Event on July 10 in Support of the Reauthorization of the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County

Palm Beach County Friends,

I am writing to invite you to a reception I will be hosting here at Gunster next Thursday, July 10, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM, to help raise funds for the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County (the “CSC”) reauthorization campaign. It would really mean a lot to me if you could come out and help support this important cause. A flyer about this event is below. If you are able to make it to this event, please either send me a message letting me know or RSVP by sending an email to Events@FriendsofChildrensServices.com or calling 561.689.9787. Also, if you are interested in joining the host committee for this event, you can do so for a contribution of $1,000—please let me know if you are interested in serving on our host committee.

The CSC is one of our county’s most vital institutions. The CSC, an independent taxing district authorized by Palm Beach County’s voters in 1986 specifically to meet the needs of our county’s children, began operating in 1987. The CSC provides leadership, funding and research on behalf of Palm Beach County’s children, so they are born healthy, grow up safe, are ready to learn when they enter school, and have access to quality after school and summer programs.

Due to a 2010 state law, the CSC is required to go before Palm Beach County’s voters for reauthorization by 2016. Our County Commission put reauthorization on this November’s ballot. The purpose of the event on July 10 is to help raise funds for Friends of Children’s Services, an organization that has been formed to campaign for the CSC’s reauthorization.

Due to a 2010 state law, the CSC is required to go before Palm Beach County’s voters for reauthorization by 2016. Our County Commission put reauthorization on this November’s ballot. The purpose of the event on July 10 is to help raise funds for Friends of Children’s Services, an organization that has been formed to campaign for the CSC’s reauthorization.

For your reference, here are a couple of helpful websites regarding the CSC and the campaign for its reauthorization:

Please don’t hesitate to send me an email or give me a call if you have any questions about this event, the CSC or the reauthorization campaign.

Thanks for your time, and I look forward to seeing you here at Gunster on July 10!

Read Together Palm Beach County 2014: Cast Your Ballot!

This year, I’m serving as an Ambassador for the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County’s “Read Together Palm Beach County” campaign.

The purpose of this campaign is to involve 10,000 – 20,000 adults throughout Palm Beach County in reading the same book at the same time. This community reading campaign will entice adults who can read, but often don’t, to get involved in the habit of reading again. It will also promote community dialogue and engagement as citizens gather together to discuss key themes.

I invite you to participate in the first stage of this campaign: selecting the book that we will “read together” as a county. Ballot boxes have been placed at locations throughout the county–including at almost all Starbucks locations in the county. You can also vote online by clicking here: http://pbpost.upickem.net/engine/Votes.aspx?PageType=VOTING&contestid=116141. Voting will continue through February 7. The finalists in this year’s voting are as follows:

  •  Life is So Good by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman
    Review  |  Buy Online
    George Dawson was born in a small East Texas town in 1898. As a young boy, he dreamed of going to school but, forced to work at an early age, he never had the chance – until he was 98 years old and learned to read through an adult literacy program in Texas. In this autobiography Dawson leads us from segregation to civil rights, from Texas to Canada and from hardship to happiness.
  • The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Steadman
    Review  |  Buy Online
    After four harrowing years on the front lines of World War I, Tom Sherbourne finds solace as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, an isolated island outpost off the coast of Australia. He is joined by a young and loving wife, Isabel, whose dream of having a child is drifting heartbreakingly out of reach. When a boat washes up carrying a dead body and a crying baby, Isabel embraces the infant as a gift. The devastating implications of their choice are revealed in this complex tale of longing and loss.
  • The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
    Review  |  Buy Online
    Following a broken engagement, Honor Bright sails across the ocean in search of a new beginning. She settles in Ohio in 1859 and is soon drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad. In a land where life is practical, precarious and largely unsentimental, Honor, must decide if conscience and principle are luxuries she can no longer afford or essentials she cannot live without.
  • The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
    Review  |  Buy Online
    What would you do if you knew the world was coming to an end? With an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, suicide is rampant and millions around the globe walk away from their jobs to pursue their bucket lists. Despite the seeming hopelessness – Hank Palace, a recently promoted homicide detective, is keeping his nose to the grindstone. In this surprising mystery, he’s out to prove the dead body found in a local McDonald’s isn’t the suicide everyone else wants to believe it is, but murder.
  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    Review  |  Buy Online
    Victoria Jones grew up in the foster-care system. When she turns 18 and “ages out” of the system, she has nowhere to go, no one to rely on and few skills. What she does have, however, is an unusual gift – the ability to use flowers to help other people find meaning in their lives. This unforgettable novel beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of a woman whose gift helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

Thanks for participating, and for helping to promote literacy in Palm Beach County!

Entrepreneur Networking Event on November 11 in West Palm Beach

I serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Gold Coast Venture Capital Association. We are co-presenting an entrepreneur networking event at the Phillips Point Club in West Palm Beach on November 11, from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m., and I encourage you to attend. More information is below. Please RSVP by November 8 by either calling the number listed below or emailing me. I look forward to seeing you there!

The Gold Coast Venture Capital Association is pleased to invite you to get to know some of the leaders in Palm Beach County’s entrepreneurial community at a free networking event on Monday, November 11 in West Palm Beach. The details are as follows:

Connecting at the Top – Entrepreneur Networking Event at The Phillips Point Club, 777 S Flagler Dr, West Palm Beach, FL 33401

Monday, November 11 | 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

The Gold Coast Venture Capital Association, The West Palm Beach Office of Economic Development, The West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority and the Palm Beach County Business Development Board are pleased to participate in this month’s “Connecting at the Top” networking event.

Join our Special Guests: Chris Roog, the City of West Palm Beach’s Economic Development Director and Raphael Clemente, the Executive Director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet and engage with entrepreneurs, economic development stakeholders and investors to exchange ideas and make important connections at the premier city club in South Florida.

Space is very limited for this event and RSVPs are required by November 8.

For more information or to RSVP, please call 561-832-2240.

The Okeechobee Hurricane: A First-Hand Account

A few years ago, I wrote a brief piece for Gunster’s firm newsletter, which focused on a letter written by firm founder John Kenneth Williamson soon after the Okeechobee Hurricane hit our community. As today is the 85th anniversary of the storm’s devastating impact, I am posting that piece here, with a few minor revisions. 

In the late 1920s, South Florida’s boom years came to an abrupt end. As a Palm Beach County real estate attorney, John Kenneth Williamson was at the center of the economic crash. Williamson was also a first-hand witness to the hurricane that was so emblematic of the crash’s impact upon South Florida – the Okeechobee Hurricane, which struck Palm Beach County on September 16, 1928.

The storm is most remembered for the devastation that resulted when it washed away the primitive dikes then surrounding Lake Okeechobee, violently flooding surrounding communities. Author Zora Neale Hurston famously writes that the hurricane “woke up old Okeechobee and the monster began to roll in his bed . . . [u]nder its multiplied roar could be heard a mighty sound of grinding rock and timber and a wail.” But, as described in a letter written by Williamson on September 22, 1928, the storm also had a devastating impact upon the Palm Beaches.

Williamson writes that he had been “warned that a terrific hurricane was approaching the East coast” but that “as this city has heretofore escaped these terrible storms, [he] did not take it too seriously.” According to Williamson, the wind increased as he and his family ate lunch on the Sunday that the storm hit, but that they still “sat down with smiles on [their] faces.” As the wind intensified and the rain increased, Williamson’s home began to flood – “we must have mopped up at least three barrels of water in the course of the afternoon”, he recollects.

As the wind grew even stronger, an upstairs window broke, injuring Williamson’s daughter. Recognizing the risk presented by an absent window during a hurricane of this intensity, Williamson “grabbed a rug and endevoured to nail it over the window to keep a suction from being created.” Looking outside as winds reached “at least 130 miles per hour,” Williamson could see “roofs coming off and all sorts of missiles sailing through the air” and “[t]iles showered around like snow.” The family had lunch during the calm eye of the storm, sensing “that the big blow was yet to come.” When the storm roared back upon the Williamson home, “four more windows crashed in.” The family finally “gave up” one room “as a bad job and simply held the door for an hour or two.” Within two and a half hours following the eye’s passing, the winds began to calm.

Williamson also describes the storm’s aftermath:

“You cannot imagine the terrible property damage. I think it is even greater than the Dayton flood, although it will not take as long to replace, as there is no mud. We assume that Palm Beach is badly wrecked, but everyone is hammering and nailing now and we will soon be under roof. I have work constantly in the purchasing department of the Red Cross since Monday. We have purchased practically $200,000 worth of stuff this week, largely bedding, clothing, foodstuffs, gasoline, etc.”

“The property damage, however, is a small matter compared to the death rate in the Everglades. It is now estimated between 1500 and 2000, with over 1000 bodies already recovered. Conditions there are terrible – even worse than the war in France. You cannot imagine the awful tales of decayed bodies floating around there. The workers are being forced out there at the point of a gun and all sorts of means are being used to keep epidemics from breaking out. The whole country from 20 miles back of West Palm Beach to the lake is submerged.”

As we look back today, 85 years after the Okeechobee Hurricane tore through our county, we should pause for a moment to remember those who lost their lives in the storm. This anniversary should also remind us of the risks we accept in order to live in paradise, and the importance of building civic bonds strong enough to carry us through the most challenging circumstances.

Why every small business needs a good business lawyer

Business owners are busy people. Their days are filled with attracting new customers, keeping existing customers happy and finding and retaining talented employees. Small businesses, particularly those just getting off the ground, usually also have tight budgets.
Often lost in this hectic mix is the need to pay attention to legal issues relevant to any business. It is a mistake for small business owners to give in to the temptation of putting off dealing with legal issues until their companies are larger or only when problems arise.
Entrepreneurs can often save themselves a great deal of money and aggravation by dealing with these issues from day one. Getting appropriate legal advice up front can, among other things, help protect a company against expensive lawsuits brought by employees, customers, suppliers and other parties, help protect a company’s intellectual property and other proprietary information and, ultimately, make a potential future sale of the business relatively painless.

Quality legal advice does not need to be expensive. Many of the legal choices that a small business needs to make, and many of the documents that a small business should have in place, can be prepared quite efficiently. A good business lawyer can help a small business owner “triage” his or her needs to get the most bang for a limited legal budget.

In particular, a business lawyer at a good full-service law firm can have much to offer to a small business. A full-service firm will have experienced professionals in most of the areas of practice relevant to a small business. For example, business lawyers deal day in and day out with, among other things, drafting and negotiating contracts, structuring business entities and issues relating to how business entities are controlled and managed – in other words, they are not litigators. But, should a lawsuit arise, a lot less time will be spent laying the groundwork for the litigation if the litigator handling the case has a close working relationship with the company’s business lawyer–all the better for a small business’ bottom line. Even if the business lawyer’s firm does not have an attorney with the necessary skillset, by virtue of working with a variety of sophisticated clients, day in and day out, a good full-service law firm will have relationships with lawyers outside of the firm who have proven themselves capable in the areas of law that are important to businesses.
Although regional full-service law firms may be more expensive than individual lawyers in general practice, the small business owner who develops a relationship with the right business lawyer at a regional full-service firm can receive the legal assistance he or she needs at a reasonable price.

That said, there are plenty of business lawyers who work as solo practitioners or in smaller firms who have developed networks of lawyers outside of their firms that allow them to help their clients with problems involving various areas of legal practice. These lawyers often primarily represent small businesses and can be very in-tune with the needs of small businesses. However, small business owners should be wary of solo practitioners who claim to be “Jacks of all trades.” Legal practice becomes increasingly specialized with each passing year, and a lawyer who truly believes he or she is capable of handling every matter faced by a small business likely does not “know what he or she does not know.” As most experienced lawyers will readily tell you, the most dangerous thing for a lawyer is not being able to readily identify matters that are beyond his or her expertise. That is, the most effective business lawyers – whether or not they are members of full-service firms – are those who recognize when a particular issue goes beyond their own skill-set and requires the help of a lawyer in a particular area of law.
So, what are the legal issues every small business should address? Stay tuned: future articles in this series will cover the key issues entrepreneurs should consider sooner, rather than face the cost and aggravation of considering them later.

Taco Bell Hacking Incident Reminds Companies to Carefully Draft Sweepstakes Rules

I recently wrote this piece for the Gunster Blog. Click here to learn more about my work at Gunster.

The recent hacking of the website for a Taco Bell sweepstakes should remind companies sponsoring sweepstakes to carefully draft sweepstakes rules to help protect them in the event of similar incidents.

In January, Taco Bell launched its “Unlock the Box” sweepstakes. This sweepstakes, which is to run through mid-March, allows participants the chance to win a Playstation® Vita handheld gaming device. One method of entering this sweepstakes on the sweepstakes website—entering a code obtained from certain product packaging or by a mailed request—was undermined by hackers.

On January 30, numerous participants entered their codes on the sweepstakes website and were told that they were winners. However, Taco Bell later determined that most of these individuals had not actually won prizes. Instead, hackers had “illegally accessed” the sweepstakes website and caused it to treat non-winning codes as winning codes. In a statement issued on February 21, Taco Bell stated that these non-winning “entrants viewed these messages as a result of others who attempted to gain illegal entry and defraud the system.” As a consolation to these disappointed entrants, Taco Bell entered all of them in a separate drawing to win a Playstation® Vita.

This incident serves as a reminder that sweepstakes rules should anticipate potential technical issues, including hacking. This reminder is particularly relevant for online sweepstakes. For example, the rules for the Taco Bell sweepstakes contain, among other things, a provision allowing Taco Bell to “at its sole discretion, . . . modify, cancel, terminate or suspend this [sweepstakes] should any . . . unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond Sponsor’s control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of [this sweepstakes].” Although there is little case law indicating the level of protection afforded by a provision such as this from lawsuits by disgruntled individuals who are wrongly informed that they are winners, a prudent sweepstakes sponsor will include a similar provision in its sweepstakes rules.

Taco Bell’s sweepstakes rules also seek to deter potential hackers with a reminder that “any attempt by an entrant to deliberately . . . undermine the legitimate operation of this . . . sweepstakes is a violation of criminal and civil laws” and “should such an attempt be made, sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such individual to the fullest extent permitted by law.”

At the end of the day, though, even the best-drafted sweepstakes rules will not prevent individuals who are told they are winners but are later informed that they have not won from being disappointed. Describing his feelings upon reading that he had won a Playstation® Vita, one of the individuals affected by the Taco Bell sweepstakes mishap told a Sacramento television station that “I was excited, I’ve never won anything like that”. Upon later learning that he was not, in fact, a winner, this participant was disgruntled: “[i]t’s absolutely foul what they’re doing to me and the rest of these people who are getting screwed,” he said.

That is, an additional lesson from Taco Bell’s experience is that it takes more than well-drafted rules to administer an online sweepstakes well. Companies sponsoring sweepstakes with online methods of entry should consult with technology specialists to confirm that they are taking the necessary precautions against hacking. Taking the necessary technical steps to minimize the chance that incidents such as the Taco Bell sweepstakes debacle will happen in the first place will both help avoid disgruntled participants and may, although this has not been tested in court, provide an additional argument as to why a sweepstakes sponsor should not be held liable in the event that disgruntled participants bring a lawsuit.

This incident should also remind companies to hire qualified counsel when they sponsor sweepstakes. Sweepstakes law can be complicated and varies from state to state. Qualified counsel can assist companies in drafting appropriate sweepstakes rules and dealing with the myriad issues that can arise in connection with offering a sweepstakes in today’s online world.

Can High-End Manufacturing Save Florida’s Economy?

I recently wrote this article for Gunster’s Boardroom Brief.

A serious mismatch of skills and job opportunities is occurring in our state and nation, according to recent articles. Namely, there appears to be an abundance of high-tech and high-pay manufacturing jobs available but not enough workers to fill the openings.

Yet, this situation offers an economic opportunity for our state. If Florida prepares its residents for jobs in high-end manufacturing, economic development and jobs will result, the articles indicate.

Globalization and unemployment: The downside of integrated markets by Michael Spence, published in Foreign Affairs Magazine, suggests that Florida’s economic development strategy should promote tradable sector enterprises such as high-end manufacturing, as these will likely be the primary source of U.S. job growth in years to come.

According to Spence, manufacturing is an example of the tradable sector, in which goods and services that can be consumed anywhere are produced. The nontradable sector, on the other hand, produces goods and services that must be consumed domestically, such as the health care, retail, construction, hotel and restaurant industries.

Spence’s reasoning suggests that Florida should continue to promote the tech sector’s growth but should also work to encourage sophisticated manufacturers to locate in Florida and grow their existing operations here. For more on Spence’s article and its relevance to Florida, please see my previous discussion on the topic.

But job creation is just one part of the employment equation. Sophisticated manufacturing operations in Florida are struggling to find employees, according to an article published in the Tampa Tribune last week.

Florida manufacturers have particular difficulty finding qualified machinists, described as “skilled technicians who operate lathes, mills and other cutting tools and can turn a raw cube of metal into, say, a finely grooved aircraft engine part.”

In the article, Roy Sweatman, president of aircraft component manufacturer Southern Manufacturing, says his company, which currently employs 110 people, would hire another dozen skilled workers if it could find them.

He attributes the dearth of qualified workers to an education system that focuses on preparing students for college while underemphasizing technical education. For example, Pinellas County has only one post-high school training program for machinists. Viable and lucrative job opportunities are out there, but students may not be aware of them. An instructor in the Pinellas County  program says he knows people that are making $22 to $27 dollars an hour, and working 40 to 60 hours a week.

Then again, many students see manufacturing work as uncool, according to $100K manufacturing jobs, published in CNNMoney.com on Monday. Manufacturers have some 600,000 vacancies nationwide, according to a recent Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte report.

In sum, high-end manufacturing could be a major source of economic development in Florida. However, to take full advantage of this opportunity, Florida must attract and train the skilled workers required by this sector.

Recent Article is Relevant to Florida’s Economic Development Strategy

I recently wrote this piece for Gunster’s Boardroom Brief. Click here to learn more about my work at Gunster.

Nobel Prize winning economist Michael Spence recently published a piece in Foreign Affairs Magazine that has potential relevance for Florida’s economic development strategy.  This piece, Globalization and Unemployment: The Downside of Integrated Markets, emphasizes that, to address the problem of unemployment, the U.S. economy needs to focus on economic growth at the high end of the tradable sector of the economy, and de-emphasize the middle and lower ends of the tradable sector and the non-tradable sector.  Spence’s reasoning suggests that Florida should continue to promote the tech sector’s growth but should also work to encourage sophisticated manufacturers to locate in Florida and grow their existing operations here.

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A Piece I Recently Had Published in “Law Technology News”

Texting Dilemma for Reality TV

Recent settlement concerning fees to text voting may present challenges for TV competitions.


The September settlement of Glass v. NBC Universal, Inc., et al.should prompt businesses to re-evaluate using, as a method of sweepstakes entry, text messages that require payment of premium fees in addition to standard text messaging fees charged by wireless carriers.

This settlement, which was approved by a federal district court in California on Sept. 19, 2011, will require Fox Broadcasting Company, NBC Universal, and numerous other companies that produce reality television shows — including “American Idol” and “Deal or No Deal” — to refund 99-cent premium text message fees paid to these defendants by millions of unsuccessful sweepstakes entrants, and pay more than $5 million in attorney’s fees.

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