Houston Practice Areas
- Business and Family Immigration
- Civil and Commercial Litigation
- Business Formation
- Contract Negotiation and Review
- Corporate Governance
- Due Diligence and Compliance
- Intellectual Property
- International Business Transactions
- Foreign Labor and Employment Law
- International Litigation Strategies
- International Taxation
- Mexican and Latin American Law
- Wills and Probate
Business and Family Immigration
U.S. immigration law provides many avenues for foreigners to obtain temporary or permanent residency in the United States. Investors, for example, may be eligible for an E visa, which allows the holder to live in the United States, is good for up to three years, and is renewable.
Whatever course one chooses to come to the U.S. or to bring family or employees to the U.S., it is essential that it is done within the law. Entering the country without inspection or under false pretenses can have severe negative consequences, including affecting one’s eligibility for immigration benefits in the future. For advice on immigration options, consult a U.S. attorney at our Houston office.
Civil and Commercial Litigation
When a dispute arises between two parties and other attempts at resolution have failed, pursuing a civil action in court might be the best option, depending on several factors, including the value of the claim. It is common practice for attorneys to litigate cases on a contingency basis.
This means that if you have a promising case, the attorney will pursue your claim in exchange for a percentage of the amount recovered rather than charging a flat rate or hourly fee. This practice discourages plaintiff’s attorneys from taking on frivolous claims, because the attorney will receive nothing if the case loses.
In order to reduce their personal liability, entrepreneurs today generally choose to create a legal entity as a vehicle for their business. Choices of entity, besides the traditional corporation, may include limited partnerships, professional corporations, and limited liability companies, among others.
Besides potential tort and contract liability, tax exposure is another major factor that should influence one’s choice of business entity. If you are thinking of starting your own business, you should consult an attorney who can assist you in choosing the appropriate form of company and filing the necessary paperwork while complying with statutory requirements.
Contract Negotiation and Review
A contract is simply any agreement to exchange something of value for something else of value. Buy-sell agreements, office leases, and prenuptial agreements are all examples of contracts.
When involved in a business or other transaction, it is very important to have the terms of the transaction in writing. In certain cases, the agreement might be unenforceable if there is no written contract. Frequently, one party in a transaction will produce a contract for the other party to sign. These contracts are almost invariably written in the producing party’s favor.
When conducting any important transaction, you should consult a lawyer who can assist you in drafting the agreement and/or negotiating and advising you on the legal implications of a proposed agreement.
Corporate governance is the manner in which a company is operated, as determined by internal and external regulations. Internal regulations include a company’s bylaws as well as any policies deriving authority from those bylaws. External regulations include the laws of state and federal governments that apply to corporate operations, as well as rules formulated by the regulatory agencies created by those laws. Important topics of corporate governance include annual meetings, shareholders’ agreements, reporting requirements, employment policies, accounting practices, etc.
Frequently, state laws on corporate governance are actually default rules that may be displaced by a company’s bylaws. In other instances, a law might be mandatory. Other factors that may determine a law’s applicability include the size of the company, the business of the company, whether the company is involved in interstate or international commerce, etc.
Because of the complexity of corporate governance, it is important to have legal counsel to draft practical bylaws and help to ensure subsequent compliance with those bylaws and other regulations.
Due Diligence and Compliance
In mergers and acquisitions, when forming a partnership or joint venture, or when entering into a major business transaction, it is important to have background knowledge of the other party or parties involved. Not only is this sound business practice that can prevent breaches, defaults, and unwanted civil liability, it is can also be raised used as a defense to accusations of involvement in criminal activity, such as money laundering, bribery, and securities fraud.
Conducting a due diligence investigation is especially important if the other party involved is located in a foreign country or in a region where corruption is common. Notable laws that might apply include the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Bank Secrecy Act, the Money Laundering Control Act, or their foreign equivalents. Some laws, such as anti-money laundering laws, even obligate businesses to report certain activities of their clients to the government. For that reason, legal counsel should be employed to conduct due diligence investigations and help ensure compliance with applicable regulations.
Copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents are all examples of intellectual property. Securing the proper legal protection for one’s unique work will help ensure that others do not take credit for it. Intellectual property law might be determined by state and federal laws, as well as international treaties. To determine the appropriate form of protection for you trademark or creation, consult an attorney. In addition to providing services related to non-technical intellectual property, we have forged relationships with experienced patent attorneys, thereby providing a full scope intellectual property practice to our clients.
International Business Transactions
International business transactions are may be governed by both treaties and local laws. Since its implementation in the 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement has greatly streamlined commercial transactions and spurred economic growth on both sides of the U.S. – Mexico border. In addition to lowering trade barriers, NAFTA has liberalized foreign investment and immigration law.
The attorneys and foreign legal consultants at our Houston office offer advice on the applicability of NAFTA to these areas as well as international trade. Additionally, consult our Houston office to coordinate NAFTA-based litigation in Mexico.
Foreign Labor and Employment Law
Expanding a business in a foreign market to fill some local niche or starting a business abroad to exploit a comparative advantage can be a profitable enterprise. Nonetheless, even an experienced entrepreneur might be unfamiliar with how the laws of a foreign country differ from those of the home market. This is especially true in the case of labor and employment law. While lower minimum wages may make a certain market seem attractive to investment, other labor laws may be more onerous.
For example, local law may reject the employment at will doctrine or require an employer to share profits with employees. For that reason, using legal counsel familiar with foreign labor and employment law to help start your business is essential. Our attorneys have ample experience with advising businesses on employment law compliance and are especially familiar with the labor laws of Mexico, where our home office is located.
Franchising is a commercial tool that facilitates business expansion by providing other entrepreneurs the right to use your business’s name and practices. Instead of expanding by means of opening new offices and new employees, a franchisor allows other persons or entities to use his business model in return for a fee.
Franchising is more comprehensive than licensing, and franchisors generally provide their franchisees with not only the use of the name and trademarks of the business, but also training, advertising, and frequently equipment and uniforms as well.
This requires the franchisor to maintain some degree of operational control over the franchisee in order to ensure consistency. It also requires complex contractual relationships that should be formed with the help of an attorney versed in several branches of business law.
International Litigation Strategies
Litigation stemming from international transactions or involving parties from different countries can raise a multitude of issues including conflict of laws, treaty applicability, jurisdiction, discovery methods, etc. Our attorneys have ample experience with international litigation, especially involving suits between U.S. and Mexican parties, and some have training in both the common law and civil law traditions.
The purpose of international tax planning is to minimize the tax liability to which an individual or business is subject. This requires a familiarity of the tax codes of all countries involved. If you have a multinational business, are an expatriate, or have residences in more than one country it is important to have a good international tax strategy to ensure that all liabilities are covered and you do not pay more than necessary.
IRS Circular 230 Notice: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.
Mexican and Latin American Law
Doing business in Latin America can be profitable, but can also involve many pitfalls. Compliance with local law is essential for success, and that includes heeding labor laws, tax laws, anti-corruption laws, real estate laws, and environmental regulations, among others.
Our attorneys have ample experience with assisting entrepreneurs in establishing businesses in Latin American, particularly in Mexico where our home office is located, and in keeping them in compliance with local and international law.
A trust is mechanism whereby one person or entity, called the trustee, manages wealth for the benefit of one or more other persons or entities, called beneficiaries. Trusts might be created for a number of reasons, including limiting tax liability, avoiding probate, shielding one’s assets from hostile legal actions, or providing one’s heirs with a responsible means of financial management. For questions or assistance in setting up a trust contact an attorney. In some circumstances, an attorney may also act as a trustee.
Wills and Probate
A will provides the living with the means of distributing property after death. Probate is the legal process by which a decedent’s property is distributed. Generally, if a decedent lacks a will, then his property will be disposed of according to intestate succession, which is a default hierarchy of heirship.
This system, however, is based on ties of blood, marriage, and adoption, and it does not take into account the desires of a decedent who may wish to leave property to friends, pets, non-marital partners, or charities. In the absence of other heirs, one’s property may even escheat to the state. Contact an attorney for assistance in drafting and executing a valid will, serving as an executor, contesting a will of questionable validity, or asserting heirship over intestate property.