Friday, September 22, 2017

Top 10 from Texas Bar Today: Communicating, Sticker Shock, and Food for Thought

Originally published by Joanna Herzik.

To highlight some of the posts that stand out from the crowd, the editors of Texas Bar Today have created a list from the week’s blog posts of the top ten based on subject matter, writing style, headline, and imagery. We hope you enjoy this installment.

10. A Top Success Tip: Set a Goal and Review Obstacles.Cordell Parvin @cordellparvin of Cordell Parvin LLC in Dallas

9. Texas Town Makes It an Offense for a Child to Witness an Assault – Broden & Mickelsen, LLP @BrodenLaw in Dallas

8. A Quick ComplimentMurray Newman of The Law Office of Murray Newman @murraynewman in Houston

7. Unit Operator Pays for a Problem of its Own MakingCharles Sartain and Chance K. Decker of Gray Reed & McGraw, P.C. @GrayReedLaw in Dallas

6. Uber and Waymo Clash over Trade Secrets – Peggy Keene of Klemchuk LLP @K_LLP in Dallas

5. Are Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat relevant to law firm marketing? – Lihsa of 3 Geeks and a Law Blog

4. Keep Austin Weird: Litigation Sticker Shock Sticks for NowKasi Chadwick and Philip A. Dunlap of BoyarMiller @boyarmiller in Houston

3. Food for Thought—Does Your Automatic Meal Period Policy Violate the Law?Shaun Cassin of Baker McKenzie @bakermckenzie in Houston

2. The Benefits (and Occasional Perils) of Using Statistics in TrialKacy Miller of CourtroomLogic Consulting, LLC @CourtroomLogic in Dallas and Fort Worth

1. Communicating with those who know they are right (even when they are so very wrong)Douglas Keene @KeeneTrial of Keene Trial Consulting in Austin

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Harvey Triggers Major Gasoline Spill in Texas

Originally published by Environmental and Energy Law Blog.

What were the environmental impacts of Hurricane Harvey?

As Southeast Texas continues to grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the immediate and long term environmental impacts will be a key consideration. In particular, the storm triggered failures numerous leaks from petrochemical storage tanks into area waterways.

Largest Gasoline Spill Recorded

In one incident, floodwaters caused nearly a hall-million gallons of gasoline to spill from two storage tanks along the Houston Ship Channel. The spill of 10,988 barrels, about 461,000 gallons, is said to be the largest spill caused by a storm hitting the petrochemical industry in Texas.

The spill occurred at a tank farm in Galena Park owned by Magellan Midstream Partners, according to accident reports submitted to federal officials by the Oklahoma-based company. Part of the spill flowed into a nearby waterway where dozens of petrochemical facilities are located. Although the spill was contained and state and federal regulators have been involved with recovery and restoration efforts, the possible long term health effects and environmental contamination are not clear. Neither the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have provided an assessment in this regard.

However, TCEQ is investigating the incident to determine if Magellan complied with regulations regarding the disclosure of gasoline spills and any related air pollution. The company initially reported the spill to state and federal officials on August 31, but provided no details about the size of the spill. The next report indicated the spill was only 1,000 barrels, but in a subsequent report filed in first week of September, Magellan disclosed the spill was 10,988, 10 times higher than its earlier assessment. Nonetheless, the company claims that state and federal regulators had been promptly notified of its best assessment of the spill’s volume.

Other Harvey Related Spills

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that there were more than two dozen spills from fuel and gasoline tanks. Some were swept away by floodwaters, while others had their roofs sink due to the heavy rainfall. Combined with the Magellan incident, the spills released more than 600,000 gallons of fuel into area waterways.  Although current regulations do not require tank owners to implement measures to make tanks flood resistant, the broader oil and gas sector has taken steps to protect pipelines and refineries from flood damage. Going forward, resolving these issues will require the advice and counsel of experienced energy and environmental attorneys.

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Jurisdictional Challenges that Could Impact Your Texas Divorce

Originally published by Austin TX Family Law Blog.

Where should I file for divorce?

Divorce often coincides with a move by one or both spouses.  As the family unit splits, one spouse may find themselves needing to move to accept a better job or live closer to relatives to have family support.  When a move happens before the divorce lawsuit is filed, it can result in jurisdictional challenges as well as child custody disputes.  Our Austin, Texas divorce lawyers at Stinson Moyle, PLLC discuss divorce and jurisdiction below.

Jurisdiction for Divorce

One of the first steps you must complete before filing for divorce will be determining where you can file.  For some spouses, this is an easy factor as they have both resided in the same place for some time.  For other spouses, jurisdiction could become a troubling issue.  Generally, you can file for divorce in Texas if either you or your spouse has lived in the state for six months and in the county in which you will file for 90 days.

If the Texas court has jurisdiction over at least one spouse, then it can maintain jurisdiction to dissolve the marriage.  However, issues can arise where the court does not have personal jurisdiction over both spouses.  Even though the Texas judge has the power to grant the divorce, it does not mean that he or she can necessarily divide assets or tender orders regarding child custody over parties that it does not have personal jurisdiction over.  Divorcing spouses may find themselves hit with complex jurisdictional challenges if one spouse moves before the divorce is filed.

Spouses with knowledge as to potential jurisdiction issues will sometimes use this to their advantage.  A spouse planning a divorce may attempt to move the divorce action to another state with more favorable divorce laws or could convince their partner to move out of state, then file here in Texas.  Under some circumstances, a Texas court can exercise personal jurisdiction over a spouse that is not a resident of the state if the spouse’s last marital residence was in the state.

Anyone contemplating filing for divorce who suspects their spouse may move should contact a divorce lawyer right away.  It is imperative that divorcing spouses take swift, knowledgeable legal action to foreclose potential jurisdictional issues.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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Keep Austin Weird: Litigation Sticker Shock Sticks for Now

Originally published by Robin Tooms.

In a breach of contract action in Texas, many believe that attorney’s fees are universally recoverable for the prevailing plaintiff as a matter of Texas law. As Chapter 38 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code—the statute controlling the mandatory award of attorney’s fees in breach of contract actions—as presently written, this is not true.

Chapter 38 only allows for recovery of attorney’s fees against “an individual or a corporation” for the prevailing party in a breach of contract action. In the last session, Representative Farrar authored HB 744 to make breach of contract attorney’s fees recoverable from “an individual, corporation, or other legal entity…” For more on Chapter 38 as presently enacted and the specifics of HB 744, click here.

Earlier this year, the Texas legislature again took up an amendment to Chapter 38 to broaden the scope of recoverable attorney’s fees for the prevailing party in a breach of contract action. Like the legislation that came before it, this attempt was unsuccessful.

While HB 744 made it out of the Texas House, it died in the Senate. Almost upon arrival in the Senate, HB 744 was referred to the State Affairs Committee for further review, but it was not revisited before the Texas legislature adjourned. This is the second bill attempting to broaden Chapter 38’s fee recovery that has failed to matriculate to the governor’s office.

Arguably, expanding the scope of Chapter 38’s fee award would make Texas courts more accessible to those plaintiffs who might not otherwise pursue their claims for fear of litigation sticker shock. Likewise, Chapter 38’s fee award as presently enacted may insulate potential defendants (e.g. partnerships), for the same reasons. Because HB 744 didn’t make it this time, at least for now, the sticker shock may stick. Keep Austin weird.

The post Keep Austin Weird: Litigation Sticker Shock Sticks for Now appeared first on Houston Law Firm | BoyarMiller.

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USPTO Takes Initiative to Combat Trademark Scams

Originally published by Roxanne Edwards.

Brand owners, large and small, are often targets of intellectual property scams that are intended to elicit quick cash from innocent owners.  These scams can […]

The post USPTO Takes Initiative to Combat Trademark Scams appeared first on Klemchuk LLP.

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Hoverboards Are Now a Reality

Originally published by Anderson Law Firm's Injury Blog.

Image result for flying hoverboardRemember when you used to see science-fiction movies where the main character could pull out his hoverboard and escape to safety? While this was a wild idea in the 1980s, hover boards may be something of the future – a very, very near future, to be exact.

A French Innovator’s Design

The unlike previous prototypes and designs of previous hoverboards, French inventor Franky Zapata, founder of the company that created the “Flyboard Air”, has created a hoverboard that does not require a connection to water or another stationary-linked fuel source. In other words, you can now fly a hoverboard wirelessly. The only object you would have wired would be the control that is connected to the hoverboard. Other than that, you could fly high and low, left and right, without having to be connected to a pipe or tube (as is the case with water-powered hoverboards).

An Interested Market

Not only has Zapata sparked the interest of businesses who market their products to the general product; the technology company now has military companies interested in research & development for the new innovation. In addition, it isn’t just any military companies – some companies have connections to the Department of Defense, making the excitement ever greater.

However, not everybody seems to be as excited for the new hoverboards. French authorities have restricted the use of Zapata’s hoverboards in France, citing the failure to follow safety regulations, flight restrictions, and security clearances to fly. This in turn has caused a debate on whether or not French authorities were right on essentially banning the product. In just three days, a petition in support of Zapata has generated over 15,000 signatures. Despite the initial restriction, French officials have noted that the company still has an opportunity to gain approval of flying.

When Will Hoverboards Be Available to Purchase?

Hoverboards, like many new technological innovations, take time and money to be approved to the general public. This is due to two reasons. First, companies developing the hoverboards must completely be sure that their product is safe and will not cause and harm. This is done through consistent product testing, tweaks, re-designs, and more. Each change made on the product must be approved through a series of departments within the company, which can take several months to do.

The second reason why hoverboards might not be readily available is due to regulations. Regulations are designed to ensure that a product has been thoroughly tested and approved by a regulatory agency. In the United States, what seems like an unnecessary certification stage is actually something that is very important. Many product-related accidents and injuries can be completely avoided if it is caught when the product is being tested and reviewed, and necessary changes can be made to ensure that the public is safe from a dangerous product. For this reason, if you have waited for a very long time for a hoverboard to be a reality, it may be worth the extra wait for it to be approved – it may save you an unwanted trip to the hospital.

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Are Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat relevant to law firm marketing?

Originally published by Lihsa.

Tim Peterson (@petersontee) of MarketingLand.com did a great job of analyzing a moving target in sizing up “How Facebook’s, Instagram’s and Snapchat’s audience size estimates compare.”

Now, I realize that many believe that Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have little or no value to law firms. I beg to differ. Think of social media being just another method to deliver marketing and promotion, public relations and brand management, just like TV, radio or publications.

Think of it this way: in the evening, when people are relaxing and multiscreening at home, they are skimming through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. While checking out @beyonce, @therock or @lin_manuel_, inspiring, artful or humorous law firm content can bring positive attention, high engagement and broader brand awareness.

Peterson’s charts show that Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, dominate in the seven largest countries by media spend.

 

Are Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat relevant to law firm marketing?
Chart created by Tim Peterson of MarketingLand.com: *Facebook and Instagram audience estimates are based on average usage over the past 30 days and span web and app users. Snapchat audience estimates are based on usage over the past 28 days and only count users exposed to Snap Ads within Stories, Shows and Discover.

In the US alone, that is an estimated 200M Facebook users, 100M Instagram users and over 75M Snapchat users. And if they are anything like me, they are skipping between all of these channels throughout the evening.

By the numbers, Instagram stories—different from Instagram posts—are reaching far more people than Snapchat (this is interesting because many deemed Instagram stories to be a rip-off of Snapchat’s format). Furthermore, Instragram is more popular than Snapchat in all countries except France.

And possibly the most interesting chart to law firm marketers is Peterson’s stats on those aged 35+. In their mid-career, these people were the first generation to have used Facebook all of their adult life—it is now a habit for them. Facebook was founded in 2004. This means that 35-year olds are the first generation to have used Facebook all of their adult life—it is now a habit. That means that the majority of folks below the age of 35 more than likely have a Facebook account, and probably have an Instagram account. These numbers likely include your in-house counsel.

Looking at the chart, these mid-career adults, are using Facebook more than Instagram or Snapchat in every major country. According to the data, based upon recent usage, nearly 150 million adults are looking at content on either their Facebook or Instagram accounts.

Perhaps it is time to reassess you opinion of Facebook and Instagram.

Are Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat relevant to law firm marketing?
Chart created by Tim Peterson of MarketingLand.com: *Facebook and Instagram audience estimates are based on average usage over the past 30 days and span web and app users. Snapchat audience estimates are based on usage over the past 28 days and only count users exposed to Snap Ads within Stories, Shows and Discover.


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