These disputes often involve heightened emotions for the participants, rancorous histories, or other challenges to working toward a resolution. There can be mixed business relationships – partnerships, co-venturers, close corporations, customers, professional clients – as well as strong personal ties. I am comfortable in these charged settings.
Many disputes arise because the governing documents do not unambiguously address the issue that has arisen, or there are unclear and overlapping relationships between different entities with related businesses that complicate the claims. Sometimes there have been complex tradeoffs of money, time, skill or experience of the participants that perplex the parties. Partners’ interests can diverge because of age, illness, or the readiness of children to step into management of a business. These disputes often involve issues with the valuation of assets and the viability of ongoing businesses.
I have helped resolve disputes among family members or personal friends who jointly own real property and businesses, who have lost money in investments controlled by one of them, who assert claims of breach of trust and misuse of funds, who fight over the right to a business opportunity, who have accounting disputes covering years or even decades, and who accuse one another of undue influence over a parent.
I have assisted partners, owners of closely held companies, and attorneys and other professionals come to agreements over ongoing management, dissolution, division of assets (real estate, ongoing businesses and other resources), buy outs, accounting, partition, allocation of future income, claims of misuse of funds, improper competition, etc. These have arisen in such settings as law firms, real estate and property development, investment, accounting, art, ranching, magazine publishing, high-tech industries (software and hardware development), metal and plastic fabrication, manufacturing, recruitment, window cleaning and scaffolding, distribution, retail, hotel, restaurant, antiques, kayak tour and rental, judgment collection, records preservation, auctions, and sales and service businesses. Legal issues include claims between shareholders or general and limited partners, and disputes about the nature of the underlying business structure (corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship/employee, etc.).
I have similarly worked with corporate boards to resolve management disputes with changes of personnel, buy-sell agreements, and new decisionmaking structures. These arise from the same kinds of underlying issues listed above, but must be resolved with consideration of the different legal structure.