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Complexities of business lead to complex lawsuits

While often used as a metaphor, the phrase "it's a tricky business" also applies to the act of running a business itself. There is nothing simple about juggling the logistics of business, the federal and California laws that apply to it and the multitude of contracts and employees that factor into the mix.

When one element overlaps another, the brew becomes even more complex. For example, complex debates over the construction and enforceability of employment contracts can take infinitely various forms.

In one recent case, some employees of a defunct law firm were haunted by the trustees of creditors for that firm who were seeking to recoup the firm's losses. When the firm went under, certain project work remained unfinished. As is understandable, the firm's former partners continued some of that unfinished project work as they moved to new firms.

The trustees alleged that the profits from the originally unfinished work, which was billed on an hourly rather than a contingent basis, belonged to the defunct law firm, rather than the new firms where the former partners were subsequently employed. However, the New York judge who heard the case disagreed with the trustees.

Under New York law, the defunct firm retained no rights or responsibilities to such unfinished work. As a result, the firms where the former partners now work are thus entitled to keep the profits of the work they finished while employed there.

Business is complicated, so it logically follows that business lawsuits tend to be quite complicated as well. Whether you are an employee, an employer, a trustee, a creditor or some other puzzle piece in the jumble of business, when a dispute arises, it is critical to have competent legal representation to help you unravel it.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Judge: Unfinished Legal Work Isn't Property (in New York, Anyway)," Jennifer Smith, Sep. 5, 2012

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