October 1st, 2015
Gunderson Law Firm Attorney, Austin K. Sweet, Esq. has joined the Discovery Museum Board of Directors Governance Committee.
The Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum is a hands-on museum dedicated to inspiring lifelong learning in science, technology, engineering, art, math, and the world around us. As northern Nevada continues to grow, the region’s cultural and educational offerings must also expand in order to keep young minds thriving. The Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum (The Discovery) is designed not just to meet this need, but to raise the bar for fun, family-based learning throughout our community. The museum also aims to provoke new aspirations and collaborations among children, parents and educators. The Discovery is a place of open eyes, open minds and open horizons. A place where tomorrow’s dreams win their wings.
September 15th, 2015
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Gunderson Law Firm and the duties of your position.
Austin Sweet: We do general business law, so we represent a lot of businesses in town for any issue that might come up. Our primary focus is litigation, so we do trial work, contract disputes and things like that. We also help form and dissolve businesses, advise business owners on potential issues that might come up, lease disputes — it’s a pretty wide range of business-type issues. I get the opportunity to handle my own cases, but with bigger cases Mark Gunderson will be more involved and is there to advise and oversee a lot of the bigger decisions. My role includes everything that can be done on a case, which is why I came to this firm. It’s not common starting out of law school that you’ll get that opportunity. I take depositions,argue cases, handle trails and arbitrations by myself, which I really enjoy.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Sweet: I originally wanted to do engineering and in school I was a math and science guy. I wasn’t entirely convinced I wanted to do engineering, so my backup was business, and Washington had a great program for business. I was in the electrical engineering program at UDUB, and it just bored the hell out of me. I took at basic business law class, and at the same time I was taking a logic class. I really saw a big correlation between the thought processes of math and logic and the law. To me, it’s the exact same thought process — instead of taking numbers and plugging them into formulas you are taking facts and plugging them into laws and you need to figure out variables equations to reach a logical conclusion.
NNBW: In your five years of working as an attorney, what’s the most important thing you have learned in that time that helps you succeed?
Sweet: Realizing what I consider an interesting legal problem and what is the best interest of my client. Sometimes you have a fascinating legal dispute, but there’s no reason to charge your client thousands of dollars to go to trial and litigate it. It’s important to keep the focus on what’s in the best interest of your client.
NNBW: What’s been your most challenging case and why?
Sweet: Probably the one I am handling now. We have a major lawsuit that’s spread out over several states, and we are going up against a notorious litigant. It’s really helped me learn the global scope of practicing law and litigation. It’s like a game of chess — you always have to think six or 10 steps ahead and see what they are planning six to 10 steps ahead.
NNBW: What do you like most about your job?
Sweet: The challenging logical work and the variety. Every day is something different and new. There’s always a new challenge and twist to every case and issue and it keeps me on my toes and thinking actively. The second part of it is the people I get to meet. We do a lot of business law, and I get to learn about business, what people do and their passion for it. I really enjoy getting to meet those people and see into their world.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Sweet: My dad was a contractor, so it was working for him. I was doing that when I was five, since I was old enough to know the alphabet and put things in the right order.
NNBW: Tell us about your dream job. Why aren’t you working it?
Sweet: Honestly, I think it’s this. I think if I wanted to do something else I would do it.
NNBW: Have any advice for someone who wants to enter your profession?
Sweet: Try it out first. Get your foot in the door at a law firm, even if you are just working as a runner. Experience the profession first. I went to a pretty pricey law school and I knew a handful of people there in about their third year, after they had done their intensive summer internships that realized they didn’t want to be lawyers. But they were $100,000 in the hole and had wasted years getting a degree they didn’t want. It was hard to see that happen. If you are thinking about becoming a lawyer I recommend going to work at a law firm first.
NNBW: What are your favorite hobbies or pastimes? How do you spend your time away from work?
Sweet: Outdoors with my family. We play a lot of soccer, go rock climbing, skiing, hiking, backpacking.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
Sweet: Probably a professional athlete, a soccer player or skier.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you? Why or why not?
Sweet: I would work less, definitely. I would travel more and spend time with my family.
NNBW: What’s the last concert or sporting event you attended?
Sweet: I went to an Aces game.
NNBW: Where’s your perfect vacation spot?
Sweet: Going somewhere new with my family.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Sweet: I grew up here, and when you leave I don’t think I realized how good Reno is. I got to see Seattle and Boston, and that made me appreciate the culture of Reno and the outdoor activities we have to offer. A lot of my friends work for big firms in Boston, Seattle, Chicago and New York, and they are working 80- to 100-hour weeks. When you come back to Reno, there really aren’t firms like that; I have a good work-life balance that is hard to find other places. I really like the small legal community; you get to know the judges, they get to know you, and it’s a place where you can really build a reputation that can help you with your practice.
See the original story here
June 1st, 2015
View the original article from Nevada Lawyer Magazine here
Like many lawyers, I’m faced with an unfortunate number of clients who call me to help them solve their legal problems rather than to prevent them before they happen. A recurring issue involves entrepreneurs who start new businesses: they know that they need “a business license,” but they often don’t know exactly which licenses they are required to obtain. So they head down to city hall, apply for a business license, pay the fee and leave with the erroneous belief that they are now fully compliant with all licensing requirements. After all, if there was something else they were supposed to do, wouldn’t the person behind the counter have told them? Unfortunately, the answer is “no.”
Businesses Need State, County and Municipal Business Licenses In Nevada.
Entrepreneurs typically need a business license from every state, county and municipality in which they plan to conduct business. Although this article only addresses Nevada business licenses, it is important to remind your clients that they may need to register their businesses and obtain even more business licenses in other states where they perform services.
The general rule is that any person who engages in a business or trade for profit in Nevada is required to obtain a business license from the State of Nevada. As always, there are several exceptions, most notably nonprofit entities and religious entities. Most exceptions still require the person to file a request for exemption. If you think your client may be exempt, be sure to consult the statutes to determine whether or not such a request needs to be filed. In addition to the state business license, counties and municipalities may require their own business license. Not all counties and cities have elected to do so, but most cities and municipalities require an additional business license for anyone conducting business in their jurisdictions. Each county and city has discretion to set its own guidelines for business licenses, so the fact that your client is exempt from obtaining a state business license does not necessarily mean he or she is exempt from obtaining a local license. For example, a natural person whose sole business is the rental of four or fewer dwelling units is exempt from obtaining a state business license, but a natural person whose sole business is the rental of three or more residential dwelling units on one parcel of land in Reno is required to obtain a business license from the City of Reno. You should therefore review the rules for each jurisdiction in which your clients are conducting business in order to determine whether they need a business license for that jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction requires licenses from businesses actually conducting business within the jurisdiction. A brick-and-mortar retail store would, therefore, need a business license based only upon the location of the store. However, a business that provides services in various places, such as a landscaper, needs a business license in each jurisdiction in which the business performs services. In areas like Reno, Sparks and Tahoe, a landscaping business might need business licenses from the state of Nevada, Washoe County, Carson City, the City of Reno and the City of Sparks, depending on their clients’ locations. A landscaping business in the south might need business licenses from the state of Nevada, Clark County, the City of Las Vegas, the City of North Las Vegas and the City of Henderson. Entrepreneurs are typically less than thrilled to learn this. Luckily, businesses can obtain multi-jurisdictional business licenses for Reno, Sparks and Washoe County or for Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Clark County.
Check Nevada Licensing Boards
Entrepreneurs may also need additional licenses due to the nature of their businesses. Many such licenses are obvious: you are unlikely to encounter an entrepreneur looking to open a doctor’s office without realizing he needs a license to practice medicine. However, as Uber can attest, the licensing requirements for other professions and businesses can be more ambiguous. Be sure to determine whether or not your client needs any additional licensing based upon the nature of his business, and don’t assume that your client will already know his professional licensing requirements.
A Business License is Not a Business Approval
It is important to ensure that your clients are aware that all these licenses do not constitute broad governmental approval of their businesses. Entrepreneurs sometimes believe the various government agencies that they have paid for business licenses have conducted thorough compliance reviews prior to granting those licenses.This mistake can lead to very costly consequences.
For example, a barber might assume that, since he applied for a business license for a barber shop and listed the intended address of the barber shop on the application, the city, county and/or state must have confirmed that the listed location was actually zoned for a barber shop, and that the barber has all the licenses required. So when the barber receives his business license, he assumes that his barber shop is “government approved” and that there’s nothing else he needs to worry about from a regulatory standpoint. Unfortunately, as we know, his is not the case; the well-intentioned barber could be shut down by the Nevada Barbers’ Health and Sanitation Board for working without a license and charged with a misdemeanor and an administrative fine. This error can easily be avoided by taking the time to explain to your client what a business license is and what it means for their business. When working with entrepreneurs, especially when helping them start their business, always remember to explain to your clients that they might need a number of different licenses, and tell them what those different licenses do, and do not, allow them to do.
March 20th, 2015
By Austin K. Sweet.
If you own a business, you probably have a business entity. Maybe you heard that business entities provide some sort of liability protection, and someone mentioned that you should form an LLC, so you wen online, or better yet, to a lawyer, and formed and LLC. A few weeks later, you got a fancy looking book with your company’s name embossed in gold lettering. You played with the neat little company seal thingy for a few minutes, patted yourself on the back for being a responsible business owner with such an official looking book and seal, and then put to book on a shelf never to be touched again.
That is, of course, until your lawyer asked you to bring that book to his office because its contents will dramatically impact the outcome of the dispute you’ve recently entered into with your partner. Are you sure that book says what you want it to say? Do you even know what it says? How will this impact your business?
Read the full article featured in Northern Nevada Business Weekly Business Law Guide Here (page 7)
March 2nd, 2014
Austin Sweet has joined theSolace Tree Board of Directors. Sweet is an attorney with Gunderson Law Firm, who has represented a wide variety of clients from across Nevada, California and the nation. His primary clientele includes individuals and businesses on a local, regional, and national level, as well as a variety of public agencies.
“We’re excited to have Austin join us as we celebrate our tenth anniversary this year,” said Solace Tree Board Chair Dave Wertzberger. “His skills and enthusiasm will be a great addition in our mission to help evenmore families find hope and healing after losing a family member.”
A 501c (3) non-profit organization based in Reno, Nevada, the Solace Tree is celebrating its tenth year of providing peer support, information and education to schools and the community to promote healing and recovery for grieving children, teens and their families who are affected by loss. For more information, visit www.solacetree.org.
October 24th, 2013
This Nevada Day, we’d like to extend our appreciation to our clients, peers and friends. We feel fortunate to live and work in a place with great people, beautiful landscapes and amazing opportunities.
Cheers to the land we love the best!
From all of us at Gunderson Law Firm
September 25th, 2013
By Austin K. Sweet
An age-old adage states: “Friends and business don’t mix.” The problem is that many people look for the same attributes in a business partner that they look for in a friend. Friendships and partnerships are both built on trust, common interests, and common goals, and both tend to fail when any of those three factors diverge. Going into business with your friends is natural and has led to some very successful enterprises as well as some epic implosions. Properly organizing your business from the outset will help you successfully address partnership disputes in the future and avoid a scorched-earth dissolution of your business and friendship.
Formalize Your Business Relationship. Many of the worst partnership disputes started with a handshake. “Handshake deals” are a trial lawyer’s dream because they inevitably lead to some confusion or discrepancy. We’ve all had that moment when we’re positive we’re right, and our spouse / friend / sibling is positive (s)he’s right. Neither person is trying to deceive the other but someone is simply wrong. The same thing happens in business and sometimes the stakes are much higher. These disputes can be avoided simply by formalizing your agreements in writing. “Handshake deals” may have been the Way of the West, but so were duels. Avoid duels.
Another important reason to formalize your partnership is that, if you don’t, the law might do it for you. In Nevada, legal partnerships can be created unintentionally: if two or more persons carry-on as co-owners of a business for profit, they have created a legal partnership. Something as simple as pooling your money to buy and flip houses can create a legal partnership with a wide range of legal implications. Formalizing your business relationship will ensure that you remain in control of your partnership without unknown and unintended legal consequences.
Address the Tough Questions Early. Entrepreneurs are inherently optimistic people who sometimes have difficulty considering the possibility of getting into a major dispute with their friend and partner. This can lead to some partners never discussing the uncomfortable topic of what to do when something goes wrong.
A common problem arises when a mentor offers his/her apprentice a great partnership opportunity. Often the apprentice feels awkward addressing the mechanics of the arrangement or formalizing the relationship, fearing the mentor will take offense and withdraw the offer. This concern is often misplaced – a good mentor will appreciate your business savvy and be encouraged that you can handle the responsibility you’ve been given.
If your partner still resists, it may be time to reconsider the business relationship. Partners with fundamentally different views on how a business should operate cannot run a successful business. Addressing and understanding these differences before it’s too late may save you both substantial frustration and money.
Decide How to Resolve Disputes Before they Happen. Most business partners get along when the business starts and friends like to form 50/50 partnerships to give both partners equal rights and authority. However, 50/50 arrangements lead to stalemates: for example, your partner wants to sell now, but you want to hold for six more months. Absent some method to break the deadlock, this type of dispute can destroy an otherwise successful business.
Ideally, business partners should avoid 50/50 relationships altogether. However, if you’re adamant about maintaining equal interests, establish a procedure early on for how disputes will be resolved. It is much easier to formulate a dispute resolution plan while all parties get along than to wait for a dispute to arise. Consider agreeing upon a mutually respected third-party (or group of people) whom is willing to informally hear both sides of your dispute and act as the tiebreaker.
No partnership begins with disagreeable, untrusting partners, but some end with them. Planning for disputes before they happen will save substantial grief and money. If you don’t plan ahead, someone else (possible a judge) might end up making your decisions for you.
Formulate Multiple Exit Strategies. All good business plans begin with an exit strategy, but things get much more complicated when partners are involved. What if your partner wants out before you do? Will you buy him out, or can he sell his interest to someone else? What if you don’t have the cash to buy him out? What if your partner dies? Will his children inherit his interest? If so, do you want to be partners with his children?
Including clear and detailed buy-out provisions will help you prepare for unexpected contingencies, allowing one partner to smoothly exit the partnership without ending a longtime personal friendship. Create a “right of first refusal” to ensure that your partner’s share of the company does not get transferred to someone you do not want to do business with. Establish a payment plan in the event that you do not have the cash available to buy-out your partner’s interest. Be very clear about how the business will be valued and how payments will be made.
Always have a primary exit strategy and operate your business with that goal in mind. However, preparing for the unexpected contingencies that come with adding partners to your business might save your business and your friendship down the road.
Know When Enough Is Enough. Ugly partnership dissolutions are like bitter divorces: both parties get emotional and take unreasonably stubborn positions on objectively silly issues. Like divorces, many of these disputes arise from minor disagreements that fester, grow, and eventually consume both sides. If you feel this downward spiral begin, simply utilize your well-planned exit strategy and get out before irreparable damage is done, either to your business or your friendship.
Austin Sweet is an attorney at Gunderson Law Firm, practicing business law directed at helping business owners stay protected and prosper. He can be contacted at (775) 829-1222 or email@example.com.
September 9th, 2013
By Austin K Sweet
What Type of Business to Form
Nevada is a great place to do business for a number of reasons. Notably, Nevada has favorable tax laws and flexible corporate restrictions to encourage business men and women from across the world to form their businesses under our laws. Unfortunately, this flexibility leads to a wide range of options, which can be overwhelming for an entrepreneur trying to decide what type of business entity is right for them.
This article outlines the legal pros and cons of the most common types of business entities to help you determine the best fit for your business. It is important to note, however, that different business entities are taxed differently. For more information about how taxes might affect your decision, consult with your tax advisor.
The most common reason people form business entities is for liability protection. In general terms, some business entities shield the company’s owners from personal liability from the company’s debts. For example, if the company enters into a contract and the company breaks that contract, the owner is not necessarily personally liable for damages.
Not all entity types offer liability protection. Those that do are generally more expensive to form and operate and business owners are required to comply with various rules and requirements to maintain that liability protection. However, the benefits of doing so often vastly outweigh these costs and administrative burdens.
Sole Proprietorship. The most basic form for a business is a sole proprietorship. A sole proprietorship requires no paperwork (other than necessary licensing), no filing fees, and no annual maintenance. It is very inexpensive but offers few benefits; most importantly, sole proprietorships offer no liability protection. Unless your business consists of selling homemade pottery on www.etsy.com, a sole proprietorship is probably not your best choice.
General Partnership. A general partnership is essentially a multi-person sole proprietorship. It also requires no official paperwork and offers no liability protection. Like sole proprietorships, the primary benefit of a general partnership is that it is an inexpensive way to legally operate a business.
Be aware that general partnerships can be created unintentionally. If you have an “informal” business venture with another person, such as co-owning a rental property, a court of law might consider that to be a legal general partnership. This can lead to problematic and unintended legal consequences results. If you have an “informal” business relationship with another person, it is time to formalize your partnership into a legal entity and make sure you are protected.
Limited-Liability Company. A limited-liability company (“LLC”) is probably the most common form of business entity used by small businesses in Nevada. An LLC offers its owners liability protection, but is more expensive to form and operate than a sole proprietorship or general partnership. The terms “LLC,” “Ltd.,” and “Co.” often identify limited-liability companies.
LLCs offer the most flexible corporate structures, allowing the entity to adapt and change as your business grows. LLCs can be simple for owner-operated small businesses, complex for large businesses with multiple owners and officers, or anything in between. However, LLCs do not lend themselves to businesses involving numerous owners in varying capacities and levels of involvement.
The LLC’s flexibility makes it a great option for companies owned and operated by a small group of people, regardless of the company’s revenue. An LLC is a great fit for most businesses and tends to be an appropriate “default” choice unless you need the options presented by another business entity.
Corporation. Like LLCs, corporations offer their shareholders liability protection at the price of increased costs of formation and maintenance. The terms “Inc.” and “Corp.” generally refer to a corporation. “C Corp” and “S Corp” identify different tax designations for corporations; they do not identify different types of legal entities.
Corporations are slightly less flexible than LLCs but provide more options for complex ownership schemes. Corporations are ideal for business owners that intend to eventually take their business public or offer their employees stock options. Business owners seeking to bring in equity investors with any range of ownership interest and/or management control will also benefit from a corporation.
Professional Entities. Professional corporations and professional limited-liability companies are available for certain professions that are prohibited from conducting business through traditional corporate forms. For example, lawyers, accountants, doctors, and architects are some of the professions who may not seek the liability protection offered by an LLC or a corporation.
Generally speaking, a “professional” may not use a liability shield to protect himself from liability for professional negligence. However, professionals may still seek liability protection for the non-professional debts of the company, such as breaching a lease. Professional corporations and professional limited-liability companies allows this balance. Aside from this restriction on the liability shield, professional corporations and professional limited-liability companies operate much like standard corporations and LLCs.
Other Specialty Entities. There are a number of other business entities available in Nevada for more limited purposes. Non-profit corporations offer excellent tax benefits, but are strictly regulated to prevent abuse. If your business qualifies as a non-profit, the tax benefits generaly outweigh the added administrative burdens.
Limited partnerships and limited-liability partnerships offer more liability protection than general partnerships but less flexibility than LLCs or corporations. These business types can be enticing because they are generally cheaper to form than an LLC or corporation, but their ability to adapt and change is very limited.
Whatever business type you choose, put in the time and effort at the outset to ensure that your company is organized in a way that best fits your needs. Start-ups are already time consuming and expensive, but the organization of your business entity is a critical element that will follow your business throughout its life. Proper planning now will save you time and money down the road.
Austin Sweet is an attorney at Gunderson Law Firm, practicing business law directed at helping business owners stay protected and prosper. He can be contacted at (775) 829-1222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 10th, 2013
Congratulations To Austin K. Sweet, Esq. For Being Featured On The Cover Of The June 2013 Nevada Business Magazine Legal Elite Edition!
To read more and see the full list, visit Nevada Business Magazine.
Out of 10,587 licensed attorneys in Nevada, 170 have been included in the 2013 Legal Elite List, which is divided into four areas: Southern Nevada Lawyers, Northern Nevada Lawyers, Up and Coming Lawyers, and Government Lawyers. This year was a record year with 5,232 votes, more than any previous year, to identify the top one percent of lawyers in Nevada. We are proud to announce Austin K. Sweet, Esq. not only made the list, but made the cover by receiving the most votes from his peers in northern Nevada. We are also very proud to have Mark. H Gunderson, Esq., Catherine A. Reichenberg, Esq., and Courtney G. Forster, Esq. featured on the list as well.
May 1st, 2013
By Austin K. Sweet
The law is often slow to catch up with technology, but thankfully courts moved quickly to adopt electronic filing. Most members of the Young Lawyers Section living in Washoe County or Clark County have spent our entire careers with electronic filing and can hardly bear the thought of actually leaving the office and go stand in line at the courthouse to file a document. But the quick adoption of electronic filing left some oddities – namely, the handling of electronic service.
Before electronic filing, documents could be served by hand or by first class mail. Because service by mail takes longer, the rules provide that a responding party shall have three extra days to respond when a document is served by mail. NRCP 6(e). This rule makes perfect sense.
Then fax machines came along, creating a new method of service. Facsimile service is only acceptable if the parties consent, and still allows for three extra days to respond. NRCP 5(b)(2)(D); NRCP 6(e). As technology advanced, service by email became acceptable and was lumped into the rules with service by fax. Again, three days are added to the prescribed period to respond. Id. That’s where the logic starts to get fuzzy.
Things became more convoluted when electronic filing was introduced. The Nevada Electronic Filing and Conversion Rules (“NEFCR”) were adopted by the Supreme Court and became effective on March 1, 2007. Second Judicial (Washoe County) has adopted the NEFCR. NEFCR 9(b) provides that the court’s electronic service provider must send an email to all registered users that a document has been filed. NEFCR 9(f) provides that electronic service is complete at the time of transmission of the NEFCR 9(b) email.
Eighth Judicial (Clark County) has not adopted the NEFCR, instead adopting its own electronic filing rules. EDCR 8.05(a) provides that documents electronically served through that court’s electronic filing process are subject to NRCP 5(b)(2)(D) and, by proxy, NRCP 6(e).
So what does all this mean? When documents are electronically served through the court’s filing system in the Nevada Supreme Court or in Washoe County, three days are not added to the prescribed period to respond. When documents are electronically served through the court’s filing system in Clark County, three days are added. Likewise, when documents are electronically served in accordance with an agreement between the parties, three days are added.
Not surprisingly, this has created confusion. Practitioners in Washoe County regularly misinterpret the relationship between NEFCR 9(f) and NRCP 6(e) and mistakenly believe that they are entitled to an additional three days when documents are served through eFlex. This confusion is so widespread that the rules are rarely enforced as written and the Second Judicial judges are discussing revisions to the rules.
There is an easy solution to this problem – stop adding three days for emailing. In today’s world of computers and smart phones, most attorneys check their email constantly. It is likely that the average attorney reads the automated notifications from eFlex / Wiznet within minutes of receiving them. By contrast, documents served by hand must be driven (or biked) from one office to another, processed through the firm, and eventually delivered to the attorney handling the case.
Chances are, attorneys are able to access and read electronically-served documents hours, or even days, before they are able to access and read hand-served documents. Why then are attorneys granted three extra days to respond to documents served electronically? If logic ever existed for this rule, it does not exist today.
The state and local rules throughout Nevada should be amended to reflect the realities of today’s electronic world. Adding three days for electronic service is counterintuitive and unduly dilatory. The rules should be modified and clarified to plainly provide that documents served electronically are deemed received the day they are served without adding three days.
Austin K. Sweet is an Associate at Gunderson Law Firm. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Boston University School of Law and can be contacted directly at email@example.com or 775-829-1222.