Gunderson Law Names Catherine Reichenberg, Esq. and Courtney Forster, Esq. as New Shareholders

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Gunderson Law Firm, a Reno-based, full-service law firm providing high quality, professional and personalized legal services, is pleased to announce that Catherine A. Reichenberg, Esq. and Courtney G. Forster, Esq. have officially been named as firm shareholders. Reichenberg and Forster both have extensive experience representing a wide-variety of businesses, real estate professionals, individuals and professionals in numerous fields in Nevada, California and across the Western United States.

“Catherine and Courtney’s diverse skill set and expertise in the many facets of business litigation play a pivotal role in our firm’s ongoing success,” states Mark H. Gunderson, Esq., Founding Shareholder of Gunderson Law Firm. “I look forward to the growth of Gunderson Law Firm and know they will continue to demonstrate their strong commitment to our client’s needs and dedication to excellence that our firm is known for.”

Reichenberg joined the firm in 2006, and her practice encompasses Commercial, Business and Real Estate Litigation and Commercial Transactions, Business Organization and Governance and Licensing. She regularly appears in both state and federal court across the Western United States and her trial experience includes trying several jury and non-jury commercial litigation matters as lead counsel as well as acting as co-counsel in many trials and commercial arbitrations. Throughout her time at Gunderson Law Firm, Reichenberg has earned numerous accolades including Mountain States Rising Star, awarded by Thompson Reuters Super Lawyers and Nevada Legal Elite, awarded by Nevada Business Magazine. She currently serves as a mediator for the Federal District Court of Nevada’s Inmate Litigation Program and was selected as a Nevada National Litigation Lead for the 2012 Presidential Election as well as a member of the Nevada State Bar Association’s Clients’ Security Fund Committee. She served as the 2011 President for Northern Nevada Women Lawyers and is an active member of the American Bar Association, the Nevada Bar Association, the Washoe County Bar Association and The Prospector’s Club. Reichenberg received her Juris Doctorate in 2006 from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts in 2001 from University of Oregon.

Forster specializes in Commercial and Business Litigation, Real Estate and Commercial Transactions, Business Formation, Governance, and Licensing Construction Defect Litigation. She joined Gunderson Law Firm in 2007, and is admitted to practice in Nevada and California. She is the author of numerous published articles on topics that affect individuals and businesses alike, including personal liability shields and construction defect reform, and has presented educational seminars to non-lawyer professional organizations. Throughout her time at Gunderson Law Firm, Forster has earned numerous accolades including Mountain States Rising Star, awarded by Thompson Reuters Super Lawyers, Nevada Legal Elite, awarded by Nevada Business Magazine and the 20 Under 40 Award, awarded by Reno Gazette Journal. She has served as two time past president and board member for the Crisis Call Center and is a member of the Washoe County Bar Association and The Prospector’s Club. She earned her Juris Doctorate in 2007 from the University of Notre Dame, and her Bachelor of Arts in 2004 from the University of Oregon.

 

About Gunderson Law Firm

 

Established in 1981, Gunderson Law Firm is a boutique, full-service practice providing high quality, personalized legal services. The Firm focuses primarily on commercial and civil litigation, emphasizing on contract, real property and business disputes. The attorneys work in partnership with their clients, almost as in-house counsel, and can handle all legal matters basically from the birth to death of any business. They pride themselves on their aggressiveness in the courtroom, responsiveness to clients, and overall legal expertise. The firm was originally founded by Mark Gunderson, Esq. and has since welcomed two additional shareholders, Catherine Reichenberg, Esq. and Courtney Forster, Esq., and attorneys Austin Sweet, Esq. and John Funk, Esq. Gunderson Law Firm has attorneys licensed to practice in all State and Federal courts in both Nevada and California and their practice areas include: Civil Litigation; General Contracts; Aviation Law; Administrative Law; Commercial Real Estate; Real Estate Development and Construction; Business Association Formation, Support and Litigation; and Insurance Law.

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Does Your Client Have Enough Licenses?

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View the original article from Nevada Lawyer Magazine here

Like many lawyers, I’m faced with an unfortunate number of clients who call me to help them solve their legal problems rather than to prevent them before they happen. A recurring issue involves entrepreneurs who start new businesses: they know that they need “a business license,” but they often don’t know exactly which licenses they are required to obtain. So they head down to city hall, apply for a business license, pay the fee and leave with the erroneous belief that they are now fully compliant with all licensing requirements. After all, if there was something else they were supposed to do, wouldn’t the person behind the counter have told them? Unfortunately, the answer is “no.”

Businesses Need State, County and Municipal Business Licenses In Nevada.

Entrepreneurs typically need a business license from every state, county and municipality in which they plan to conduct business. Although this article only addresses Nevada business licenses, it is important to remind your clients that they may need to register their businesses and obtain even more business licenses in other states where they perform services.

The general rule is that any person who engages in a business or trade for profit in Nevada is required to obtain a business license from the State of Nevada. As always, there are several exceptions, most notably nonprofit entities and religious entities. Most exceptions still require the person to file a request for exemption. If you think your client may be exempt, be sure to consult the statutes to determine whether or not such a request needs to be filed. In addition to the state business license, counties and municipalities may require their own business license. Not all counties and cities have elected to do so, but most cities and municipalities require an additional business license for anyone conducting business in their jurisdictions. Each county and city has discretion to set its own guidelines for business licenses, so the fact that your client is exempt from obtaining a state business license does not necessarily mean he or she is exempt from obtaining a local license. For example, a natural person whose sole business is the rental of four or fewer dwelling units is exempt from obtaining a state business license, but a natural person whose sole business is the rental of three or more residential dwelling units on one parcel of land in Reno is required to obtain a business license from the City of Reno. You should therefore review the rules for each jurisdiction in which your clients are conducting business in order to determine whether they need a business license for that jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction requires licenses from businesses actually conducting business within the jurisdiction. A brick-and-mortar retail store would, therefore, need a business license based only upon the location of the store. However, a business that provides services in various places, such as a landscaper, needs a business license in each jurisdiction in which the business performs services. In areas like Reno, Sparks and Tahoe, a landscaping business might need business licenses from the state of Nevada, Washoe County, Carson City, the City of Reno and the City of Sparks, depending on their clients’ locations. A landscaping business in the south might need business licenses from the state of Nevada, Clark County, the City of Las Vegas, the City of North Las Vegas and the City of Henderson. Entrepreneurs are typically less than thrilled to learn this. Luckily, businesses can obtain multi-jurisdictional business licenses for Reno, Sparks and Washoe County or for Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Clark County.

Check Nevada Licensing Boards

Entrepreneurs may also need additional licenses due to the nature of their businesses. Many such licenses are obvious: you are unlikely to encounter an entrepreneur looking to open a doctor’s office without realizing he needs a license to practice medicine. However, as Uber can attest, the licensing requirements for other professions and businesses can be more ambiguous. Be sure to determine whether or not your client needs any additional licensing based upon the nature of his business, and don’t assume that your client will already know his professional licensing requirements.

A Business License is Not a Business Approval

It is important to ensure that your clients are aware that all these licenses do not constitute broad governmental approval of their businesses. Entrepreneurs sometimes believe the various government agencies that they have paid for business licenses have conducted thorough compliance reviews prior to granting those licenses.This mistake can lead to very costly consequences.

For example, a barber might assume that, since he applied for a business license for a barber shop and listed the intended address of the barber shop on the application, the city, county and/or state must have confirmed that the listed location was actually zoned for a barber shop, and that the barber has all the licenses required. So when the barber receives his business license, he assumes that his barber shop is “government approved” and that there’s nothing else he needs to worry about from a regulatory standpoint. Unfortunately, as we know, his is not the case; the well-intentioned barber could be shut down by the Nevada Barbers’ Health and Sanitation Board for working without a license and charged with a misdemeanor and an administrative fine. This error can easily be avoided by taking the time to explain to your client what a business license is and what it means for their business. When working with entrepreneurs, especially when helping them start their business, always remember to explain to your clients that they might need a number of different licenses, and tell them what those different licenses do, and do not, allow them to do.

The Value of a Written Contract

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This article. written by Austin K. Sweet, Esq. appeared in Northern Nevada Business Weekly on September 15, 2014. 

One of the advantages of conducting business in Northern Nevada is that our relatively close community necessitates a certain level of accountability. Establishing a reputation for following through on your word can take you a long way in Northern Nevada, while proving otherwise can ruin a business or career. Because of this mentality, many Nevada business-owners resist written contracts and prefer to rely on the “handshake deal.” However, reducing your agreements to writing is always a wise decision for a number of reasons.

Miscommunications Happen and Memories Aren’t Perfect.

Subject to a few major exceptions, which will be discussed below, oral agreements are legally enforceable contracts. In practice, however, oral contracts can be very difficult to enforce because they necessarily lack physical evidence of the agreed upon terms. In other words, it’s much easier to prove the terms of a contract if you can print the contract out and show it to someone. Without tangible evidence to show a judge or jury, any dispute will boil down to your word against theirs. This can become exponentially problematic when both parties honestly believe they are telling the truth, either because the parties misunderstood the agreement from the outset or because one of the parties misremembered the deal.

Regardless of how strongly you trust the person you are dealing with, creating a written record of your agreement prevents miscommunication and protects against the dangers of human memories. Even good relationships between honest people can go awry when the two sides honestly remember the agreement differently. This situation can easily be avoided by simply writing down the terms of the agreement and giving both parties a copy. As the saying goes: “Trust, but verify.”

Not All Oral Contracts Are Enforceable.

The general rule that oral contracts are legally enforceable is subject to a few major exceptions, primarily encompassed under the Statute of Frauds. Contracts which fall under the Statute of Frauds are generally unenforceable unless they are written. The main types of contracts subject to the Statute of Frauds are contracts relating to real property, contracts for the sale of goods worth more than $500, and contracts which cannot, by their very terms, be performed within one year. You should always put these types of contracts in writing or you may not be able to enforce them.

The Statute of Frauds contains a number of exceptions and nuances. Rather than attempt to determine whether your particular agreement needs to be in writing, it is good practice to simply put all agreements in writing and avoid a problem with the Statute of Frauds.

A Written Contract Is Only Beneficial If It Is Accurate.

A contract is like an insurance policy – (1) you hope you never need to use it, but if you do, it had better cover what you need covered, and (2) it is worthless unless you put it in place before trouble arises. Simply having a contract is not good enough; it must be clear, accurately reflect the agreement, and include all necessary terms. Drafting a good contract while all parties are cooperating is much easier than attempting to interpret a vague, inaccurate, or incomplete contract after a dispute arises.

Contracts need not be long, complex documents full of legal jargon. A multi-million dollar contract can be hand-written on a single sheet of paper, so long as the correct terms are included. Written contracts need to include all essential terms of the deal (price, terms, dates, deadlines, etc.) and everyone’s signature. Be sure that any critical element of the agreement is included in the contract – do not rely upon any promises from the other party that are not included in your contract.

All good written contracts should also include provisions concerning how disputes under the contract will be resolved, such as whether you agree to arbitration, which state’s laws apply, and in which court any disputes should be decided. It is also important to include an attorneys’ fees provision, allowing the prevailing party in any dispute to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs if a dispute arises.

Understand What Your Contract Requires.

It is absolutely vital that you understand everything in your contract. It may be tempting to download a template off the internet, change parts of it to apply to your situation, and leave the several remaining pages of legal mumbo-jumbo because it “sounds good.”

I have seen contracts between local businesses that require them to file suit in places like Florida. I have seen contracts that include superfluous provisions that have absolutely no applicability to the actual agreement at hand. I have seen contracts that include applicable, important requirements that neither party was enforcing because neither party understood their obligations. In some such cases, the parties would have been better off with no contract whatsoever than to have used a contract that included language that the parties did not understand.

Having a contract with provisions you do not understand can actually impede your ability to enforce your agreement. For example, you may be in breach of the contract without even realizing it, opening yourself up to liability or providing the other party with defenses they might not otherwise have. If you are not sure what a provision in your contract means or requires of you, consult with an attorney before signing.

Understand What A Contract Can and Cannot Do.

You can’t make good deals with bad people. No matter how iron-clad your contract is, it will not protect you from the improper dealings of dishonest people. What a good contract can do, however, is deter the other party from manufacturing a dispute they are unlikely to win. A good contract can also maximize your ability to resolve any dispute as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

A “loophole” in a contract may be enough for a defaulting party to drag a dispute through the legal process for several years at great expense to everyone involved, while a well-litigated dispute over an iron-clad contract can be resolved much more efficiently. While a good contract may not prevent a lawsuit, it can minimize the time and cost of a lawsuit.

Consult With a Lawyer.

In order to ensure that you have an accurate, complete contract that you fully understand, it is wise to meet with a lawyer before signing the agreement. Your lawyer can help you verify that your contract includes all necessary terms and appropriately applies to your situation, as well as explain to you all your rights and responsibilities.

If you are concerned with the cost, considering drafting the contract yourself, then sitting down with your lawyer to discuss any revisions that need to be made. The Gunderson Law Firm, for example, will review any unsigned contract and offer our comments, concerns, and advice free of charge for our existing clients. If your attorney offers a similar service, do not hesitate to utilize it and protect yourself and your business to the best of your ability.

Austin Sweet is an attorney at Gunderson Law Firm, practicing business law directed at helping business owners stay protected and prosper. He can be contacted at (775) 829-1222 or asweet@gundersonlaw.com.

 

Congratulations, Courtney!

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We are thrilled that our very own, Courtney G. Forster, was one of the recipients of the Reno Gazette Journal and Young Professionals Network sponsored, ‘Twenty Under 40 Awards’. Congratulations from all of us here at Gunderson Law Firm- we had so much fun watching you accept this award! For a full list of 2013 winners, click here.

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A View Of The TIP Program

A View Of The Transitioning Into Practice (TIP) Program From The Mentor/Mentee Perspective

By Theresa Freeman, Client Protection Manager

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The Transitioning into Practice (TIP) program is well underway; the third six-month cycle began in January 2013. The program replaced the previous Bridge the Gap program with a one-on-one mentorship program that individualizes the transition into practice by pairing each new attorney with a Supreme Court-approved mentor. Mentors and mentees are matched by general interest in similar areas of law and are required to complete a mentoring plan for the program. Portions of the mentoring plan are standardized and require that certain elements be met. However, many elements of the mentoring process are left to the mentor, along with the new lawyer’s input. Mentors and mentees may also customize the plan to suit their needs within their particular area of law. With two six-month TIP pilot cycles completed, most of the feedback has been positive.

 

Mark Gunderson is a small practice owner in Reno and has been in practice since 1979. As an official TIP mentor, and an unofficial mentor to his daughter, son-in-law and various young attorneys, he gives his unique perspective on the TIP program and what can be gained by both mentor and mentee:

“TIP is a forward-thinking and practical way to better prepare new attorneys in Nevada to practice law effectively and ethically. The TIP program very thoroughly and completely addresses many critical practice areas and tasks to better serve new attorneys in becoming effective and ethical attorneys. The interaction required between the mentor and mentee to address the critical practice areas and tasks provides a unique and well suited way to start new attorneys in practice.

In my experience, if both the mentor and mentee approach the required tasks with a positive attitude in a fostering learning environment, a great deal can be gained from the TIP program. That, of course, requires a good faith commitment by both parties. While that may not always be possible, the opportunity is there for a very positive and educational experience.

The days of when new attorneys would largely be mentored in public practice or private practice law firms before starting their won individual practices are gone. TIP fills that gap and provides uniquely tailored mentoring to better serve the new attorneys as well as the public.

As a mentor, it has likewise broadened my experience with new attorneys, their attitudes and approaches, and been a good educational experience as well. In fact, those I have mentored still reach out to discuss their practice issues, which facilitates more than the mere satisfaction of a requirement.”

Mark Gunderson is the founding partner at Gunderson Law Firm and can be contacted directly at mgunderson@gundersonlaw.com or by calling (775) 829-1222.

Creating Certainty with Clear Contracts

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By Catherine Anne Riechenberg

Honesty and excellent communication are the hallmarks of successful people and businesses.  As the saying goes, “say what you mean and mean what you say.”  The contracts you use to solidify your business deals should be no different.  It is commonly believed that lawyers make their money inserting excessive legalese, subparts and other confusing language into otherwise intelligible agreements. The truth is that confusing contracts lead to litigation.  A good attorney will work with you to draft precise, clear and succinct contracts to help your business succeed.

So, you’ve reached an agreement with another person or business.  What do you do now?  Use the steps below as a guideline to make certain your written agreement is helping you and your business.

1.     Make Sure You Have An Agreement

All contracts require that the parties have reached a “meeting of the minds” on the essential terms in order to be valid.  There must be a fundamental agreement as to who is entering into the contract, what they are each promising to do, and when they promise to perform.  From time to time the parties may think they have reached an agreement up until they begin to reduce it to writing.  Further, separate parties may have an understanding or belief that is not properly reflected in the contract itself.  Remember: If it isn’t in the contract, your understanding or belief may be incorrect or not shared by the other party.  Make sure that you have reached a precise agreement and that the agreement reached is specifically reflected in the contract as drafted.

2.     Use Clear Language

If you one day must enforce your contract in the courts, the judge will look to the contract as drafted to determine the parties rights.  Therefore, it is imperative that the contract be clear on its face.  Look for holes and fill them.  Define terms used.  Any ambiguity could be interpreted against you, so at the outset read through your contract critically to make sure a third party would understand the specific understanding and promises made by the contracting parties.

Remember though, the clarity of a contract is not reflected by its length.  It is important that the language used be precise and understood by the contracting parties, but it doesn’t mean that over-drafting will help you should things go side-ways.  As such, avoid using contracts with words like “insofar,” “whereas,” “hereby,” etc. or unnecessary boilerplate phrases. Generally, legalese terms and boilerplate language can be simply removed to make the contract more understandable and clear.

3.     Balancing Act

A good contract both reflects the parties mutual understanding of what is expected of both of them while providing the proper protections should anything go awry.  The more clear the expectations of each are laid out in the contract, the better.  Addressing concerns, questions and specifics up front will save you time and money later.

A more experienced lawyer once told me “when people enter into contracts, everybody is in love and they don’t think through what will happen when everything falls apart.”  Learn from other’s mistakes and think ahead to what you’ve agreed will happen when and if the other side doesn’t perform.  What penalties are there, if any?  Where have you agreed to handle your dispute (city, state, court, arbitration, etc.)?  What law will apply?  If there is a dispute, is the prevailing party entitled to attorney fees and costs?  Make sure you negotiate, understand and agree to these terms in the beginning as they may very well help you in the end.

4.     Review, Question, and Revise

Have an attorney review your contracts, ask questions and revise your agreement as necessary.  A well-drafted contract will save you money in the long run.  It also helps the parties communicate their expectations and understanding so that when they do perform, they’re doing what they agreed, not what they thought they agreed to.

5.      If It Doesn’t Come Together, It’s Ok

You can’t make good deals with bad people, and litigation is never a good business venture.  If you can’t agree on contract terms, in some instances it’s a sign of issues downstream.  Take the time to ensure everyone is in agreement, that everyone understands the contract, and that you are comfortable with its terms so you can move forward in a positive direction.  Also take the time to have both sides seek the advice of separate legal counsel.  In the long run, you and your business will be more successful because you took the time to do it right.

Catherine Reichenberg is a Senior Associate at Gunderson Law Firm, and represents a variety of local, regional and national clients from business owners, commercial and residential real estate brokers and agents, homeowners, professionals, developers, contractors and others. She can be contacted directly at creichenberg@gundersonlaw.com or 775-829-1222.