A Startup Sabbatical: What I learned from 11 months in politics

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

By Matthew Pelkey

In the beginning of 2016 my wife came to me with a proposition—she wanted to run for New York State Senate.

Against an incumbent. With a lot more money. And she wanted my help. At the time I had been immersed in the upstate startup ecosystem. That was all about to change.

We had always been a team in nearly everything we did, so by no means did this come as a surprise. A decade earlier I had spent some time in government myself so it wasn’t completely foreign to me. And of course, I had regularly attended a mélange of political activities with my wife over the years. “Why not?”, I thought to myself.

A Fresh Start for Farmers in Distress

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

By Frederick Gawronski

Farms come in all shapes and sizes. They are operated by publicly traded companies, closely held organizations and individuals. They share many of the same successes and problems, including the booms and busts directly related to external circumstances. Weather, tariffs, trade and politics are just a few of the factors outside the day to day control of a farming operation which impact the bottom line.

New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law—Coming Soon

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn2Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

By Joseph F. Saeli, Jr.

New York’s Paid Family Leave Benefits Law takes effect on January 1, 2018.   Most non-government employers in New York will have to comply with this law.  It is not too early to begin preparing for it.

Employees will be eligible for Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) for up to eight weeks within a fifty-two-week period.  PFL includes compensation, continued health insurance, and job protection.

PFL can be used for one of three reasons:

  1. To care for a close relative with a serious health condition.
  2. To bond with a newborn, newly adopted, or newly placed child within the first twelve months after birth, adoption or foster placement.
  3. When a spouse, child, domestic partner or parent is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty, as provided under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

Unlike the FMLA, PFL benefits are not available for an employee’s own health condition.

Racial Disparagement? The U.S. Supreme Court Rules on “The Slants” Trademark Refusal

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

By Erin Gormley

Summer is often a season for music, when music lovers listen to their favorite artists at concerts, in their backyards, and in their cars with the windows down. This summer, a U.S. Supreme Court case has caused music to become a place where freedom of speech and trademark law intersect.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the rock band “The Slants,” made up of Asian-American musicians, cannot be barred from using that name, regardless of the potential of disparagement to Asian and Asian-American individuals. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (the “USPTO”) initially prohibited the band from registering the name “The Slants” as a trademark in classification 041 for “entertainment in the nature of live performances by a musical band” on the grounds that “the applied-for mark consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”

How Community Capital Models Can Regenerate Upstate NY

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

By Matthew Pelkey

If you’ve spent any time in Upstate New York you have no doubt experienced an unfortunate yet common site: a row of empty storefronts lining a street which once upon a time was a bustling town center. Community capital models could be the answer we’ve been looking for to revitalize neighborhoods victim to the rust belt economy.

As Upstate NY’s economy changed, many of these storefronts became boarded up relics—scars on our neighborhoods serving as a reminder of a time since past. It is important to acknowledge that there has recently been significant progress in many upstate communities, but a brisk stroll through Saranac Lake, or Watertown, or even Main Street in Buffalo leaves these scars difficult to ignore. What exactly to do about them, however, is a difficult question.

Catching up on emerging legal practices.

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn17Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

By Matthew K. Pelkey

At Colligan Law we believe that high growth companies should have access to a broad network across the globe which can be leveraged to assist our clients no matter what comes up, or more importantly—no matter where it comes up.

As a member of Lawyers Associated Worldwide (“LAW” because lawyers have a terrible sense of humor), we are able to do exactly that. For those unfamiliar with it, LAW is a global association of nearly 100 independent law firms located in more than 50 countries. With access to more than 4000 lawyers worldwide, LAW allows firms such as ours to service the legal needs of clients that are expanding their operations and relationships into new domestic and foreign markets.

LAW also allows us to gain a global perspective on emerging industries and how legal services may be impacted. Here are some of the latest practice areas that are emerging among our LAW network:

Common Employment Pitfalls for Startups

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

By Matthew Pelkey

Starting a business comes with a lot of learning curves, including learning how to properly manage employees.

It is almost guaranteed that founders will run into some employment questions while growing their business. As legal practitioners we always hope that our clients will call us before making decisions with legal consequences, but alas, that is not always the case. And while every situation is unique (and you should always seek legal counsel to answer questions specific to your facts and circumstances) here are four common employment law pitfalls with startups:

  • Independent contractors must be…[spoiler alert]…independent.

The old saying goes, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. The same holds true for employees. For some reason though people tend to forget this rule when utilizing “independent contractors”. As a general rule, just because you give someone a 1099 and tell the world they are “an independent contractor”, even if they agree to it in writing, does not an independent contractor make. The true test for whether someone is an independent contractor is a far more nuanced, multi-factored test. The more factors indicating the exercise of control over a person, the more likely they are to be considered an employee.

The safest way to ensure that your independent contractor will not be classified as employee? Make sure the contractor is actually operating a business, has a proper entity formed, has an EIN, has workers compensation and unemployment insurance, and files their own payroll tax. The independent contractor should also have other clients and be able to freely compete in the marketplace.

Jurisdiction, Venue and Attorneys’ Fees: Three Critical But Often Overlooked Clauses in Contracts

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn11Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

By A. Nicholas Falkides

Three contract clauses that can critically impact the outcome of contract dispute litigation are Jurisdiction, Venue and Attorneys’ Fees.  Yet these clauses are often overlooked, and sometimes left out, as parties focus on “the deal terms” and ignore what they consider the “boilerplate.”

Jurisdiction is the authority of a particular court to bind a particular party [such as a person, a business, or a government agency] to the court’s judgment.  Without jurisdiction an order or judgment rendered against a party is unenforceable, in some cases even after a jury trial.

Jurisdiction is important for several reasons.  First, the law may differ from one jurisdiction to another.  Second, the cost of litigating in another jurisdiction is often much higher than litigating in the party’s “home” jurisdiction.  Third, a party may have a “home grown advantage” in its local jurisdiction that it loses in a foreign jurisdiction.

Venue is the geographical location where a lawsuit is, or can be, brought.  Venue rules generally prevent a lawsuit from being brought in a location that has no connection to the parties or the dispute; and a lawsuit brought in the wrong venue is subject to involuntary transfer to a proper venue, or even dismissal.

Venue is important because it is usually more expensive, and more difficult, to litigate in a distant venue than it is in a nearby venue; and the cost difference often impacts a party’s litigation strategy.

An attorneys’ fees clause gives a party to a lawsuit – typically the prevailing party – the ability to recover its “reasonable” attorneys’ fees in the lawsuit.  Attorneys’ fees clauses are legally enforceable in New York.  While some New York courts refuse to enforce attorneys’ fees clauses on principle, their existence in a contract often gives a party leverage in settlement negotiations.

Is a hotdog a sandwich? Yes, according to New York State law, it is.

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn31Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

By Robert Townsley

As summer is arriving, and with Memorial Day, 4th of July, and the 2017 Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Competition to look forward to, it’s time to tackle some of life’s biggest questions. Is a hotdog a sandwich? If not, then what exactly is a sandwich?

Believe it or not, on April 13, 2011, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, Taxpayer Guidance Division actually published a formal Tax Bulletin on this matter.

According to the Tax Bulletin, “sandwiches include cold and hot sandwiches of every kind that are prepared and ready to be eaten, whether made on bread, on bagels, on rolls, in pitas, in wraps, or otherwise, and regardless of the filling or number of layers. A sandwich can be as simple as a buttered bagel or roll, or as elaborate as a six-foot, toasted submarine sandwich.”

Buffalo Business First – Nasir Ali talks about startups in Upstate NY

Written by Colligan Law on . Posted in Articles, News

Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Facebook9

Nasir Ali has been thinking about the challenge of tech startups in Central and Western New York for a long time.

The entrepreneur and technology executive founded The Tech Garden, a nonprofit that promotes entrepreneurship in Syracuse, and an associated incubator that was one of the first such facilities between Albany and Buffalo. He is the founder and executive director of the Seed Capital Fund of Central New York, one of the earliest angel groups in Upstate New York. He is managing director of the StartFast Venture Accelerator, a Syracuse based program in which dozens of companies have participated since the inaugural 2012 class.

Finally, Ali is the co­-founder of Upstate Venture Connect, which seeks to conjoin the separate technology communities in Central and Western New York and raise their collective visibility.

Ali visited Buffalo Wednesday and took a few minutes to chat with Buffalo Business First about startups across the state.

Ali said growing technology ecosystems exist in various cities from Albany to Buffalo, but increased connectivity and visibility are crucial to attracting more talent and forming a collective front. He said that’s the reason for the UNY50 Leadership Network, but said there’s much more work to be done.

“Visibility is the single biggest problem our region faces,” he said. “All our communities have grown up in isolation with each other, which informs the way we think about our boundaries, and is also the way the state doles out its money. But the real competition is not between Buffalo or Rochester or Syracuse, it’s between those cities and the rest of the world, particularly the big metro areas that are attracting our best and brightest. We have to create great visibility so that people are aware there are a lot of great companies that are hiring where you can have fast growth, fast learning and fast advancement.”