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Fort Collins Business & Commercial Law Blog

Do you know how to get your way in contract negotiations?

Whether you're dealing with a dispute that means redrawing lines in your contract or you want to ensure the contract is solid and meets your needs to avoid future disputes, negotiation skills are important. Here are some tips for swaying things your way in any contract negotiation.

First, consider working with professionals. No matter how convincing you are or how willing you are to push back to get your way, it doesn't matter if the other side has a much deeper understanding of contract law than you do. You could think you're getting a great deal, and a nuance of language or law could mean exactly the opposite. Working with and experienced legal professional helps you protect your interests in a contract.

3 simple finance tips for new business startups

You don't have to be rich to start your own business, but you do need some financial savvy and a strong plan. Planning ahead and understanding your goals and how you can realistically reach them is a huge part of driving long-term success. Business owners who reach out to other experienced professionals to get advice about the legal, account and human resource aspects of starting a small business can save themselves a lot of trouble later. Here are three simple tips for helping ensure financial stability for your start up.

First, set a budget and make sure you know where the money is coming from. The web is full of stories about entrepreneurs who personally paid for the bootstrapping of a startup, but that's not always the best approach. If you have a family and other obligations, it's easy for business expenses to eat into personal funds. It's also easy for business expenses to grow out of control if you aren't keeping a close eye on them and ensuring they stay within budget.

Understanding unpaid internship requirements

April is Internship Awareness Month, and with so many college students wrapping up classes or graduating soon, internships might be on the minds of job seekers and businesses alike. For businesses, internships are often a way to get free or low-cost help while also developing professionals for future positions. For the interns themselves, the opportunities can provide invaluable experience that strengthens their resume. Not every internship can be unpaid, though. Federal law requires certain guidelines be met if you aren't going to pay your interns.

First, while the intern might be expected to perform some job duties, the internship should provide the type of training that might be offered in an education environment; internships aren't about free labor -- they are about hands-on learning. Second, the internship must be created to support the benefit of the intern. The employer might benefit in a secondary fashion, but the company can't be the primary or sole beneficiary of the relationship.

Helping your older relative with final business arrangements

A few weeks ago, we discussed the importance of succession planning. Anyone who owns a business should have a plan in place to pass that business on to someone else or appropriately close up shop at the right time. Most people don't want to work full-time, even in their own business, until they die. As important for planning for yourself in this regard is helping others who may need to extricate themselves from a business.

For children or other relatives with older loved ones, it's not always easy to understand how best to provide such assistance. First, you have to decide as a family whether the business is going to stay open and if someone in the family is going to take the helm. It's tempting to agree to such an honor to please your loved one, but it usually doesn't work out to anyone's benefit if you take a position you aren't suited for.

What 3 Ds should you follow immediate after a car accident?

Being involved in a car accident can leave you reeling. Whether you're seriously injured or just dealing with minor cuts and major damage to your vehicle, you might not be in a good frame of mind for paying attention to details. Unfortunately, in the immediate aftermath of an accident, details can become important. Here are three steps that you need to take if possible following a motor vehicle crash.

First, document the accident. If you are not seriously hurt and able to do so, take pictures with a smartphone or other device. These could come in handy if you need to prove anything about the accident later; they might also prove to be valuable evidence if any matter related to the accident goes to court. Write down any information about the accident as soon as possible, including the investigating police officer's name and the name and contact information of any witnesses.

A high-level overview of federal antitrust laws

Antitrust laws are something any business owner should be familiar with. Understanding how these laws might apply to you helps you stay clear of legal entanglements or assert your rights if you believe another business is creating a monopoly. Here's a quick primer on the three antitrust laws that make up the core federal legislation on the matter.

The Sherman Act restricts unreasonable restraint of trade. One company's agreement with a vendor company does cause a restraint of trade, but it's not an unreasonable one; it's the type of agreement that is required for business to run. If an action or agreement restricts trade so as to be unreasonably harmful to the competition, however, it is usually considered to be illegal under this act. Penalties for violations can be both civil and criminal.

3 reasons you need business succession planning

Financial advisers often encourage clients to take time for estate planning, and if you're a business owner, the same type of advice applies to you. Estate planning is about getting your affairs in order so you can pass on assets to heirs and ensure your legacy is treated according to your wishes when possible. Business succession planning is about passing your company on to others and setting to foundation so your brand and business vision is kept intact.

One first reason for business succession planning is that you need to know early on who might take over for you. While some people wait until later in life to make such a decision, putting it off means you miss out on valuable time when you could be passing on values and training your replacement. While you can always pass the reins to someone who is already accomplished and experienced, if you cultivate your own replacement over the years, it's more likely your personal values will be carried forward.

Should you give clients the details during contract negotiations?

Renegotiating contracts should always be serious business. When you approach someone and indicate that the current agreement isn't working for you -- for any reason -- you automatically make yourself somewhat vulnerable in the interaction. Already, the other side knows what you don't want or what isn't working, and in some situations, they can leverage that against you. But what do you do if market changes or other factors have turned a previously lucrative agreement sour? One business man says you lay all your cards on the table.

The owner of a fuel-supply company did so when he faced a lack of profit due to rising fuel costs and a large number of locked-in pricing contracts. He spent about a month meeting with his customers and offering them a different deal -- one that involved them paying more in the long-term. The owner said he was honest about why he was trying to negotiate a new contract and that he even laid out his own costs in detail for his customers. Essentially, he said that if the customers didn't change contracts, his business would likely go under.

Some at-fault vehicles will exclude your uninsured motorist claim

An uninsured or underinsured motorist claim is one that you file to your own insurance company because you experienced damages in an accident caused by a driver or vehicle that wasn't covered or fully covered. If you have the proper uninsured or underinsured additions on your own policy, the theory is that your insurance company should pick up the slack and help you cover your losses.

A lot of parameters govern whether you'll be successful with such an approach, though. For example, not every accident you are involved in with an uninsured or underinsured vehicle is allowed under most of these policies. If you are in an accident that involves another vehicle that is owned by someone in your family or yourself, then your uninsured motorist policy will likely not apply. This is true even if the car in question is not fully covered.

Does restraint of trade always equal legal consequences?

Restraint of trade is technically any action that inhibits the ability of another to engage in business practices they would normally be able to. Restraint of trade doesn't refer to actions that block illegal business activity. In some cases, restraint of trade is allowed because it is considered reasonable, but often restraint on someone else's business can lead to business torts and litigation.

To understand the difference between reasonable restraint of trade and restraint that could lead to litigation, lets look at two scenarios. First, consider a hypothetical situation in which three businesses make and sell widgets in a small town. If two of those businesses collude to fix prices or take other actions to make it impossible for the third business to succeed, the third business might have a basis for a tort or litigation claim. The two businesses taking the restraint action might even have overstepped legal bounds.

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