Our-Practice

 NEW HS&F FACES


We are pleased to have you meet three consulting attorneys who have recently joined HS&F.

ana-aljuri-picAna Aljuri was previously a corporate attorney with DLA Piper LLP in its Silicon Valley office, where she focused her practice on corporate and securities representation of public and private companies, with a special focus on mergers and acquisitions and public and private securities offerings and venture capital financings. Before working at DLA Piper, she was a corporate attorney with Greenberg Traurig LLP, in its Boston and Silicon Valley offices.

Ana is a member of the Bar in both California and Massachusetts.

Ana is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School. She also obtained an LLM degree in tax law from Boston University Law School. She is a native of Romania, and is fluent in written and spoken Romanian. Her undergraduate degree is from UC Davis, where she majored in international relations and minored in German. Ana has conversational fluency in German and Spanish. She and her husband have a six month old daughter.

 

marilyn-bautista-picMarilyn Bautista practiced with some of us previously while we were employed by Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, the predecessor of DLA Piper LLP. Her specialty was debt financing, insolvency planning and corporate transactions.

For the past 12 years, Marilyn has been a lecturer at the Stanford Law School, where she teaches in the areas of business, corporate transactions, mergers and acquisitions and legislation. Her courses are designed to teach students the practical art of being a lawyer and are always over-subscribed.

Marilyn grew up in Los Angeles and graduated with high honors from UCLA, where she majored in political science. She completed law school at Santa Clara University, graduating in the top of her class. She has three children, and she enjoys tennis and biking.


 

daniel-tabakh-picDaniel Tabakh is a graduate of UC Berkeley. He obtained his law degree from UC’s Hastings School of Law.

Daniel’s experience spans corporate transactions, litigation and business counseling.

Daniel is a native of Moscow, Russia, and is fluent in spoken and written Russian. He and his wife, a native of Ukraine, whom he met in San Francisco, have two small children.

 

CORPORATE NEWS

FaceCash Debuts: Payments by Cell Phone a HitfaceCash-adOur startup client Think Computer Corporation recently launched its novel mobile payment plan that substitutes your cell phone for a plastic card. Why is this important? Well, chances are that your cell phone is almost always in – or near – your hand. Most of us tend to have multiple credit and debit cards, and most of us keep them in our wallets. With FaceCash, all you need to do is tap the icon on your phone for the FaceCash app, and up pops your photo and a bar code that the retail merchant can easily scan to get instant online approval for your payment.

FaceCash’s modest mission: to replace Visa and MasterCard. Merchants love FaceCash because the cost to merchants is approximately half of what Visa and MasterCard charge. The cost of FaceCash to you, the consumer: nothing.

If you want to know more about how to get signed up for FaceCash, go to http://www.facecash.com Right now, Subway in Palo Alto has signed up as a FaceCash retailer along with roughly ten other merchants, and discussions are under way to introduce FaceCash throughout Subway’s 10,000 stores in the US. FaceCash is still small, but keep an eye on it. And give it a try. You’re likely to find it extremely convenient to use, and the number of retailers who accept FaceCash is rapidly expanding.

 

BrightAct Debuts:

Our startup software client BrightAct also recently came out of stealth mode. Its first customer: the global software giant SAP.

What does BrightAct do? Founder-CEO Etay Gafni puts it this way:brightAct-ad“Do you need help with defining your product concept and getting it designed, prototyped and communicated the right way? Do you want to take your product to the next level and add a mobile application to your offering? Does your business need a product executive leader, but you don’t want to take on the necessary cost structure?If you answered “YES” to any of these questions, you should contact BrightAct.

BrightAct (www.brightact.com) is a consulting and service company, specialized in product leadership, strategic user-experience design, software and mobile applications prototyping and executive/sales demos.

BrightAct recently launched a game-changing service for mobile-app-prototyping: DemoRight™ (www.DemoRight.com)

This service enables its users to:

  • Rapidly create prototypes of mobile apps, without writing a single line of code
  • Share them securely with customers for real-time feedback (on the web and on devices)
  • Accelerate product cycles with more control

DemoRight™ is offered by BrightAct as an on-demand service (or SaaS), and is currently being used by top-tier companies such as SAP, EMC and others.”

 

REAL ESTATE NEWS

Betting On Bed-Bug Bedlam Brings Big Bucks

Unless you’ve been living on a space station for some time, you’ve probably heard much about the great bed-bug crisis of 2010. Homeowners, hoteliers, university dorm managers and countless other interest groups are in a terrible tizzy over the invasion of these pesky little critters into mattresses, blankets, pillows, upholstered furniture and, not infrequently, the human body.

The bed-bug has been around for nearly as long as the bed. For some reason, though, its population numbers have recently skyrocketed. Experts disagree on the cause. Some blame climate change. Others point to a general decline in personal hygiene. The Tea Party has even suggested that President Obama’s Health Care Reform Bill might have played a role.

However, in every crisis, there is opportunity to be found. These immortal words have been attributed to everyone from Bernie Madoff to Donald Trump to Warren Buffett. In the case of bed-bugs, our client Bugaboo (not its real name; it’s in super-stealth mode) sees a huge opportunity to be exploited in growing – not exterminating – bed-bugs. Bugaboo has already spent several million dollars genetically engineering the common bed-bug into insects which turn out to be much more agreeable citizens of the planet than the traditional species.

Blessedly, Bugaboo’s laboratory-bred bed-bugs don’t bite. Humans, that is. But they do like to munch aggressively on conventional bed-bugs, as well as literally tens of thousands of other insect and microbial miscreants that are commonly found in mattresses, bedding and upholstered furniture. They also feast on termites, wood worms, fleas and ticks.

Bugaboo plans to introduce its genetically-altered bed-bugs to the market by the 2nd quarter of 2011. The first customer market they will address is home builders, apartment owners, furniture and bedding makers, hotels, dormitories and every household in America. They cite statistics showing that the damage done by termites alone in the US annually runs well over $100 Billion. The risk of Lyme’s Disease from ticks is rising, is often fatal, and is growing particularly prevalent in many areas of the US.

Bugaboo doesn’t intend to stop there. The second market it will address is the huge food market. It turns out that genetically-engineered bed-bugs are exceptionally high in protein, and have no cholesterol, lactose, trans-fats or salt. When toasted, they provide a delightfully crunchy texture that resembles granola, but with less than half the calories. They also make nice toppings for frozen yogurt and ice cream. Look for these in summertime of next year.

We wish we could tell you more, but you’ll just have to wait. In the meantime, sleep tight, and try not to let the bed-bugs bite.

HS&F partners Brian Heffernan and Dan Seubert, whose clients include many home builders, commercial landlords and tenants, and who themselves have personally been lifelong victims of the mayhem and suffering wrought by traditional bed-bugs, have been busy as proverbial bees using their many high-level real estate contacts in helping Bugaboo target customers.

 

LITIGATION NEWS

Trademarks and Branding: It’s a Brutal World Out There

A recent newspaper account about counterfeit products caught our eye. When most folks hear the words “fake” and “counterfeit”, they tend to think of high-end consumer products involving powerful global brands like Rolex, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. But this case was different: it involved a massive counterfeit operation in China that made and exported premium “Angel Soft” toilet paper to the US market.

Counterfeit toilet paper? Yes, you heard it right.

Fake Ugg boots? Already happened. Counterfeit Pampers? Old news. You name it, and enterprising Asian manufacturers can readily duplicate it and bring it to the US market at very low prices. At this rate, can phony Bud Lites, Fruit Loops and Altoids be far behind?

The importance and value of branding of products and services has grown considerably as the economy has become globalized. At the same time, counterfeiting of premium brand products has become a huge global business. And yet a perfect storm of a sort has occurred, as foreign counterfeiters are finding that the continuing weak global economy has hurt their businesses that up until now have depended on copying high-end premium products. To keep their factories going at full capacity during this downturn, however, counterfeiters are now moving “down market” in order to appeal to today’s more cost-conscious consumers. No telling who their next targets will be.

If your business has a recognizable brand, whether it is a web-based suite of software products and services, a line of proprietary solar panels or a fleet of taco trucks, you’ve no doubt got a brand. It’s important to be aware of what others are doing in your space in connection with their use of names and brands. And it’s important to act quickly if you find that your brand is being ripped off. How to stay alert? Use search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, entering your company’s name and each of your brands. See what comes up. Many names could surface which have nothing to do with the market you are in. Yet. Monitor these sites with some regularity. They could be about to move into your domain.

HS&F’s Bill Frimel has deep domain experience in negotiating and litigating trademark disputes. And winning them. Many of these kinds of disputes, if skillfully handled, can be resolved in the early stages before huge legal costs are incurred.

 

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: OUR “LAWYERS WITH ISSUES” SECTION

Recent Poll Shows Lawyers’ Status Plunges

The Quinniphasia Institute, a respected public opinion polling center, esteem-building consortium and chakra-alignment clinic based in Encino, California, has released the results of a recent survey which asks where people would rank lawyers in terms of their status in American society.

Recall that until the notorious Watergate scandal in the 60′s, the legal profession in America had enjoyed two centuries of consistently high ratings among the public. Lawyers were considered to be in the top echelon of status, along with clergy, educators and physicians. That was then.

Lawyers are now considered by Americans to be at or near the lowest rung of our society, along with politicians, clergy, cable guys and telemarketers. The survey reports that the only category lower than lawyers is investment and mortgage bankers, especially if they happen to work on Wall Street. Ouch!

But your Aubergines editorial staff was not satisfied to merely learn something it had suspected all along. We asked our friends at the Quinniphasia Institute to do a deeper data dive, something that would give us more insight about what it is about lawyers which seems to have so repulsed American society.

In reverse order, these are the top 5 things which people say turn them off the most about lawyers. (Forget about reasons 6 through 10; they’re just the historical character flaws you’d normally expect: lying, cheating, double-dealing, embezzling and fraud).

The Top Five List of Lamentable Lawyer Lapses

Lapse No. 5. Ridiculously high hourly rates.

Lapse No. 4. Needlessly expensive offices in toney office neighborhoods.

Lapse No. 3. Use of smooth-talking partners in the initial sales pitch, followed by a quick pivot of all legal work to high-priced, unsupervised and inexperienced young lawyers.

Lapse No. 2. Failure to promptly return phone calls and emails, and often never at all.

And the No. 1 Lamentable Lawyer Lapse…

Succumbing To… “Marketing Madness”

According to the Quinnaphasia Institute’s recent poll, there is mounting anger and resentment by Americans stemming from the lemming-like stampede of giant law firms to buy flashy advertising campaigns, underwrite expensive sponsorships, create costly and often silly logos, and belch out on a nearly daily basis wordy emails that breathlessly offer “breaking news bulletins” warning of manifold approaching apocalypses certain to follow from recently introduced legislation, pending court decisions or planned government policies.

We found this particular finding to be surprising, if not disheartening, since we’ve been busy for some time providing the hot casseroles at neaby Tupperware parties, donating freshly-popped popcorn for Bingo games in local church basements, and wiggling large, colorful signs at the corner of El Camino Real and Santa Cruz Avenue urging drivers and pedestrians alike to come by our offices and sit a spell.

All of this mounting negativity towards our profession is naturally of great concern to all of us here at HS&F. We’ll have to study this more before we can comment further.

 

Barrister Bounced For Deducting Big Brothel Bills

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but we’ve noticed a disproportionately large number of reports of bizarre behavior by New York lawyers than that coming from any of our other states.

A recent example: a New York State tax appeals board denied a Brooklyn lawyer’s attempts to deduct hundreds of thousands of dollars of payments he made to members of the world’s oldest profession. The lawyer is 79 years old. He claimed his costs as “necessary medical and therapy expenses”.

The lawyer’s specialty? What else: tax law.

Once the New York tax authorities denied his over-the-top deduction claims, what do you imagine the tax lawyer did? Of course: he appealed the decision. No shortage of lawyer chutzpah there, indeed. But it also seems somewhat short-sighted, since his appeal was certain to be published in the public record, leaving him, ahem, exposed.

The appellate court denied the lawyer’s later motion to have the record sealed, finding that “…embarrassment is not sufficient good cause to grant such request to proceed anonymously.”

The moral of this story: You’ve got to know when to hold’em, and know when to fold’em.

 

A SPECIAL NOTE

One of our favorite clients recently won a short story-writing competition co-hosted by National Public Radio and the This I Believe Foundation. The competition rules placed a 500 word max on word count. “Bo’s”, Bill Hughes’ tender and poignant prize-winning childhood memories of certain un-housed folks in his Kentucky hometown, may be found at www.thisibelieve.org/essay/82188/ Bill’s achievement is notable in part because he is 83 years old. He spent the majority of his career in what he calls the “hospitality business”. Knowing his wicked sense of humor, it was of interest to us when we first met Bill to more precisely clarify the meaning of this line of work, to ensure that it didn’t involve activities of a recreational nature that were perhaps unlawful or intemperate. Upon further probing, Bill told us he started working with the Hyatt Hotel organization back when it was barely an organization. It later went on to become one of the world’s premier hotel chains. Bill retired from Hyatt as a senior marketing and development executive in 1975.

In addition to advancing his writing career, Bill is working with developers on a new app for the iPad. We’re under strict instructions to say no more about this but, having learned quite a bit about it, our inclination is to think Bill might be on to something big here.

 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Dear Editor:

I was so thrilled to learn of your firm’s commitment to public radio through your generous matching gift contribution to San Francisco’s highly revered KQED-FM. Law firms and lawyers in general too often are denied sufficient recognition for their support of noble causes, both in and out of the courtroom. Bravo!

But I can’t help but ask: what on earth is the meaning behind your radio message’s closing words: “WE’RE LOCUSTS”.

Does this perhaps relate in some way to your notable pro bono human rights work in Sudan’s drought – and locust-ravaged Darfur region?

Or is it possibly a play on L. Ron Hubbard’s posthumously-published cult classic, “Locust Land”? You remember, the one where millions of locusts, injected with huge jolts of anabolic steroids by an Orange County-based extreme right wing-backed research lab, suddenly head north and descend on San Francisco, only to leave it three days later, denuded of all but a massive and hideous alien-like cocoon, covering the entire City by the Bay with a slimy blanket spun from millions of outlawed plastic bags, plastic pink flamingos, banned Happy Meal toys, hovering sanctuaried immigrants, moldering brie wheels, pugnaciously oaky Chardonnay bottles, trendy black-clad SOMA X-Genners, hipster Mission District Santana wannabees, addled Haight-Ashbury bong puffers and coddled, grocery cart-pushing homeless?

Surely there’s a good story there (wink-wink) you can share with me.

Curiously yours,

Lakshmi Singh

Senior Correspondent and National Neutrality Normalizer

National Public Radio

Dear Ms. Singh:

While we are genuinely flattered that you noticed our firm’s message on NPR please take our word for it: this letter is no fun at all to write.

We’re a very small law firm. We have no ad agency, no PR firm, no brand management strategy. No focus groups. In a word, no clue about messaging. Our only marketing effort to date has been limited to the four of us taking shifts down at the corner of El Camino Real and Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park wiggling a large sign we borrowed from Mattress Discounters that we had repainted to invite drivers and pedestrians alike to come to our nearby offices.

So, one night our lawyers got together over a few beers, a few burgers, and a quite a few more beers. We eventually agreed that it might be a good idea to say something unique and memorable in a public radio message. We proudly toasted our commitment to make ours a more just, verdant and peaceful planet.

But how best to message this? Bragging about having offices scattered about the globe was obviously out of the question. And the modest size of our donation resulted in a severe limit on the number of words we could use. And to top it all off, we could only afford a 2:00 AM time slot. (This turned out, as will soon be apparent, to be a very big blessing in disguise.)

Right away The Big Idea for our message came to us. And, for a change, it was unanimously embraced by the four of us. Another round of brewskis was ordered with great gusto.

Then we entrusted “The Man”, our beloved Marketing Partner, who also happens to be our Aubergines Editor, our third-back-up IT Partner and our most effective sign-wiggler (he’s the tallest of us), to handle the details of the donation and getting our radio message properly communicated to the station.

That was a particularly rough week for The Man. A couple of clients threatened to fire him. One threatened to kill him. Then he threw his back out during an advanced Pilate’s class. Phoning in the donation and message request to the station might have gone better had The Man not been speaking with a KQED phone volunteer who had arrived in this country only one week earlier from Turkmenistan, and had The Man not, mid-call, spilled a plateful of soggy sushi and soy sauce-infused wasabi onto his computer keyboard.

Needless to say, our intended message of “WE’RE FOCUSED” somehow got a little garbled and came out, regrettably, as “we’re locusts”.

Sincerely,

The Editor

Disclaimer

Aubergines is not legal advice. In fact, it’s not advice of any kind. To some, it might be entertainment. To others, it might be an example of why the world’s in the quirky state it’s in. But don’t even think about suing us over anything you read here. It would just be a waste of time.