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  • WisBar News
    May 09, 2014

    May Wisconsin Lawyer Discusses ERISA Implications of Obamacare, Much More

    The May Wisconsin Lawyer also includes features on sales/use tax issues for law firms, a guide to litigation in China, and a statistical look at Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions.

    May 2014 Wisconsin LawyerMay 9, 2014 – Do you have business clients with at least 50 employees? Does your client do business in China or with Chinese companies? Does your law firm purchase tangible personal property or services subject to sales tax? Do you wonder how the Wisconsin Supreme Court is aligning to decide cases these days, and when?

    If you answered yes to these questions, or are interested in learning more about these particular topics, look no further than the May Wisconsin Lawyer, now available online and in mailboxes soon. It also includes a number of thought-proving columns on ethics, managing risk, technology, and an intriguing final thought from a veteran lawyer.

    For a brief look at the contents, here’s a sneak peek:

    Cover Story: ERISA and Obamacare Collide

    In 2015, employers that employ at least 50 full-time employees will be required to offer affordable, valuable health care coverage to full-time workers or risk a penalty.

    This is the delayed effect of the Affordable Care Act. Thus, employers may be tempted to avoid this mandate by cutting the hours of some full-time workers. But is this legal?

    Madison lawyers Nick Welle and Bill Brown discuss this in “May Companies Reduce Employee Hours to Avoid ObamaCare: ERISA Implications of the Affordable Care Act.”

    In the article, the authors explain that the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA) prohibits employers from interfering with the benefits to which employees are entitled.

    However, employers who act in furtherance of a fundamental business decision are insulated from liability, they authors note. So the question is: are employers insulated from a business decision to reduce some positions to part-time?

    At this point, “there is no direct guidance from the courts on this issue,” the authors write. “Given current law, however, it is likely that employees will have a difficult time successfully asserting [ERISA] claims based on reductions of hours.”

    Sales and Use Tax: Make Sure Your Law Firm is Paying It

    The number of law firms being audited by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue for sales and use tax compliance has increased recently, according to two tax lawyers in “Cha-Ching: Avoiding Sales and Use Tax Audits of Law Firms.”

    Madison tax lawyers Steven Grimm and Julie Bogle explain that legal services are not subject to Wisconsin sales tax, but law firms often purchase tangible personal property and services that are subject to sales tax. The firm must report and pay use tax if the vendor did not collect a sales tax. This is often the case with out-of-state purchases.

    “In addition, certain in-state vendors may fail to properly charge sales tax on the sale of taxable property or services,” the authors write. “In either instance, the law firm will be responsible for the self-assessment and payment of use tax.”

    Failing to meet this responsibility can have serious consequences, as the authors note in a recent case involving a law firm that did not pay sales/use tax for a six-year period.

    A Guide to Litigation in China

    As business booms between the United States and China, Wisconsin lawyers must learn about the differences between the Chinese and American legal systems, says Chicago lawyer Richard Wagner in his article, “Navigating Civil Litigation in China.”

    Wagner notes that many of Wisconsin’s successful and vibrant companies have operations in China or do business with companies based in China. Lawyers who know how to navigate the Chinese legal system will be the go-to lawyers for these companies.

    “This article will get you ready for litigation in China,” writes Wagner, who represents clients in disputes and investigations related to business dealings in Asia and counsels practitioners with special issues concerning China-related litigation.

    A Statistical Look at the Wisconsin Supreme Court

    Lawyers spend a lot of time examining Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions for their effect on substantive and procedural law. Less often studied are such potentially significant details as the alignment of justices on decisions throughout a term.

    Interested in a statistical look at the Wisconsin Supreme Court? Milwaukee lawyer Thomas Kamenick crunches the numbers from the supreme court’s 2012-13 term in his article, “By the Numbers: Trends in Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinions.”

    In it, Kamenick discusses the number of opinions by term, the number of petitions and cases, cases by month, median release dates, voting patterns, majority makeups, and cohesion of justices, with useful charts and graphs to help lawyers discern the numbers.

    Columns: Ethics, Managing Risk, Technology, and Final Thought

    • In an Ethics column from Dean Dietrich, vice chair of the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee, learn when medical conditions trigger your ethical duties, and whether other lawyers in the firm may need to intercede on a lawyer’s behalf. – “Lawyers Must Disclose Health Conditions that Limit Representation.”

    • Lawyers often rely on other professionals and experts to inform legal strategy. In the Managing Risk column, attorney Tom Watson discusses how lawyers can minimize the exposure to risk through errors by other professionals and experts, which can ultimately fall back on the lawyer responsible for the case. – “FAQs: Relying on Experts and Other Attorneys When Advising Clients.”

    • In the Technology column, State Bar Practice Management Advisor Nerino Petro discusses how lawyers can be increasingly “mobile” by using their tablets and mobile devices. From improved file compatibility to cloud services, from courtroom use to daily work, Petro gives lawyers the scoop on using these devices in practice. – “Mobile Lawyering: Using Tablets in Your Practice.”

    • Finally, attorney Gary Bakke gets real in his Final Thought, which discusses how older lawyers must make way for the younger generation. “Get out of the way so the young, creative, tech-savvy innovators can reshape the profession to serve the people who need us.” – “Are Lawyers Smarter Than Frogs?”

    May Wisconsin Lawyer

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