The Legal Insider
In this issue:
Small Business Ideas for 2015
Have you always wanted to start your own business? Here are a few promising business ideas for 2015:
- Food Trucks. People living in urban areas have certainly noticed the culinary trend that took off over the last few years: the food truck. If you’ve always dreamed of owning your own restaurant, you might consider operating a food truck instead. A food truck requires far less overhead than a traditional restaurant. A typical food truck focuses on a specific region’s cuisine, or a special food offering. Choose your favorite recipes, find an affordable truck, hire some “kitchen” help and get started today.
- Kid-Focused Apps.If you already possess software engineering skills, you may consider developing a smartphone app aimed at children. Most teenagers and adolescents likely have a phone of their own, while many parents allow their younger children to use their phone or tablets to play app-based games. Therefore, there is market for apps focused on children that parents can use to entertain their kids when needed. It is worth noting that parents prefer to buy apps for the children that promote education or useful life skills.
- Freelance Creative Work. Today, many businesses are looking to expand their reach and appeal through a variety of avenues, such as improving the interface of their website or creating “made-for-viral” Internet ads. However, most companies do not have an in-house team to develop such content and often look outside the company for help. If you have experience in graphic design, web design, or film editing, try marketing your services on a freelance or consulting basis. You can even offer freelance services outside your regular working hours, though be careful not to breach and terms of your employment contract.
- Translation Services.Given the increased globalization of today’s marketplace, translation services are rapidly seeing an increase in their demand. Similar to the discussion of freelance work above, create your own freelance translation service that you can run in your downtime. If you are fluent in more than one language, reach out to companies or services that you know operate across many borders. Most translation work will concern documents, not necessarily in-person conversation, so your proficiency should be more focused on reading or writing in a different language.
- In-home or –office Salon Services.With the Uber-ization of taxi services and the on-demand delivery services offered by other companies, it is no surprise that some entrepreneurial barbers and hairstylists now offer in-home or –office hair appointments. Today’s average consumer is busy and tech savvy, so the opportunity to arrange for a hair stylist to provide the service at a time and place convenient to the client has an intriguing appeal. If you have experience as a barber or stylist, you might consider rebranding yourself as providing on-location services.
These are just a few examples of potential small business plans to try in 2015. Find your niche, create a plan, and take some risks to get ahead this year!
What Cases Will an Attorney Take on Contingency?
Contingency fees are payment arrangements in which the attorney is compensated based on the outcome of the legal case they take on. With a contingency fee, the client usually doesn’t pay any up-front fees; instead, the attorney will be entitled to a portion of the damages award or settlement amount later on. In most cases, the fee ranges from 33 to 40 percent of the client’s recovery amount. This is much different from payment arrangements based on the attorney’s hourly work.
What Cases Will an Attorney Take on Contingency?
Whether or not an attorney will take a case on a contingency fee may depend on several factors. Some attorneys may prefer contingency fees, while others might prefer hourly fees. It’s usually up to the attorney and the client to negotiate fees and payment methods prior to hiring. More importantly, state and local laws regulate which types of cases and areas of laws that contingency fees can apply to. For instance:
Laws prohibit contingency fees in:
- Criminal defense cases (esp. DUI and drug cases)
- Various family law cases like those involving divorce, child custody/visitation and other related issues
- Contract claims, especially those involving drafting issues
- Various intellectual property application filings (i.e., registering for copyrights, etc.)
Contingency fees are generally allowed in:
- Personal injury cases, especially car accident claims, work injuries, and defective product injury cases
- Employment law cases, especially wage and hour claims
Contingency fees are advantageous for clients who can’t afford to pay attorneys up front at the moment. However, some clients may feel that contingency fees allow the attorney to collect a disproportionate amount, especially if the case is settled relatively quickly without the attorney doing extended amounts of work.
For attorneys, there is always the risk that they might not be fully paid if the case is not ruled in favor of the client. Therefore, attorneys who operate on a contingency basis often screen their cases and only accept those where there’s a high likelihood of winning in court.
It’s important for all persons involved in the lawsuit to weigh the costs and benefits of using a contingency fee. You should connect with an attorney if you need representation involving a contingency fee.
5 Recent Supreme Court Decisions You Should Know About
Every year, the Supreme Court makes decisions that can have a lasting effect. In no particular order, here are some noteworthy Supreme Court cases from 2014:
1. Riley vs. California
Background: David Leon Riley was arrested and the police confiscated his cellphone and searched through his messages, list of contacts, photographs, and videos. The police later charged him for a crime based on the evidence obtained through the cellphone.
Outcome: The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, during an arrest, the warrantless search and seizure of digital content from a cellphone is unconstitutional.
2. Schuette vs. BAMN
Background: Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, individuals could be discriminated based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This meant that many people were not hired or received admission into colleges because of their race.
Since 1964, universities have been using race as a factor for admissions in order to diversify their student population; this is commonly known as affirmative action.
In 2006, Michigan voters passed Proposal 2, which made affirmative action illegal in public employment, or public education. Affirmative action is still legal where federally mandated.
Outcome: The Court ruled that the ban on affirmative action is constitutional. Affirmative action is still legal, but the Court gave voters the power to eliminate or keep affirmative action through voting.
3. Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby
Background: This case involved two key laws, the Affordable Care Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is an agency that makes recommendations about what should be covered by employer-based health plans.
The Affordable Care Act relied on the HRSA recommendations, in regards to women’s health coverage, and stated that employers should cover specific contraceptives for their female employees. Citing religious reasons, Hobby Lobby, an arts and craft store, objected to the mandate.
Outcome: In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. The Court found that for-profit corporations could be viewed as persons under RFRA. The Court also stated that extending rights to corporations would be protecting the rights of shareholders, officers, and employees.
4. ABC vs. Aereo
Background: Aereo is a cloud-based service provider that allows subscribers to stream broadcast TV over the Internet. The technology is similar to Tivo and VHS recorders, but can also allow users to watch live streams of broadcast television on Internet-connected devices. The American Broadcasting Companies sued Aereo for violating copyright laws.
Outcome: The Court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled in favor of the broadcasters and concluded that Aereo violated copyright laws, specifically the element of public performance. Although the Court found in favor of the broadcasters, it stated that that its decision should not discourage new and emerging technologies.
5. McCullen vs. Coakley
Background: Massachusetts passed a law in 2007 that created a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive care facilities, such as abortion clinics. Protestors at a Planned Parenthood facility in Worchester, Massachusetts challenged the law under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Outcome: The Court unanimously ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the First Amendment. The rationale was that the law limited speech too broadly and that Massachusetts failed to use less intrusive methods to achieve its goal.
The Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2014
Filing a lawsuit is a serious matter. However, that doesn’t stop some people from filing apparently ridiculous cases. Here are a few of the most outrageous cases from the past year:
- The Movie Frozen Is Based on My Life Isabella Tanikumi is suing the Walt Disney Corporation for $250 million. She claims that Frozen is based off of her autobiography, Yearning of the Heart, and not Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen. How is Frozen similar to her story you ask? Tanikumi’s story takes place in a mountainous region, there are two sisters, and one has an accident that leaves a scar.
- I Fell Asleep at a Baseball Game and ESPN Made Fun of MeDuring a Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees game, Andrew Robert Rector fell asleep and commentators, Dan Shulman and John Kruk, noticed. Rector is suing ESPN for $10 million for “defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress” because the commentators used words, such as “fatty” and “stupid.” ESPN’s spokesperson has stated that the claims are meritless because the words were never said in the telecast by the commentators.
- Dexter Caused My Accident at Grand Central TerminalDexter is a television series about a serial killer, but, according to a New York City woman, he’s just as menacing in real life. While in Grand Central Terminal, this woman tripped and fell down the stairs after seeing an advertisement for the show. The said advertisement contained an image of the actor, Michael C. Hall, with cellophane covering his face. The image was so “shocking and menacing” that it caused the woman’s fall, as well as nightmares, which required therapy with a psychiatrist.
- I Am Suing Everyone for a Gazillion DollarsAnton Purisima doesn’t actually want a “gazillion dollars,” but he does want two undecillion dollars. The 62 year-old filed in Manhattan federal court and is seeking two undecillion dollars—that is the number “2” followed by 36 zeros. So far he has included the following in his lawsuit: Kmart, Au Bon Pain Store, NYC Transit, a dog owner, two hospitals, and anyone else he can think of. So why is Purisima requesting this amount? He is suing these defendants for various claims, from civil rights violations to attempted murder, and believes his pain and suffering cannot be measured and is “priceless.”