Moving My Practice

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce that effective December 22, 2009, I will be relocating my practice to 214 N. State Street, Syracuse, NY 13203. My new telephone number will be 315-295-1450. My new fax number will be 315-478-1687. My email will remain [email protected] My Saratoga office remains at 1104 Middleline Road, Ballston Spa, NY 12020.

I will continue to represent individuals and small businesses in the following practice areas:

• Estate Planning and Adminstration
• Trust Drafting and Implementation
• Business Development and formation
• Personal Injury Litigation
• Commercial Litigation
• Equine Matters, including partnership formation, syndication, licensing issues, or any other associated matter.

I look forward to this new opportunity and am excited to continue to provide the quality personal based representation you have come to expect from Engel Law Offices. Please contact me with any questions regarding this move.

Wishing you and your family the best during this holiday season.

Todd

The audacity of people

I realize that the story I am about to share may not compare to the swindling that Bernie Madoff executed, but from my perspective it is actually worse. In today’s Syracuse Post Standard, there was an article detailing the scheme conducted by Jerome Feldman involving those must vulnerable: families in need of a transplant.

Allegedly, Feldman concocted a scheme where he would solicit opportunites to obtain a transplant in the Philippines if money was sent to his bank account in DeWitt, NY. The individual awaiting the transplant was instructed to wire $70,000 into Feldman’s bank account. Medical staff would then be available in the Philippines to conduct the transplant, or so Feldman said. The problem was, once the patient flew to the Philippines, no organ was there and the money was gone.

Feldman preyed upon those individuals who are looking for any hope possible for their loved one. I know, I was there; not one of Feldman’s victims, but a family member of a person on a transplant list. My mother was on dialysis for 15 years, before her death in 2006. She started with home dialysis and progressively needed the centers. She did it three times a week, and it prolonged her life. For about 10 years of the dialysis she was on the transplant lists until she became so compromised with additional illnesses that she had to be removed. Every time the phone rang, we hoped it was the transplant center letting us know that a kidney was there. We came close, but never found that perfect match. So, I know firsthand the desire to gain more time through obtaining a new organ.

Feldman’s acts were not acts of kindness. They were not acts of benevolence from one man to another. He was motivated by one thing: greed. Taking advantage of those people who are looking for any hope necessary is in my opinion the lowest form of the low. For the families who are suffering at the hands of Jerome Feldman, I am deeply sorry. For those of us who were families of people either waiting for or receiving transplants, it proves that we must go through the system for the private market organ transplant is fraught with thieves and miscreants who only want to take advantage of the situation.

Jerome Feldman Story

Todd Engel

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Equine Law: Am I Just Horsing Around?

One of my favorite areas of practice is my equine law specialty. No, I am not just horsing around!

Since 1977, my family has owned and raced thoroughbred horses. We have been fortunate enough to race horses throughout North America and presently run horses at Aqueduct. We have raced at tracks from Oaklawn Park to Woodbine in Toronto. We have raced most frequently in the New York circuit. It is a wonderful experience and nothing is quite as thrilling as watching your horse running down the stretch going for the finish line. The question is whether a horse needs a lawyer?

No, the horse doesn’t need a lawyer, but others certainly do. I represent owners with respect to setting up the legal entities that make sense for their needs There needs to be agreements by and between the partners. There needs to be corporate resolutions in order to establish the business entity properly. Remember, while horse racing is a sport, and can be a lot of fun, the ownership of horses is intended to be a business.

If the business is successful, then tax issues are at play. Income taxes, sales tax, and other tax issues are continuously changing and need to be evaluated. The stimulus bill just signed by President Obama has created excellent tax advantages for horse ownership including depreciation of up to $250,000 for horses put into service during 2009. Sales tax issues can be reviewed and assessed dependent upon the state where a sale takes place.

Should a horse become extremely successful, there are additional legal issues to look at. These center around stallion syndication and arrangement of stallion servicing. Negotiating arrangements with the various farms where the stallion is to stand is necessary. Drafting agreements between the owner of the stallions and the owners of the mares is also required.

The racing side also has its need for equine attorneys. Licensing issues for owners, trainers and jockeys are an integral part of equine representation. Should a trainer or jockey have to serve a suspension, quality representation is necessary to protect their rights. Negotiation with the State Racing and Wagering Board can keep a trainer or jockey from having to serve a suspension and therefore keep the trainer or jockey from losing necessary income. Should a hearing be necessary, the lawyer can conduct the examination of witnesses and effectively represent a trainer, owner or jockey in front of the Board.

Horse racing is a thrilling sport. Proper assistance can make sure you remain in the game for the long haul.

Todd Engel

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Legal Planning in a Different Economy

When I look around my community, I see a totally new and evolving economic paradigm. Sure there are layoffs everywhere. Circuit City closes and there are 30,000 fewer jobs. Magna may close their local plant eliminating what at its height was 8,000 jobs in the automobile industry. Five years ago, who would have ever thought that Lehman Brothers would no longer be in existence? If you ask me, it is a time for opportunity to grow and develop a business.

Globally the economy is shrinking. This is no surprise from picking up the newspapers. However, that offers an opportunity for an enterprising person to open and develop a new business. In my view, the old economy of manufacturing and big business is no longer viable in today’s marketplace. The manufacturing is being accomplished in other countries where the costs of doing business are less. These only makes sense in a capitalistic society, if I can make it cheaper and sell it on the marketplace, then why do I need to pay the overhead, taxes and other costs of manufacturing in this country. So, how are we going to survive and what can a lawyer do to help?

The best way to reinvigorate the economy in times such as the now is to invest in ourselves and be creative. For some, that means thinking outside the box of what they know to look for employment in new areas. For others, it is to examine what their strengths are and to start their own business. My thinking is the small to medium sized businesses are going to drive this economy forward because those are the businesses that are going to roll up their sleeves and move us forward through creative work. What industry that is in is to be determined. However this is an exciting time to be involved in legal representation of small closely held businesses.

How does a lawyer help you? A good business lawyer can help in each facet of business planning. Whether it is setting up a good quality business plan., determining the right entity to begin this venture with, whether it is a solo proprietorship, general partnership, limited liability partnership, or corporation, a lawyer can guide you through the process and help fill out the appropriate documentation. A lawyer will work with you to project financing needs and developing strategies for obtaining startup capital. A lawyer can advise as to the tax implications of owning versus renting your business location and other depreciation techniques. Use a lawyer at the beginning who you trust, and it can be mean money saved down the line.

Todd Engel

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Law Office Technology Part 2

My last blog post dealt with some basic technology in order for a practice to hit the ground running. We will now discuss certain additional applications to make running an office more seamless as well as effective.

As I said previously, Microsoft Outlook is the email calendar and task tool that has the market dominance. This is because it is bundled with Microsoft Office. I use it to keep my contacts as well as my calendar and my emails. While stability can be an issue, it is the industry standard. Google has an online calendar system that is pretty good, however being that it is unsecure, I would not recommend it for law office calendar management due to confidentiality issues.

Clients today expect and deserve feedback as quickly as possible. That is one of the many reasons smartphones have become ubiquitous with attorneys. What an individual looks for in a smartphone is an ability to synch with your email, contacts and calendars. There are many flavors, whether it is the Iphone, the Blackberry or the Palm or variations on their theme. The key to me is to be able to have the information not only at my desk but also at my fingertips when I am out of the office.

Document assembly software is important in making sure you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. When your practice has developed a niche, use the appropriate software to generate repeat documents. Hotdocs is a great example of this. I also use Drafting Libraries for various documents. The quality of the document produced is quite good and there is certain customization and flexibility which is important.

Every lawyer wants to be paid for what they do. Therefore invest in a good time and billing package that can be utilized both by you and your assistant. Ideally it should feed into your phone/PDA so that you can quickly capture time outside the office. You should be able to enter fees quickly and easily. You should be able to set whether you are billing on an hourly basis, flat fee basis or contingency fee. You should ideally be able to combine this with a practice management suite which sets forth a conflict search. Try demos of these products, there are many and again, different people like different programs.

Technology is constantly changing and evolving and lawyers have to stay current to best serve our clients. Join the technology group of your local bar. Join the ABA Law Technology section. Read and learn what you can but remember don’t use something without trying it first.

Todd Engel

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Basic Office Technology for a Solo

It is somewhat ironic that I am writing a blog on the importance of technology to practicing law as a solo while Legal Tech is presently underway. Legal Tech is the largest conference regarding practicing law and the use of technology. I am sure the seminars and materials are fascinating and the swag is going to be fantastic, however this year my attendance is not meant to be. That does not diminish the importance of all types of technology for a solo attorney. I have decided to make this a two part blog. The first will be on “basic” technology; hardware, phone system, wordprocessors and the like. Second post will deal with more web 2.0, case management software, and other detailed technological issues.

The very first piece of technology that every office must have is a good quality telephone system. Sure you can run to Office Max and buy a $99 cordless phone and answering machine and be done with it. That sends two messages, I work on the cheap and I don’t value you as a client. Remember one thing, perception is someone else’s reality and when you look cheap the clients will perceive you as cheap. For me, a phone system has to have voice mail, call forwarding, an ability to add at least one caller to a call and caller ID. These are essential to a good practice in that it aids you in being responsive to the clients. Newer phone systems will send emails to you with either transcripts of the voice mail or the voice mail itself as a file attachment. I am not sold that is necessary, but if you are into add ons go ahead.

One needs to start out with a good solid computer system. I am not advocating it be Vista, the sooner Microsoft buries that operating system the better off those of us non Mac users will be. I am not saying don’t use a Mac either. I am the wrong guy to make hardware suggestions. The important thing is that the system you use be stable. In that vein, look at the RAM you want to have in the computer and double it. It is a way to help insure that when you are running two versions of word processing, a bookkeeping suite, a time management suite calendar email and several windows in a browser you don’t crash your computer.

A large monitor is ideal, two are better. The reason I say this is that if you have two monitors and you are working on a document or brief where you need to research and drop in language simultaneously, two screens will allow you to have the word processor open and your research open and move seamlessly between the two. I would think two 19 inch screens are the way to go.

A two printer system is ideal for most small offices. The first printer being an all in one with a glass scanner and document feeder in order for you to be able to create PDFs to keep paper files to a minimum. Yes, another reason for dual monitors you can scan the document in and have it on one screen and on the second have your reply letter, email or document and refer to the original effortlessly. The second printer I would have is a high quality laser printer for document production. I still find that inkjets smudge too much for my liking especially when I use highlighters.

Finally for this section, we will discuss generally about office suites. Wordperfect was for many years the standard bearer for legal offices. It was the suite found in every single office and was the one that most attorneys were trained on. That has slowly shifted to the point now where Microsoft Office has the dominant market share for lawyers; this only makes sense due to the fact that if you buy your computer through Dell or other manufacturers Office can come preloaded. Although certain versions of Word and WordPerfect allow for viewing of each other’s documents, the formatting is never the same as it was in the original software. I also am using Open Office more, not because I am programming in the open language, but instead want to meet all my clients needs. Word is now my primary word processor. Outlook is my primary calendar and email provider . However, I can seamlessly go into WordPerfect when a matter or document calls for it.

In the 21st century, lawyers who do not use technology to their advantage are one step behind the competition. The next part of this will detail more software and web based choices including ways to network online and ways to make your practice more effective to help you generate the product your client deserves and you want to be proud of.

Todd Engel

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WHY LAW AND WHY SPECIALIZE?

More often than not, people I meet invariably ask me what I do for a living. It is common place to ask that question, because it allows you to learn more about the person you are interacting with. I always answer that I am a lawyer. Never do I say that I am a certain type of lawyer. I let that conversation develop over time.

I then am asked why you became a lawyer. The short quip is that I am genetically predisposed, after being the third generation in my family to practice law. That is a flippant response that really does not touch on the real reason I became a lawyer. I have a desire to help people and the law offers me that opportunity to help my clients achieve their goals and desires.

So, then the question as to what type of law I practice comes up. For the first ten years of my practice, I said I was a general practitioner. I wanted to be that lawyer everyone went to for issues from cradle to grave. I did divorces, I did DWI’s. I did trusts, estates and probate. I even dabbled in Worker’s Compensation. I was everywhere and spread very thin in what expertise in any subject I could provide. I had a choice to make, I could specialize and find my niche or continue to spread myself across all aspects of the law and not truly have a focus for myself or my clients.

I changed that starting this year. I am now focused on wealth development and preservation. Sounds great Todd, but what does that mean? It means that I am focused on establishing and representing small and closely held businesses from their inception through successful operation. It means that I represent individuals in making sure that their assets are protected for the future. It means that I will make sure that the estate planning necessary for individuals meet their needs and the needs of their family. It means that I will make sure that assets survive for children and future generations. I also will work to determine the best ways to make sure any charitable gifts are done in the best manner.

Todd Engel

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The Importance of CLE

The Importance of CLE

I am on my way to attend the Heckerling Institute put on by the University of Miami School of Law. I will be spending the week in Orlando ( I know, hate me if you must but that’s where they decided to put it) for the next five days learning about Estate Planning, and Trusts for sophviagraticated individuals. I am fascinated by what they will state given the current market situation. I  am really excited to bring back what I learn to my clients and my practice.

In New York, lawyers are required to take 24 hours of Continuing Legal Education, (CLE) every two years. This was enacted so that the public could be sure that attorneys kept up to date on the practice of law. Prior to this regulation, there would be lawyers who would graduate law school and never take another continuing education course until they retired. I believe that is a disservice to my clients and in fact routinely have taken almost double my required hours.  Why would I go to that trouble? Here are five reasons, in no particular order.

1.       KEEP UP TO DATE ON THE LAW: The law is ever changing and evolving.  There are new laws being passed by the State Legislature or Congress that effects your practice. CLE offers the best way to know what is happening and to be able to apply it to your practice.

2.       EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE: CLE  offers an attoney to expand his or her knowledge not only in the practice area  that he or she is specializing in, but in different areas that he or she may not have  considered before. It is a great way to expand your niche.

3.       PICK THE EXPERT’S BRAIN: People who teach CLE courses usually have developed a specialty  that allows them to advise the rest of the bar. Use that opportunity to your advantage. If you have a difficult probate issue and are at a probate CLE, ask the question. Taking advantage of the opportunity presented to you is not overstepping, it is good business sense.

4.       YOU CAN NEVER LEARN TOO MUCH: My father once told me when I was deciding about going to law school, the one thing that they can never take away from you is your education. Go  to seminars. Learn what you can so  you have knowledge. It can never be taken from you and you never know when you’ll need it!

5.       NETWORKING, NETWORKING, NETWORKING. When you go to CLE courses, take the advantage of meeting people. You never know where a referral may come from. You never know what benefit you will gain from that new connection. Every time you go to a CLE you represent yourself and your practice.

This is why I feel CLE is so important. I will continue to attend CLE events and make sure I gain the benefits available to me.

Todd Engel

[email protected]

Engel Law Offices

7222 E. Genesee Street

Fayetteville, NY 13066

Twitter: www.twitter.com/toddengel

Some more about me and my practice

Welcome to my blog! I want to thank you for taking the time to learn about me and the services that Engel Law Offices can provide you in developing and protecting your wealth. It is important for you to know how I got to where I am in order for me to be able to guide and assist you in developing and protecting your assets for future generations.

I am a third generation lawyer practicing in Fayetteville, NY, just outside of Syracuse. I have a solo practice focused on business development, estate planning, commercial litigation and equine law. In other words my practice is geared to wealth development and protection for yourself and future generations. I have developed this niche with one focus in mind: listening and responding to your needs.

A graduate of Syracuse University and Syracuse University College of Law, I have developed a practice that is singularly focused on meeting your needs from beginning to end. You will work with me directly and my focus is solely on making sure your goals are met, whether that is with your business or your estate. I want to make sure that you maximize your ability to grow your small business and make sure that once you have, the proper estate plan is in place. Engel Law Offices is committed to wealth development and protection. I look forward to working with you.

My grandfather, S. Sanford Engel, practiced law in Syracuse starting in 1931. He had a general practice, focusing on criminal defense until his death in 1966. He was well regarded throughout the Central New York community for his legal ability. Developing the ability to listen to his clients was a cornerstone to his practice, something that was passed down to my father, and then to me.

My father, Richard Engel, began his practice in 1961 with the Appellate Division, Fourth Department where he was a confidential law clerk. In 1966, he returned to Syracuse and practiced for the next 42 years. He specialized in civil and commercial litigation turning towards estate planning, corporate representation and equine law in order to meet the needs of his growing clientele. He taught me the values of developing a strong client relationship and being an effective representative for your clients needs and desires. Since 1977, he owned thoroughbred race horses, developing a national reputation as an equine advocate.

Today, I am the managing attorney of Engel Law Offices. Our practice is committed to working with you and your company in developing plans for maximizing and preserving your wealth. That goal is achieved through planning for your new business venture and ensuring that whatever business you are starting is legally secure and the best business plan is drafted for you. We will be there for your needs and should litigation be necessary, Engel Law Offices has successfully tried cases to verdict throughout New York State and will work hard on your behalf.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you in this blog. Each week I will write on a different topic, whether it is business development, corporate, estate planning or equine law, I hope you will find it interesting and informative.