their legal position and strategies for effectively and promptly resolving the issue. For more complicated problems, including those that may not be solved without resorting to litigation, we offer highly skilled, experienced and effective representation in court. Many business disputes involve a breach of contract, while others may fall under the umbrella of business fraud or torts. When business owners reach the point where they can no longer work together, a business divorce lawsuit may be necessary.

In addition to providing sound, practical legal advice and counsel to small and medium-sized businesses, Brownstein & Nguyen has acted as litigation counsel in many business disputes including the following instances:

    • Represented Chapter 7 trustee of bank holding company in negligence and fiduciary claims against former officers and in an employee fidelity bond claim
    • Represented physician in business divorce litigation against former practice partners involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duty
    • Represented ambulance company owner in suit against former partner involving allegations of corporate waste, abuse and fraud
    • Counsel for principals in liquidated $40M+ firm in suit against national accounting firm alleging computer systems consulting negligence and breach of contract.
    • Represented employer in successful trade secret theft litigation
    • Represent numerous parties in breach of contract and other commercial litigation matters

While a specific outcome cannot be guaranteed in any case, strong and effective legal counsel is always advised. If you or your business is in need of legal counsel or assistance, contact the Atlanta business litigation lawyers at Brownstein & Nguyen.

Hope for Immigration Reform with Obama’s Proposed Budget

There is still hope for modest but helpful immigration reform in President Obama’s final proposed budget to Congress for fiscal 2017. The President’s call for immigration reform initially hit headlines and created waves in November of 2014 when he announced multiple executive actions designed to address the issue of illegal immigration at the borders and millions of undocumented aliens already in the United States. These initiatives included:

  • Broadening the eligibility criteria for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include children under 16 who have been in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010, as well as extending relief and employment authorization under the program to three years
  • The introduction of a Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, that would allow parents of U.S. citizens and other lawful permanent residents present in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010 the same period of deferment and employment authorization
  • Making spouses and children of lawful permanent residents and children of U.S. citizens eligible for provisional waivers
  • Simplifying the legal immigration process to continue aiding in job creation and economic recovery
  • Promoting and improving both citizen education and public awareness for lawful permanent residents

Unaccompanied minorThe administration’s budget, proposed on Tuesday, February 9, 2016, outlines many initiatives in support of efforts toward reform of the immigration system. The proposed $4.1 trillion budget would also create savings through immigration reform as a result of long-term investments in homeland security through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Proposed budgetary items that pertain to immigration include:

  • A reduction of immigration detention beds from 34,000 to 30,918, resulting in savings of $169.3 million. A portion of these savings would be re-directed toward cost-effective alternatives to detention (ATD) provided by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for illegal immigrants not seen as a flight risk, such as electronic monitoring and intensive supervision.
  • An increase of $1.2 million for Critical Life and Safety Infrastructure Repair. This would allow existing detention facilities in San Pedro, El Paso, St. Croix, Aguadilla, El Centro, and St. Thomas to undergo system upgrades with the installation of fire alarms and smoke detectors as well as the repair of sprinkler systems.  
  • An increase of $6.4 million for the Criminal Alien Program. This increase would allow for a larger workforce of officers to enforce the DHS Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) in identifying, apprehending, and removing criminal aliens.
  • An increase of $13.2 million for costs associated with the transportation of unaccompanied children. This increase will allow DHS to transport unaccompanied minors into the custody of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Contingency funds are also included in the budget should the number of unaccompanied children surpass previous year levels.

With these proposed budgetary items, there is hope that reform is still a possibility within the immigration system. However, for immigrants whose lives in our country are held in the balance, proposed budgets may not be enough. Time is of the essence, and having legal support is one of the most effective ways to fight for legal immigration. The law offices of Brownstein & Nguyen invite you or anyone you know to contact us for their immigration needs or questions on current immigration topics, including immigration reform. 

I’m Starting a Business. Do I Need a Lawyer?

In the world of business law, knowing when legal help is prudent or necessary is a common inquiry. Whether working in a large corporation, as a small business owner, launching a start-up, or in the role of entrepreneur, obtaining timely legal support on important business matters is critical. While qualified legal help is necessary in many situations, however, there are tasks that may be completed without the assistance of an attorney.

Atlanta business lawOne example is found at the beginning of starting a business. A lawyer is not typically necessary when obtaining a business license for a sole proprietorship or registering a business trade name. This early step in forming a business usually is handled at the local level. For example, businesses and individuals located within unincorporated Fulton County wishing to acquire a business license may do so through the business license office. However, if they or their business are within the city limits of one of a municipality such as Roswell, Alpharetta, or Sandy Springs, then the business license or trade name must be obtained through the municipality.

While registering obtaining an initial business license may be done without a lawyer, there are many other situations in which obtaining confident and experienced legal support is recommended and necessary. Some of these instances include:

  • In hiring employees, making sure that employment policies are lawful and properly documented and employee contracts are accurate, viable legal documents that spell out the terms of employment, grounds for termination, and protect the business’ trade secrets, customer lists, and other confidential information  
  • Legally establishing a partnership, corporation, or LLC with all necessary organizational documents and agreements in place that set out the parties’ rights and obligations, including in the event of a major business disagreement or dissolution
  • Avoiding liability and assessing business risks for various issues including contract disputes, intellectual property claims, or business torts in instances such as a trade name likeness, slander, or violation of trade secrets
  • Any other situation in which business counsel or representation may be needed

In the event that you or your business are in need of legal support you can count on, contact Brownstein & Nguyen. Our experience speaks for itself when it comes to offering sound legal advice and representation to allow your business to grow and avoid or mitigate legal problems. When a dispute does arise, we bring decades of experience, practical wisdom, and expertise to the table in making sure your interests are fully represented.

A Closer Look at the EB-5 Program

The primary purposes of the EB-5 investment visa program, enacted into law by Congress in 1990, were to stimulate the U.S. economy and provide for a means of attracting additional foreign investments. In theory, and when the EB-5 program is used properly, the economic boost is evident through the specific requirements for job creation and capital investment.

Unfortunately, over the years unscrupulous real estate developers and other promoters have discovered and exploited loopholes in the EB-5 program, resulting in it not working as intended in some cases. While overall the program has been a success and achieved its stated goals, it is currently under attack due to suspected fraud, abuse, and national security concerns. As with any program, change is needed to keep up with current times. On and after February 11, 2016 proactive changes may come about as the result of an examination of the EB-5 program by the House Judiciary Committee.

At present, the EB-5 program has two main criteria that must be met for a given investment to potentially qualify for a visa. These requirements include specific details regarding anticipated job creation in a targeted geographic area and a minimum capital investment that must take place in conjunction with the granting of an EB-5 Visa.

EB-5 Job Creation RequirementsImmigration

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines job creation requirements. As outlined on the website, the EB-5 program should, “Create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years (or under certain circumstances, within a reasonable time after the two-year period) of the immigrant investor’s admission to the United States as a Conditional Permanent Resident.”

Specific definitions and details are provided regarding job creation requirements, including those relating to troubled businesses, qualified employees, full-time employment, and job-sharing arrangements is further detailed.

EB-5 Capital Investment Requirements

The capital requirement for the EB-5 Program currently is a minimum of $500,000 to $1 million readily available to invest in the U.S. depending on the nature of the specific investment. The standard investment amount required for an EB-5 visa is $1 million. However, when the investment involves a targeted employment area (defined as either rural or an area with high unemployment), the minimum qualifying investment drops to $500,000. Investment capital must be shown to come from personal sources, and may not be borrowed.

The EB-5 Program is currently under a political microscope for suspected fraud and abuse. A recent  press release put out by the House Judiciary Committee states: “Regional centers gerrymander targeted employment areas around poor areas in order to come in at a lower investment level that was intended to incentivize investments in rural and distressed urban areas, even when investing in luxury high-rises in affluent areas. Various agencies and government watchdogs have also identified national security concerns with this program, including economic espionage, use by foreign government agents and terrorists, and money laundering.”

Only time will tell what the future holds for the EB-5 program. At Brownstein & Nguyen, we keep a watchful eye on current events and reforms associated with immigration law. Our goal is to serve and educate clients to the best of our ability for all of their immigration needs. Contact us today for a consultation with the Atlanta immigration lawyers at Brownstein & Nguyen.

3 Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

While it may seem second nature to most of us, driving a vehicle is actually a very complex task that requires high-level processing of scores of variables and voluminous bits of information in real-time. Unfortunately, to compound this complexity the modern driver is exposed to a multitude of distractions. Given the age of immediate personal communication we live in, it is no surprise that the number of serious automobile traffic incidents is on the rise. Here are three tips for driving distraction-free, or at least reducing the number of distractions and focusing our attention on the road and surroundings:

Put the Cell Phone AwayDriving Distracted

Numerous studies have proven a causal link between mobile phones and distracted driving. There are very few issues that require a driver to use a phone while driving, and even emergency calls are often not true emergencies. If you must answer the phone, pull over to the side of the road or into a parking lot. When stopped in a safe place, answer the phone or call the person back. Better yet, most mobile phones and carriers now offer “driving mode” utilities or apps which prevent voice calls and texts from ringing (or announcing) on your phone and inform the caller you are driving and will respond later. This safety feature removes entirely the temptation to answer a call or respond to a text while driving. In addition, many states and localities have passed laws requiring hands-free mobile phone usage or entirely banning the use of mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle. These laws are meant to protect us, and should be followed.

Keep Passenger and Inside Distractions to a Minimum

Nothing is more distracting than talkative or unruly passengers. Babies, toddlers, and young children may distract a driver by throwing things, screaming, yelling, or simply making noise that makes a driver to take their eyes and attention off the road. Establish early on with young children (when they are old enough to understand), and adults as well, that no one should distract the driver of a car. This is particularly important with young adults and young adolescents, including especially teenagers who are learning to drive or have friends who recently received their licenses. Also, try to avoid lengthy conversations with passengers while driving. Research has shown the “simple” act of engaging in a conversation is not simple at all, and actually diminishes our ability to timely process data, make good decisions, and quickly react to sudden emergencies and situations arising in a split second. Finally, loud music and even books on tape can be distracting. Anything that allows our minds to wander, taking them from the serious task at hand – safely operating a 1.5 or 2+ ton machine at speeds that can maim or kill – is potentially hazardous.  

Avoid Food Consumption While Driving

Using one hand to eat or handle food and drinks while driving means one less hand on the steering wheel. Should you happen to drop food or spill liquid on your clothes, you’re more than likely to avert your eyes from the road and look down to check for damage. Don’t take that risk. All it takes is a moment for a driver’s eyes to be diverted and suddenly expose everyone in your vehicle (and others on the road) to a serious, possibly deadly, mistake. Eat and drink only while parked to avoid food-related distractions while driving.

Brownstein & Nguyen has assisted numerous individuals in the aftermath of avoidable car accidents. However, don’t become a statistic (or client) in the first place. Follow the above tips, and always put safety first.

Business Law and New Year’s Resolutions

Procrastination can be a deadly habit and it is so easy to slip into, especially for small business owners and partnerships. The lack of an immediate need or pressure to address brewing and potential future legal problems means that all of the impetus for action must come from business owners themselves. So, rather than procrastinate, here are a few tips to get a jump-start for 2016.

New Year's ResolutionsFor your New Years’ business resolution, be proactive and anticipate legal problems both within and without your business. Proactively confront personality clashes among your partners. Be honest about the differences in management style, business goals, and financial philosophies. A partnership is best run by a balance of personalities, not by the dominance of one.

If your business involves customer data, take a hard look at cyber-security. It seems like 2015 was the year of the data breach, from BlueCross/BlueShield to Ashley Madison to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, data breaches were everywhere. Educate employees on proper email, internet and cloud storage usage and security measures. The last thing your business needs is the economic loss of a data breach and inevitable lawsuits that follow.

If your business is open to the public (restaurant, retail store, etc.), another issue to consider is investing in an ADA-compliant infrastructure. Disability compliance lawsuits are one of the easiest to avoid. Also, don’t forget to invest in your digital and other intellectual properties.

Aside from these and other business issues that can result in costly legal issues, one of the most important and often-overlooked traps for business owners is failing to plan for potential break-ups. If you do not already have one, come up with a “business divorce” plan. No one likes to think about it, but partnerships do fall apart. It is far cheaper and more efficient if rights and obligations of shareholders and business partners are established before an event of dissolution. Don’t just consider capital contributions, assets and liabilities: take note of clients; employees and personnel matters; technology, trade secrets and other intellectual property; goodwill; and business continuation.

Many businesses fail because of a dispute among partners that might have been prevented or at least mitigated with proper planning. Make 2016 the year you build a sturdier foundation for your company for the future.

A key element of proactively running a business of any size is having experienced legal counsel available. Contact Atlanta business law attorney Jay Brownstein at Brownstein & Nguyen for sound, practical business advice and legal representation.