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Tips for Mediation Success

On December 9, 2013 Author By Seth Smiley

Measure SuccessHere at Wolfe Law Group, LLC, I mediate disputes many types. The disputes I usually handle are construction, collections, insurance claims, contracts and leases . Often times I am asked, what it takes for a mediation to be successful and if there is a trick to getting a successful mediation. Normally, it all depends on the parties frame of mind.

What Is A Successful Mediation?

The number one measuring stick and overall way the legal industry measures mediation success is whether the case settles, due to the mediation. This typically is a clean way for all parties to know whether the mediation was a success.

There are other types of successful mediation, whereby the parties agree to resolve some of the disputed issues but not all of them. In my mind, these partial settlements are a success.

Finally, I believe that just about every mediation that is completed and the parties work through the entire process is a success. Mediation is a unique tool that lets the parties prepare and evaluate the case strengths and weaknesses, before getting into a trial setting. There is no judge or decision maker, therefore parties as well as their attorneys can see what a neutral third party thinks of the merits. This can be very helpful and a real eye-opener for clients.

Another success story that comes out of working through the mediation process is knowing what the opposition is willing to do to resolve the dispute. You can determine whether you have someone who will work to get a resolution or an adversary who is irrational.

There Are A Number Of Factors That Go Into A Successful Mediation

There are many factors which can lead to a successful mediation. Each case is different therefore the importance of success factors will vary from dispute to dispute.

Ripeness is a big issue when it comes to whether a mediation will be successful. Some times its impossible to know if your matter is ripe until you engage in the mediation process, due to unexpected factors which may arise. Further, many attorneys will jump into mediation in order to get a quick deal. This practice is not beneficial to the client or the outcome of the dispute.

Attitude of the parties is another huge factor when it comes to the success of a mediation. There are disputes where all sides are irrational and cannot make a deal. There are other disputes when its just one party who is creating an impasse. A good mediator will work on parties to encourage positive attitudes with regard to making a deal. The mere fact that the parties agreed to come together, is a sign that reason is being applied and there’s a possibility for a deal.

Having all parties actually listen and work through all of the issues presented by each other party. Many times a party will only want to discuss its issues and not listen to what other are saying. This breakdown in the communication process can be very problematic for the mediation process.

Other Sources For Mediation Information

Mediation is quickly becoming one of the go-to methods for alternative dispute resolution. Its been around for a long time and will continue to be here because of its cost-effective alternative to standard litigation. There are a number of good sources which talk about successful mediation. NOLO.com has a good article with Ten Rules for Success. Marc Engel has a similar article with good information entitled 8 Steps to Make Mediation Successful.

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Posted in:    Arbitration & ADR, Construction News   /  Tags: , ,   /   1 Comment

Attorney Demand Letter – Will It Get You Paid?

On November 6, 2013 Author By Scott Wolfe Jr

lawyer letter

Everyone in the construction industry has trouble getting paid at some point. In fact, when Construction Week Online conducted a poll inquiring who in the industry had payment problems, it found that a whopping 0% – that’s right, zero percent – reported they were always “paid in full and on time.”

Payment applications and invoices get sent out, and then it’s unfortunately a battle to always get cash flowing. What can you do to mitigate these circumstances and get paid more and more often?

The answer may be quite simple – sending a demand letter, and then sending an attorney demand letter / lawyer letter.

Getting Your Account Paid Means Prioritizing Your Invoice With Your Customer

First, non-paying customers are not uncommon, nor is it a problem unique to the construction industry.  One website I really love is the “World’s Longest Invoice,” which is just an on-going list of people and companies across the country who are not paying their bills.

If you’re going to turn a non-paying account into a paying account, you must first ask why the customer isn’t paying.  In most cases, it’s because your invoice is not a priority for that customer. This frequently boils down to something very simple: following up on invoices and amping up the pressure to pay.

Make your invoice or payment application top of mind. How? Make sure they have the invoice. Followup with phone calls and emails. Followup, followup, followup…and let us suggest sending a demand letter.

Payment Demands From Attorneys Presses The Right Buttons To Get You Paid

When followup phone calls, emails, and correspondence just doesn’t work, it’s time to start considering your other options. At the end of the tunnel is litigation, and you’ll want to avoid that at all costs. You can also file a mechanics lien to bridge the gap. Before these legal remedies, however, you may get good results from a simple and ineffective step: sending an attorney demand letter.

An attorney demand letter will accomplish two very important things:

  1. It will communicate to your customer that you are serious about the debt, and it will prioritize your account;
  2. The lawyer letter will put you in your best collectable position by availing you of all laws on your side to protect your right to payment.

There’s no reason why you should avoid sending a lawyer letter. It’s easy, and can be very affordable. Take our firm – Wolfe Law Group – for example. We have a flat fee to send an attorney demand letter. You don’t need to sign a complicated fee agreement, do a formal consultation, and worry about an hourly bill adding up.

You simply put your information into our online form and watch your letter get sent – it’s that easy. One flat fee and your customer gets the demand letter, and usually pays up.

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Posted in:    About Our Services, Disputes, Payment Requirements   /  Tags:   /   Leave a comment

Louisiana Home Improvement Contractors License Requirements

On October 30, 2013 Author By Seth Smiley
English: Larose, LA, September 7, 2008 -- Loca...

Larose, LA, September 7, 2008 — (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors (LSLBC) is a very useful place for Louisiana contractors. I was recently reading up on the requirements for home improvement contractors. The LSLBC is a one stop shop for all things related to contractor licensing. It is a good place for both contractors and consumers. Contractors can find out information on commercial, residential, home improvement and mold remediation.

Qualifications for Home Improvement License

All home improvement contracts over five thousand dollars and up to seventy-five thousand dollars need to be in writing. In order to be considered a Home Improvement Contractor you must register with the LSLBC. The application is located at this link. This application is less formal than the Residential Contractor license application. The process is also more relaxed. Further, there is no test.

The contractor who is applying for the Home Improvement license needs to provide general liability insurance and show that the contractor or the registering entity is registered with the Louisiana Department of Revenue.

Of course there are fees associated with this filing but that is very expected. The LSLBC will deliver the certificate of registration to the applicant who has been approved. These certificates are non-transferable.

Persons Who Do Not Need the Home Improvement License

Generally there are persons and entities who do not need the protection of a Home Improvement License. If a homeowner physically performs work on his personal residence then he does not need to get this license, no matter the cost. This does not mean that the homeowner does not need to abide by local permitting rules and regulations.

A contractor can perform work without the Home Improvement license if the home improvement work has a “value” of less than seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500). Many times contractors try to circumvent the licensing requirement by making contracts for $7,500 or less when the work is really more than that. The LSLBC rule states that the value to the home must be less than $7,500. This is an objective standard.

Of course other contractors who have a better license do not need this one, such as commercial and residential contractors.

Other Aspects to Consider

Contractors who are getting licensed for the first time should consider contacting an attorney so that they can get protective language put in invoices, and properly drafted contracts. It is always smart to properly form an entity such as and Limited Liability Company (LLC) to protect personal assets. Other helpful documents include demand letters, lien waivers and filing of liens when payment is not received. Companies such as zlien.com are very good with helping contractors manage notice and lien compliance.

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Posted in:    Construction News, Licensing   /  Tags: ,   /   1 Comment

The Best Time to Mediate A Dispute is Yesterday

On October 24, 2013 Author By Seth Smiley

Eviction ImageHere on ConstuctionLawMonitor.com I like to blog about non-traditional ways to settle disputes between contractors and other feuding parties. Mediation is my favorite because I am a mediator. Its also my favorite because, generally, its the best and most efficient way to resolve disputes. There are circumstances whereby mediation will not work but that usually happens when irrational parties come to the table.

In this post I will explore the element of “when” is a matter ripe for mediation.

Timing Issues For Mediation

As discussed in other posts, there can be clauses within construction contracts wish mandate mediation. This type of clause is called a mediation or alternative dispute clause. In this instance, the contract will lay out exactly how the mediation and/or arbitration process should be handled when an dispute occurs between the parties.

So the timing element of a contractually mandated mediation is spelled out in the construction contract. Many times mediation is a precursor to any litigation or arbitration hearings. This basically works as to when there is a dispute, parties look to the contract to see how the mediation should be initiated.

Outside of contractually mandated mediation there is also voluntary mediation. By definition, all mediation is voluntary. The premise of all mediation proceedings is that the parties are there voluntarily. Otherwise the mediation will not work.

Once the parties are both there in good faith and voluntarily, then the process can work properly. Most mediation proceedings can be completed in one day. Sometimes more complex issues with numerous parties may take a bit longer and may span over a number of days. Either way is fine and the process is designed to facilitate both simple and complex.

Its Okay To Mediate A Dispute More Than Once

Often times parties think they only get one bite at the apple when it comes to mediation. Mediation is different than trial or an arbitration where there does not have to be a final decision made by the neutral party. A mediator is merely a facilitator to settlement. When parties mediate, they have to be the ones who make the final decision to settle.

In my experience, I have seen parties try to mediate disputes early on in the dispute and it did not work out. There was simply an impasse which could not be worked out that particular day. Then the parties dig back in and litigate or negotiate independently. Months and even years later, the parties will come to the table again to mediate and try to work out a deal. As long as the parties are engaged and willing to compromise there is always hope that mediation will work.

Other More Expensive Alternatives To Mediation

There are two main alternatives to mediation. Litigation and Arbitration are what I will discuss.

Litigation

As you may or may not know, litigation is the standard practice here in the United States, but it is old and antiquated. Litigation is also extremely expensive and slow. If a party files suit on a hundred thousand dollar construction dispute it will likely take years to completed. The process is slow and the parties know how to exploit the process so that it will move even slower. The only parties who make money off litigation are attorneys.

One of my favorite quotes regarding how bad litigation is from the French scholar Voltaire,

“I was never ruined but twice; once when I lost a lawsuit and once when I won one.”

Even as far back as the seventeenth century people were opposed to litigation. Needless to say, the process has become worse, not better.

Arbitration

Next is the somewhat better and more favored, arbitration. Arbitration is good because it is more efficient and cost effective than litigation. Parties get to select an arbitrator and then proceed ahead with more relaxed rules than traditional litigation. The problem here is that the arbitrators ruling in binding. Binding is scary because its all left to the discretion of one person.

I’ve experienced a number of arbitration rulings that have left me scratching my head wondering what the arbitrator was listening to. There is the possibility of appeal, but the standard is overwhelming and the ruling is rarely overturned.

Mediation is a voluntary negotiation process where a neutral third party helps to facilitate the parties making an agreement. In my mind this choice is clear to mediate.

 

 

 

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Get An Attorney To Read Your Construction Contract – Every Time

On October 15, 2013 Author By Scott Wolfe Jr

read-construction-contract

At the start of every construction project you sign a stack of papers that will dictate your success or failure on the project: the construction contract.  The contract may be short and sweet, or it may be a mountain of paperwork that not only includes its own provisions but also cites provisions in other paperwork stacks.

Construction contracts are historically confusing documents and they contain a bunch of popular provisions with confusing interpretations like pay when paid clauses, indemnity provisions, claim notice requirements, and more. Plus, the provision may mean one thing under one state law and something completely different under another state’s law.

What can you do?

Get An Attorney To Review Every Contract

Last year, Seth Smiley wrote an article on our blog suggesting that with construction contracts you should “pay now to save later.” The point of this title and article simply underscored the importance of spending a little time with the contract language at the very start of the projects.

Perhaps your company actually pays money for an attorney to review the contract, or maybe they pay by putting in some quality time to review the document themselves. Whatever the case, it’s important to give construction contracts serious review before starting to work underneath it.

Having an attorney review your construction contract does not need to be complicated. In fact, here at Wolfe Law Group, we offer a flat fee for contract review services. Provide the contract documents to us, and we’ll turn around a review in a day or two. The review will include an opinion letter that sets forth two major things:

  • Provisions that should be concerning and perhaps changed (i.e. Alerts)
  • Provisions that require you to perform certain actions during the course of the project (i.e. Notification Lists)
  • Answers to any specific questions you may have

Having an attorney review your contract at the onset of a project will give your company peace of mind about their duties under the terms, and will help your company avoid bad situations.

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of The Contract

It’s unfortunate, but a lot of companies spend a great deal of time preparing their bid and selling their company to get a project. When they finally get the job, the salesperson, estimator, or business owner is ecstatic and just wants to get started. That’s understandable, but don’t allow the owner or general contractor to take advantage of your position and pass you a construction contract that is one-sided against you.

A strong contract that has provisions to the owner’s or general contractor’s favor can be crushing to a business in the event of a dispute, payment delay, or more.

Don’t let your excitement or desire for the project get ahead of you. General contractors and owners will negotiate a contract with you, and they expect push back on certain terms. If you allow them to roll over your company, however, they will.

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Posted in:    Construction Contracts   /  Tags: , , ,   /   Leave a comment