The Bowen Law Group
Entertainment and Business Law
The Bowen Law Group is in a unique position to apply the skill and techniques of large metropolitan law firm while maintaining the attentiveness of an esteemed local practice. The Bowen Law Group’s founder, Charles J. Bowen, spent many years managing the savannah offices of two venerated and innovative Atlanta law firms while continuing to establish himself as a respected member of the local community.
The Bowen Law Group has offices in both Savannah and Atlanta and serves clients throughout the United States in a diverse range of practice areas. The freedom from the rigid organizational structure of a large firm allows them to focus on giving clients the full attention they deserve. “We have developed close relationships with clients that last for years, as we believe no law firm can be successful without a relationship of trust with its clients,” says Mr. Bowen. “To us, every case is important.” The firm’s clients value the personal dedication they receive as a result. His firm has handled all aspects of corporate litigation on behalf of large corporations and small businesses on the state, federal and local level, including commercial and financial institution disputes, complex real estate cases, securities and intellectual property matters, as well as multifaceted business and contract suits. He also has extensive courtroom experience representing large corporations, small businesses, families and consumers.
7 E Congress St #1001 / Savannah, GA 31401 / 912.544.2050 / thebowenlawgroup.com
How to Protect Your Small Business from Lawsuits
By Charles Bowen
At some point, almost every new client asks me some variant of the same question: “How can I keep from getting sued and losing my house, my car, my money, my spouse, my kids and my dog?” The honest answer to that question is: you can’t. In fact, the more successful you are, the more likely it is that you will one day have to deal with the hassle of defending a lawsuit.
Nevertheless, there are some very simple steps that every business owner can take to greatly reduce the risk of being sued. If you are sued, these steps can also both significantly increase your chance of victory in the courtroom and protect your assets from risk.
Operating a business simply under your own name is a recipe for financial disaster. Forming a corporation, LLC or other similar business structure is crucial and will put up a solid wall between your business assets and your personal property. Make certain that your corporate name is featured prominently on your business cards, website, etc., and that you keep separate accounts for the corporation. Any experienced accountant or business attorney can help you choose the structure that is best for your business.
This is easily the second most important step that can be taken to increase protection and peace of mind. This may be commercial liability insurance or errors and omissions coverage, depending upon the type of business. I recommend that my clients procure as much coverage as they can afford, preferably at least $1 million. If you do get sued, insurance will often cover both the cost of an attorney as well as any damages awarded. The premiums are usually tax deductible.
As long as it is not being done for purposes of fraud, it can be wise for a business owner to legally transfer key assets (such as a house) into the name of your spouse or other trusted family member that is not involved in the business. Keep in mind, however, that you are truly giving up ownership (which could be an issue in the event of a divorce or other dispute).
SIMPLIFY CONTRACTS AND USE DISCLAIMERS.
A simple contract written in easily-understandable terms is more likely to be enforced than one containing a lot of “legalese.” Also, the use of disclaimers (such as limitations on liability and a lack of warranties) can offer invaluable protection and should be a standard practice in your business contracts. Any skilled corporate attorney can review your standard contracts and make certain they are enforceable and provide you with maximum possible legal protections.
PUT IT IN WRITING.
Avoid oral agreements. The time and money spent drafting a written contract is miniscule compared to the expense of a lawsuit based upon a misunderstanding. Every agreement, invoice, financial transaction and even phone message should be written and safely preserved.
KNOW THE LAW.
While the sheer number of laws and regulations that relate to your profession may be daunting, making certain your business is compliant with the law is a powerful deterrent to litigation. Consult with an attorney or spend the time necessary researching and reviewing the local, state and federal laws that apply to your business. Make certain that you have obtained and filed all necessary permits, licenses, fees, taxes and registrations.
Happy people don’t sue. Many lawsuits arise from simple misunderstandings and hurt feelings. If you do find yourself in a dispute, try to deal with it quickly and professionally. Do not ignore the problem. A friendly telephone call or honest discussion can often lead to an amicable resolution.
AVOID CRAZY PEOPLE!
It never ceases to amaze me how often a client that has been sued tells me, “I knew that person was trouble from the moment I met them!” Remember: you are not required to do business with every person that contacts you. Always trust your gut instinct. A tactful refusal such as, “I am simply overbooked right now and I know you need this work done right away,” can avoid many future problems. And, of course, you can always refer them to your biggest competitor.