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Client Results 2020

Despite the chaos that 2020 has brought, it’s still a great time to be a small law firm.

Why? It’s because small firms are inherently capable of solving big problems. You’re in the business of solving problems… and this pandemic has certainly caused a lot of them.

If you were able to spot the opportunities hidden under the rubble of this year, that’s great!

The law firms best equipped to keep this momentum going into the new year are the ones who keep that drive alive, alongside a solid business development plan to take them to the next level. Because the law firms that have succeeded – and the law firms that will succeed – are the ones that use the power of marketing to stay ahead of the curve.

And at HerrmannLAW, that’s exactly what we’ve achieved. In fact, 2020 has been a banner year for our clients’ growth and development, and I’m excited to share some of the top metrics and new websites with you now. Let’s dive in…

  • Almost 500 viewers accessed our Shavitz Law GIG blog in November 2020 alone.
  • The same blog reached 9,457 people (with 1,096) just within the month of August.
  • We’ve increased the amount of news and blogs posted to our clients’ sites.
  • We’ve also scored a huge deal from our targeted ads with the VA Hospital.
  • We’re seeing consistently higher hits on our clients’ new sites than their previous sites.
  • Clients’ organic keyword traffic is up, and we’re seeing a bounce rate that’s much better with organic traffic.
  • Viewers browsing our custom sites from organic traffic, as well as the time spent on the page, are both higher than industry standards.
  • Time spent on individual biography pages are great.
  • Both mobile traffic and traffic from social media are increasing for our clients.
  • The top landing pages are: Home, Blogs, People, Contact, About Us, Wins.
  • The top second interaction pages are: People, Practice Areas, NEWS/Blogs.
  • We have far exceeded our benchmark likes and follower count for one of our clients of 1600, with EOM totals of 1757 (likes) and 1814 (followers).
  • We have posted five separate Facebook posts and boosted three, with a total reach of 19,000 in one month alone for a law firm client.
  • One of our “Likes: Campaign reached 12,000, our expected target.
  • Total post reach on Facebook was over 11,000.
  • Unique page views on LinkedIn are up month-over-month.
  • Organic traffic is trending up across all client websites.

How to Start a Business in Maryland

HerrmannLAW

You’ve had the idea for months, and you’re ready to start your new small business. While the process will inevitably be challenging, it will also be extremely exciting to see your idea finally come to life. With the right resources and information at your disposal, you can help ensure your new business’ success and growth for years to come.

Business laws and requirements differ from state to state. Luckily, the Comptroller’s Office here in Maryland has a convenient online portal to help new business owners manage tax accounts, obtain business licenses and learn about tax credits, as they relate to Maryland in particular. However, it’s a good idea to know the specific steps for starting a new business in this state:

Type of business.

What type of business will you be starting? You’ll most likely end up identifying your business as one of four structures: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or limited liability company. It is crucial that you choose the correct structure, because each one has its own benefits and drawbacks. You can seek advice from an attorney, an accountant or another professional to help you make this decision.

Registering your business.

Once you choose your business structure, you’ll have to register its name. The Department of Assessments and Taxation offers an online Maryland Business Express portal that provides step-by-step instructions on how to register.

Business permits or licenses.

It’s extremely important that you research whether or not you’ll need a permit or license to run your business – many businesses require them. You may also need individual occupational and professional licenses for yourself and those you hire. Check the statewide or county licensing databases to check your specific requirements. The Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation can also answer questions about your licenses.

Business Tax Information.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will issue you a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). It is necessary that you contact their office to register, because an EIN is required for situations such as business and employee withholding and federal unemployment insurance. The Maryland Business Express portal can assist you with registering for your EIN.

All businesses in Maryland are required to file an annual report by April 15 each year. In addition, the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation will collect an annual tax based on the value of your business’ personal property. If you have not registered as a corporation, limited liability company, limited partnership or limited liability partnership, you will need to register with the MDAT for an identification number and file a personal property tax return each year.

Developing a business plan.

The key to success in any business is a firm plan. There are many resources available to help get you started, including the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Small Business Development Center Network and SCORE. You can also seek the advice of an experienced attorney.

Starting your own business is challenging, but in the end, knowing what resources you have available will help to make your business successful.
For more information, or to determine how to market yours services to those starting their own businesses, please contact Paul Herrmann at paul@pherrmannlaw.com or at 410-703-4993.



Why is the HUBzone program prone to abuse, and how can it be improved?

It is no secret that crime occurs disproportionately in areas that are economically underdeveloped. Individuals who have few employment opportunities still need to pay their bills and meet their basic needs, and often stable employment is scarce or nonexistent in those neighborhoods. As a crime-reducing and neighborhood-building initiative, the federal government has sought to encourage the growth of private business and local employment in impoverished areas.

In an attempt to alleviate poverty, the Small Business Administration enacted the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program. HUBZones form part of a diversity program meant to locate headquarters of small businesses in distressed areas and have them hire residents from those disadvantaged neighborhoods. Ideally, this will spur local economic growth, encourage entrepreneurship, and provide stable employment opportunities for residents. In return, the federal and participating local governments allow HUBZone companies to gain preferential access to government contract opportunities.

Unfortunately, companies often lie to get the bidding advantage and either don’t put the headquarters in the disadvantaged neighborhoods or don’t hire the people from those neighborhoods. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the SBA HUBZone application process and found that it was dangerously prone to abuse. In fact, when they extended their investigation, they found that 10 firms in the Washington D.C. area alone were falsely claiming HUBZone status.

In a national review, the GAO identified 19 additional firms in Texas, Alabama and California that were illegally participating in the HUBZone program. In one notable instance, an Alabama firm gave a false address as its primary headquarters. When federal investigators arrived at the address, they did not find a bustling local business, but a housing unit in a residential trailer park.

The government’s oversight and holes in the HUBZone program resulted in a total value of $187 million worth of federal contracts going to businesses that never intended to benefit underdeveloped communities. In response to rising levels of fraud and on the recommendation of the GAO, the SBA created a Suspension and Debarment Taskforce charged with identifying fraudulently certified companies and expelling them from government business. This program has been moderately successful, but further review and constant vigilance will be necessary to ensure that HUBZone contracts go to areas that will truly benefit from them. If fraud within the program can be reduced, the positive effects on underdeveloped communities could be life-changing for the families that call them home.

The government, however, is looking for people to report this fraudulent activity and catch those companies that cheat to gain taxpayer dollars and rob the people in those area of economic opportunities and can provide a finder’s fee if successful prosecution occurs.

For more information, or to determine how to market your services in civil litigation law, please contact Paul Herrmann at paul@pherrmannlaw.com or at 410-703-4993.

What is Gray Divorce?

These days, one in four divorces in America involves people over 50, and one in 10 divorces involve people 65 and older. As so many older Americans have gotten involved in divorce, the phrase “Gray Divorce” has become common.

Why is the number of Gray Divorces increasing?

There are several reasons. The social stigma of divorce has been largely eliminated, life expectancy has increased, women’s socioeconomic status as improved, people feel that they have more life ahead of them to live, and older people have developed, through the internet and other means, more opportunities to find a new partner.

What important financial issues does “Gray Divorce” create?

Although each instance is different, “Gray Divorce” can frequently have an adverse impact on a woman’s financial viability.

Despite women’s recent strides toward wage equality, the economic disparity between men and women generally widens with age. Even though more than 50% of women between ages 55 and 64 are employed, women still earn less than men, and women live longer than men. Thus, women face a greater financial risk.

Studies show that “Gray Divorces” have a disproportionate effect on women. As many as 27% of women in this situation live below the poverty line, compared with 11% of men. On average, women in a “Gray Divorce” receive less in Social Security than their male counterparts, and less than single women.

What are the key issues involving pensions, IRAs, property, and the like in a “Gray Divorce”?

For older adults, divorce brings the realization that their carefully nurtured nest egg must be divided. This can be painful. These divorces also present financial security issues because divorcing couples have fewer years remaining in their lives to recoup the financial losses occasioned by divorce. Therefore, the division of retirement funds is integral to divorce settlements. Social Security and Medicare options should be thoroughly explored.

Can people maintain their accustomed lifestyle after this big split?

For economically secure, healthy adults, a divorce may have a minimal negative impact. However, it is typically more expensive for two people to live separately than together.

Costs will increase when each person needs to pay for his or her housing and other everyday expenses. The cost burden can become a serious matter, and each spouse may have to face the decision to either return to the workforce, delay retirement, or reduce their standard of living.

Therefore it is important for each party and a great divorce to receive sound advice, early on, from a divorce attorney who understands the distinct issues involved, such as the likelihood of an award of alimony or spousal support and the effects of dividing assets, including retirement assets. This attorney will work closely with the persons financial planner to analyze all options under the law, helping to ensure financial security.

Intervening in child-custody with the child’s safety in mind

During child-custody mediation, parents should always keep the wellbeing of their child as a top priority. This negotiation process can be painful and difficult, but they require a give-and-take attitude, and most parents will make concessions and compromises with each other.

Family law assumes that parents will act to ensure their child’s best interest, and that usually, it is in the best interest of the child to have both parents in their life. However, what happens when there is a legitimate concern for the child’s safety or wellbeing?

Take a recent case, for example. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 7-year old Kayden Mancuso was murdered by her biological father, Jeffrey Mancuso, following a bitter custody battle with her mother, Kathy Sherlock. During their relationship, Sherlock discovered that Jeffrey Mancuso had a criminal record of multiple assault charges. Mancuso’s violent behavior also turned on her, both verbally and physically. Because she never thought that he would hurt his daughter, she established an informal custody schedule with him and made arrangements for child support.

However, when Sherlock moved in with her current husband, Brian, Mancuso asked for partial custody of Kayden. Mancuso’s sister said that he “hated seeing his daughter so happy in a new family,” according to an ABC News article detailing the case. This was the beginning of a bitter custody battle that lasted for over a year before Kayden’s tragic murder. Although Mancuso’s behavior was described as abusive and belitting by many character witnesses, Sherlock said that Judge Jeffrey Trauger did not take her seriously, and demanded court-ordered psychiatric evaluations for both her and Mancuso.

Trauger awarded Mancuso with unsupervised visits and no mandatory mental health treatment, even though a custody evaluator recommended it due to his diagnosis of “major depressive disorder…with narcissistic and antisocial personality traits.”

Over the weekend of Aug. 4, Kayden visited Mancuso, but did not come home on Sunday night. Upon investigation, they found both Kayden and Mancuso dead in what police found was a murder-suicide.

Kayden’s family said that those involved with her custody case did not heed any of the warning signs about Mancuso, which ultimately failed to protect her from his violent behavior. An online petition written to remove Trauger from the bench has received over 40,000 signatures.

Kayden Mancuso’s tragic case raises an important point: that the safety and wellbeing of children is always more important than the individual wants of each parent. So what does this mean for family law?

For more information, or to determine how to market your services in family law and child custody, please contact Paul Herrmann at paul@pherrmannlaw.com or at 410-703-4993.

Reporting fraud under the False Claims Act

Qui tam lawsuits provide a way for whistleblower protection under the False Claims Act, which rewards whistleblowers in cases where the government recuperates funds that have been lost in fraud.

The Department of Justice has successfully used the False Claims act in order to target bad actors in the financial industry to recover misappropriated government funds. A majority of these cases involve financial institutions that do business in the home mortgage industry. They can also involve Medicare and Medicaid fraud, defense contractor fraud, and others.

When the government brings a False Claims Act lawsuit, the suit will apply a civil penalty of anywhere between $5,500 and $11,000 for each false payment that the federal government makes, plus three times the amount of damages the government sustains because of the fraudulent claims for payment. Also, as the vast majority of these cases are brought by whistleblowers, called “relators,” under the statute, defendants are also liable for the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by relator’s counsel. Criminal penalties and liability are also possible. When fraud is in play, it may not be too far of a bridge to gap to hold individual bad actors criminally liable.

If you’re considering blowing the whistle, what does this mean for you? As a private citizen, you may sue an individual or a business for fraud without this lawsuit being leaked to anyone else involved. This sealed lawsuit assures protection to the plaintiff in the cases. If the defendants are found liable, they must pay damages, which can be as much as three times the government’s losses, as well as penalties incurred.

Contact a Qui Tam or False Claims Act lawyer if you are considering blowing the whistle. It takes courage to be a whistleblower, especially when the wrongdoer is your employer. Having a strong advocate will make all the difference.

For more information, or to determine how to market your services in Qui Tam law, please contact Paul Herrmann at paul@pherrmannlaw.com or at 410-703-4993.

How to file a whistleblower complaint

In general, employers are legally granted protection from workplace retaliation, meaning that an employer cannot take adverse action against workers for a number of reasons, including: firing or laying off, blacklisting, demoting, denial of benefits, making threats or reducing pay or hours.

Since 1989, the Whistleblower Protection Act has protected federal whistleblowers who report government agency misconduct. If an agency takes, or threatens to take, retaliatory action against an employer, they have violated the Whistleblower Protection Act. If you believe that your employer has violated the act, you have the right to speak with a qui tam attorney who can help you file a complaint against your employer.

You must file your complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration up to 30 days after the reprisal. Under the OSH Act, employees may file complaints with both the state and federal OSHA. Complaints filed under any other whistleblower statute must be filed directly with the Federal OSHA.

You can file your whistleblower complaint online, by fax/mail, or by telephone. The online Whistleblower Complaint Form will forward your complaint to appropriate state plan if it was submitted in a state with an OSHA-approved plan.

OSHA will conduct an interview with each complainant in order to determine the need for an investigation, and they will ask for the employee’s work and/or benefits to be restored should the evidence support the claim of discrimination.

For more information, or to determine how to market your services in employment law, please contact Paul Herrmann at paul@pherrmannlaw.com or at 410-703-4993.