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The Practice of Law: Poole & Shaffery Law Firm

Q&A with David Poole, Partner

Posted: July 30, 2014 11:00 a.m.
Updated: July 30, 2014 11:00 a.m.

Left to right: Cecilie Read, Hunt Braly, David Poole, Samuel Price, John Shaffery, Chris Jacobsen, John Grannis, Michael Little. Not pictured: Brian Koegle. Photo by Katharine Lotze.

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Poole & Shaffery Law Firm

Specialty: Business Law

Q&A with David Poole, Partner

 

1. What differentiates the practice of business law in California compared to other states?

Business law can vary depending on what areas of law you’re discussing. For instance, employment law. The California legislature has certainly been very active in regulating the workplace. It’s very employee-friendly. It’s not an employer-friendly environment in which to do business. The laws are generally perceived as making it very difficult and challenging to do business in California.

We spend a lot of time in the employment practice. Brian Koegle (partner) spends a lot of time counseling businesses how to comply with the law and not get in trouble - how to properly hire, fire, provide rest and meal periods, etc. California is a highly regulated state for businesses.

We also do a lot of work with environmental compliance. There are lots of challenges and traps for the unwary. Almost every year we see people, after reviews, who are so exasperated and frustrated.

Small employers don’t have the ability to hire full time Human Resources people and keep up with all the nuances of the law. It’s a real challenge.

2. What would you change about the practicing law in the state?

One change would be to provide a “safe harbor” for small businesses. It would give small companies an opportunity to receive proper notification about a complaint and correct their behavior before they could be sued or made liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees.

Sometimes small companies are clueless but never intended to be bad employers. If they were given notice first and a chance to correct it by the time attorneys get a hold of it, a lot of costs associated with correcting the problem could be saved. We see a lot of employers who intend to comply but are ignorant and end up paying a very steep price.

There are a lot of attorneys around anytime someone is terminated, who can find a basis for filing a lawsuit.

The Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues used to have a similar environment. Now businesses have to be given notice ahead of time (before a law suit is filed) and given time to correct a problem.

3. In your practice, what are the common or repetitive issues you encounter when representing clients?

We have several different practice groups and see some issues pop up over and over in each of them.

With regards to construction defects, the practice generally represents general contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers. They just expect to get sued in that industry.

As for employment law, we had a lot meal and rest type issues for years, also wrongful terminations.

In the business litigation group, we deal with a lot of breach of contract disputes that arise between companies.

We also deal with intellectual property issues, false advertising claims, etc.

In our land use practice, it usually involves entitlement issues.

In product liability, our defense practice involves areas that include chemical exposure.

4. In your opinion, what pitfalls or mistakes might people avoid?

Ignorance may be bliss but the cost for not being well informed could crush or destroy their business. Sometimes they’d rather not know what’s going on.

Companies tell us ‘we're not worried about anyone suing us,’ ‘we’re like a family’ – but we call them Defendants.

Employers sometimes say they’re not going to worry about the letter of the law and just hire good people and treat them fair. It often works for years, but it only takes one case in which you hire or fire the wrong person and then spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. A lot of that is avoidable. Being aware of the risks and law is the best place to start.

“We wish people would call us before they fire (employees). We could save them a lot of grief and money with a little bit of preventive law.”

5. In addition to your specialty, what services does your firm offer?

Historically, we have been a firm where the largest volume of our work was in the litigation arena.

We do have attorneys in the firm who primarily have transactional practices and some, such as in the employment area, where a significant part of their practice is counseling and preventative to minimize the likelihood that a decision will end up in litigation.

Overall, we view ourselves as a full service business firm that encompasses litigation, counseling and transactional work.

We also help to buy and sell a lot of companies, handle contracts, draft agreements including finance agreements with lending institutions.

Our business litigation practice covers more breach of contract disputes, construction defects and chemical exposures.

Employment labor is a growing area for us and we have several attorneys headed up by Brian Koegle.

6. How many offices do you have?

Five. We have one office in downtown Los Angeles, one in Santa Clarita with eight attorneys, two offices in Northern California, and one in Orange County.

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