Legal matters: Ortiz & Schick

This month, we interviewed Ortiz & Schick for some great legal knowledge and expertise and would like to share with our readers, please enjoy this helpful information.

Ortiz & Schick was founded in July 2006 by John-Paul Schick and Michael Ortiz, who were partners at a mid-sized firm in Durham.

We asked them when they began operations, what their main focus is and who are their clients, and this is what they share with us:

“What we do is pretty simple, we help people and businesses solve their problems, said John-Paul Schick. “We specialize in transactions and disputes, including litigation, for developers, commercial landlords and tenants, general contractors, engineering firms, architects and businesses. We also handle general matters of business law, bonding and surety law, commercial real estate law, and construction law, he added.

What should small business owners have in mind when seeking for legal representation?

John-Paul told us that: in seeking legal counsel, it is important to find a law firm that brings personal attention, accessibility and responsiveness. “You should be able to call your lawyer directly (and not have to go through a receptionist). Your lawyer should return telephone calls and emails quickly. He or she should also listen to the client and be willing to accept the client’s ideas, yet be strong enough to disagree when it is appropriate. If value is something that is important to you, you might seek out a smaller, boutique law firm with the resources for total engagement through trial and appeal, yet who will work with economics in mind. Lastly, you should like the lawyer you work with. It should be easy for you to talk to them and vice versa.

We also asked them what is the number one mistake of small business when dealing with legal matters?

Failing to consult with an attorney on the front end. There are so many times when a client has come to me with a problem that could easily have been avoided by allowing an attorney to draft the contract, negotiate the lease, or prepare other important legal documents. Trying to save money up front by not calling your lawyer oftentimes means paying a lot more money later.

HCAC: What would Ortiz & Schick recommend to small business to avoid a lawsuit against them? How can it be prevented?

JPS: There is no way to completely prevent a lawsuit. As the saying goes, the more successful the business, the greater the chances of being sued. Protecting your business might be a better way of thinking about the issue. It is vital to separate the owners of the business from the business itself. Creating and maintaining a separate legal entity is key to protecting your personal assets from potential judgments and creditors. I would also advise business owners to hire an attorney as soon as they consider forming a business. The attorney can help set up the legal entity and also serve as registered agent for the company for service of any lawsuits. It is also helpful for a new company to have a legal contact that is ready when needed. Businesses should have an attorney that they can call to advise them before they act or react when a lawsuit or other potential issue arises. If the attorney doesn’t specialize in a particular area of the law that the problem concerns (say, employment law, tax issues, etc.) they can point you in the right direction.

HCAC: Could you share some tips for small business that are growing? What could be implemented to better manage of your business - from a legal point of view?

JPS: From a legal standpoint, it is important for contractors on a daily basis to be mindful of their safety record. Have mandatory daily safety meetings on every job, provide regular safety training sessions, and discuss potential hazards at the beginning of every project. Consider posting Spanish translated signage to meet OSHA requirements at your jobsite. With the high profile construction injuries and fatalities that have happened in Raleigh this year, I think it is more important than ever to focus on the safety of your workers. Also, be sure the contracts and other documents that you use fully protect you. Have a lawyer review and revise them – especially if you found them on the internet. Laws differ from state to state so a contract used in Florida may not protect you in North Carolina. Also, unless your contract says so, you are probably not entitled to recover your legal fees if you have to sue another company.

HCAC: What do you think is HCAC’s contribution to its members and the industry in general?

JPS: The HCAC is a wonderful organization. One of the biggest benefits of membership in the HCAC is the many educational opportunities that the organization offers. The website itself offers helpful articles on many different subjects, ranging from OSHA regulations to the latest construction news in North Carolina. The job opportunities section of the HCAC website is also a great place to go for contractors to see invitations to bid on projects all across the state. I really enjoy and value the HCAC Construction Conference, where speakers present on a wide variety of useful topics and business owners get to enjoy the networking opportunities that are crucial to growing their business. The smaller, more informal networking meetings are also a great way to make good connections.

HCAC: Any additional tips you want to share with us?

JPS: A career in the construction industry, just like the legal profession, can be made or broken based on your reputation. Ethics and integrity should be a part of our everyday lives. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “[i]ntegrity is doing the right thing. Even when no one is watching.” Be known as a contractor who never cuts corners, who always shows up on time, and gives 100%. Your reputation will follow you wherever you go.

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