The SFS Law Group Practice
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Engagement Team Management

  Engagements undertaken by the SFS Law Group often require lawyers and support personnel who can provide special knowledge and experience to provide the efficient and focused service the firm offers.  The SFS Law Group works together with professionals in a coordinated approach to the needs of our

clients. Engagement Teams include professionals who have a continuing relationship with the SFS Law Group and professionals who may participate in only occasional engagements.


Team Building:

Co-Counsel and Engagement Alliance Model

The cooperative co-counsel engagement eliminates a major difficulty experienced by legacy model law firms whose culture, partnership or internal business agreements require selection of existing firm lawyers whose expertise and experience may not be appropriate for the engagement.  The legacy model law firms are limited in their ability to join with other lawyers who offer superior skills and insights who are not existing members or employees of their firms.  The uneven and, sometimes, non-existent talent and experience required to deal with the needs of clients is a commonplace and long-recognized deficiency in the closed law firm environment that has developed with the increasing size of legacy law firms. The SFS Law Group model is designed to facilitate the creation of lawyer teams with appropriate levels of skill and experience and to eliminate the inefficiency and risk that clients face when they are locked into engagements with legacy model firms whose internal expertise may be uneven, unavailable, or overexetended.  The realization that a firm has assigned the "B" team from its real estate or transaction group or assigned critical legal responsibility to junior lawyers often comes too late in an engagement for clients to understand their risks.  The open firm environment offered by the SFS Law Group facilitates the collection of key expertise in its engagements.

 

Engagement Team Management

Engagements are managed by the SFS Law Group under the direction of its clients. The legal and service teams assembled for specific engagements reflect the specific skills and expertise required to provide the level of services our clients request. In litigation matters, the teams may include administrative personnel, experts and consultants from other disciplines such as economists, accountants, financial analysts, electronic discovery service providers, and others.  Transactional and business counseling services may include engagements with other professionals including attorneys, accountants, valuation experts, health professionals, pension and tax professionals, industry experts and others whose expertise and opinion may be required under the terms of our engagements.  Licensed professionals participating in any engagement will establish direct professional service relationships with our clients to ensure their compliance with the relevant professional standards and regulations.

In many engagements, clients provide their own personnel, including professionals as part of the engagement team.  The cost advantage of utilizing existing personnel and resources can be significant in appropriate cases. Special services such as document management, discovery, electronic discovery compliance, due diligence data storage and collections, and other special tasks can often be provided through existing resources.  For small business enterprises, integrating existing resources into the engagement can result in significant cost savings.

 

 


Dennis O'Dea

Dennis O'Dea is a principal of the SFS Law Group. 

As a business lawyer, he has advised and represented businesses and their owners in dealing with the familiar and unfamiliar legal issues that confront businesses and their owners. Companies seeking capital, developing new products and agreements, or trying to manage their internal operations and employees often find legal questions that are not limited a single or even a few areas of law. Clients often seek the assistance of the SFS Law Group in coordinating and identifying those areas that may require special expertise and the need to coordinate the advice and efforts of teams of lawyers and advisors. 

Business practice is also an active Business Litigation practice.  The SFS Law Group has litigated shareholder conflicts over ownership and control, trade secret enforcement, unfair competition, franchise litigation and many other business disputes.

In dealing with the unique issues created by insolvency, Mr. O'Dea has provided insolvency, Bankruptcy and business restructuring advice to clients for more than twenty-five years.  He has developed and refined the Insolvency Response Matrix and the planning tools offered by the SFS Law Group in response to the continuing unmet need for coherent business planning in the face of insolvency risk. The special focus of his legal interests has been identified as the Special Financial Services practice for many years.

For the closely held and family owned business, divorce, estate, and family law have become essential practice areas. Property settlements, alimony and support issues often challenge the business owners and partners as well as family members.  The SFS Law Group has represented clients in divorce, custody, separation and property settlement cases and continues to see this practice grow as family businesses confront the need to deal with succession planning.

 

LinkedIn profile

Jamie Schmidt

SFS Law Group Administrator

Jamie Schmidt coordinates the work of the SFS Law Group and coordinates those engagements in which other professionals and advisors participate in providing services to clients.  The SFS Law Group operates through co-counseling agreements, alliances and other project structures to assist clients in responding to complex legal issues.  Ms. Schmidt also coordinates those engagements under which the SFS Law Group is engaged by internal legal counsel to its clients to provide advisory and oversight services.


 
 
 

The SFS Law Group Engagement Management Model

For clients who have existing relationships with outside counsel or established internal legal departments, the SFS Law Group develops a case plan and engagement management approach that utilizes the existing teams whose responsibilities include the business relationships and operations requiring the development of an insolvency response plan.

Business Negotiation and Restructuring

The SFS Law Group leads and directs the legal and business team engaged in insolvency related negotiations and restructurings. The specific legal, financial and operating needs of our clients vary significantly.  The existing resources of our clients and the expertise of existing legal and business advisors may required additional support.

In developing and implementing the case plan and insolvency response plan, the SFS Law Group will also oversee the engagement of legal and other professional support.  In non-litigation engagements, the SFS Law Group identifies and oversees the work of legal and financial professionals who may have an existing alliance or co-counsel relationship with the SFS Law Group.

Litigation, Bankruptcy, and other Legal or Administrative Proceedings

 

When the SFS Law Group engagement requires participation in judicial or administrative proceedings, our clients often face activity in several jurisdictions.  Our clients seldom have existing relationships with insolvency professionals in multiple jurisdictions.  The SFS Law Group assists our clients in organization and coordinating legal teams required to respond to multi-jurisdictional conflict. The team members may include firms with whom the SFS Law Group has already established an alliance or co-counsel relationship. 


The SFS Law Group In Action   

Case Study: Multi-State Operations; Parent, Subsidiary, Affiliate Relationships and the Impact of litigation, insolvency, and Financial Distress

 

A recent engagement illustrates the implementation of the SFS Law Group engagement management model:

 

Our Client Company was a small publicly held company. The Company had acquired several operating subsidiaries conducting emergency 911 ambulance services and general ambulance services in seven states. Soon after closing the acquisition the Company discovered that there were enormous withholding tax liabilities in some entities, missing assets necessary to support substantial equipment financing debt and operating losses that made it impossible to cover the financing and operating costs. 

The Company suddenly found itself and various subsidiaries and affiliates involved in conflicts and litigation in several states. When the Company engaged the SFS Law Group, one subsidiary had already filed bankruptcy in State A. An affiliate the had guaranteed a defaulted credit facility secured by the assets of the operating companies had been sued on the guarantee in State B.  Another creditor sought a TRO to seize assets of different affiliates in state C and yet another creditor was seeking a similar TRO freezing assets against a different group of subsidiaries in state D.  At the same time, the company had its own litigation in State E dealing with what it believed was a short selling scheme by a financial group that had offered a special facility to more widely distribute its stock. The legal conflict and financial issues occurred quickly and dramatically following the acquisition.

For a $40 Million company with a few thousand employees, the litigation and insolvency problems were severe and threatened the viability of the holding company. Preserving an operating business and formulating a coherent response to the multiple litigation and workout negotiations required the unique expertise of the SFS Law Group.

The Company is precisely the client that benefits most from the Insolvency Response Matrix. The SFS Law Group assumed oversight of the bankruptcy and litigation process and appeared as active trial counsel in the bankruptcy and commercial litigation against the company. The SFS Law Group aided in locating lawyers and professionals with the right skill set to work together to support the overall case plan and respond to the need for coordination with the other insolvency initiatives.

The SFS Law Group coordinated and directed a half dozen legal and business teams in different states so that the management of the litigation reflected the insolvency response planning process goals of the company.  In responding to emergency injunctive litigation, the Columbus Ohio US District Court made its first use of its new electronic courtroom resources to hold an injunction hearing with video witness testimony from another state. Documents were projected electronically for testimony.  At one point, the fact that the company had just filed a form 10Q become relevant and through a wireless internet connection, the form was downloaded from a web site, projected on screens in the two courtrooms, identified, accepted into evidence and became a key element in the Company's case. Numerous electronically stored documents were retrieved from data files and the internet, projected and accepted into evidence.  It was a ground-breaking event for the court and reflects the ability of the SFS Law Group to bring new technology to bear in assisting its clients.

Since the hearing was on short notice, there was little time to organize evidence or even consider the range of documentary evidence that was needed. By transporting large amounts of data stored on laptops and drives and accessing the internet during the trial, the ability to respond with key documents was decisive.

 In the US District Court in Birmingham, Alabama where similar emergency and short notice hearings took place, a claim that the production of electronically stored data by the Client was "unreadable" was disproved by projecting computer stored the data to the court from a CD copy to support testimony disproving the false claim. In that case, offering testimony alone that the data was put into comma separated values (csv) and sent out would have been incomprehensible to the court.  Showing that an off the shelf Excel program could open the files and display the data created visual proof that the claims of non-production were spurious and advanced by lawyers who were clueless in their arguments.

The SFS Law Group has consistently responded promptly to injunctive and emergency proceedings with the power of the developing electronic courtroom resources available in courts throughout the country. A coordinated and focused use of the new technologies that courts are now embracing enable even small companies with limited litigating budgets to respond to the litigating pressure of much larger companies. Joining the extensive experience of the SFS Law Group with new technologies creates a force multiplier effect that levels the playing field in the face of aggressive multi-jurisdictional litigation and conflict management.