Posts

Phillips Murrah named among 2020 Best Law Firms in 45 practice areas

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that our law firm has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 “Best Law Firms” for professional excellence for the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area and, for the first time, the Dallas/Fort Worth area in the following practice areas:

Oklahoma City

Tier 1

  • Administrative / Regulatory Law
  • Banking and Finance Law
  • Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law
  • Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships)
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Commercial Transactions / UCC Law
  • Corporate Law
  • Energy Law
  • Energy Regulatory Law
  • Government Relations Practice
  • Insurance Law
  • Litigation – Bankruptcy
  • Litigation – Real Estate
  • Litigation – Tax
  • Natural Resources Law
  • Oil & Gas Law
  • Product Liability Litigation – Defendants
  • Real Estate Law
  • Trusts & Estates Law

Tier 2

  • Construction Law
  • Employment Law – Management
  • Health Care Law
  • Land Use & Zoning Law
  • Litigation – Banking & Finance
  • Litigation – Labor & Employment
  • Litigation – Land Use & Zoning
  • Mergers & Acquisitions Law
  • Public Finance Law
  • Securities Regulation
  • Tax Law
  • Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Tier 3

  • Bet-the-Company Litigation
  • Environmental Law
  • Family Law
  • Labor Law – Management
  • Litigation – Antitrust
  • Litigation – ERISA
  • Litigation – Trusts & Estates
  • Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants
  • Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants
  • Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants
  • Securities / Capital Markets Law
  • Technology Law
  • Venture Capital Law

Dallas/Fort Worth

Tier 3

  • Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law

 

To be eligible for a ranking, a law firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top four percent of practicing attorneys in the United States.

Earlier in the year, Phillips Murrah announced that 48 of our attorneys are recognized by Best Lawyers in America for 2020.

Firms included in the 2020 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence, quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise. The “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a combination of client feedback, information provided on the Law Firm Survey and the Law Firm Leaders Survey and Best Lawyers peer-review.

Halloween party raises money for Oklahoma Regional Food Bank

PM Staff celebrates Halloween

Phillips Murrah staff members dress up for the Firm’s annual Halloween Party to raise money for Oklahoma Regional Food Bank.

Phillips Murrah staff members were given the chance to test their creativity and help raise money for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma on Oct. 31 at the Firm’s annual Halloween Party.

Contestants competed to win the annual costume contest, and Phillips Murrah raised $610 from those in attendance for Firm’s Annual Harvest Food Drive fundraising campaign, just higher than last year’s fundraising total.

Nathan Hatcher, Assistant Marketing Director, tied for First Place with Tyler Sullivan, Legal Secretary, and Tess Bromme, Billing Coordinator, who teamed up with inflatable T-Rex costumes to be “Dueling Dinosaurs.”

“Absolutely no one takes a dinosaur (or two) seriously, and it was great to hear the laughter from our coworkers at the luncheon,” Bromme said.

Employees dress up to compete for a popular vote in hopes of winning a cash prize.

“I enjoyed being able to make people laugh,” Sullivan said.

Phillips Murrah partners with the Oklahoma County Bar Association to support their annual Harvest Food Drive, which all proceeds are donated to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

If you would like to donate to the Young Lawyers Division’s Harvest Food Drive, please contact the Oklahoma County Bar Association at (405) 236-8421.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

 

Wolfe reflects on Firm growth in Dallas market for Texas Lawyer article

Tom Wolfe is a trial attorney and commercial litigator whose practice is focused on complex business cases including product liability, oil and gas, mass tort and class action defense. Tom is also the president and managing partner at Phillips Murrah.

Thomas G. Wolfe, Managing Partner at Phillips Murrah law firm, was interviewed by Brenda Sapino Jeffreys for an article for Texas Lawyer on Law.com, giving insights on the Firm’s venture into the Texas legal market and on business strategies the Firm has found successful.

Read more below:

What do you view as the two biggest opportunities for your firm, and what are the two biggest threats?

For Phillips Murrah, our biggest opportunity is easy: TEXAS.  We opened our Dallas office about a year-and-a-half ago, and as a new entrant to the Texas legal market, we see virtually unlimited opportunities to gain clients, expand existing relationships and add top talent. Over the past 18 months, we have grown our Texas office from one full-time lawyer to five while increasing the quantity of work being handled for Texas-based companies more than tenfold. While much of that work is for new clients, we are also providing an expanding range of service to existing clients based in Texas and elsewhere.

The second opportunity for the firm is the ability to provide existing Oklahoma-based clients with niche services from Texas-based lawyers. In some cases, there are only a handful of Oklahoma lawyers in a niche practice while the pool of practitioners in Texas is much larger.

While Texas presents a huge opportunity, the size of the legal market and the number of competitors also serve as a threat. As a roughly 75-lawyer firm, we cannot chase every opportunity. We must remain focused and chose carefully.

Growth also presents a challenge to our firm culture, which has been a cornerstone for our success. As Phillips Murrah added, and then added to, a second office, we have worked diligently to include Oklahoma lawyers on teams serving Texas-based clients and vice versa. Since opening in Dallas, half of our Oklahoma lawyers have worked on relationships managed by a Texas lawyer while everyone in our Dallas office has worked on a relationship managed from our Oklahoma City headquarters. Fortunately, Oklahoma City is as close to Dallas as Austin and much closer than Houston.

The full article is exclusive to Law.com subscribers. Click here to view the full article.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for September 2019

Rachel Schones

Rachel Schones, Receptionist, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for September 2019.

“It is a great honor to be selected as Employee of the Month by my co-workers,” she said.

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Rachel has blossomed into such a poised young woman since she began with our Firm,” said Michelle Munda, Executive Director at Phillips Murrah. “All our employees as well as our clients love her and she handles that front desk with grace and charm.

“At times, that can be quite challenging. Thank you Rachel!”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Rachel chose The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.

To learn more about The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, click here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

 

Davis to present on Oklahoma open records laws issues

Eric Davis

Eric Davis is an attorney in the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group and the Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group. He represents clients in a range of regulatory and energy matters.

C. Eric Davis, an attorney in the Firm’s Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group, will give a presentation on Oklahoma open records laws Oct. 18 for Continuing Legal Education individuals.

Davis will present at 10:15 a.m. at the National Business Institute’s seminar titled “Ensuring Local Governments Comply with the Law,” focusing on public records issues.

“Oklahoma’s open records laws help make government more transparent,” Davis said. “Most documents generated when conducting government business are subject to disclosure, even texts and emails.

“Whether you’re a public official needing to maintain records, or a member of the public seeking access, it’s important to understand the public’s right to see government documents.”

The seminar will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday in Oklahoma City. Those interested in registering can find more information here. Attendees receive CLE credit for participating.

Phillips Murrah rowing team takes silver in 2019 Oklahoma Regatta Festival

Law & Oarder, Phillips Murrah’s rowing team, wins Second Place in the 2019 Oklahoma Regatta Festival.

Phillips Murrah’s rowing team Law & Oarder ended the Fall 2019 season on top, placing second in the annual regatta competition.

The team competed on Oct. 4 at the 2019 Oklahoma Regatta Festival held at the OKC Boathouse District and achieved a 500-meter run of 2:00:06, up five seconds from last year.

“Another great season in the books,” said Deena Baker, Legal Assistant and Law & Oarder team captain. “We had a few new team members this season which is always exciting, and then to top it off with another medal after a lot of hard work.

“Friday night was a blast, being in a neck-in-neck race in the finale between First and Third Place. Way to go team Law & Oarder!”

In all eleven seasons the Firm’s rowing team has competed, team members consisted of both attorneys and staff members.

“This being my first season on the rowing team, I was thrilled to stand on the winners’ podium after a hard fought race,” Attorney Martin J. Lopez III said. “Being a part of the rowing team was a phenomenal opportunity to compete alongside my coworkers against other Oklahoma City companies.

“There’s so much excitement about the end-of-season regatta—it was a thrilling experience to take part in it.”

The team will resume practice in the Spring for the Stars & Stripes Festival in June 2020.

Check out video of the team crossing the finishline here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

 

Three main methods of acquiring business

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on October 10, 2019.


Travis Harrison

Travis E. Harrison is a transactional attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of transactional matters.

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Travis E. Harrison

Acquiring a business is done through three main methods: merging with the selling company, referred to as the target company; purchasing the assets of the target company; or purchasing the stock or other equity interests of the target company. Each method has pros and cons depending on the legal, tax and business implications. Therefore, it is imperative the parties carefully consider these at the outset.

A merger is simply a combination of two legal entities becoming one. The one that survives the merger, called the surviving entity, assumes all assets and liabilities of the other. The logistics of a merger are driven by state statute and case law, which informs the parties of the legal requirements and procedures. For example, an Oklahoma limited liability company that is the surviving entity must file articles of merger or consolidation with the Oklahoma secretary of state containing details of the merger and entities involved. Additionally, the parties should review the organizational documents to ensure compliance with any contractual procedures.

Purchasing the assets of the target company means the buyer acquires the assets of the target company, including real property, IP, equipment, inventory and licenses. The buyer also acquires contractual liabilities and tax obligations. This method affords the parties great flexibility for the buyer to choose specific assets and liabilities, and to carve out liabilities the target company should keep. However, this method can be more complicated because it may need preparation of ancillary agreements to transfer contracts, tangible property and title to certain assets.

Purchasing the stock of the target company means the buyer acquires all of the target company’s assets and liabilities. In this method, the stock purchase buyer essentially acquires the target company rather than the components of the business. A stock sale can benefit sellers where it effectively transfers all liabilities without requiring all of the formalities in an asset purchase agreement, such as documents to retitle assets to the buyer. A stock acquisition generally will not have the same statutory constraints of a merger.

Each method has unique advantages and disadvantages depending on the specifics of the deal. The parties need to analyze and evaluate all implications for each method. Careful consideration and planning leads to the best deal for both sides and prevents unnecessary complications down the line.

Travis E. Harrison is an attorney with the law firm of Phillips Murrah.

Gardner addresses current issues regarding Oklahoma Native American law

Melissa Gardner is a Director who practices in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group. She represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

Director Melissa R. Gardner participated in a seminar in September for the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Continuing Legal Education individuals focusing on matters relevant to the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma.

“My presentation covered the statutory landscape for Native American law,” Gardner said. “I discussed all of the Congressional acts that control the United States’s legal position in regards to the tribes.”

On the topic of tribes, Gardner addressed the most recent Supreme Court case involving the tribes, Sharp v. Murphy, and emphasized possible, incredible implications on the state of Oklahoma and 19 million acres lying East of Oklahoma City.

The case is pending and raises the question of whether Congress disestablished the Muscogee Nation reservation. Click here for more information on issues surrounding the case.

Gardner is a Director and an attorney in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group. She represents energy companies in a variety of matters in both Oklahoma and Texas.

Attorney Ashley Schovanec in article on potential Oklahoma civil lawsuit award caps

Attorney Ashley Schovanec Web

Ashley M. Schovanec is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

Ashley M. Schovanec, Phillips Murrah Litigation Attorney, was quoted in a Journal Record article by Steve Metzer regarding the decision by Chris Kannady, chairman of the Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee, to consider a legislative compromise to a ruling that made caps on certain damages in civil lawsuits unconstitutional.

Read Schovanec’s comments below:

Ashley M. Schovanec, a litigation attorney with the firm of Phillips Murrah, said another result of the Supreme Court’s decision might be that businesses will be more likely to settle lawsuits than contest them on legal grounds,

Because the risk of large verdicts just went up, cases may settle earlier because of the uncertainty associated with leaving a damages calculation up to a jury,” she said.

Read the full article from the Journal Record.

Buying in to medical practices entails special planning

Erica K. Halley

Erica K. Halley represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Erica K. Halley answers questions about the basics of investing in a medical practice.

What does it mean to buy in to a medical practice?

Small health care practices are typically owned by one or more of the health care providers at the practice. Such practices are usually organized as professional corporations (PCs) or professional limited liability companies (PLLCs). Although PCs and often PLLCs are considered corporations for legal and tax purposes, where the owners are technically “shareholders,” owners of a medical practice are colloquially referred to as “partners.” For a junior provider in a small practice, the pathway to partnership and the partnership itself can take on many different forms, but the key concerns are generally the same in every case.

Health care providers interested in purchasing ownership in a practice should invest with a comprehensive understanding of the valuation of the business, the compensation structure among partners and the exit strategies available to each of the partners. Retaining advisers who can alleviate this burden, such as an accountant and an attorney having experience in medical practice transactions, will ensure the tax implications are favorable and the exposure to risk is minimized.

How are medical practices valued and how do partners buy in?

Ordinarily, valuations consider the values of the hard assets, the accounts receivables and other intangibles, and the goodwill of the practice. Unlike other types of companies, it is common in health care practices for all partners to share ownership equally. This means a new partner to an existing two-partner practice will own a full 33.33% of the practice either immediately or shortly after the buy-in.

How the new partner pays for his or her share of the business varies. Sometimes, buy-ins are structured over time. For example, if a buy-in were to take place over the course of three years, the new partner would pay one-third of the total purchase price every year, and he or she would slowly purchase their interest in the practice, not becoming an equal partner with full voting power until the third payment in the third year. Alternatively, a practice may grant the new partner his or her full ownership (with full voting power) at the outset, and treat the buy-in like a loan being paid off over time. In either event, the payoff of the purchase price is frequently in the form of income-shifting or plain reductions in salary and/or bonuses.

How are partners paid?

Compensation structures in medical practices also differ across the board. Many times, a partner’s compensation is determined, at least in part, by the partner’s “productivity” in the practice according to how much revenue each provider generates, how many patients each provider sees, how many hours each provider works, or a combination of any of the foregoing. Other variables used in determining partner compensation include the management duties of the partners, seniority, special training and allocations of expenses. Such formulas among the partners ought to be negotiated and agreed upon prior to a buy-in.

How do partners get out of practices?

Before partners buy in, they need to understand how to get out — and how the other partners can get out at their expense. Shareholder agreements in professional corporations and operating agreements in professional limited liability companies usually set forth the procedures for a partner leaving the practice in the event of employment termination, retirement and death, as well as the calculations for valuing the exiting-partner’s ownership. In most cases, the other partners will be ultimately responsible for buying that partner (or his/her estate) out of the business. In addition, practices often bind their partners to noncompetition covenants, which restrict them from competing with the practice after they leave the practice.

 

Erica K. Halley is an attorney with Phillips Murrah.

Law & Oarder to compete at 2019 Oklahoma Regatta Festival

Phillips Murrah’s rowing team, Law & Oarder, will put months of practice to the test as they compete in the annual Oklahoma Regatta Festival this Friday, Oct. 4.

Law & Oarder will compete in a 500-meter run at 6:20 PM, marking the fifth year the team has competed.

The festival runs from Oct. 4-6 and is open to the public. Teams will race at the Boathouse District (click here for more information).

Attendees are encouraged to carpool as parking will be limited.

Norman selected for LOYAL XV Class

Kendra Norman Web

Kendra M. Norman represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

Leadership Oklahoma City recently selected members for Linking OKC’s Young Adult Leaders’ (LOYAL) 2019-20 class, and Phillips Murrah attorney Kendra M. Norman made the cut.

“I see my role in LOYAL as a community member and community leader who wants to experience personal growth with respect to leadership skills as well as further develop skills to improve the community,” Norman said. “I’m so excited to make new contacts and learn from others in different areas and professions as well.”

The LOYAL Program runs from September through April and focuses on enhancing personal leadership skills and cultivating community leadership skills by giving participants unique opportunities to learn leadership skills from Oklahoma’s most influential and accomplished business people, public servants, and non-profit managers.

“When you become an attorney, you join the legal profession and view yourself as an attorney, not just at work, but all the time,” Norman said. “No matter if you’re at work or at home, you are always an attorney and it’s a persona that you take on for life.

“But I’m so much more than just an attorney. I wanted to join the LOYAL program to help me make an impact on the community outside of this profession. I’m a leader in the Oklahoma City community and volunteer in several capacities, so I wanted to further develop those skills so that I can help improve the community and be a better leader and board member.”

Norman is a transactional attorney who represents clients in a broad range of matters in the areas of Mergers and Acquisitions, Real Estate Law, Tax Law, Clean Energy Law, and Private Wealth, Estate Planning and Business Succession.

Other Phillips Murrah graduates of Leadership Oklahoma City programs include Jim Roth, Signature Program Class XXII, and G. Calvin Sharpe, Signature Program Class XXIII.

Phillips Murrah welcomes three new attorneys to legal team

Phillips Murrah is proud to welcome Justin G. Bates, Kara K. Laster, and Phoebe B. Mitchell to our Firm.

Phillips Murrah welcomed Justin and Phoebe to the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group as associate attorneys. Each represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

Justin attended the University of Oklahoma College of Law where he earned American Jurisprudence Awards for Civil Procedure II and Torts. He served as a member of the American Indian Law Review and was a member of the Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society. Justin also had the privilege of arguing in the final rounds of both the 2017 1L moot court competition and the 2018 Calvert Competition before an esteemed panel of Oklahoma justices.

Justin was born and raised in the metro area, where he currently lives. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, watching college football, discussing what could have been for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and spending time with friends and family.

Phoebe attended the University of Oklahoma College of Law where she earned the American Jurisprudence award for Civil Procedure II and was on the Dean’s Honor Roll. She served as the Research Editor and Candidate Mentor on the Oklahoma Law Review and was a member of the Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society. Phoebe also served as a mentor on the Dean’s Leadership Council, was selected as a Dean’s Leadership Fellow, and was selected to serve on the Academic Appeals Board.

While in law school, Phoebe had the opportunity to clerk as a judicial intern for the Honorable Judge Rob Hudson of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Phoebe was born and raised in Oklahoma City and received a Bachelor’s Degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She enjoys Thunder basketball, OU football and cheering on her Vanderbilt Commodores in her spare time.

Kara has joined Phillips Murrah’s Transactional Practice Group as an associate attorney where she represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

Kara was part of the dual degree program at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and Price College of Business, achieving both her J.D. and M.B.A. During her third and fourth years of school, Kara worked as a Graduate Assistant for the Editor-in-Chief of the Southern Law Journal and business law professor at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. She was a member of the Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society, received the Elkouri Scholarship, and graduated with honors.

Kara was born and raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, snow skiing, spending time at the lake with friends and family, and attending OSU sporting events.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for August 2019

Abigail Duran

Abigail Duran, Accounting Specialist, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for August 2019.

“It is a great honor to be chosen by my peers as Employee of the Month,” she said.

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Abbie is a valued member of the Accounting Department and her contributions help to make the Firm run efficiently,” Controller Stephanie Oseland said. “She is a hardworking and positive person, and it is a pleasure to work with her.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Abigail chose Alzheimer’s Association.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s Association, click here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

 

Norman elected Chapter Adviser for University of Oklahoma sorority

Alpha Omicron Pi’s house at the University of Oklahoma campus

Alpha Omicron Pi’s Xi Chapter members recently elected Phillips Murrah Attorney Kendra M. Norman to serve as Chapter Adviser for the sorority’s University of Oklahoma house.

Chapter Adviser is elected annually and advises the Chapter President, the Leader’s Council—which consists of women elected as leaders of the chapter—as well as the chapter as a whole, which is made up of over 250 women.

“I serve as a resource, a role model, and a coach to the chapter and its members,” Norman said. “I have the privilege of working one-on-one with the amazing women of Xi Chapter and have gotten to watch them grow as leaders, achieve their goals, and become professionals, and I am so proud to call each one of them my sisters.”

The Chapter Adviser also serves as the chairman of the chapter’s Alumnae Advisory Committee, comprised of alumnae who mentor the women on the Leader’s Council individually. Norman has served on the committee for about five years in various leadership roles.

“Alpha Omicron Pi’s motto is ‘Inspire Ambition,’ and I truly take that to heart as I practice law at Phillips Murrah P.C. and volunteer with Xi Chapter of AOII,” she said. “I find that being a collegiate member and now an alumna member of AOII has been an empowering experience, and it is amazing to see what women can do when they work together and build each other up.

“I am thrilled to be able to take on this new challenge and to have this opportunity to work side by side with the women of Xi Chapter as well as Inspire Ambition through my service.”

Norman represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters in the Firm’s downtown Oklahoma City office.

Cooper named Court Appointed Special Advocates board member

Phillips Murrah Patent Attorney Cody J. Cooper

Cody Cooper is a Patent Attorney in the Intellectual Property Practice Group and represents individuals and companies in a wide range of intellectual property, patent, trademark and copyright matters. His practice also includes commercial litigation.

Attorney Cody J. Cooper has joined the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Oklahoma County as a member of the Board of Directors.

“As a director, I’ll being involved in helping CASA continue the success it is has experienced in serving Oklahoma County at-risk youth while helping to build off those prior successes to expand CASA’s operations and be able to help even more people,” he said. “This is an opportunity for me to be directly involved in a high community impact organization that provides an amazing services to those most vulnerable in our state.”

CASA provides a trained caring adult to advocate for the best interest of children who have been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect. Volunteers with CASA get to know these children and communicate with all parties in their case and people in the child’s life in order to provide complete information and sound recommendations to the court.

As “the eyes and ears” of the judge, the CASA volunteer offers a neutral, third-party opinion to the court, one that is unbiased and child-focused.

To learn more about CASA of Oklahoma County and volunteer opportunities, click here.

Attorney Lauren Voth leads SmartTalks presentation on medical marijuana in the workplace

SmartTalks Virtual User Group Meeting:
Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

Thursday, Aug. 15
12 PM to 1 PM (CST)

Free to participate with registration

 

Employers can still enforce drug-free workplace policies and implement drug-testing policies even after their state legalizes Medical Marijuana.  However, you must ensure your policies comply with state law.

Phillips Murrah Attorney Lauren Symcox Voth will review what your company can do to ensure the safety and security of your workforce and organization even after the legalization of medical marijuana.

To register, click here.

Presenter:

Lauren Voth

Lauren Symcox Voth

Lauren Symcox Voth is a member of Phillip’s Murrah P.C. Labor and Employment Practice Group. She represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in litigation, administrative matters, mediations and negotiations. Specifically, Lauren has experience representing large and small corporations in employment-related matters.

Attorney Mary Holloway Richard delivers presentation on behavioral health protections

Mary Holloway

Mary Richard represents institutional and non-institutional providers of health services, as well as patients and their families.

Mary Holloway Richard, Phillips Murrah healthcare law attorney, participated in a CLE webinar panel for healthcare counsel on Wednesday.

Strafford Publications presented the webinar on protecting patients’ behavioral health information, and disclosure requirements and limitations.

Richard’s presentation defines best practices for healthcare providers in situations where a potential breach in patient privacy may arise.

The panel addressed the distinction between instances when the release of behavioral health information is permissible or required.

A slideshow of the presentation is available to view here, and those interested in viewing the webinar may do so via Strafford’s website here.

For more information about Phillips Murrah’s Healthcare Law practice, click here.

Child support payments based on several variables

A headshot of Robert K. Campbell, a lawyer focused in the area of family law.

Robert K. Campbell’s legal practice is focused in the area of family law, specifically concentrated in matters of divorce, legal separation and custody issues.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Robert K. Campbell answers questions about the basics of arranging and handling Oklahoma child support.

Who pays child support in a divorce proceeding?

Oklahoma law requires both parents to provide financial support for their children during a divorce. That being said, typically it is one parent paying the other parent. There are, however, situations wherein neither parent may owe the other parent child support.

How is the amount of child support calculated?

The child support amount is calculated based upon the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines. The Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines will calculate the child support obligation of each parent.

What does the Oklahoma child support calculation take into consideration when determining the amount of child support?

There are several variables that go into the Oklahoma Child Support Guideline calculation. The primary variables determine the base child support amount consist of the parties’ gross monthly income, the number of minor children of the parties, and the number of overnights each parent has with the children. There are other variables that can be taken into consideration. A common example of these are health insurance premiums and child care costs.

What is considered gross income for child support purposes?

Oklahoma’s definition of gross income is broad and intended to include earned income and passive income. Gross income consists of wages, salaries, tips, commissions, bonuses, etc. Passive income can include dividends, pensions, rent, interest income, trust income, gifts, gambling winnings, lottery winnings, etc.

If both parents agree, can the child support agreement differ from the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines calculations?

Typically, an agreed amount other than the guidelines will likely be approved if it is in the best interest of the minor child and the amount of support indicated by the guidelines is unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances; both parties are represented by counsel and have agreed to a different amount; or one party is represented by counsel and the deviation benefits the unrepresented party.

How long does a parent have to pay child support?

In Oklahoma, the law typically provides that a child is entitled to support by the parents until the child reaches the age of 18, or graduates high school, whichever occurs later; however, it shall not extend beyond the age of 20. There are certain situations where the law may provide support to an adult child with a disability beyond the age of majority. If you are paying support for more than one child, your payment amount does not drop automatically when one child no longer qualifies for support. You must take affirmative steps to recalculate future support for the remaining child or children and ask the court to enter a revised support order. When the last child no longer qualifies for child support, the support obligation ends if there is no past due support owed.

Can child support be modified?

Yes. In Oklahoma, either parent may request a modification of the amount of child support based upon a “material change in circumstances.” The increase or decrease in either parent’s income may constitute a material change in circumstances warranting a modification.

What happens if a parent who is ordered to pay child support fails to pay?

The parent who fails or refuses to pay their child support obligation can be cited for indirect contempt of court, which if found guilty can result in a $500 fine and/or up to six months in jail. Additionally, state licenses can be revoked, suspended or not renewed.

 

Robert K. Campbell is a family law attorney with Phillips Murrah.

Employers should examine paid parental leave policies

The notorious absence of any federally mandated paid family leave in the United States was a significant issue during the 2016 presidential election. Recent legislative proposals indicate that the issue will only gain steam through 2020 and beyond. Paid parental leave is not a partisan issue, as demonstrated by legislators on both sides of the aisle introducing bills in 2019, including Marco Rubio and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Phillips Murrah litigation attorney Hillary Clifton discusses holiday legal hazards.

Hilary Hudson Clifton is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters. Click photo to visit her attorney profile.

With parental leave policies under particular scrutiny, it is a good idea for employers to examine their existing policies. As it looks ever more likely that paid leave will be federally mandated in the not-too-distant future, now might be the right time for employers without a paid leave policy to consider implementing one.

Though some states have passed laws requiring paid parental leave benefits, Oklahoma is not among them, and employers in Oklahoma currently offering paid leave to new parents do so voluntarily. Still, employers could find themselves in legal trouble if their policies impermissibly distinguish between different classes of parents. For example, while it might be tempting to offer a certain period of paid maternity leave to a mother, and a different period of paternity leave to a father, employers must be careful to draft policies that do not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and other potentially protected categories.

Paid parental leave to care for a new child, sometimes referred to as bonding time, should apply equally to all new parents, including biological mothers and fathers, adoptive parents, and same-sex couples. However, with biological mothers requiring medical attention and recovery time related to pregnancy and childbirth, it is not discriminatory to offer biological mothers an additional period of paid leave, provided the policy specifies that such leave is for the mother’s medical/physical needs.

Increasingly, employers around the country are opting for generous parental leave policies to attract and retain qualified employees. In that regard, employers considering a policy that offers a birth mother significant paid leave for recovery but little time for bonding and childcare might consider whether such a policy could encourage fathers or adoptive parents to look elsewhere for job opportunities.

With no federal or state mandate in Oklahoma, there remains room for any employer to adopt a policy in line with its particular needs and preferences. That said, well-intentioned employers should take measures to avoid inadvertent discrimination in their policies.

Hilary H. Clifton is a litigation attorney with the law firm of Phillips Murrah.


Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on July 18, 2019.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for June 2019

David Carter web

David Carter

David Carter, Lead Office Clerk, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for June 2019.

“It is a great honor to be chosen by my peers as Employee of the Month,” he said. “We are like family here, and it’s as a team we complete each task and assignment.

“I’m proud to be part of this team!”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“David is one of the most well-liked, friendly, hard-working employees at the Firm,” Executive Director Michelle Munda said. “David is never too busy to help anyone with anything and does it with that big smile he has.

“We are lucky he chooses to work here with us!”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and David chose City Rescue Mission.

To learn more about City Rescue Mission, click here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

 

How to determine whether to hold or terminate an oil and gas lease

When a landowner leases property to an energy company, the lease agreement typically contains a held-by-production provision, also known as a habendum clause. In Oklahoma, habendum clauses in oil and gas leases establish that after the primary lease term has ended, the lease shall remain in force as long as the land is capable of producing a minimum amount of oil or gas. But how do courts decide whether to hold or end such a lease?

Habendum clauses typically describe the lease term as, “from the date hereof and as long thereafter as oil or gas … is produced from said land.” When the term “produced” is used in a “thereafter” provision of the habendum clause, it has been determined by courts to mean production in “paying quantities.”

However, “paying quantities” is not determined by a specific dollar amount. Rather, it is defined as an amount of production sufficient to yield a profit to the lessee beyond lifting expenses, which include costs of operating the pumps, gross production taxes and electricity.

To determine whether a lease is commercially producing and, therefore, may be held by production, there are four factors that courts take into account: the accounting period, revenue during that period, expenses during that period, and equitable considerations.

The accounting period chosen for any production analysis varies and is determined by examining facts and circumstances specific to the lease. Accounting periods can make or break a case when trying to ascertain whether there was production in paying quantities. Thus, to reflect the production status, it is crucial to determine a sufficient amount of time that would provide information that would allow a “reasonable and prudent operator” to decide whether to continue or cease operation.

For example, in Hoyt v. Continental Oil Co., the accounting period was 14 months. In Smith v. Marshall Oil Corp., the accounting period was 35 months.

Once an accounting period is established, all revenue generated by the lease during that period is considered. Next, lifting expenses are considered and compared against revenue to see which is greater. However, this consideration does not include overriding royalties, overhead, and depreciation.

Lastly, if the lease is unprofitable, the court will examine any equitable considerations to determine if any justify maintaining the lease. These considerations are very specific to the circumstances of the lease that may affect profitability, which could include market conditions, changes in public policy, pipeline access, and conflict resolution activity.

If, after examining all factors, it is determined that the oil and gas lease is returning a profit over lifting expenses, the lease will not be vulnerable to termination and shall be allowed to continue beyond the primary lease term.

Originally published in The Journal Record on July 5, 2019.

Phillips Murrah rowing team competes in 2019 Stars and Stripes River Festival

PM Rowing Team

Phillips Murrah law firm’s rowing team, Law & Oarder, competes at the 2019 Stars and Stripes River Festival.

Phillips Murrah’s rowing team Law & Oarder completed the Summer 2019 season with a neck-in-neck race.

The team competed on June 29 at the 2019 Stars and Stripes River Festival held at the OKC Boathouse District, finishing a 500-meter run in 2:10.3—less than a second from clinching Third Place.

“First of all, I want to thank the Firm for being supportive and giving us as a team the opportunity to represent Phillips Murrah,” said Deena Baker, Legal Assistant and Law & Oarder team captain. “This last season had many challenges with weather and all, but the team as a whole never gave up.

“We didn’t quite pull out that win we hoped for at the regatta, but it was a super close race and I couldn’t be more proud of the progress we made as a team.”

In all ten seasons the Firm’s rowing team has competed, team members consisted of both attorneys and staff members.

“This was my first year rowing with the team, and getting to practice regularly with everyone was a great way to break down the divide between attorneys and staff and a great team building experience,” said Kat Mach, Legal Assistant.

The team will resume practice in the Spring for the Stars & Stripes Festival in June 2020.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

 

Deadline Monday for pharmacies’ annual inventory of controlled dangerous substances

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Martin J. Lopez III discusses requirements pharmacies must abide by when submitting controlled substance inventories and the consequences they may face if they neglect to do so.

attorney Martin J Lopez III

Martin J. Lopez III is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

There seems to be increasing regulation of pharmacies in recent years, and this has been heightened by the responses to the opioid crisis. What are the various inventory requirements of the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy (OSBP)?

According to state regulation, and because of the dangerous propensities of these controlled medications, OSBP requires pharmacies to perform inventories much like any retailer, although there are some distinctions based upon the nature of the pharmacy’s product. The regulation, Oklahoma Administrative Code 535:15-3-10, sets forth four distinct circumstances where inventories must be performed: The first is an annual inventory of controlled dangerous substances (“CDS”). Most relevant for all pharmacies at this particular time, the OSBP requires an inventory of all CDS be performed between May 1 and July 1 of each year; this annual inventory must be included with the pharmacy’s annual license renewal application. This annual license renewal application must be in writing, must contain the names of the pharmacy’s owners and shall provide any other information deemed relevant by the board — including the CDS inventory. Inventory is required for a Change of Ownership or a change of the Pharmacist-in-Charge (PIC) and must be sent to the board within 10 days. The OSBP requires the inventory include the new manager’s name and registration number and recommends that it include the outgoing manager’s name, registration number, and current place of employment. The OSBP further recommends that both the incoming and outgoing managers sign the inventory. Inventory also may be triggered by circumstances such as theft. In the case of suspected loss, theft, or other event, the OSBP may require an inventory be performed and sent to the board within ten days of the completion of the inventory. Inventory is also required when a pharmacy closes and must be sent to the board within 10 days of the pharmacy’s closing.

What is a controlled dangerous substance for the purposes of the annual inventory to be performed between May 1 and July 1?

Generally, a CDS is a drug, substance or immediate precursor (a substance that serves as a chemical intermediary to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance) in Schedules I through V of the Oklahoma Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substance Act, found at Title 63, Sections 2-203 through 2-212 of the Oklahoma Statutes; these Schedules range from those with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use (includes many “street” drugs like heroin) to those with low potential for abuse and which are accepted for medical use (such as pseudoephedrine—such as brands commonly known as Sudafed PE and Allegra D.

What happens if a pharmacy misses or fails to complete an inventory or doesn’t perform or submit the inventory on time? For example, what happens if a pharmacy doesn’t perform inventories of its controlled dangerous substances between May 1 and July 1?

If a pharmacy fails to comply with the annual CDS inventory, both the PIC and the pharmacy itself are deemed to have violated the administrative code. A violation of the administrative code amounts to a violation of the Oklahoma Pharmacy Act, over which the OSBP may take a number of actions, including a reprimand, probation, suspension, permanent revocation of a pharmacy’s license, or other disciplinary action in its discretion; the OSPB also can levy fines up to $3,000.

Martin J. Lopez III is an attorney with Phillips Murrah law firm.

OCBA Young Lawyers Division deems Phillips Murrah “Friend of the YLD”

Ben Grubb, YLD Chair, Hilary Clifton & David Cheek, Awards Committee Chair

YLD Chair Ben Grubb, Phillips Murrah Attorney Hilary Clifton and Awards Committee Chair David Cheek

The Oklahoma County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division honored Phillips Murrah as a “Friend of the YLD” at the annual OCBA Awards Luncheon on June 21.

“Phillips Murrah was chosen for this award because of their consistent support of the Harvest Food Drive and the Regional Food Bank,” said Debbie Gorden, OCBA Executive Director. “They have also continued to sponsor the events of the Chili Cook-Off and Striking Out Hunger Bowling Tournament by monetary donations as well as team participation.”

Many Phillips Murrah attorneys have dedicated their time to supporting OCBA’s mission. Multiple attorneys have even served on the OCBA Board of Directors.

“The Firm is honored to be acknowledged by OCBA Young Lawyers’ Division as a Friend of the YLD,” said Cody J. Cooper, Phillips Murrah Attorney and Past Chair of YLD. “Our attorneys are motivated to give back to Oklahoma’s community and privileged to support the YLD with their ongoing service efforts.”

Read more about the Firm’s past support of OCBA at the links below:

Journal Record awards Phillips Murrah law firm top Reader Rankings honors

PM Reader Rankings attendees 2019

Phillips Murrah attorneys and executive leaders attend The Journal Record’s Reader Rankings Gala where the Firm won in five categories.

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce our Firm received top honors in five of The Journal Record’s Reader Rankings categories.

“It’s an honor to be recognized in our community for the challenging work our attorneys do every day,” Marketing Director Dave Rhea said.

Phillips Murrah received awards for Best Civil Litigation Firm, Best Family Law Firm, Best Intellectual Property Firm, Best Malpractice Firm and Best Overall Leadership at Reader Rankings Gala on June 20.

“We take pride in providing exceptional legal services while striving to provide a positive, balanced atmosphere for our attorneys and staff,” said Thomas G. Wolfe, Phillips Murrah President and Managing Partner.

The Reader Rankings program recognizes and celebrates the achievements of Oklahoma businesses and entrepreneurs.

Journal Record readers nominate and vote for the best businesses and organizations across a wide variety of categories encompassing the areas of construction and design, entertainment, finance/accounting, general business, health care, higher education, hospitality, legal services, real estate and information technology.

To learn more about the workplace culture and opportunities at Phillips Murrah, visit our Careers pagehttps://phillipsmurrah.com/careers.

Hasenfratz inducted into American College of Real Estate Lawyers

Sally Hasenfrats

Sally Hasenfratz is a Director in the firm. She is a veteran real estate and transactional attorney with over 25 years of experience.

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce Director and Shareholder Sally A. Hasenfratz has been elected as a Fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers.

Admission to ACREL is by invitation only, following a rigorous screening process and significant peer review. Members are elected based on recognition locally and nationally as a distinguished real estate practitioner, high standards of professional and ethical conduct, and contributions within both the legal and non-legal communities to the improvement of the practice of commercial real estate law.

Sally is the leader of the Firm’s Real Estate Practice Group, where she focuses her practice on the acquisition, development, leasing and financing of all types of commercial real estate. She is a co-founder and past president of CREW-OKC, Inc., which is the local chapter CREW Network, a global organization formed to transform the commercial real estate by advancing women in the industry.

Sally has receive a number of other honors such as being named in Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers in Real Estate, The Best Lawyers in America (real estate, construction, land use and commercial transactions), and Super Lawyers (real estate, top 25 women lawyers in Oklahoma, top 50 lawyers in Oklahoma).

She brings to her transactional practice an LL.M. degree in taxation, which allows her to strategize with her clients from a broad view of their projects, helping them to plan, structure and execute each piece of the deal to maximize business objectives.

For more information about ACREL, visit their website here.

Hendrick to give keynote presentation at Texas Business Equality Conference

Janet Hendrick

Janet Hendrick is an experienced employment litigator who tackles each of her client’s problems with a tailored, results-oriented approach.

Janet A. Hendrick, Director and member in the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, will provide an update on legal developments in LGBTQ workplace protections on June 11 at the 4th Annual Texas Business Equality Conference hosted by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

Her presentation will highlight current state and federal legislation, upcoming Supreme Court cases, and best practices for maintaining compliance and educating employers on navigating areas where potential workplace could arise.

Attendees will network with other business professionals from around the state, hear remarks from national speakers about the importance of diversity in the workplace, and attend breakout sessions designed to help businesses to grow and thrive.

Janet is an experienced employment litigator who tackles each of her client’s problems with a tailored, results-oriented approach. Whether training managers on employment law compliance to minimize an employer’s legal risk or representing the employer in court or arbitration, she brings years of experience and in-depth legal knowledge to deliver results.

For more information about the conference, visit the North Texas GLBT Chamber’s website here.

Maule to present at nonprofit business seminar

Byrona Maule

Byrona J. Maule is a Director and litigation attorney as well as a member of the Firm’s Labor & Employment and Healthcare practice groups.

Byrona J. Maule, Director and member in the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, will give a presentation on the current state of human resources on June 4 at a Nonprofit Accounting and Finance Seminar hosted by Arledge & Associates, P.C.

Accounting and finance professionals are invited to attend the seminar which is tailored to address tax and accounting issues specific to the nonprofit sector.

The seminar will cover a wide range of topics including audits, tax law changes and Financial Accounting Standards Board updates. Sessions will also cover employment law issues for nonprofits, donor relations matters and online marketing.

Byrona represents executives and companies in a wide range of business and litigation matters with a strong emphasis on employment matters, ensuring their compliance before various state and federal regulatory boards.

For more information about the seminar, click here.

Federal income tax challenges for medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma

Jessica Cory web

Jessica N. Cory represents businesses and individuals in a wide range of transactional matters, with an emphasis on tax planning.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Jessica N. Cory explores the conflict between federal and state law as it pertains to Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses.

What is the primary federal tax issue for Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses?

Jessica Cory, attorney with Phillips Murrah law firm answers: The primary tax issue for Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses stems from the conflicting treatment of the marijuana industry under federal and state law. Although the approval of State Question 788 last summer legalized the use, growth and sale of medical marijuana for state purposes, marijuana remains an illegal drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Special tax provisions apply to penalize anything deemed illegal drug trafficking under federal law, including licensed medical marijuana businesses.

What are the specific federal tax burdens a medical marijuana business will face?

Internal Revenue Code Section 280E represents the biggest tax challenge for medical marijuana businesses. Generally, the Internal Revenue Code allows a taxpayer to take a deduction for all “ordinary and necessary” business expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year. Congress has created an exception to this rule in certain instances, however.

One such exception is Code Section 280E, which prohibits a taxpayer engaged in the business of “trafficking in controlled substances” from taking a deduction for ordinary business expenses. Because the federal Controlled Substances Act defines marijuana as a Schedule I drug, Code Section 280E severely limits the types of deductions available to a medical marijuana business.

Although Code Section 280E prevents a marijuana business from taking normal business deductions, it does not bar a business from offsetting its gross receipts with its cost of goods sold (“COGS”). This means a business can at least reduce its potential taxable income by its direct costs of production. However, the Internal Revenue Code has issued guidance strictly limiting the types of costs a taxpayer engaging in a marijuana business can allocate to COGS, to prevent an end-run around Code Section 280E.

Case law supports this narrower interpretation of COGS for the marijuana industry, including prohibiting resellers of marijuana from including any indirect costs — costs other than the price paid for inventory plus any transportation or other necessary acquisition costs — in COGS.

Is there anything marijuana business owners can do to minimize their federal tax burden?

Yes, a tax professional can help marijuana businesses develop strategies for minimizing the impact of Code Section 280E. For example, a tax adviser can help a business differentiate between COGS and business deductions to take full advantage of the COGS offset allowed under federal law. In addition, a tax professional may be able to help a company structure its business to separate out its different activities to avoid having Code Section 280E apply too broadly. It is also essential for marijuana businesses to keep careful records, particularly if the business also engages in additional activities unrelated to growing, processing or selling marijuana.

Has there been any effort in Congress to fix the disparity in treatment under federal and state law?

Members of Congress have repeatedly introduced legislation to exempt marijuana businesses lawfully operating under state law from the parameters of Section 280E. For example, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment through Entrusting States (“STATES”) Act, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect people operating within the bounds of state cannabis laws, was recently reintroduced. Unfortunately, despite bipartisan support and the backing of several 2020 presidential candidates, the odds are not in favor of passage at this time.

Jessica Cory is an attorney with Phillips Murrah law firm.