Category: Legal

10 Legal Questions Small Businesses Don’t Always Know to Ask

10 Legal Questions Small Businesses Don’t Always Know to Ask 
By Charles Bowen

Owning a small business is an exciting endeavor, particularly when it means turning your passion into an income-generating career. But as almost every entrepreneur learns somewhere along the way (often painfully), being a business owner, unfortunately, does not make you a legal expert.

Attorney Charles Bowen, Founder of The Savannah Film Alliance and Southern Gateway Production Services

Attorney Charles Bowen, Founder of The Savannah Film Alliance and Southern Gateway Production Services

I’ve worked with small business owners for well over twenty years now and helped them manage corporate compliance issues, intellectual property laws, contract disputes, state and federal regulations, litigation, and countless other unexpected legal hurdles. As a result, I wanted to share the answers to ten questions that small business owners often don’t know to ask until it’s too late:

1. Do all of my agreements need to be in writing?
Keeping track of every transaction and conversation may be tedious, but it is crucial to your company’s success in the event of a dispute. Whether it’s contracts with your customers or just a receipt for merchandise, written records greatly reduce your liability and can serve as winning evidence if a disagreement arises. Even a simple email memorializing a conversation can make the difference between legal victory and a costly defeat.

2. How can I avoid getting sued?
Knowing and addressing the most common risks of your industry can greatly reduce your risk of getting sued. Lawsuits can arise in many areas, such as employee complaints, accidentally infringing on someone else’s intellectual property, and failing to meet all state and federal regulations for operation. The first step is to recognize where your company is most at risk and then taking steps to minimize that risk as much as possible.

3. What impact will investors have on my business?
Investors can be a great source of the capital, knowledge, and connections necessary to grow your business. However, it is important to remember that every investment also brings added duties to the investor and reduces your autonomy as the owner. Be sure to that your investment agreement is clear and comprehensive, and that you are not ultimately giving up more than you are receiving.

4. Can I use my personal assets to operate my business?
One of the most common and devastating mistakes made by small business owners is blurring the line between personal and business assets. It is crucial to keep them separated. When you are transferring assets, pay yourself with the same company checks you use to pay your employees. Remember: if you treat your personal and business assets as one and the same, then creditors and courts can do so, too.

5. What can I do to protect my brand?
Regardless of industry, the most important assets of any business are its name and reputation. That’s why making certain your brand is protected is an extremely important part of any business plan. Be sure to register trademarks for your brand name, logo, and other important identifiers of your company. Registering can also help you put a stop to any competitors infringing on your intellectual property.

6. Should I incorporate or operate as a sole proprietor?
If you do not form a formal business entity, you are placing all of your personal assets at risk. To prevent this scenario and limit your personal exposure, you can form a corporation, limited liability company, limited liability partnership, or a limited partnership. Review each structure and how each will affect the way your business is owned, managed, and taxed. Then choose the style that best suits your vision.

7. How can I foster a good work environment and limit my risks as an employer?
Rule one: don’t be a jerk. Now that we have that out of the way, another very effective way to ensure a good relationship with your employees is to create a comprehensive company policy and procedure manual. Knowing the rules (and knowing they will be followed) allows all employees to feel valued, protected, and secure. In addition, stay informed on all federal and state employment laws that affect your business, including anti-discrimination laws, health and safety regulations, wage and hour laws, and licensing requirements.

8. What should I do if I get sued?
The unfortunate reality is that the more successful you are, the more likely you are to get sued at some point. More success means more employees, more customers, more transactions, and inevitably more complaints. If you do get sued, follow three simple rules: (1) remain calm and do not respond in anger; (2) gather together all of the documents and other evidence in your possession related to the lawsuit; and (3) contact your insurance company and/or attorney immediately. If you follow these simple steps, most lawsuits can be resolved quickly and easily.

9. What contracts does my business need?
Well-written contracts protect your company by clearly defining the responsibilities of both parties. They help avoid disputes, make sure you get paid, and provide a clear remedy if one side fails to fulfill their obligations. For most small businesses, I suggest preparing a form agreement that you can use repeatedly and that includes all of the important protections that your company needs. If you operate online, it is also important to make certain that your website includes written disclaimers, terms of service, and privacy policies.

10. Do you have all necessary licenses and permits?
Be certain to annually monitor all federal, state, and local licensing and permitting requirements related to your industry. One very easy way to determine your requirements is to simply visit sba.gov. This website allows you to simply enter your zip code and business type, and it will generate a list of required licenses and permits.
Following these rules can go a long way towards protecting your small business from legal snafus and lawsuits. There are many online and community resources for small business owners that can be of great assistance.

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Adoption Bill Endangers Georgia’s Economy and Reputation

Adoption Bill Endangers Georgia’s Economy and Reputation

By: Charles Bowen, Esq.

In a clear effort to legalize discrimination against the gay community, the Georgia Senate recently passed a bill authorizing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse to provide any service that violates their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

This bill was thankfully rejected.

The entertainment industry is thriving in Georgia, generating $9.5 billion in 2017. History has shown that legalizing discrimination can instantly destroy this progress.

In 2016, North Carolina passed the infamous “bathroom bill.” The fallout was immediate. The state lost $4 billion in revenue as major businesses pulled out of the state, film and television shows relocated, musical artists canceled concerts, and the NBA and NCAA withdrew sporting events.

In Georgia, numerous businesses and individuals have already publicly stated that they would stop doing business in Georgia passed any similar law legalizing discrimination.

Writer and producer Ben Wexler, the showrunner on “The Grinder” and “Arrested Development,” made his feelings about the adoption bill clear on Twitter: “To my fellow showrunners: if this dumb bill becomes law, let’s be done filming television shows in Georgia.”

Alyssa Milano, who is filming the Netflix series “Insatiable” in Atlanta, agreed. “If it does pass the House of Representatives and if the Governor signs the bill, I think the film and entertainment industry will take a strong stand and will pack up and leave the state of Georgia,” Milano said. “There is just no tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”

Such discriminatory laws are also flagrantly unconstitutional. We are all constitutionally entitled to equal protection under the law. And while we also enjoy freedom of religion, personal religious beliefs may not be used to justify actions that are illegal or harmful to others. If you refuse to pay your taxes, stating that you did not pay because of your religion is not going to help.

If Georgia were to allow public adoption agencies to refuse adoptions based on religious beliefs, for example, nothing would require them to stop with gay couples. The same law could be used to discriminate against single parents, divorced men and women, unwed couples or individuals of different races or faiths, including Christianity.

Regardless of the rhetoric emanating from a few clock stoppers in the legislature who were pandering for votes, denying even one single child a parent who wants to love and support that child unconditionally is indefensible and immortal. We must remain vigilant that Georgia remains a state that is welcoming to all.

Attorney Charles Bowen, Founder of The Savannah Film Alliance and Southern Gateway Production Services

Attorney Charles Bowen, Founder of The Savannah Film Alliance and Southern Gateway Production Services

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SOUTHERN GATEWAY PRODUCTION SERVICES
Entertainment attorney Charles Bowen founded Southern Gateway Production Services with the mission to ensure a seamless experience for out-of-town producers by providing connections with local crew, vendors and service providers. Southern Gateway Production Services is a signatory to all IATSE National Term Agreements. Bowen is recognized within the Savannah film community for his formation of the Savannah Film Alliance in 2015. As the founder of The Bowen Law Group, he has also developed a reputation as one of Savannah’s most experienced attorneys in entertainment law. Southern Gateway Production Services is located at 7 East Congress St, Suite 1001. For more information, contact Charles Bowen at cbowen@thebowenlawgroup.comor 912-544-2050.

CONTACT
Charles J. Bowen
Southern Gateway Production Services
912-544-2050
cbowen@thebowenlawgroup.com
thebowenlawgroup.com

Divorce is About Making Good Financial Decisions

Divorce is About Making Good Financial Decisions

By Sam Hubbard
Principal, Coastal Divorce Advisors

While you’re in the midst of a divorce, you’re going to have to weigh a lot of financial choices while dealing with the weight of strong emotions. You can minimize emotional stress by anticipating what decisions you have to make and understanding what’s involved in making them.

Below are common hurdles that people who are divorcing need to be aware of and the factors they need to consider to make confident, constructive decisions.

Can you afford to keep your home?
While you may have a personal attachment to your house, especially since your kids call it “home,” it is ultimately a huge expense to maintain year after year. All too often, the spouse who wants to keep the house only analyzes whether he or she can cover the mortgage and the property taxes, but fails to consider the “oh no’s”: “Oh no, the built-in refrigerator broke,” “Oh no, the HVAC system needs to be replaced, “Oh no, we have termites.”

Unforeseen expenses can cost thousands of dollars and could cause you to lose your house, or worse, push you toward bankruptcy. While a house is an asset, it is ultimately an expense. Make sure to take all homeownership costs – anticipated and unexpected – into account and try to remove emotion when deciding whether you can afford to keep the house.

Should you divide your property down the middle?
When you begin a divorce, it’s only natural to think “all our assets should be split right down the middle.” But since no two assets are created equal, this type of thinking may put you at the short end of the stick.

In a divorce, it’s common for spouses to divide property by what they see as equivalent value. For example, if one spouse gets the house, the other spouse may get the investment accounts, both valued around the same amount.

But tread carefully. Some assets, like certain pensions, may be completely illiquid and cannot be sold or transferred to a spouse. Others assets may have significant tax implications from a low-cost basis or may have large transaction fees (like the sale of a house). Make sure you initiate a complete analysis of the assets before making any decisions.

Do you want to tackle debt before your divorce?
If your spouse ran up balances on your credit cards during your marriage, in the bank’s eyes, it’s a shared responsibility, no matter who did the spending — even if the court decides your ex-spouse is responsible for it all.

Banks can still come after you for payments your ex-spouse didn’t make, jeopardizing your finances and damaging your credit score for years. Making the choice to pay off as much debt as possible before you finalize the divorce is often a good one.

Should you protect yourself from unanticipated events?
If you will be receiving alimony and child support, what happens if your ex-spouse passes away or becomes seriously disabled? Would you be able to support yourself and your kids if you no longer receive these payments? Consider purchasing life and disability insurance specifically tailored for divorce so support payments continue if something unforeseen happens to your ex-spouse.

Should you evaluate your settlement agreement from a current perspective?
When looking at a settlement proposal, what may seem like a great deal now could quickly turn into financial ruin down the road. You need to make sure you don’t evaluate your proposed settlement by your current costs or budget but by how your finances will look in 5 or 10 years.

Projecting your cost of living will help you determine the long-term consequences of a settlement option and whether you’ll be financially well-positioned years after the divorce. Make sure you have accurate projections on-hand and do not rush into signing a proposal just to be done with it.

Can you be disciplined to make financial decisions in unison, not one by one?
When going through a divorce, looking at any single financial aspect in a vacuum and not seeing how it relates to others could cost you. The division of assets and liabilities, tax consequences, inflation, alimony, and child support are all pieces of the settlement puzzle that need to work together to help ensure the most favorable settlement agreement. For example, if you have income from your job and agree to take a large alimony payment, you may be pushed into a higher tax bracket than if you were to increase the amount you receive in non-taxable child support.

Take a careful, comprehensive approach to your finances to have a better chance of coming out ahead.

Sam Hubbard Coastal Divorce Advisors Savannah

Sam Hubbard

Sam Hubbard, MBA, CFA, CDFA is the principal of Coastal Divorce Advisors, LLC, (CDA), a firm specializing in helping clients understand their financial situation and options throughout the divorce process. CDA is an affiliate of Coastal Capital Management, LLC. For additional information, e-mail Sam@CoastalDivorceAdvisors.com, call 912-234-3657 or visit www.CoastalDivorceAdvisors.com. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney. If you require legal advice, please seek appropriate legal representation.

Entertainment Attorney Charles Bowen Addresses Georgia Entertainment 101 Event

Entertainment Attorney Charles Bowen Addresses Georgia Entertainment 101 Event

(SAVANNAH, GA) Business and entertainment attorney Charles Bowen was a featured speaker at the Georgia Entertainment 101 Event in Atlanta.

Bowen’s presentation “The Economic Impact of the Entertainment Industry on Savannah” focused on the importance of vetting production companies coming to the area as well as positioning Savannah as a top-notch provider of the local services required by productions.

Bowen is recognized within the Savannah film community for his formation of the Savannah Film Alliance in 2015, and, more recently, he founded Southern Gateway Production Services, which offers seamless opportunities for out-of-town producers and movie executives to navigate finding the best crews, talent and location services available in Savannah.

“We started the Film Alliance to promote the film community within Savannah and the greater Coastal Empire through advocacy and action via education, outreach and collaboration,” Bowen said. “My overall goal with both entities is to continue to build upon Savannah’s stature as one of the country’s most desirable and user-friendly filming locations in ways that will greatly benefit production companies while strengthening the relationship between visiting productions and local crew, vendors and service providers.”

Bowen’s presentation highlighted the importance of Savannah’s rising star as a production destination, with local spending on motion pictures and television in the area rising from $18 million in 2014 to an all-time high of $60 million in 2016.

The purpose of the Georgia Entertainment 101 event was to connect top-tier professionals at a targeted and strategic networking event. Key financial, legal, banking and governmental leaders were in attendance as well as studio executives and producers. Other presentations focused on event security, investing strategies, entertainment banking and a look at what’s happening in Savannah.

The invitation-only event, held at the Moonshine Post-Production in Atlanta, was sponsored in part by: Argentum Entertainment, Atlanta Sound Guy, Cinema Greens, Creative Financial Group, Endeavor Sound, FilmTribe, MatchKey Consulting, Moonshine Post-production, Paradigm Security, River Oaks Studios, Sapelo Insurance, Sonesta Hotels and Zoe’s Kitchen.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SOUTHERN GATEWAY PRODUCTION SERVICES
Entertainment attorney Charles Bowen founded Southern Gateway Production Services with the mission to ensure a seamless experience for out-of-town producers by providing connections with local crew, vendors and service providers. Southern Gateway Production Services is a signatory to all IATSE National Term Agreements. Bowen is recognized within the Savannah film community for his formation of the Savannah Film Alliance in 2015. As the founder of The Bowen Law Group, he has developed a reputation as one of Savannah’s most experienced attorneys in entertainment law. Southern Gateway Production Services is located at 7 East Congress St, Suite 1001. For more information, contact Charles Bowen at cbowen@thebowenlawgroup.com or 912-544-2050.

Attorney Charles Bowen, Founder of The Savannah Film Alliance and Southern Gateway Production Services

Attorney Charles Bowen, Founder of The Savannah Film Alliance and Southern Gateway Production Services

CONTACT
Charles J. Bowen
Southern Gateway Production Services
912-544-2050
cbowen@thebowenlawgroup.com
thebowenlawgroup.com

MEDIA CONTACT
Cynthia Wright
Carriage Trade PR
Cecilia Russo Marketing
cynthia.wright@carriagetradepr.com
912-856-9075

Julie Wade Named Executive Director of Park Place Outreach

Attorney Julie Wade Selected as Executive Director of Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Shelter

Savannah attorney and school board member Julie Wade has been named executive director of the Park Place Outreach — Youth Emergency Shelter, which provides support and temporary residential services for at-risk children and teens in Savannah and the surrounding area.

Wade will succeed Linda Hilts, who’s retiring after 20 years, and will take office on May 8.

“I am honored to be selected for this position, and to build on the excellent programs Linda Hilts began and fostered over the past 20 years,” Wade said. “She became the voice of homeless and unaccompanied youth in our community, and I am eager to continue to work on their behalf.”

Park Place Outreach board chairman Todd Cellini praised Wade’s legal background and her experience in student and child advocacy.

“As a sitting board member of the Savannah-Chatham public school system, she has an extensive understanding of our largest population of at-risk children,” Cellini said. “Having served in various board positions for several non-profit organizations, she also has vast fundraising experience as well as expertise in grants compliance.”

Under Hilts’s leadership, Park Place Outreach helped more than 6,200 area young people find emergency shelter and thousands more found stability through its non-residential programs. She developed many of the organization’s ongoing services, including the Street Outreach Program team, which offers peer mentoring to resident adolescents and provides counseling, clothing and personal care items to older youth, up to age 21, who are in need but might not wish to come to the shelter.

“My goal over the next few weeks is to meet with the board members and staff, along with community members and supporters,” Wade said. “By helping to ensure a smooth leadership transition, I will be able to focus from day one on continuing to provide a safe and loving environment to the youth who come to Park Place Outreach for assistance.”

Julie Wade Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Shelter Savannah

Julie Wade

Wade, a native of Atlanta, attended Georgia public schools from kindergarten until college. She attended the University of Georgia and then the University of Georgia School of Law. Currently, she is a lawyer at The Wade Law Firm in Savannah, with a focus on federal criminal defense and civil litigation. Additionally, Wade serves on the Board of Education for the Savannah Chatham County Public School System, a position she has held since 2011. Wade will continue her service on the Board of Education as she assumes this new position with Park Place Outreach.

Previously, she served as an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of Georgia from 2007 to 2008 as the Project Safe Childhood Coordinator, prosecuting violations of federal law, including child exploitation, firearms, narcotics, fraud, and immigration.

She is chair of the board of directors for Girls on the Run and chairwoman of United Way Women’s Legacy Council. She also serves on the boards of America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia and Educate Chatham Foundation.

Wade is a graduate of Leadership Savannah and Leadership Georgia. She has been honored by the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 and as a Next Generation Rising Star by Savannah Magazine and Business in Savannah. She recently received the Coastal Center for Developmental Services’ Vicki Loughrey Volunteer Advocacy Award as well as the John B. Miller Service Award from the Savannah Bar Association.

She and her husband have three children who attend public school.

MORE INFORMATION ON PARK PLACE OUTREACH YOUTH EMERGENCY SHELTER
Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Shelter, located at 514 E. Henry St., provides support for troubled children and teens in Savannah and the surrounding area. Opened in 1984, the shelter, open 24 hours a day, offers youth, between the ages of 11 and 17, a safe and loving environment. Homeless, abused or runaway teenagers can self-admit themselves into this shelter. The Street Outreach Program team offers mentoring to resident adolescents and provides counseling, clothing and personal care items to teens and young adults up to age 21 that are in need and might not come into the shelter. Whenever possible, the organization’s goal is to keep kids off the street and reunify families. With the generous support of local organizations and individuals, Park Place Outreach has helped more than 6,200 area young people find emergency shelter and thousands more find stability through its non-residential programs. Park Place Outreach is an equal opportunity provider and employer. For more information, visit http://parkplaceyes.org or join the group on Facebook (ParkPlace) and Twitter (@parkplaceyes).

CONTACT
Park Place Outreach
Youth Emergency Shelter
514 E. Henry Street
Savannah, GA. 31401
912-234-4048 Fax 912-651-3621
http://www.parkplaceyes.org

MEDIA CONTACT
Cynthia Wright
Carriage Trade Public Relations
cynthia.wright@carriagetradepr.com
912.856.9075