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What everyone at a startup needs to know about immigration

What everyone at a startup needs to know about immigration

July 3, 2019

The immigration process in the U.S. has become a high-stakes undertaking for employers, workers, and entrepreneurs. Predictability has eroded. Processing times have soared. And any mistake or misstep now has dire consequences.

Over the past three years, immigration policies and procedures have been in a state of flux and the process has become more unforgiving for even the smallest mistakes. Putting your best foot forward is crucial. Employers and individuals need to formulate a long-term strategy and backup options to stay protected.

The increase in Requests for Evidence and the backlog for many visa and green card categories has meant longer waiting times. What’s more, the Trump administration’s recent decision to close all USCIS’s international offices—and shift that workload back to the U.S.—is expected to compound the backlogs and delays.

We are seeing these issues affect startups every day. My law firm works with hundreds of startups every year to help them and their employers figure out their immigration paperwork. The overall piece of advice we give is to decide on a specific goal based on a deep understanding of the company and the individual and by examining the options strategically.

Then, you can figure out the right approach for a visa, green card, or citizenship application. Regardless of my personal interest in the matter, now more than ever, I recommend consulting with an experienced immigration attorney who can handle the process with integrity, creativity, compassion, and rigor.

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What employers should know

The new normal for immigration means increased employee recruiting and retention …

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Business Insurance: How to Safeguard Your Livelihood

June 12, 2019

These business owners say they can’t afford the coverage they need. If you’re among those who have no insurance or are underinsured, you’re playing Russian roulette with your assets, because not having insurance can cost much more than the annual premiums if adversity strikes.

Whether you have some insurance or no insurance, it’s time to talk with a trusted insurance broker about your current business needs. They may be able to design a plan you can afford. Of course, your needs depend on the type of business you run. However, for general-purpose insurance, we talked with James Nevers, CFP and senior advisor at Soundmark Wealth Management, to find out what the different types of business insurance are and what they can do to cast a safety net around your business.

Home-based businesses

You may think you’re protected against claims with your personal home and auto policies. Nevers said this is a common misconception. According to the Insurance Information Institute, most homeowners policies specifically exclude business liabilities. The same holds true for your personal auto coverage.

Your business and personal life must be separate, Nevers said. “If a customer visits your home office and slips and falls on your driveway, your personal homeowners might not pay the claim. If you use your car for work and while you’re driving to a supplier’s warehouse to pick up parts, you get into an accident, your personal auto policy might not cover you either. It’s best practice to have separate business, auto, property and liability policies as well as your personal home and auto coverages.”

Coverage essential for all businesses

Whether you sell goods or services, consider investing in the following types of insurance to shield your enterprise from disaster:

  • Professional liability, also known as errors and omissions, protects
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How States Have Leveled the Playing Field for Small Businesses Since South Dakota v. Wayfair

June 6, 2019

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a big decision for small businesses: In South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Court said that states could require out-of-state, online retailers to collect and remit sales tax on purchases made within the state. Early on, the decision was hailed as an indisputable win for local brick-and-mortar retailers struggling to compete against the Wayfairs and Amazons of the Internet, but did the new ruling actually inspire states to level the sales-tax playing field for small businesses? One year later, the South Dakota v. Wayfair decision has done all that and more.

What was the South Dakota vs. Wayfair decision?

Specifically, the case concerned a South Dakota law that required large, online retailers — those with at least $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions in the state — to collect and remit sales tax on those purchases. The law rebuffed the longstanding legal tradition in which states could only collect sales tax from retailers with a physical presence in the state. In upholding the law, the Supreme Court called the physical presence requirement “flawed” and “arbitrary.”

“Modern e-commerce does not align analytically with a test that relies on [physical presence],” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. “This Court should not maintain a rule that ignores … substantial virtual connections to the state.”

What are the effects of South Dakota vs. Wayfair?

With this language, the Supreme Court did at least three important things for local economies and the small businesses that support them: First, the South Dakota v. Wayfair decision officially put a stamp of approval on South Dakota’s law and similar laws already on the books in several states.

According to the Sales Tax Institute, laws imposing sales-tax burdens on online retailers based on some alternative “nexus” to the state have been on …

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When a Law Firm Isn't the Right Fit for Your Legal Practice: Starting Your Own Solo Practice

June 5, 2019

Life has a way of changing our priorities, and you may have begun asking yourself if your “classic” career-path is too old-school for your current interests and priorities. If you’re feeling this way, know that you’re not alone. In fact, a survey conducted in 2008 by the American Bar Association revealed that almost half of the lawyers surveyed were not satisfied with their careers.

Why do so many lawyers stay in their practices if they feel so uncomfortable? I asked this question to many attorneys, and the answer is almost always that they’re settling because they at least feel safe. But just how important is it that you feel “safe,” if that safety leaves you feeling disappointed on a regular basis?

Sometimes the reality doesn’t match the dream

Many attorneys find themselves spending way too much time at the office, altogether losing any semblance of a work-life balance. An article published by The Atlantic states that attorneys are often working 60 to 70 hours per week. That sizeable of a workload can lead to burnout, fast.

An emerging problem is that most legal firms enforce hourly billing requirements. These imbalanced economic incentives make it increasingly difficult for attorneys to maintain genuine relationships with their clients, while still maintaining their lives outside of work. I’ve spoken with many lawyers who left their law firm because they despised this particular aspect thought of their role. This traditional model also means that your success is related to your time instead of your real value and capabilities, which severely diminishes customer-oriented practices.

Another problem that I frequently hear about is that when you work in a law firm, your time, the nature of your cases, and the type of clients you take on are usually chosen for you. Another complication is the high overhead …

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Why Every Startup Needs Workers’ Comp Insurance

May 16, 2019

And while every U.S. state mandates that startups carry workers’ compensation insurance in some form, it may seem tempting to skirt the limits on what is legal.

But that is just as much of a mistake as thinking that you can just start a business without the expense of ever consulting a lawyer or an accountant. Worker’s compensation insurance is mandatory, with strict penalties for noncompliance. And even if there was no such law, a smart startup needs a solid policy. Here are some reminders about why workers’ comp insurance is so important, as well as some tips for getting the best policy with the lowest premiums.

Explaining Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Every business, even ones mostly behind a desk, will have workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses. Workers’ compensation insurance kicks in during those instances, and provides benefits and compensation such as reimbursing medical expenses or lost wages. If a worker is killed on the job, insurance will provide death benefits to the employee’s family.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to estimate how much your startup may have to pay for insurance. Insureon reports that a 2012 study of workers’ comp found that it could range from $.75 in Texas to $2.74 in Alaska. But those numbers are an average across all industries. For example, construction and mining businesses can pay a great deal more for worker’s comp compared to professional practices.

Pie Insurance points out that before workers’ insurance became commonplace in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, employers and especially employees would be stuck in lengthy and costly legal battles to determine whether the company had to pay. As a result, workers’ compensation insurance is no-fault, which means that it will kick in even if the employee is partially responsible for the injury as long as it …

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The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Insurance Coverage

May 2, 2019

But what if you overcome these hurdles only to watch as a customer slips and falls in your store and sues you for the resulting medical bills? What if a cybercriminal steals customer credit card information – a crime that could result in lawsuits from angry patrons? These incidents, and a host of other crises, could wipe out your savings and shut down your business.

This is why it’s essential that small business owners invest in the right insurance protection. At a minimum, it must include general business liability and property insurance to protect you financially and help keep your business open.

But that is just the start. Depending on your business, you might need everything from a commercial auto insurance policy to business income insurance to an overall umbrella policy that will protect you from the most expensive lawsuits. If you’re worried that your business isn’t adequately protected, call your insurance agent. He or she can study your business and determine just how much insurance you need.

Here’s a brief look at some of the coverage options small business owners might need to keep their doors open, should the unexpected happen.

Business general liability insurance

All small businesses must invest in general liability insurance. This policy covers any financial damages you suffer if someone is injured while visiting your business and sues you for the resulting medical treatment. It also protects you if your business’s products or services injure customers or make them ill.

For instance, say you are using a ladder to stock cans of paint on a shelf at your business. If a can falls and injures a customer, and the customer sues you and wins, liability insurance would pay for the costs of any medical treatments that customer receives. Or, as another example, consider what …

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How to Fire a Partner or Co-Founder

May 2, 2019

Running a small business is a complicated endeavor, and it can complicate otherwise healthy personal (or even professional) relationships. If you’re in a partnership with someone and it’s not working out, it’s important to take the right steps to ensure your business and financial future are safe.

If you decide you want to move on with your business without input from your partner, it’s important to work directly with an attorney to determine the best course of action. Each business situation and partnership is different, and you want to have all your ducks in a row before you confront your business partner about your plans. It’s also important to understand that if you don’t have predetermined exit strategies or dissolution plans, firing your business partner is likely going to be expensive and potentially difficult.

If you’ve decided you want to move on with your business on your own, it’s important to understand the legal and professional implications and processes before you move forward.

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Build in legal mechanisms at the outset of your business

If you’re entering a partnership or starting a business with other individuals, you need to work with a lawyer to set up your business properly. By defining ownership stakes, exit strategies and day-to-day responsibilities, you can eliminate any potential issues where many problems arise. Walter Gumersell, a partner with Rivkin Raddler, said general partnership law is not deeply defined in many states and can involve statutes that are only “six pages.” This can create a lot of gray area.  

“There’s a lot of gaps to fill,” he said. “You don’t want a court filling the gaps.”

By sitting down at the …

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Preparing for the Worst: How to Make Sure you Are Ready for Unforeseen Bumps in the Road

April 17, 2019

“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” — wiser words were never spoken when it comes to maintaining a sustainable business.

As a small business owner, being your own boss has many benefits; you get to call the shots and make all the decisions. But it also comes with a lot of responsibility, and risk management is one of the most important responsibilities you’ll be shouldering.

As you probably know, running a business always involves a certain level of risk. That’s what makes entrepreneurship such a leap of faith. With a little foresight and smart planning, though, you can reduce those risks — or at least create a solid plan for dealing with them in order to minimize the negative effects they may have on your business or your income. Small business risk assessment is an essential part of setting up and running your business, and you should make sure to give it some consideration.

Possible Risks

Some of the risks involved in running a small business include:

Financial risk

No matter how well you plan, there is always a risk that the business won’t run as well as you hoped. You may not be able to find as many clients as you anticipated, or your return on investment may not be as high as you predicted. You might encounter an unforeseen expense that depletes your budget or face issues with cash flow. According to a U.S. Bank study, 82 percent of businesses fail because of cash flow mismanagement

Property loss or damage

Many entrepreneurs need specialized equipment for the work they do, and that equipment can be expensive or hard to replace. No matter how carefully your guard your property, there’s always a chance something will break or get stolen. Another type of property that may …

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