3 Must-Do Items When In A Commercial Litigation

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If you run a business, the last thing you want to get caught up in is litigation – whether initiated by you or the other side. But sometimes, it’s just inevitable. Whilst there is no such thing as being ‘prepared’ for litigation, you can certainly tick a few boxes that will maximise your chances of success.

As a business owner, you need to be aware of what commercial litigation and disputes can entail. Here are some of the areas where disputes and lawsuits are quite common.

  • Banking, regulatory and finance disputes
  • Commercial Contract
  • Competition
  • Consumer protection and regulation
  • Misleading and deceptive conduct (including false advertising)
  • Fraud
  • Product liability
  • Property disputes
  • Technology liability and cybersecurity
  • Defamation claims and proceeding
  • Debt collections, bankruptcy and corporate insolvency
  • Insurance disputes

So, without further ado, here are the top 3 things you need to do if you’re caught up in (or about to) in litigation.

1. Invest time in finding the right lawyer.

Chemistry and personal trust are not the only important factors when the stakes are high. Competency is, however. And by competency, I’m referring to someone who can over-deliver on your desired outcomes and save the day when it all seems doom and gloom.

For example, over the last couple of years, we, at Lazarus Legal, represented and fought for the Double Bay Bowling Club in a legal dispute where the stakes were high. Here is the background story. In the past, a covenant was in place which brought restrictions preventing the club from using it’s owned property to the best of it’s potential. But just recently (Date of Judgement: 8 December 2020), the court has finally ordered the covenant to be extinguished. This means that the bowling club is now able to deal with its property without the restriction of the covenant and look forward to a more promising future.

On the flip side, minimising risk Every deal or transaction carries with it the risk of a dispute. Successful businesses have savvy leaders who work with lawyers that can pre-empt any issues can lead to unnecessary disputes down the road. Call it a bird-eye-view. Or call it a crystal ball. Competent lawyers can see what you can’t. And that’s what ultimately makes the difference between mediocre businesses and those that make it to the top.

2. Adopt a purposeful approach.

Most people get emotionally caught up in disputes and lawsuits. Although that tends to be more persistent in civil disputes, it’s still a common challenge in the commercial litigation world. One of the most important steps to take is to stay ‘objective’ and ‘purposeful’, that is, focused on the outcomes and options you want whilst remaining open to alternatives and options that can achieve the same outcomes.

Bearing in mind the costs of commercial litigation, a savvy commercial lawyer will approach your litigation with a purposeful approach and help you understand the possibilities, complexities, upside and downside of the various approaches you can pursue.

3. Do NOT Procrastinate for 1 second.

The earlier you act and speak to the right lawyer, the higher the chances of coming out on top. Sometimes, early dialogue with the other parties can mean a more effective negotiation, less cost and or damage. An early dialogue will allow your lawyer to ascertain the most suitable method and timing of every step they need to take on your behalf.

Who is Lazarus Legal?

A trusted Construction Lawyer can be the ultimate difference and differentiating factor for your construction or property development business. At Lazarus Legal, we work with a range of clients from small developments clients to large scale, corporate and government clients working on major commercial and residential developments including retail, aged care, recreational, education to name a few. We’ve had the opportunity to consult and help our clients over the years across a wide range of construction and building disputes.

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We’d be lying if we told you that this bloke isn’t the big honcho of our team, but his name is a dead give-away. The founder of Lazarus Legal, Barry Lazarus is an old school, tough as nails lawyer. They don’t forge litigators like this anymore. With decades of experience in both Australia and South Africa, his wisdom is as renowned as his name.

The Ultimate Startup Guide – Download Your Guide (Ebook)

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You started your business with a vision of exactly what success looks like for you. You’ll work harder than you ever have before to reach that dream and it will feel like your ‘to do’ list only ever grows. In these early days, there are protections you should put in place to make sure that, on the day when you reach success, it isn’t taken away from you. So don’t rush past this. Get your legal framework right without eating into your startup capital or curbing your momentum.

What the Startup Pack covers

  1. Don’t rush past the legal setup
  2. A few key words to learn
  3. Shareholders’ agreement
  4. Legal housekeeping: company secretarial
  5. Employee option plan
  6. Employee handbook
  7. Employment contract
  8. The importance of confidentiality
  9. Website terms of use & privacy policy
  10. And a lot more.

Don’t rush past the legal setup

Most entrepreneurs are surprised to find that the protections they need are affordable even for solo entrepreneurs and small businesses, and don’t take long to put in place. The best time to get your business protected is right at the start. You’ll be glad you did. This guide takes you through the key legal documents you need and the important legal decisions you should make now.

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Mark Lazarus, the visionary behind the business and the fresh blood of the Lazarus Legal team, Mark (or Laz as he is often known) owes much of his success to his past experiences. And he’s made it his personal goal to bring that wisdom and formula to the firm.

Good Commercial Lawyers vs. Great Commercial Lawyers

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Whilst nobody intentionally hires a mediocre commercial lawyer, finding a good one is often quite difficult. The challenge for most business leaders is that they don’t understand the law – if they did, they wouldn’t need to hire a lawyer – and so it is difficult to penetrate beneath the legalese to assess a potential lawyer’s technical capabilities. However, there are other qualities that you can evaluate in a commercial lawyer, concerning their approach to their work and their attitudes towards client service. These are the qualities that can lift a commercial lawyer from good to great.

1. A good commercial lawyer is familiar with your industry, a great one is an expert

In Jim Durham’s “Essential Little Book of Great Lawyering” he writes that “great lawyers know the law, but they also know and understand the client’s business.” As the business landscape becomes more complex, with advanced new technologies and regulations in play, the right commercial lawyer needs to be even more specialist to guide you through it. A good commercial lawyer will be able to talk about your industry and may have experience with clients in similar businesses. A great lawyer will have specialist expertise, hands-on experience and will make it their mission to immerse themselves in your business to make sure they can offer the best advice. They will understand the specific tax obligations and breaks that apply in your industry, and the regulations you need to be on top of.

2. A good commercial lawyer is reactive, a great one is proactive

The minimum you are entitled to expect from a good lawyer is that they will help you decide what action to take when you hit a problem, whether that’s someone threatening you with litigation over an intellectual property breach, or a supplier who is not delivering as promised. However, a great lawyer will step in before the problem even reaches this stage. They will have assessed your intellectual property and made sure you have full legal rights over it and ensured all your supplier contracts are watertight and enforceable so that you can resolve situations before they become full-blown problems. A great lawyer will make it their mission to protect your business and interests while ensuring you avoid all unnecessary risks. The money you pay for their services is an investment that will save you money in the long run.

3. A good commercial lawyer will defend your business, a great lawyer will help it thrive

A good commercial lawyer will be on hand to answer questions and alleviate any doubts you have about a legal action that needs to be taken. They will help you deal with problems you encounter and save you from egregious legal mistakes. However, a great commercial lawyer will do much more than that. Already a specialist in your business area, and proactive in their approach, they will turn all of that knowledge into forward-thinking advice, wisdom and guidance that can take your business to the next level. They will help you identify major opportunities, whether in the form of new partnerships or geographical expansion and will then be right by your side as you take these momentous steps, making sure your entirely covered and legally protected.

4. A good commercial lawyer will handle the legalities, a great one will help you understand them

A good commercial lawyer will cross the T’s and dot the I’s on your legal paperwork, making sure everything is above board. For some business leaders, that’s enough, but if you want to really understand all the different factors contributing to your business’ success, you will want more. A great commercial lawyer will walk you through the legal jargon, take the time to explain processes and keep you informed of new legislation that might affect your business in the future. With new laws coming into play all the time, particularly after the turmoil that COVID has caused, you need a lawyer who knows what is likely to have an impact on your business and can keep you fully informed and prepared.

5. A good commercial lawyer will work for you, a great lawyer will work with you

A good lawyer will be on the other end of the phone when you need support and may work for you so steadily and reliably that you will consider them to be close to an employee. A great commercial lawyer will make sure they work by your side at every critical moment in your business’ development, supporting you and giving you the confidence to push ahead. They will be your partner, someone you can rely on to prioritise the interests of your business and provide the kind of advice that maximises the opportunity in every situation. A lasting and loyal relationship with your lawyer can be the elusive extra ingredient that transforms your business from good to great.

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Mark Lazarus, the visionary behind the business and the fresh blood of the Lazarus Legal team, Mark (or Laz as he is often known) owes much of his success to his past experiences. And he’s made it his personal goal to bring that wisdom and formula to the firm.

5 Hidden Truths about Commercial Lawyers

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Being a business leader is exciting, rewarding, fulfilling, and hard. It doesn’t matter what size your company is or what sector you work in; all entrepreneurs and managers have a hundred things to worry about, including the possibility that making a wrong legal move could seriously damage your company. That’s why having an excellent commercial lawyer on your side shouldn’t be thought of as a business luxury, it should be considered as an essential need for your business’s’ growth and protection. There are many benefits to having a commercial lawyer on the team, many of which surprise even seasoned business people. Here are just five.

1. They’re not just for the courtroom

When we think of a lawyer, it’s easy to imagine a movie scene of a young Tom Cruise pacing round in court in front of their client. Most commercial lawyers rarely see the inside of a courtroom and spend most of their time in offices. That’s because, rather than waiting until you’re faced with a massive legal problem, commercial lawyers work with you to prevent issues before they become court-sized. Whether it’s making sure your employment policies keep you protected, helping write watertight contracts, or guiding you through those big investment decisions, your lawyer is your first line of defence. A good commercial lawyer will often work with a client from the earliest stages of their new business venture, supporting them to make the right decisions from the start.

2. They don’t cost anything

You’re probably thinking, what? That doesn’t make sense. Lawyers obviously do charge fees, but this is one of those situations where failing to spend will very likely cost you more in the long run. One of the biggest mistakes a budding businessperson can make is to try and save money by skipping engaging a lawyer in those early days. That can lead to poorly written contracts and ultimately into grisly legal battles just like the multi-million lawsuit currently being heard in Australian courts between Macquarie-owned software success story Nuix and its co-founder Eddie Sheehy. That’s why you should regard a commercial lawyer as an investment for your business, one that can help you avoid more expensive problems in the future.

Of course, you may still be concerned about that initial outlay, but even here there are misconceptions about the cost of legal advice. Whether you are recruiting in-house or hiring a firm, finding the ‘best’ lawyer for your business doesn’t have to require a small fortune. The costs of commercial lawyers can vary hugely, depending largely on your unique needs. With many superb professionals working at a range of prices, focus on who would be the best fit for your business and budget.

3. They can be as specialist as you

No business is an island, and each company’s needs are shaped by the sector they work in. Each industry is driven by different commercial imperatives, and its landscape is littered with unique legal landmines. While all commercial lawyers have some general skills and some are successful generalists, many more are specialists who are deeply attuned to the needs of one sector whether your business is a start-up, a construction firm or working in FMCG, you can and should find a commercial lawyer who lives and breathes your specific industry.

The more successful you are, the less likely it is you will be talking about one lawyer in the singular. After all, commercial law includes a broad range of practice areas, including contracts, intellectual property, data protection, corporate and employment law. When you are running a complex operation, you might likely need to have several experts to focus on these different fields, and that’s when a savvy law firm becomes invaluable.

4. They can see into the future

Okay, that might be poetic license, but the ability to scan the legal horizon and see what is coming your way can be a commercial lawyer’s most valuable skill. Commercial law is continuously evolving, and keeping up with new legislation can be a headache for business people and most lawyers. A good commercial lawyer makes it a duty to anticipate how unfolding legislation and regulations could impact your business and prepare you for them. They will translate the legal jargon for you, tighten up policies and agreements, and make sure you’re kept up to speed with any new regulations that might affect you. If you’re in real estate, for example, you need to know far in advance about possible changes to leasing laws.

5. They can see into the future

Many people think hiring a commercial lawyer from outside will only mean calling them in for emergencies, and that they will always have an outsider’s perspective. A good commercial lawyer will integrate themselves into every aspect of your business to gain a sound understanding of your operations from every perspective. They need to understand your relationships with customers, suppliers, and competitors to advise you well. After all, having to oversee multiple departments across your business means you cannot anticipate every single problem coming your way, and you need trusted, independent and informed advisers to help warn you. That’s why it’s all the more essential to have a commercial lawyer who knows your business and understands all those finer details, giving you the peace of mind you need to focus on growth.

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Mark Lazarus, the visionary behind the business and the fresh blood of the Lazarus Legal team, Mark (or Laz as he is often known) owes much of his success to his past experiences. And he’s made it his personal goal to bring that wisdom and formula to the firm.

Startup Lawyers – 4 Shocking Benefits of Having One

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If you’re a start-up founder or leader, you’re likely to have a few noticeable qualities. You are probably fiercely driven, intensely creative, and very optimistic. After all, you have to be optimistic to attempt an endeavour which fails 9 out of 10 times. Optimism is a very valuable resource in business, but it has one downside. It can lead a person to not prepare properly for when things go wrong. That’s what specialist start-up lawyers are for, not just to help a start-up cope when it hits a pothole, but to help steer it around those potholes in the first place. Here are just 4 of the surprising ways a start-up lawyer can support you.

1. They can be the difference between start-up success and failure

An expert start-up lawyer on board from day one can provide you with essential advice on a broad range of fronts, from intellectual property to employment contracts to commercial agreements. Failing to attend to these properly can cause untold damage and heartache later. In a major study, 1 in 20 failed start-up founders said that the reason their businesses crashed and burnt was down to legal challenges. That’s ahead of hiring mistakes, poor marketing or burnout!

Conversely, an experienced and savvy start-up lawyer will work by your side to secure milestone commercial opportunities and make sure you get the fairest deal possible from them, plus a lot of coverage for if they go wrong. A wise lawyer will also keep you legally up to date: many start-ups operate in circumstances where the law frontiers are shifting all the time. A good adviser will make sure you aren’t caught out.

2. They aren’t just there for the start

You might think from the job title that a start-up lawyer is only there for your enterprise’s earliest days, but a wisely chosen lawyer may be with you for decades to come. Having a start-up lawyer by your side to guide you through your business decisions is essential if you want to be legally protected and to avoid any impending mistakes. Famously, Amazon’s very first litigation lawyer, David Zapolsky, is still advising them as their general counsel 21 years and many, many billions of dollars down the line, having developed and grown with the business as it transformed itself from David into Goliath.

In fact, there are huge benefits in finding a start-up lawyer with the right skills and mindset to immerse themselves in your business from the conception stage right through to the day you really hit your stride or even sell up for billions. Working with the same advisers from the start can save you a lot of time and money, while the trust that is developed over time is priceless.

3. They can protect you from yourself

Start-up founders can be their organisation’s biggest assets but also – we hate to say it, but it’s true – their biggest liabilities. You don’t have to be a spectacular flame-out like Adam Neumann for that to be the case. Your flaw could be as simple as being too trusting with a partner or being so single-minded about ‘growth’ that you forget some of the legal details. A good start-up lawyer will step in to address any such weaknesses, making sure those partners are legally responsible and all your paperwork is watertight.

Even if you don’t have any of the above flaws, very few start-up founders or leaders come from a legal background, and some don’t even have a particularly long track history in the business world. It’s easy to overlook the details when you’re first starting and difficult to see potential problems without an expert’s keen eye for the legal details. That’s where a start-up lawyer steps in.

4. They can spot dangerous territories ahead of time

Failing to invest in an experienced start-up lawyer can be a big mistake with many forthcoming consequences. After all, a good legal adviser will help you understand such crucial matters such as tax law and employment law. As any businessman who has ever ended up in an employment tribunal or a tax audit can tell you, neglecting these details can be like taking all your funding out of your bank account and setting it on fire.

Indeed, Forbes lists not having the right legal counsel as one of the ten biggest mistakes a start-up founder can make. Working with a savvy and smart start-up lawyer will not only help you avoid stressful and financially draining legal challenges down the track, but it will also free you up to focus on the development of the business. That’s that rare thing in business, a win-win. 

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Mark Lazarus, the visionary behind the business and the fresh blood of the Lazarus Legal team, Mark (or Laz as he is often known) owes much of his success to his past experiences. And he’s made it his personal goal to bring that wisdom and formula to the firm.

Construction Lawyers: 5 Things To Know Before Hiring One

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The construction industry is the foundation for much of Australia’s economy, generating around 9% of national GDP, or $360 billion in revenue as of April 2020. With more than 360,000 businesses operating in Australia’s construction industry, it’s not surprising that some of them end up in court. When you’re working in an industry that’s as complex as construction, and where the stakes are as high financially, you need to know that professional lawyers who understand the industry are there to help you navigate your way through a project without hitting any legal rocks. But before you take those first steps towards hiring your construction lawyer, here are five key things you should know first.

1. Construction covers a range of specialisms – so does construction law

The word construction makes some people think of a monolithic industry, but insiders understand it is really an umbrella term covering a wide range of different sectors and specialisms coming together to work on one or more project. Each of these different moving parts – from architecture to bricklaying, plumbing to electrics – creates its own legal jeopardies.

That means your work could become subject to a wide range of legal areas, including contract law, real estate law, insurance law, environmental law, and more. To add to the complexity, you need only assess the current status of the construction industry in Australia, which has seen some projects run into trouble due to economic shockwaves even as the Government has supported the industry with large stimulus packages. If you have many legal vulnerabilities and are living in a turbulent economic period, the chances for legal disputes increase and it is impossible for even the most astute business owner or project manager to keep on top of all the different risks. Fortunately, that’s where a reliable construction lawyer steps in, whose sole job it is to stay on top of these complexities and the latest developments.

2. What construction lawyers do – and what they don’t

Construction lawyers can support large companies, property owners, and even individuals – essentially any and all parties who are involved in the construction project or process. In fact, with the growing demand for construction lawyers across the country, it’s not uncommon for some of the larger construction companies to hire their own in-house lawyers.

Although payment disputes are one of the more common pain points where a construction lawyer gets involved, there are numerous other times they are worth their weight in gold. Your lawyer isn’t there to manage or control your project, but they should be your first point of call for any big decisions that may pose legal risks. That often means all big decisions. They have the knowledge and experience to help you work through any legal challenges you might face. Whether it’s a disagreement overpay, a claim concerning incomplete work, a contractual inconsistency, or an insurance dispute – a construction lawyer will be there to fight your corner.

3. When you need a construction lawyer – and for how long

Unlike criminal lawyers, for example, who are traditionally hired when they’re needed, the best time to hire a construction lawyer is before your project officially starts. Generally speaking, the most effective way of utilising your lawyer is ensuring they’re helping you avoid any problems before they come up. Leaving the recruitment process to the day you’re faced with a dispute can make dealing with that dispute much more challenging, more costly, and ultimately will take your attention away from the project you’re working on and your business’ ultimate success.

Construction lawyers can stress test the foundations for a successful project and be a huge source of support throughout the process. Here are just a few of the areas you may need a lawyer’s help with:

  • Ongoing contractual agreements and insurance cover
  • Property law and planning approvals
  • Licensing and permits
  • Employment law and workers’ compensation
  • Negligence, personal injury and litigation
  • Change orders, waivers and claims
  • Payment disputes and disagreements over completed work

A good construction lawyer will help protect your interests throughout a project, from planning to active construction to completion.

4. What to look for in your construction lawyer – and what to avoid

Whether your project is a large property development in the city, or a more personal project such as home renovations, hiring the right construction lawyer is an essential step in the process. Before you jump into any decisions, consider what you need from your lawyer and what kind of background they should have.

Aside from the obvious – education and qualifications – it’s worth bearing in mind that lawyers have varying degrees of experience in the area of construction you might be working in. When you’re starting a new project, you’ll want someone familiar with the same type of construction project so they’re better able to guide you through the journey and won’t be overwhelmed if things go awry. Research what legal battles they may have fought, what their success rate is, what past clients say about them, and avoid those that have any proverbial ‘red flags’ against their name.

Since they can vary hugely in fees, it may be worth your while to weigh up the return on investment you want from your lawyer. While it may be tempting to go for the cheapest option, sometimes paying more for better and more effective cover when things go wrong is the better investment.

5. How to prepare for your new construction lawyer – before you make the hire

Once you’re set on who to hire as your new construction lawyer, there are ways you can prepare to make the onboarding a more manageable process, particularly if you’re already partway through your project. Some of the best ways you can prepare are keeping everything documented and ensuring contracts are in writing with signatures, organising your paperwork and contracts so they’re accessible and available upon request, and working with your team to prepare any contract notices or follow up documents that you may want your lawyer’s advice on. Hit the ground running to minimise potential problems and to get the most value out of your construction lawyer.

Think these five steps through and you will be in the position you want, ready to build something truly substantial and successful, while being sure you aren’t creating a legal house of cards at the same time.

Who is Lazarus Legal?

A trusted Construction Lawyer can be the ultimate difference and differentiating factor for your construction or property development business. At Lazarus Legal, we work with a range of clients from small developments clients to large scale, corporate and government clients working on major commercial and residential developments including retail, aged care, recreational, education to name a few. We’ve had the opportunity to consult and help our clients over the years across a wide range of construction and building disputes.

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We’d be lying if we told you that this bloke isn’t the big honcho of our team, but his name is a dead give-away. The founder of Lazarus Legal, Barry Lazarus is an old school, tough as nails lawyer. They don’t forge litigators like this anymore. With decades of experience in both Australia and South Africa, his wisdom is as renowned as his name.

Best Commercial Lawyers | 4 things they have in common

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The best commercial lawyers are not always the ones you think of first. It’s natural to pursue high profile lawyers with decades of courtroom experience and an established name, and in many cases, they will bring value to your business. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and if you’re after a commercial lawyer who can truly catapult your business, it pays huge dividends to look a little deeper.

In this post, we dive into some of the attributes and qualities of the very best commercial lawyers.

1. They fully understand your business model

Whether you are in retail, tech or another industry, having a commercial lawyer that fully understands your business model is empowering and beneficial. Every business is different. If you are a forward-thinker with a business that’s making a dent in the world, you are most likely challenging your market with new products or a new business model. Disruption can create exceptionally positive outcomes and growth, but it can also create uncertainty and trigger potential legal disputes due to regulations, competition or consumer-initiated disputes. Uber is the classic example, having incurred legal trouble in almost every territory in which it operates, including Australia.

There are other examples where you need a commercial lawyer that understands your context thoroughly. For example, Epic Games’ legal dispute with Apple, which is being brought to Australia after the legal battle began in the US. Epic Games is disputing the monopoly Apple has through its app store and the requirement of a hefty app purchase commission. Understanding your business model, how revenue is generated and all the intricate details that might be in your interest or might threaten your growth are crucial when it comes to commercial legal battles.

2. They understand your work culture

One of the least considered and yet most important assets (or liabilities) a business has, is its work culture. Whether you are a highly driven, growth-orientated business where employees know they will work hard but be rewarded accordingly, or you take a more cautious approach with a greater emphasis on retaining staff long term, you need to ensure your commercial lawyer understands your values. If you move rapidly, they need to move as rapidly: after all, as The Entrepreneur notes, a good commercial lawyer is expected to provide “vital assistance in almost every aspect of your business”.

Understanding your work culture has two absolutely critical advantages:

  1. A commercial lawyer can help you improve your work culture by structuring the right agreements, remuneration schemes, introducing and enforcing the right policies – that motivate your team to give you their best.
  2. A commercial lawyer who intimately understands your work culture will work seamlessly with the various business stakeholders ensuring a seamless and smooth leadership team that’s effective and focused on your business mission.

3. They are business thought leaders

The best commercial lawyer won’t just help you out when things go wrong, they will give you the kind of business leadership and entrepreneurial wisdom to enable your business to thrive. Having the ‘edge’ in business requires having the best minds in your industry, and your commercial lawyer is a major part of the brains within your organisation.

If you are a start-up, for example, choosing a law firm with plentiful relevant experience means you can benefit from their understanding of all the challenges and opportunities that will come your way. But more importantly, you tap into a wealth of knowledge that can enable your business to jump ahead of your competitors.

Understanding the law combined with strong commercial acumen will put you in a stronger position when it comes to negotiating deals for short-term gains and long-term sustainability. If you are an established business working in a specific sector, you want a commercial lawyer that knows that sector like the back of their hand, whether that’s because they have had multiple clients operating in the same space or because they were deeply involved in organisations that operated in that industry.

A top-of-the-food-chain commercial lawyer will transcend the value you get from a ‘solid advice’ to a well-rounded overarching strategic direction.

4. They can spot dangerous territories ahead of time

A ‘dangerous territory’ can be geographic in the literal sense but also political or business-oriented. One of the benefits you can get from a seasoned commercial lawyer is the ‘birds-eye view’ which allows you to spot danger miles away.

The world right now is in a greater state of economic and political flux than in many generations, with the relationships between countries constantly shifting. For example, Australia’s recent signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership suggests improved relations with China are on the horizon, and yet this was signed against the backdrop of increasing ongoing trade disputes. If you are planning to trade with China, you need a lawyer who is immersed in its politics and trade plans and can help you take the long view.

If you are operating in the UK, on the other hand, you need a lawyer that understands the political and economic situation over there. The cost for UK businesses around data compliance due to Brexit is estimated to be between £1 billion and £1.6 billion. That’s how much UK businesses are incurring in cost due to regulatory changes. Some businesses could potentially incur even bigger costs due to fines for non-compliance. If your commercial lawyer understands your business model, they will help you not only to deal with such changes but anticipate or even avoid them.

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Mark Lazarus, the visionary behind the business and the fresh blood of the Lazarus Legal team, Mark (or Laz as he is often known) owes much of his success to his past experiences. And he’s made it his personal goal to bring that wisdom and formula to the firm.

Why your Commercial Lawyer is the most important asset for your business

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A commercial lawyer that you highly trust, work closely with and is empowered within your organisation, is key to your business’s success. Why? Well, you  are more likely to keep making leaps, bounds and keeping ahead of the legal game.

Are you a business owner who doesn’t have a commercial lawyer or worse, working with a commercial lawyer who doesn’t have what it takes to protect you nor your business? It’s time to make the change. When the storm comes, you need to be prepared and protected.

The three major benefits you get from having a proficient commercial lawyer on your team are:

  1. Protection
  2. Guidance
  3. Peace of mind

All three are equally important and pivotal for your business’s success.

Just recently, two of NAB’s wealth management divisions have been required to pay a hefty $57.5 million penalty for breaches associated with fees for no service (FFNS) which makes it one of the largest penalties (if not the largest) brought by the corporate watchdog in history.

When people think of commercial law, some think of the major legal commercial disputes and allegations. They think of when McDonald’s sued Hungry Jack’s over the BigMac trademark dispute. Or we think of the Cambridge Analytica Facebook Privacy Lawsuit. Or any of the high-profile cases we hear about. And yes, these are common. But the majority of commercial disputes and legal cases are not reported or receive much media attention, perhaps because of their relatively smaller magnitude. Or perhaps, they are not relevant or interesting enough to be taken to the public. But make no mistake, there are commercial legal battles happening everyday in the business world and its important to always be prepared and protected.

The cost of not having a commercial lawyer

So, is there a cost of not having a commercial lawyer? Yes, there most certainly is. The biggest misconception people have around commercial lawyers is that they are meant for large enterprises. This couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the most important stages of a business is the start-up phase. This is when the business is most vulnerable, inexperienced and prone to major errors that can cost it everything. The cost of not having a commercial lawyer, whilst not always, can be the entire business. One lawsuit can change everything.

Bankruptcy has been more real this year than any other. This article illustrates how bankruptcy took over a lot of business in 2020.

Whilst wrong business decisions amongst other factors can lead to a business’ downfall, legal risk can be the one. And a commercial lawyers’ duty and responsibility is to eliminate that risk and guide you with legal protection throughout your journey.

The anatomy of a commercial lawyer. What they do and how can they help you

Commercial lawyers essentially deal with all commercial and business legal matters. They are heavily involved in transactions and documentation but their work on many occasions stems outside of those areas. For example, at Lazarus Legal, our commercial lawyers help our clients in the following areas.

  • Review of agreements
  • Negotiate contractual amendments
  • Commercial agreements
  • Shareholders Agreements
  • Share Subscriptions Agreements
  • Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOP’s)
  • Partnership Agreements
  • Commercial and Retail Leases
  • Buying and selling a business
  • Liquor licensing
  • Bespoke commercial agreements

One area that most if not all businesses need help and protection with is Employment Law and incentivisation for employees, including employment contracts and external contractors agreements. Your human resources are the most important assets in your business. Ensuring that you and your staff are legally protected is vital. At the same time, ensuring you are protected against disputes and litigations by your current or ex-employees is equally important.

Employment law services also involve things like advice for investors, accelerators and incubators, including due diligence reporting, guidance on investing in start-ups.

 

When you set out to hire a commercial or a business lawyer, there are various expertise and skill set you want to look for.

A great commercial lawyer is someone who is a well-rounded and savvy businessperson. They don’t have to be entrepreneurs or have the entrepreneurial spirit. But they need to be ‘well-rounded’. They should have a solid understanding of how businesses work, the important details of your industry, and they need to be up to date with technology and important trends.

Do you need a commercial law firm or is one commercial lawyer enough?

On a technical level, business lawyers should have a solid understanding of transactions, economic and legal disputes, and ultimatelylitigation amongst other matters. Extensive experience in contract drafting, company mergers and acquisitions, employee agreements andnegotiations is also important to have covered.

You can quickly start to see that there are many areas under commercial law and in many cases, working with multiple specialised lawyers can be pay off. That’s when working with a law firm becomes critical. Having a commercial law firm take care of all your commercial law matters and utilise its lawyers and solicitors can also be very economical rather than just working with one lawyer.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Commercial Lawyer

Business lawyers who specialise in business or commercial law are responsible for ensuring your business is safeguarded and protected in all of its commercial activities. Part of what they do is assist you throughout your business transactions, deals and arrangements to ensure they are valid and legally binding. Even non-disclosure agreements can be very critical to your business and having the right terms is imperative. Terms and Conditions of your service or products is another area a commercial lawyer should be handling.

Let’s assume you’ve done your homework, due diligence, and created a legal foolproof framework for your business. Sometimes, that’s not enough. You might wake up one day to a call, letter or an email with a dispute against you. This is when the top 1% of lawyers will be there to pull you out of these unfortunate circumstances.

A lawsuit against your business can mean stopping of business activity, or a financial obligation which can be disastrous. The only goal of a commercial lawyer in these situations is to protect your brand and business.

On the flip side, your business can be harmed or in danger due to practices by competitors, contractors or third-party entities. Your commercial lawyer will be at the forefront and the advisor on what legal action to take to ensure you get the best outcomes.

Four attributes you need in a business lawyer

Transparency

Whilst it seems trivial, transparency is not as common as one might expect. The law is sophisticated as it is, the last thing you want is someone to make your world cloudier. A transparent business lawyer will empower your business and decision-making process by giving you the answers you need and painting an accurate picture every time you reach out to them.

Availability

How long can you afford to wait before you hear from them? More often than not, you will need a fast turnaround and quick answers from your commercial lawyer. To grow, you need to be able to make fast and accurate decisions. When you work with a lawyer that ensures they are available when you need them the most, will be instrumental for your success.

Industry Knowledge

How much do they know about your industry? Are you in construction, real estate, tech, fast-moving consumer goods, retails, tourism, or healthcare? Any industry has its regulations that can be landmines if you are not aware of them. A commercial lawyer with extensive experience in your industry will be a shortcut in many ways.

International Law Experience

If you aspire to operate on a global level or be an international brand, a lawyer with international experience and exposure is a must. But, even if you trade locally and your business does not require much contact with overseas parties, it’s quite important to have that area covered. We’ve all heard and seen how a company overseas files disputes against other business on the other side of the planet. Put that hassle to bed with a commercial lawyer who understands how international laws work when it comes to commerce and trade.

How much do commercial lawyers charge?

In Australia, a typical hourly fee of a business lawyer can range from $150 per hour to $325 per hour and sometimes much more. However, the hourly rate can sometimes be extremely irrelevant as in any other profession. It’s about the effectiveness of the professional providing the service. If someone charges you $150 an hour and bills 20 hours whilst someone else charges $300 and bills 8 hours, from just a cost perspective, you are better off with the higher hourly rate.

How much a business lawyer charges become even more irrelevant when you consider the business impact they can have and the opportunity cost of not having them.

The best way to ascertain whether you should hire a business lawyer or not is by speaking to them and getting the full picture on how they can help you, your level of risk, and how experienced they are and their understanding of your industry.

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Mark Lazarus, the visionary behind the business and the fresh blood of the Lazarus Legal team, Mark (or Laz as he is often known) owes much of his success to his past experiences. And he’s made it his personal goal to bring that wisdom and formula to the firm.

Building and Construction Lawyers

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Building and construction lawyers are your biggest asset. Perhaps it’s a bold statement but will explain why we thing so, at Lazarus Legal.

Are you a developer, builder, subcontractor, consultant, architect, planner, engineer or even a homeowner? A building and construction lawyer can help you navigate through your legal issues and protect you whether it’s at the early planning or post-build stages. But first, let’s have a look at what’s happening in the construction space.

The State of Construction in Australia

Irrespective of any recession or short-term economic cycle we may be in, we are in the midst of a massive construction boom. Close to $5 billion worth of development projects is now taking place in Sydney’s CBD alone. Whilst that is exciting news, it means the construction industry can see a vast number of disputes from different parties including builders, sub-contractors, buyers, developers and residents.

The construction and property development sector are filled with risks and legal landmines by virtue of the complexity of the law, the involvement of various parties, amongst other challenges that can lead to missed budgets or deadlines. To ensure you are protected, you need to be backed by a construction lawyer with multi-disciplinary background and decades of experience.

A lot of the time, understanding what your rights are can be difficult. However, it’s imperative to know what your legal rights are, and have the right people helping you navigate the law and ensuring your rights are protected.

What causes disputes in the construction industry?

As you can imagine, there is a vast range of areas where disputes can arise. Disputes can arise because the construction work was not finished on time as per contractual obligations, underpayment or even non-payment, disputes over the perceived quality of the work, and a lot more. Below are the most common reasons disputes happen.

Contractor related factors

  • Inadequate investigation before bidding
  • Site management
  • Failure to plan & execute the changes of works
  • Construction methods
  • Mistakes during the construction stage
  • Lack of understanding & agreement in a contract document
  • Financial or cashflow difficulties

Consultant related factors

  • Poor contract management & supervision
  • Preparation and approval of drawings
  • Frequent changes in orders & designs
  • The incompleteness of drawing and specification
  • Variations due to design errors
  • Waiting time for approval of tests and inspection

Material, labour & equipment related factors

  • Quality of material
  • Price fluctuation of construction materials
  • Changes in government regulations
  • Labour productivity or shortage in material
  • Equipment availability and failure

Contract & contract relationship related factors

  • Change orders
  • Mistakes and discrepancies in a contract document
  • Inappropriate overall organizational structure linking to the project
  • Lack of communication between the parties
  • Failure to respond on time
  • Unrealistic contract duration and requirements imposed

The impact on your business

Construction projects are often executed within complicated and uncertain circumstances, through which claims, and conflicts become an inevitable by-product.

It’s no wonder that disputes can eat your profits. Construction conflicts affect the interests of many stakeholders; they reduce profits, impact cash flow, and are therefore very expensive.

Working with the construction lawyer from the very beginning of your development endeavour can pay massive dividends down the road. Getting the right legal advice especially at early stages will help you avoid certain avenues or decision that might impact your business and point you in the right direction. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being litigated or need to file a dispute, having the right construction lawyer will be an invaluable asset. A competent lawyer will know how to navigate disputes and use the right approach whether it’s dispute resolution and mediation or escalating the legal matters in court.

What can a Construction Lawyer help you with?

There are many areas where a construction lawyer can be your ultimate line of defence. These include:

  • Claims regarding defective and incomplete work
  • Claims concerning building contracts and Payment Claims
  • Review of your tender documentation and contracts
  • Advice on contract management and documentation
  • Drafting and interpretation of contracts, contract amendments and special conditions
  • Formulation of contractual claims or responses to claims
  • Breach of Contract Disputes
  • Advice on Development Applications
  • Consumer and home building claims, including representation in the Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (NCAT) and the courts
  • Building licensing and Home Warranty insurance matters
  • Advice on builder insolvency issues
  • All building-related litigation
  • Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act claims
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution processes mediation and conciliation
  • Expert determination and arbitration (including representation)
  • Debt recovery
  • Homeowners warranty insurance claims
  • Home Building Act 1989 advice & litigation

Who is Lazarus Legal?

A trusted Construction Lawyer can be the ultimate difference and differentiating factor for your construction or property development business. At Lazarus Legal, we work with a range of clients from small developments clients to large scale, corporate and government clients working on major commercial and residential developments including retail, aged care, recreational, education to name a few. We’ve had the opportunity to consult and help our clients over the years across a wide range of construction and building disputes.

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We’d be lying if we told you that this bloke isn’t the big honcho of our team, but his name is a dead give-away. The founder of Lazarus Legal, Barry Lazarus is an old school, tough as nails lawyer. They don’t forge litigators like this anymore. With decades of experience in both Australia and South Africa, his wisdom is as renowned as his name.

How The Best Commercial Lawyers Can Transform Your Business

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Are some of the best commercial lawyers transforming the businesses they represent? More likely than not. But how? In this guide, I share with you why a good commercial lawyer can make all the difference.

Commercial law is the area of law that governs all commercial transactions and dealings. Understanding the role that commercial law plays in your day to day activities as well as the business environment more widely can have a huge impact on your success. A good commercial lawyer can make all the difference, acting as your legal guide in making the right decisions for your business. In this guide, we will show you the importance of having a good commercial lawyer with strategic project skills on your team to deliver the business transformation you need.

1. Commercial lawyers can be misunderstood

The multiple subject areas and overall complexity of commercial law often means that even experienced business owners can underestimate the crucial role of commercial lawyers. A common misconception is that businesses only need a lawyer when a dispute arises –this isn’t the case. In fact, a good commercial lawyer will work with your business to ensure you make the right decisions and avoid potential issues in the future.  

2. What areas commercial lawyers cover

It’s a commercial lawyer’s responsibility to fully understand and stay up to date with all the intricate legalities of owning and operating your business. This means navigating everything from employee contracts to financial transactions and everything in between. The main practice areas usually fall into one of five categories: contract law, intellectual property law, data protection law, employment law, and corporate law.

Although most excellent commercial lawyers have understanding across all areas of commercial law, they will often specialise in one or more of the key practice areas. Large law firms sometimes divide these into separate departments and that can mean one specialist drafting and reviewing your contracts, and another supporting you with dispute resolution.

3. Case study #1

Like many industries nationwide, the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry is rapidly evolving, and most experts believe that changing consumer habits will only accelerate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A good commercial lawyer can guide an FMCG business through changes and expansion. Kate Sherburn is the commercial lawyer for the eco-friendly Australian business Who Gives A Crap, and has been pivotal in helping it grow and even expand overseas. She says the key role of a good commercial lawyer is “to make sure that the companies we work for are protected.” In the case of Who Gives A Crap, she says that regulatory changes are non-stop. “It’s not just what’s happening in Australia, it’s what’s happening in every market that we’re involved in and making sure that we’re complying with everything. That is a big challenge.”

4. Case study #2

Engaging a commercial lawyer early on in your startup’s journey may be one of the best business decisions you will make in this all-important early development phase. If you are aiming to be a disruptive business, that can often mean navigating particularly challenging and complex legal minefields. As a business leader, you need to understand the terrain but not spend all your time navigating it, as that will distract you from focusing on all-important growth. Having a commercial lawyer on your team or as an in-house legal counsel, helping you realise your dreams without the nightmare of them all coming undone in a legal nightmare. Australian postal star-up Sendle showed the value of good legal work a few years ago when IP Australia ruled that Australia Post had no grounds to oppose Sendle’s trademark application for the slogan `Post without the office.’ If Sendle hadn’t done the hard work of registering the trademark properly early on, it would likely have faced much bigger legal consequences as it grew.

5. How to find the best commercial lawyers

As with any other hire, the difference between an adequate lawyer and a great lawyer can make or break your business.  Before making any decisions, it’s essential to do your homework to determine which are your best options. Seek credentials and recommendations from a range of sources. Ask your friends and business associates, and search for reviews online. Scrutinise the solo lawyers and smaller outfits, as well as the big firms, and consider what values are most important to you and your business. Great commercial lawyers will be professional and flexible while making you feel they’re working with you, not for you. 

6. How to choose the right commercial lawyer

When choosing your lawyer you should also consider what your unique business needs are. Consider what practice areas you would need your commercial lawyer to focus on and what size of the firm would suit your business.. That may still be the right decision for a large or international organisation, but if you’re managing a smaller business it’s wise to weigh up the pros and cons of choosing different sized firms. Smaller firms may offer greater attentiveness since you aren’t just one billing among hundreds.

7. Commercial lawyers are a great investment

One of the big mistakes some new business owners make is not finding a commercial lawyer within the first days of setting up their new enterprise. While it’s understandable that business leaders are often laser-focused on their vision and want to focus on the possibilities, acknowledging that things can sometimes go wrong is a necessary part of a business leaders’ mindset. When issues and uncertainties come up, it’s essential to have a commercial lawyer on hand to protect your interests.

Investing in a good commercial lawyer will not only help you navigate complex laws and regulations as your business grows and expands but will put in place protections to prevent you from running into problems in the future. That could mean securing your intellectual property rights, making employment contracts watertight or making sure all your contracts are robust. As anyone who has ever ended up in an intellectual property lawsuit or an employment tribunal will tell you, a good commercial lawyer can save you from much more expensive trouble down the road.

Hiring the best commercial lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the most expensive. Some of the most competent professionals are not always the most highly priced. And ‘best’ comes down to where they well they fit your organisation and its goals.

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Mark Lazarus, the visionary behind the business and the fresh blood of the Lazarus Legal team, Mark (or Laz as he is often known) owes much of his success to his past experiences. And he’s made it his personal goal to bring that wisdom and formula to the firm.