January 28th, 2016
Gunderson Law Firm, a Reno-based, full-service law firm providing high quality, professional and personalized legal services, is pleased to announce that Catherine A. Reichenberg, Esq. and Courtney G. Forster, Esq. have officially been named as firm shareholders. Reichenberg and Forster both have extensive experience representing a wide-variety of businesses, real estate professionals, individuals and professionals in numerous fields in Nevada, California and across the Western United States.
“Catherine and Courtney’s diverse skill set and expertise in the many facets of business litigation play a pivotal role in our firm’s ongoing success,” states Mark H. Gunderson, Esq., Founding Shareholder of Gunderson Law Firm. “I look forward to the growth of Gunderson Law Firm and know they will continue to demonstrate their strong commitment to our client’s needs and dedication to excellence that our firm is known for.”
Reichenberg joined the firm in 2006, and her practice encompasses Commercial, Business and Real Estate Litigation and Commercial Transactions, Business Organization and Governance and Licensing. She regularly appears in both state and federal court across the Western United States and her trial experience includes trying several jury and non-jury commercial litigation matters as lead counsel as well as acting as co-counsel in many trials and commercial arbitrations. Throughout her time at Gunderson Law Firm, Reichenberg has earned numerous accolades including Mountain States Rising Star, awarded by Thompson Reuters Super Lawyers and Nevada Legal Elite, awarded by Nevada Business Magazine. She currently serves as a mediator for the Federal District Court of Nevada’s Inmate Litigation Program and was selected as a Nevada National Litigation Lead for the 2012 Presidential Election as well as a member of the Nevada State Bar Association’s Clients’ Security Fund Committee. She served as the 2011 President for Northern Nevada Women Lawyers and is an active member of the American Bar Association, the Nevada Bar Association, the Washoe County Bar Association and The Prospector’s Club. Reichenberg received her Juris Doctorate in 2006 from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts in 2001 from University of Oregon.
Forster specializes in Commercial and Business Litigation, Real Estate and Commercial Transactions, Business Formation, Governance, and Licensing Construction Defect Litigation. She joined Gunderson Law Firm in 2007, and is admitted to practice in Nevada and California. She is the author of numerous published articles on topics that affect individuals and businesses alike, including personal liability shields and construction defect reform, and has presented educational seminars to non-lawyer professional organizations. Throughout her time at Gunderson Law Firm, Forster has earned numerous accolades including Mountain States Rising Star, awarded by Thompson Reuters Super Lawyers, Nevada Legal Elite, awarded by Nevada Business Magazine and the 20 Under 40 Award, awarded by Reno Gazette Journal. She has served as two time past president and board member for the Crisis Call Center and is a member of the Washoe County Bar Association and The Prospector’s Club. She earned her Juris Doctorate in 2007 from the University of Notre Dame, and her Bachelor of Arts in 2004 from the University of Oregon.
About Gunderson Law Firm
Established in 1981, Gunderson Law Firm is a boutique, full-service practice providing high quality, personalized legal services. The Firm focuses primarily on commercial and civil litigation, emphasizing on contract, real property and business disputes. The attorneys work in partnership with their clients, almost as in-house counsel, and can handle all legal matters basically from the birth to death of any business. They pride themselves on their aggressiveness in the courtroom, responsiveness to clients, and overall legal expertise. The firm was originally founded by Mark Gunderson, Esq. and has since welcomed two additional shareholders, Catherine Reichenberg, Esq. and Courtney Forster, Esq., and attorneys Austin Sweet, Esq. and John Funk, Esq. Gunderson Law Firm has attorneys licensed to practice in all State and Federal courts in both Nevada and California and their practice areas include: Civil Litigation; General Contracts; Aviation Law; Administrative Law; Commercial Real Estate; Real Estate Development and Construction; Business Association Formation, Support and Litigation; and Insurance Law.
March 27th, 2014
Starting a new business can be daunting. You already have a great idea, but now you’re making that idea a reality. You’re meeting with financial backers, signing a lease, hiring employees – and everywhere you turn, you’re spending more money. With so many expenses to juggle, many new entrepreneurs ask themselves: Do I really need a lawyer?
Although many people dread hiring a lawyer, investing a small amount of time with a lawyer at the beginning can help save you a huge amount of money and difficulty later on. There are several ways a lawyer can help your new business succeed:
Forming Your Business Entity
Corporation, partnership, LLC – what do they all mean, and how do I go about setting one up? A lawyer can help you navigate the intricacies of Nevada business formation and make sure that you are protecting yourself from personal liability. Do you have partners or investors? A lawyer will make sure your corporate documents clearly reflect exactly what your agreement with those partners or investors is so there’s no question about who is responsible for what. Even better, a lawyer can also help you anticipate the problems you never considered – so if those problems arise down the road, you’re already covered. Hiring a lawyer to form your company generally costs about the same as getting the documents from an online source, but with a lawyer you’ll know that you are getting a customized business entity designed just for you.
Negotiating and Reviewing Contracts:
Starting a new business involves a huge amount of paperwork. Everyone wants you to sign a contract, from your investors to your vendors and your new landlord. Are these terms normal, or are they asking you to sign something totally over-the-top? Which terms are negotiable, and what does all this legalese really mean? A lawyer can help make sense of these contracts and can step in to negotiate on your behalf if you’d prefer to stay out of it. Need a release for your customers to sign? How about a non-compete agreement with your new employees? Your lawyer can draw up these contracts for you to make sure they say exactly what you need them to say – and that they comply with Nevada law.
Everyday Business Needs
Can I ask my employees to wear a specific uniform? What kind of work can I have an intern perform? Should I trademark my company name? Once your business is up and running, there are plenty of small questions that will pop up from time to time. Trying to research these questions on your own can be tricky, but hiring a new lawyer just to ask a small question can seem like overkill. This is where having a relationship with a lawyer can be a huge asset. Since she already helped set up your business, your lawyer knows you and your business’s needs. With only a quick call or email, your lawyer will be able to answer any questions that may come up. This will let you focus on running your business without having to worry about these minor legal issues.
For additional information and to learn more about Gunderson Law Firm www.gundersonlaw.com or call (775) 829-1222
Article published in the Reno Tahoe YPN newsletter.
November 20th, 2013
We are thrilled that our very own, Courtney G. Forster, was one of the recipients of the Reno Gazette Journal and Young Professionals Network sponsored, ‘Twenty Under 40 Awards’. Congratulations from all of us here at Gunderson Law Firm- we had so much fun watching you accept this award! For a full list of 2013 winners, click here.
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
October 11th, 2013
September 17th, 2013
Nevada Newsmakers Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Host: Sam Shad
Guest: Courtney G. Forster, Esq., Gunderson Law Firm
Pundits: Sean Cary, Vice President, Nevada Matters Media Trey Abney, Director of Government Relations, The Chamber Stacy Woodbury, President, Appearances, LLC
September 13th, 2013
Courtney G. Forster
To read the full list, click here.
August 28th, 2013
By Courtney G. Forster
How your corporate entity can protect you – and how you can protect it
Clients regularly approach me wanting to create a liability shield to protect themselves from personal liability. Most people hear that the best way to protect against personal liability is by forming a corporate entity, but few understand how to go about creating this liability shield or how to use it.
The idea behind a liability shield is that a corporate entity will help protect you from being sued personally when something goes wrong. When used correctly, these entities are a great tool to help you launch a business without risking your personal assets. Unfortunately, all too often small business owners will inadvertently harm or destroy their liability shield through sloppy paperwork, financial errors, and inaccurate bookkeeping. Here are some key tips to keep in mind when forming and operating a corporate entity so you can ensure your corporate liability shield remains strong and intact.
1. Get your paperwork in order.
The first step to forming a corporate entity is creating the necessary paperwork. If you are forming a limited liability company, this will include an operating agreement; if it’s a corporation, it will include articles of incorporation and issuing stock. Either way, you will also need to register the company with the secretary of state. If your company needs a business license or any operating permits or licenses, be sure to obtain those in your company’s name as well. Make sure you have these in place before you do anything else with your company or you could end up liable for events that took place before your paperwork was finalized.
For a relatively low fee, an attorney can help make sure you’ve set up your company correctly and have all the necessary forms. Internet-based companies that offer to set up your company for you often charge the same – or more – as a local attorney and will give you one-size-fits-all paperwork that may not be right for you. You will also need to maintain these records on a yearly basis, including keeping company minutes and renewing your filings with the state. Again, an attorney can help make sure your paperwork stays current and you don’t end up with a gap in your protection.
2. Hold the asset or assets in the company.
Once your company has been formed, make sure you use it! A company is only as good as what’s in it, so make sure you keep the asset or assets in question in the company’s name. For example, if you are planning on renting an office building to tenants, make sure the office building is owned by your company (rather than you individually). However, always keep your personal assets out of the company – this is for business only.
3. Don’t commingle money.
The biggest, and most common, mistake people make is mixing their company’s income or expenses with their own personal income and expenses. You could be out at dinner and forgot your personal credit card, so you charge the meal to your company card. Or maybe you use the company card to fill up your gas tank from time to time – it’s okay because you sometimes run errands for the company, right? Unfortunately, these are classic examples of using the company’s assets for your own purposes. This is the fastest way to destroy your corporate shield and expose yourself to personal liability. Always, always, always keep your personal finances and your company finances separate.
If you have more than one company, the same lesson applies to them – the more you combine finances between the two companies, the greater risk you run of having a court treat the two companies as one entity. Especially in smaller or one-asset companies, the money is usually where the most action is: if your financial records show that you treated the company like your personal bank account, the courts are going to ignore the corporate liability shield.
4. Adequately fund the company.
This rule is basic, but vital: keep enough money in your company for it to operate. If you remove income from the company and leave it unable to pay its debts, the courts may ignore the corporate form. When you start your company, make sure it has enough assets or money to operate, and keep enough funds in its accounts to pay its debts. Don’t forget to also maintain sufficient insurance in the company’s name. Again, this will show the courts that the company is able to operate as its own independent entity and is not simply an empty shell.
5. Maintain accurate, up-to-date financial records.
Careful and thorough bookkeeping will reinforce the idea that your company is its own separate entity. If you borrow money from one company to fund another, make sure that loan is properly tracked, accounted for – and eventually repaid. Don’t forget to file tax returns for each company as appropriate. Again, courts will always look at the way your finances are when evaluating whether your company will protect you as a liability shield.
6. Notify business partners they are dealing with a company.
Another simple, but critical, point to remember is to always notify your business associates that they are dealing with your company rather than you personally. Always use your company’s name on all contracts, invoices, and the like.
7. Remember: a corporate liability shield can only do so much.
Even with the strongest corporate liability shield, no system is airtight. Many banks will require you to sign a personal guarantee when your company borrows money – if your company later defaults on that loan, you will be personally liable for any amounts covered by that personal guarantee. A corporate shield also won’t protect you if you commit fraud or other bad acts in the company’s name. However, if you stick with these basic rules and are careful about maintaining your company’s separate status, you can protect your company while it protects you.
Courtney Forster is an Associate at Gunderson Law Firm. She earned her Juris Doctorate from Notre Dame Law School, and can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-829-1222.
November 26th, 2012
By Courtney G. Forster
Nevada’s construction defect law was originally designed to help contractors and homeowners resolve their differences without resorting to litigation. Unfortunately, its real-world application has led to a confusing process full of traps for the unwary contractor. If you ignore them, short deadlines and strict notification requirements can leave you unable to defend yourself against a homeowner’s claims – even if you didn’t perform the defective work.
NRS Chapter 40 applies to general contractors and subcontractors, suppliers and design professionals, commercial buildings and residential. I’ve represented people on every side of the claim process, from general contractors to homeowners, and I have seen contractors make the same mistakes over and over again. This guide won’t prevent a baseless claim against you, but it will help ensure your rights are protected if and when a claim arrives.
Before a Claim Begins
As a contractor, your first defense against the pain of a construction defect claim is the right kind of insurance protection. Look over your insurance policy to verify your coverage for construction defect claims. Insurance companies have paid huge settlement amounts over the past several years in Northern Nevada, which has led to them being much more conservative in their policy writing. I have met many contractors who paid insurance premiums for years, only to discover after a claim was filed that they didn’t have coverage.
Review what types of claims your policy covers. Construction defect claims are often brought several years after the home was completed; does your current policy cover work that you did before it was in effect? For work that you are doing right now, make sure that your policy will also cover claims brought in the future. Insurance policies can ambush unsuspecting contractors, with your current policy denying coverage for work that you did years ago and your old policy denying claims brought after its coverage expired.
Be aware of the pitfalls that come with high deductibles. Insurance policies with high deductibles may seem more cost-effective right now, but you might be throwing your money away on insurance that doesn’t actually protect you from construction defect claims. Insurance companies will often treat each home in a construction defect claim as a separate claim, requiring you to meet the high deductible for each separate home before they will get involved. As construction defect cases frequently include multiple homes, you may be required to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars before your insurance will do anything to help you. Talk to your insurance broker and your attorney now, before there has been a claim filed, to make sure you aren’t paying for a policy that won’t protect you when you need it.
Maintain complete and accurate records of the work you do. Nevada law requires you, as a contractor, to notify your subcontractors or material suppliers of a construction defect claim very quickly after you receive it. Digging through unorganized and incomplete records, especially several years after a project was finished, can be very time-consuming for you and your employees. Even worse, if you are missing records from a previous job and can’t prove who did what on a certain house, you could be stuck paying for defective work performed by one of your subcontractors or suppliers. The best way to combat these problems is to keep your records complete and organized so you are prepared for any claim that might come your way.
Once a Claim is Filed
In Nevada, a construction defect claim begins when the property owner (or her attorney) mails a defect notice to a contractor; this notice will include a list of the defects claimed to exist at the property. When you receive this notice, there are a few key steps you should take right away.
Contact your insurance company and your attorney immediately. Insurance policies often require you to notify the company as soon as you receive a claim, and they could deny coverage if you wait too long. Your attorney will help you keep on track with deadlines and make sure that you don’t miss any important legal requirements.
Put together a list of all contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, or design professionals who may be responsible for the claimed defects. NRS 40.646 requires you to send the defect notice to them within thirty days of you receiving it from the property owner. This is a very strict and unforgiving deadline; if you miss it, you could be liable for defective work performed by someone else. Be sure to send notice to everyone who could have been involved with the claimed defective work, even if you don’t agree with the claim or know if the work was actually defective. Nevada law also has specific requirements about what is included in the notice you send to the subcontractors, suppliers, and design professionals and the way that it is mailed, so you will be much better off having your attorney send the notice for you instead of trying to do it on your own.
Inspect the property and think about repairing the claimed defects. After the notice is sent, you have the right to inspect the claimed defects and repair them if you choose to do so. Repairing the defects, if you are able to, is a good way for you to avoid the expense and headache of a lawsuit. However, make sure you talk to your insurance company before doing any work on the property and get written confirmation that they are okay with you performing repairs; insurance companies can be reluctant to approve repairs because they’re concerned about creating additional liability for the new work.
The key to dealing with a construction defect claim is to act quickly. Ignoring a claim won’t make it go away, but it will make it much harder for you to defend yourself later on.
Courtney Forster is an Associate at Gunderson Law Firm, and one of the few construction defect attorneys who has represented both homeowners and contractors giving her a unique perspective on the process. She earned her Juris Doctorate from Notre Dame Law School, and can be contacted directly at email@example.com or 775-829-1222.
June 8th, 2012
By Courtney G. Forster
In my time representing commercial landlords, tenants, and property managers, I’ve seen every side of a commercial real estate lease. Although the vast majority of these landlord / tenant relationships end well, far too often I see the same problems crop up again and again when they don’t. These tips will help you avoid some of the biggest – and costliest – mistakes that can occur when leasing your property to commercial tenants.
1. Read Your Contracts Carefully Before You Sign.
This cardinal rule applies to every contract you sign as a property owner, from a property management agreement to the lease itself. What powers and responsibilities does your property manager have? If your tenant makes improvements to your property, which of those improvements must stay and which can the tenant take with her? Is there a personal guarantee on the lease? What specific actions create a default in the lease? Unfortunately, owners frequently don’t realize there are holes in their contract until a problem comes up.
2. Keep Negotiations in Writing.
Landlord-tenant disputes can often devolve into a he-said / she-said mess. If your negotiations with the tenant mostly happened over the phone or during in-person meetings, you might not be able to prove that you never promised all the things the tenant now claims. Try to keep negotiations entirely over email or in writing if possible. When meeting in person or on the phone, take detailed notes during the conversation (not afterwards – courts require these notes to have been taken during the meeting itself) and keep them in your file with the lease. If a problem comes up later, you will have very strong evidence of what exactly happened.
3. Protect Your Security Interest.
Lease agreements often give a landlord a security interest in their tenant’s furnishings, fixtures, and equipment in case the tenant stops paying rent. Unfortunately, landlords almost never “perfect” this security interest by filing a UCC-1 Financing Statement. Filing this UCC statement is relatively simple and will better protect your interest in that equipment if the tenant later defaults, especially if that tenant also used that same equipment as security to subsequent lenders. Talk to your lawyer about how to protect your security with a UCC filing.
4. Track Problems as They Occur.
This rule is simple, but critical: if your tenant is consistently late with rent payments, bounces checks, or otherwise violates their lease, make sure to keep a written record of every problem as it occurs. Far too often I meet with landlords who have had problems with their tenants for years, but they can’t prove it because of poor recordkeeping.
5. Follow Your Lease.
A typical commercial lease has certain requirements a landlord must meet before a tenant can be considered in default of its lease. Even if a tenant has stopped paying rent entirely or is otherwise in breach, a lease commonly requires a landlord to send written notice of the default (often by certified mail) and give the tenant a certain amount of time to cure. Until that written notice is sent, courts may not consider a tenant to be in default of the lease. This led to a very strange situation for a client of mine a few years ago: because he started eviction proceedings on the non-paying tenant before sending the formal written notice (and before I got involved in the dispute), the court found that my client breached the lease first. Although we ultimately won at trial, there is no reason to put yourself at this kind of disadvantage.
Courtney Forster is an Associate at Gunderson Law Firm. She earned her Juris Doctorate from Notre Dame Law School, and can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-829-1222.