By Massey, Stotser & Nichols, P.C., Sponsored Content
Attorneys from full-service law firm Massey, Stotser & Nichols (MSN) share current, local legal trends and their recommended legal considerations for businesses and individuals with a new year on the horizon.
Three Factors Driving Current Legal Trends
- COVID-19 pandemic impacts
“Many businesses, governmental entities, and families seemed to be ‘hibernating’’ for the past 18 months, but we are now seeing a renewed focus on strategic planning and executing previously postponed activities,” states attorney Rick Stotser. He says related legal work includes negotiating business sales, resolving contract disputes, executing commercial and residential development agreements, and drafting healthcare and financial powers of attorney documents.
The Alabama courts reopened in July, and judges are working to address case backlogs. Family law attorney Randy Nichols shares that the past five months have been the busiest of his career, citing a “larger number of trial dates scheduled more closely together.” He predicts, “Even if we are hopefully seeing an upcoming end to the pandemic, we’ll likely be addressing its lingering hangover through at least 2022.”
- Anticipated regulatory changes
It’s anticipated that the New Year will bring a new tax plan, providing a narrow window to take advantage of current (and likely more favorable) estate tax law before, for example, exemptions are potentially halved. Existing proposals vary widely with final details unavailable until a new law is passed [insert suspenseful holiday music here].
OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on COVID-19 requires employers with more than 100 full-time employees to mandate vaccinations. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed the ETS, and the Alabama state legislature passed a bill claiming to limit employers’ vaccination mandate abilities. With ETS legal resolution pending, employers are requesting interim advice.
- Expansive Trussville growth
U.S. Census Bureau data pinpoints Trussville’s population growth as 31% between 2010 and 2020. Corporate business partner Chesley Payne asserts Trussville has “quickly become an economic engine on the Eastern side of Birmingham with increased local business and governmental entity formations and operational expansions.” Related legal requests include drafting corporate and governmental legal documents, negotiating third-party contracts, and closing real estate transactions.
Legal Recommendations for 2022
Navigating the “new normal” highlighted the importance of well-crafted, up-to-date legal documents that provide a roadmap for liabilities. Combined with the pandemic, regulatory, and local growth changes, it’s likely a “most wonderful time of the year” for business owners and families to enlist counsel for a comprehensive legal document review. We also highly recommend setting annual strategic planning sessions with your attorney and CPA. Leveraging this collective expertise can decrease tax liabilities, increase favorable legal outcomes, and potentially prevent disputes/litigation.
- Review legal documents with counsel. An unfortunately common “gap” example is a two-person partnership agreement allocating 50/50 ownership without addressing dispute resolution. Consider industry-specific provisions; for example, construction companies and real estate developers might include price escalation and supply chain delay provisions.
- Review employee handbooks and incorporate applicable policies for vaccination and masking, remote work, and personal device usage.
- Attorney Rick Stotser notes an uptick in non-compete agreements and suggests employers incorporating non-compete provisions seek legal counsel. Chesley Payne explains, “Non-compete agreements are not one-size-fits-all. Each requires a fact-dependent analysis of the industry and employee’s specific role—particularly given the disfavor of non-compete provisions under Alabama law.”
- Request an insurance gap analysis to evaluate insurance availability and liability protection.
- Evaluate entity structuring and buy/sell agreements within the context of anticipated tax law changes.
- Similarly, cohesively review legal documents with counsel including last wills and testaments, living wills, guardianship agreements, and healthcare and financial powers of attorney.
- Proactively review estate plans within the context of anticipated tax law changes.
Ready to start checking your list of legal documents? Visit MSNAttorneys.com or call 205-838-9000. MSN attorneys deliver a holistic solution to your business and personal legal needs with seamless client service. We are proud members of the local community our firm has served for nearly 40 years and are committed to furthering our clients’ interests through the highest quality legal services.