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Gavel to Gavel: Gender parity and the rise of women in the boardroom

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


Kendra Norman Web

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

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Kendra M. Norman

It should come as no shock that, although women make up just over half of the U.S. population, they are underrepresented in corporate executive management, as well as in the boardrooms of public companies in the U.S. This is often due to stereotypes that characterize female leaders as abrasive, aggressive and emotional. This disparate societal perception rewards certain characteristics in men while condemning them in women, which damages women striving for leadership roles.

A 2016 Catalyst report found that in the U.S., women made up only 21.2% of the S&P 500 board seats.

A recent push for diversity on corporate boards of directors may change the gender lines of corporate culture. For example, California is the first state to statutorily require female representation on boards of directors.

In 2018, roughly 25% of California-based companies had no female directors on their board. In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law requiring all public companies having principal executive offices in the state to have at least one woman on the board by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021, any California public company with five directors must have a minimum of two female directors, and those with six or more directors must include at least three women. The law imposes a $100,000 fine for a first-time violation and a $300,000 fine for subsequent violations.

California follows several European countries, including Germany, France, Norway, and Sweden, which have implemented quotas and fines to increase female representation in the boardroom. Additionally, shareholder advisory firms such as Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Co. are now using gender diversity as a factor for shareholder vote recommendations.

While a government-mandated requirement may not be the ultimate solution, it could accelerate the achievement of gender parity.

Such a change in gender representation is likely to benefit companies, as gender and culture diversity results in diverse perspectives, which is likely to improve a company’s performance. It will also create less gender discrimination in recruitment, promotion, and retention.

While Oklahoma continuously ranks in the bottom of states for women when it comes to the income gap, workplace environment, education, and health, Oklahoma ranks 20th with respect to the executive positions gap, according to a recent 2018 WalletHub study. While there is much room for improvement, there may be hope for Oklahoma in achieving executive gender parity.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for March 2019

Timi Mitchell, Legal Assistant, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for March 2019.

“I am very honored to be Employee of the Month,” Timi said. “I think we have a great team atmosphere at our firm, and am blessed to be a small part of it.”

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

“Timi is the perfect example of an Employee of the Month,” Director Lyndon W. Whitmire said. “She works incredibly hard, and always with a smile on her face. She is always ready to help others.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Timi chose the Oklahoma Lung Cancer Initiative in honor of her father who recently passed away due to lung cancer.

To learn more about the Oklahoma Lung Cancer Initiative, 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.

NewsOK Q&A: Doing business by email can cause legal concerns

A. Michelle Campney

As a litigation attorney, A. Michelle Campney represents companies in a wide range of business litigation matters with an emphasis on the construction industry.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney A. Michelle Campney discusses email practices that could be considered in legal matters.

What are the general legal concerns regarding conducting business through email?

It is estimated that there will be almost 3 billion email users by the end of this year, with an average of 128 business emails sent and received per person, per day. Often, only passively mentioned in employee handbooks and with little to no training during onboarding, employers and employees adopt varied practices for email use. The sheer volume of emails creates logistical problems for businesses (e.g., server space, data protection), but it can also create legal issues when exchanges can bind companies or reveal confidential, privileged or personal information.

How can emails bind someone until they actually sign an agreement?

Does the party you are working with know that you require hard copy agreement with handwritten signatures? If not, and if the email contains all the material terms and the facts, and circumstances surrounding that show that you were conducting the transaction electronically, then you could have an enforceable agreement under the Oklahoma Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (“UETA”).

But no one actually signed the agreement, so how can it be enforceable?

Not all agreements have to be signed to be enforceable, and specifically under the UETA, a signature only need be “attributable to a person if it was the act of the person.” Furthermore, an electronic signature under the act is “determined from the context and surrounding circumstances at the time of its creation, execution, or adoption … .” While Oklahoma does not have any case law on the issue, a Texas court found a simple “Thank you, Clyde” typed above the signature block was sufficient for a signature. Parks v. Seybold (Tex. App.—Dallas, 2015). Additionally, some courts (including those in Texas) broadly interpret the signature requirement to include an automatically generated signature block.

What are other potential concerns for email?

Let’s say that your company is involved in litigation regarding a contractual dispute. Most attorneys ask that all communications, including email communications, regarding the issue be turned over during the discovery process. While the communication may not ultimately be admissible in court, if there are emails between employees discussing the dispute and the surrounding facts and circumstances, those will generally have to be turned over to the other side. Additionally, if certain individuals are involved then you may have to turn over all emails regarding that person. Thus, if any mentions of any disciplinary action regarding that person or even your own personal feelings about the person are on email those may have to be turned over. While the emails may not ultimately impact your case, they could embarrass your company.

Are there any practices or policies that would help alleviate the concerns surrounding email?

While policies and procedures will be specific to each type of business and its standard practices, at the most basic level, having a robust email use policy will set a good foundation and, if properly drafted, help educate your employees on what to do and not to do. One important thing to remember is that email will only continue to grow as a means of communication. Setting good groundwork for how it is to be used in your company may help prevent issues down the road.

 

Published: 4/11/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5628396/doing-business-by-email-can-cause-legal-concerns

Blocks for Bucks: End-of-season check presentation to Thunder Cares for over $20,000!

Blocks for Bucks image(April 9, 2019) – Tonight is the final home game of the regular season, and that means it’s time, once again, to tally up the blocks and present a giant check (literally!)

Phillips Murrah Directors present Blocks for Bucks check.

Directors from Phillips Murrah present our Blocks for Bucks donation to Thunder Cares.

Just before tip-off at tonight’s Oklahoma City Thunder game against the Houston Rockets, Phillips Murrah Directors G. Calvin Sharpe, Nikki Edwards and Marc Edwards will participate in the check presentation ceremony at mid-court. The amount is for $20,600, which reflects the amount our Firm has donated thus far in the 2018-2019 regular season, prior to tonight’s action. For the final tally, blocks from tonight’s game will be added to the final amount, which will go directly to the Thunder Cares Foundation.

“Our Firm likes being involved in the Oklahoma City community, and The Thunder Cares Foundation is a great way for us to do that,” said G. Calvin, whose litigation practice focuses mainly on matters involving medical malpractice, products liability and insurance.

“We are huge Thunder fans and take great pride in partnering with Thunder Cares and all they do in the community,” said Marc, who represents both private business and public entities in a broad range of litigation with an emphasis on public utility, public pension, governmental and administrative laws.

This is the second year that Phillips Murrah has partnered with the OKC Thunder with the Blocks for Bucks campaign. The check presentation from the 2017-2018 season can be seen here.

What is Blocks for Bucks?

Russell Westbrook Phillips Murrah

Russell Westbrook on @okcthunder Instagram with Phillips Murrah logo.

Attorneys and staff at Phillips Murrah are huge Thunder fans, and to recognize our home team’s accomplishments in blocking shots, the Firm is donating $100 to Thunder Cares for each blocked shot that the Thunder forces at home games during the regular season.

Blocks for Bucks began in November of 2017, when Phillips Murrah initiated our partnership with the Thunder organization. Helping to improve the community is at the heart of of our Firm’s mission, and the prospect of achieving that through the Thunder Cares Foundation with such an exciting and entertaining campaign was irresistible.

“Phillips Murrah is proud to partner with the Thunder Cares Foundation,” said Phillips Murrah President and Managing Partner, Thomas G. Wolfe. “The Thunder has done so much in Oklahoma. We’re glad to join in their efforts.”

As the Thunder team racked up blocks throughout the season, video highlights were posted at the Blocks for Bucks page on the Thunder’s website, along with a blocks counter and a running donation amount tally.

“Working with the Thunder is an absolute pleasure,” said Phillips Murrah Marketing Director, Dave Rhea. “Being able to support Thunder Cares with this blocks campaign allows us to give back to the community while also driving home the point that, at the end of the day, we’re also huge Thunder fans!”

The Thunder Cares Foundation helps support the team’s community outreach projects, including Thunder-themed basketball courts in parks, schools and community centers across Oklahoma, as well as learning labs and activity rooms at organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County, City Rescue Mission, and Positive Tomorrows, a school that serves homeless children in Oklahoma City. In celebration of the Thunder’s 10th season, the Thunder Cares Foundation is funding a matching grant through

Phillips Murrah looks forward to continuing to partner with the Oklahoma City Thunder and The Thunder Cares Foundation in the years to come.

Lopez: A bitter pill – medical malpractice liability for new resident physicians

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.

Medical school residency match day. It’s a chaotic, stressful revelation at which fourth-year medical students find out where they will spend the next few years of their lives as residents – newly minted physicians becoming experts in their respective fields.

While becoming a resident physician is undoubtedly an exciting next step in the process, it inherently comes with daunting new realities – a plethora of health care regulatory compliance issues, constantly developing reimbursement requirements, and medical malpractice liability. This short article focuses on minimizing the risk of negligence-based malpractice lawsuits.

While no practicing physician is immune from being sued, common-sense measures have proven effective in avoiding malpractice claims. And, although a resident physician’s liability is generally covered by the residency program, there remains ample reason to mitigate liability risk – notably, to avoid the stress, time, and hassle that comes with litigation.

Most obviously, physicians should provide the best medical care to their patients they possibly can. Lawsuits for medical malpractice involve determining whether the physician has met the standard of care owed to the patient; if she provided the best care she could have, she has positioned herself well from the outset.

Essential to providing a high level of care to the patient is communication about that care to the patient. Medical malpractice lawsuits often involve allegations of poor communication that may be rooted in a failure to convey respect, inadequate listening skills, and the use of technical medical jargon rather than patient-friendly language.

In a fast-paced environment with numerous patients to attend to, it’s understandably easy to use verbal medical shortcuts for efficiency’s sake; however, using patient-friendly language creates a stronger connection with patients, makes for well-informed patients, and may also manage patient expectations about treatment, diagnosis, and prognosis.

When a patient is dissatisfied, the physician should carefully listen and try to understand the basis for the concern or frustration and engage in meaningful dialogue about the issue. By making this concerted effort to proactively communicate and resolve issues, physicians affirm their commitments both to the patients and to a quality practice where people are treated with respect.

Another important aspect of mitigating liability risk is thorough detailed documentation in the medical record. Careful documentation is the foundation for quality and coordinated patient care, defending malpractice claims, and even for reimbursement issues by government programs – such as Medicare and Medicaid – and commercial insurers.

Proper documentation should include, but certainly isn’t limited to: details of discussions with patients, the physician’s thought and decision-making processes, results of laboratory tests and other ancillary services, proposed courses of treatment (including the impact of doing nothing), the bases for any physician recommendations, and communication of alternatives to the patient. In so carefully documenting, the physician establishes medical necessity for her services and creates admissible evidence in the event litigation arises out of the treatment.

While it may create extra work for physicians, taking the steps outlined in this article offers the benefits of more meaningful communication with patients, increases patient satisfaction, facilitates coordinated care with other providers on the patient’s behalf, and reduces the risk of malpractice lawsuit liability. Establishing these habits early in a medical career will undoubtedly offer great long-term rewards.

Martin J. Lopez III is a litigation attorney with the Oklahoma City law firm of Phillips Murrah.

OCU Law names Ybarra 2019 Outstanding Young Alumna

Monica Ybarra Web

Monica Y. Ybarra is a litigation attorney whose practice focuses on representing individuals and companies in wide range of commercial litigation matters. She also practices in the area of family law, including litigation, custody issues and valuation issues.

Monica Y. Ybarra, Family Law attorney and Oklahoma City University School of Law Class of 2014 alumna, will be honored as Outstanding Young Alumna at the OCU Law Awards Dinner.

“These awards were created in the late 1990s to honor individuals, alumni and non-alumni, in the legal community who have exemplified themselves as champions of the legal profession, established themselves as a community advocate, and supported the endeavors of OCU Law,” said Ally Rodriguez, Director of Alumni Relations at OCU Law. “To be a recipient of an award demonstrates their commitment to excellence in their career and we hope this shines a light on their good works.”

The 2019 OCU Law Awards Dinner will be hosted at 6 PM on April 6 at OCU School of Law.

“Working with Monica, both as a Phillips Murrah team member and now in our mutual roles for our alma mater OCU School of Law, is a real gift,” said Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and OCU Law Dean. “Monica wonderfully embodies the exceptional brain and heart you want in a colleague, a leader and a friend.”

This year’s awards are especially important as they signify the first major event of the OCU Law Alumni Association after being re-established in the fall of 2018 under the direction of Dean Jim Roth, she said.

“As a classmate of Monica’s and a member of the OCU Law Class of 2014, it is an honor to be able to work with her as the Chair of the OCU Law Alumni Association,” Rodriguez said. “Monica brings an excitement to her work and motivates those around her.

“As the 2019 recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumna Award, Monica has exemplified significant achievements in the practice of law since graduation, and is a wonderful representation of the hard work and servant leadership mentality that OCU Law instills.”

Ybarra joined the university’s Alumni Association in September 2018 to oversee development and progress of the organization and was elected Chair by the Board of Directors soon after.

“Dean Roth’s vision to reestablish the OCU Law Alumni Association was one of his top priorities upon assuming his role as the new Dean,” Ybarra said. “He brought together a group of interested alums to serve on the Board of Directors and they elected me as Chair at our inaugural meeting.

“So, I’ve hit the ground running in that role since day one.”

This first year has been focused on getting the word out about the Alumni Association, building partnerships with community businesses for the rewards program, setting goals and bringing the Association’s vision into focus, she said.

“OCU Law has produced some very dynamic leaders and so many of our alums are doing great things all over the world, so it is incredibly humbling to receive this award,” Ybarra said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be recognized in this way.

“I hope that my role and involvement with OCU Law will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the law school. I enjoy helping with local and national recruiting, and certainly enjoy contributing to the law school experience of OCU Law students in any way that I can.”

To learn more about OCU Law and the Alumni Association, click here.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for February 2019

Lisa McAlister

Lisa McAlister, Paralegal, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for February 2019.

“It gives me much encouragement to be recognized,” Lisa said. “I am very fortunate to work with such a great team of co-workers and friends.”

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

“Lisa is an exceptionally talented paralegal and a critical part of Phillips Murrah’s litigation practice,” Director Fred A. Leibrock said. “She brings a wealth of talent and experience to our cases. She has an outstanding work ethic and her work is always top notch.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Lisa chose Jesus House.

“With such cold weather, this homeless shelter provides for more people who normally spend nights outdoors, to come inside to the warmth,” Lisa said.

To learn more about Jesus House, 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.

Phillips Murrah celebrates International Women’s Day

Phillips Murrah Women Empowered

Today, March 8, 2019, is International Women’s Day. Phillips Murrah would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the achievements and importance of women leaders in the workplace. The theme of this year’s IWD is gender balance, and Phillips Murrah is doing our part to help realize this important societal goal.

We are proud to have sponsored the OKC International Women’s Day Celebration last night, hosted by Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, held at Ponyboy. This event was the second annual celebration of International Women’s Day in Oklahoma City.

“57 attendees joined to network and learn more from women’s organizations, such as Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, YWCA, ReMerge of Oklahoma County, Sally’s List, the Metisse Group and more,” said Caroline Cotton, co-creator of the International Women’s Day OKC celebration.

Group photo from International Women's Day celebration.

From left: Caroline Cotton, Lacey Lett, Dawn Rahme, Melissa Gardner, Sam Newton and James Linhardt.

“For me, the importance stems from remembering that the pursuit of equality is an infinite process,” said Phillips Murrah attorney Sam Newton, who initiated the sponsorship. “As time passes, we tend to generalize our own lack of prejudice and declare the issue resolved. Yet, the reality isn’t that simple. Acknowledging the fact that inequality exists moves us forward. IWD serves that goal but is also a day to pause and remember the impact women, both well-known and not, have had on the world today.”

Phillips Murrah is proud to be leaders in the area of promoting women into positions of leadership and equity within our Firm. Our comparatively high percentage of women shareholders and executive leaders is a manifestation of our corporate culture, which celebrates talent, skill, character and collegiality.

All attorneys at Phillips Murrah are expected to meet high standards of professional ability and interpersonal intelligence. Additionally, our workplace expectation is that each attorney is able to thrive in his or her practice, unencumbered by underlying considerations about individual characteristics unrelated to the practice of law.

Liz Charles, Executive Director of Oklahoma Women's Coalition

Liz Charles, Executive Director of Oklahoma Women’s Coalition

Phillips Murrah’s high percentage number of women partners and leaders isn’t motivated by societal pressure. Rather, it has occurred in an authentic way due to our inclusive corporate culture, and can be seen as an accomplishment for everyone at the Firm.

“We didn’t have a structured push to reach any kind of percentage, we just foster a culture that genuinely gives women the opportunity and support to succeed,” said Phillips Murrah Director Melissa Gardner. “I believe that’s the most sustainable kind of change and the coolest part of our equality.”

Phillips Murrah is also a proud Sustaining Partner of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL). We are pleased to be able to support NAWL’s mission, which is to provide leadership, a collective voice and essential resources to advance women in the legal profession, and to advocate for the equality of women under the law.

We are proud of the many strengths and advantages that women leaders bring to our Firm and to society in general, and we are happy to help celebrate this each day – and especially on International Women’s Day!

Gavel to Gavel: The uphill battle faced by creditors in bankruptcy

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 7, 2019.


Gretchen Latham Web

Gretchen M. Latham’s practice focuses on representing creditors in foreclosure, bankruptcy, collection and replevin cases.

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Gretchen M. Latham

Bankruptcy is a debtor’s remedy, meaning many of the rules and regulations are more favorable to debtors than to creditors. To even the playing field a bit, Congress enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act in 2005.

Several of its provisions were put in place to provide assurances to creditors that the system is fair and impartial. Of note, those that file must now undergo credit counseling both prior to filing and prior to receiving a bankruptcy discharge.

Also of significance are the changes to the Bankruptcy Code regarding what chapter of case a debtor is eligible to file. Prior to enactment of BAPCPA, many creditors were missing out on substantial payments because most debtors elected to file a Chapter 7 case, which acts as a total liquidation of debts, other than debts that are reaffirmed. The result was that most unsecured creditors were losing out on repayment of their entire outstanding balance.

With BAPCPA, debtors are no longer free to decide what type of case to file. Rather, a complex mathematical computation is performed prior to filing, and if the results show a debtor has funds available to repay a portion of their unsecured debt, that debtor may be required to file a Chapter 13 case.

Chapter 13 is similar to debt consolidation, in that the debtor proposes a plan of repayment to all creditors, to include paying back a percentage of unsecured debt. The result is that unsecured creditors, such as credit card companies and medical providers, receive some payment.

A creditor is also permitted to file an objection to the proposed repayment plan. The most common objections are to the interest rate and value of secured claims. There are other bases for objecting, including that plan is not feasible or that the case was filed as a delay tactic.

Aside from having a statutory basis for objecting, a creditor must also adhere to the Bankruptcy Court’s local rules when objecting to avoid the risk of an improperly filed objection.

While bankruptcy is still a very viable option for those with overwhelming debt, the arena is now viewed as being much more equal. Creditors have many tools at their disposal when a consumer files bankruptcy and should take full advantage of those tools to maximize repayment where possible.

NewsOK Q&A: Some qualifications necessary to conduct businesses in other states

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.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Travis E. Harrison discusses practical legal issues related to out-of-state business practices.

When is a corporation, limited liability company or other registered legal entity “transacting business” in another jurisdiction?

A legal entity required to be registered under the laws of one state must be cognizant of whether its structure or business activities constitute “transacting business” in another state. For example, a corporation formed under the laws of Oklahoma might provide services or buy and sell real estate in Texas. If Texas law defines this activity as “transacting business,” then the corporation should take the required steps to qualify to do business in Texas — as the failure to do so may result in unforeseeable fines or other consequences. Each state establishes its own variations on what activities by a foreign (out-of-state) business constitute doing business in that state. As a practical matter, a business that has a strong presence or engages in successive transactions in another state is likely “transacting business” and will need to take the appropriate steps to qualify in that state.

What are the consequences of failing to qualify to do business in another state?

Similar to the issue of what activities constitute “transacting business” in another state, the ramifications for failing to qualify to do business are a creature of state statute and vary by jurisdiction. However, the most common legal consequences for failing to qualify are fines and the inability to utilize that state’s court system to bring a lawsuit. For example, assume the previously mentioned corporation formed under the laws of Oklahoma fails to qualify to do business in Texas even though it meets Texas’ criteria for “transacting business.” If the Oklahoma corporation files a breach of contract action in Texas, then its case may be dismissed because it failed to qualify to do business in Texas. This pitfall is especially problematic if the corporation is jurisdictionally restrained from bringing the lawsuit in Oklahoma because of other procedural issues.

How does a business qualify to do business in a state other than its state of formation?

As mentioned above, a business should be cognizant of whether its operations in other states require it to qualify to do business in those states. Generally, a business qualifies by filing a certificate with information about the business and its good standing and paying the respective filing fee with the state’s secretary of state (or other designated office). Additionally, a business should ensure that it complies with the other state’s applicable tax requirements for foreign businesses. In Oklahoma, for example, a foreign corporation’s failure to pay annual franchise taxes may subject it to unnecessary penalties.

 

Published: 2/21/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5623523/some-qualifications-necessary-to-conduct-businesses-in-other-states

Firm selects Employee of the Month for January 2019

Curt Bauer

Curt Bauer

Curt Bauer, File Manager, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for January 2019.

“It always feels great to be recognized by your peers as we all have the same ultimate goal: to serve our clients as well as we possibly can,” Curt said. “I love working here as we are making great strides toward becoming paperless, although we still have a ton of work to do.

“It is an honor to be one of the driving forces behind reducing our carbon footprint while still continuing to serve our clients just as well as we did when we used paper, if not even more efficiently. While it is sometimes a daunting project, and one that cannot be done overnight, it is very rewarding to see the money we spend on storage continuing to go down, while finding more and more efficient ways to use technology to everyone’s advantage. Computer documents are much easier to store, much easier to find, and cheaper to maintain.”

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

“Curt is one of the most conscientious people I have ever worked with and he will help in any situation,” said Michelle Munda, Executive Director. “When he’s asked to do anything, I can always be sure it’s done and done right!”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Curt chose the Epilepsy Foundation of Oklahoma.

“I am giving to them as I have had epilepsy my entire life,” Curt said. “I have been seizure free since 1984 due to the ‘experimental’ medication my neurologist put me on in 1982 that actually worked!”

To learn more about the Epilepsy Foundation of Oklahoma, 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.

Attorney Mary Holloway Richard authors update to AHLA publication

Mary Holloway

Mary Richard is recognized as one of pioneers in healthcare law in Oklahoma. She has represented institutional and non-institutional providers of health services, as well as patients and their families.

Mary Holloway Richard, Phillips Murrah Healthcare Law Attorney, lent her expertise to an update of the American Health Lawyers Association‘s Institutional Review Boards publication.

In preparing the third edition, the AHLA recognized the need to update the previous edition based upon changes in statutes and regulations and to incorporate new guidance reflecting expertise and current, in-depth experience with clinical research and IRB’s.

An important addition is the new chapter 17 “IRB Compliance and Internal Audits” authored by Richard.

Richard has recognized expertise in regulatory requirements and risk management in clinical research based upon involvement with both researchers and the IRB process for many years in the largest health system in the state.

The chapter brings to life a clinical research compliance plan by including the key elements and sample policies, procedures and other forms for use by researchers and research facilities, she said.

Richard advises clients regularly about FDA, HHS and OHRP requirements and lectures and writes on related topics, including regulatory requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation applicable in clinical research performed in the European Union.

For more information on the latest edition of the publication, click here.

Federal income tax challenges for medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma

Attorney Jessica N. Cory

Jessica N. Cory advises clients regarding corporate and general business matters, including choice of entity, formation, tax-free reorganizations, acquisitions and dispositions, and tax planning.

By Phillips Murrah attorney Jessica N. Cory

On June 26, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788, which legalizes the use, growth, and sale of marijuana in the state for medicinal purposes.  In addition to providing rules for individual use of medical marijuana, the approval of SQ 788 also created a number of opportunities for new related businesses, such as retailers or dispensaries, commercial growers and processors. However, although licensed medical marijuana businesses are now legal under Oklahoma state law, conflicting federal law creates a number of challenges for business owners, particularly with respect to federal income tax law.

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 Internal Revenue Code Section 280E, which prohibits a taxpayer engaged in the business of “trafficking in controlled substances” from taking a deduction for ordinary business expenses.  For purposes of this provision, a controlled substance is any Schedule I or Schedule II drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which includes marijuana.  Although taxpayers have argued that Code Section 280E should not apply to businesses operating legally under state law, courts have repeatedly rejected this argument, concluding that any business buying or selling marijuana regularly is subject to the restrictions of Code Section 280E until Congress chooses to amend the Internal Revenue Code.

Although Code Section 280E’s bar on deductions represents a significant obstacle for medical marijuana business owners, several exceptions help reduce the burden on these taxpayers.  For example, although a medical marijuana business cannot deduct expenses in the same way as other taxpayers, it is entitled to offset its gross receipts with its cost of goods sold (“COGS”), although the Internal Revenue Service has issued guidance strictly limiting what types of costs a taxpayer engaging in a marijuana business can allocate to COGS.  Caselaw supports this narrower interpretation of COGS, 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.

Another important exception to Code Section 280E is the separate business rule recognized by the Tax Court in an early medical marijuana case.  Under this rule, although Section 280E may preclude a taxpayer from taking any deductions relating to its medical marijuana sales, it can still deduct its expenses for any separate, non-trafficking trade or business.  Accordingly, it is extremely important for a marijuana business to keep careful records of any other businesses it may also operate, unrelated to growing, processing, or selling marijuana.

Members of Congress have repeatedly introduced legislation to exempt marijuana businesses lawfully operating under state law from the parameters of Section 280E.  Until this type of legislation is enacted, however, federal tax law will remain a potential minefield for any unwary medical marijuana businesses.  It is therefore important for businesses opening under SQ 788 to seek out an experienced accountant or tax lawyer to discuss the best way to structure their business to comply with federal tax law while minimizing their tax burden.

NewsOK Q&A: Anyone can take part in utility rate cases

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.

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney C. Eric Davis discusses the process utility companies must go through to request rate increases and how different parties can participate.

Q: Oklahoma’s two largest electric utilities have rate cases ongoing at the Corporation Commission. How does the rate case process work?

A: In Oklahoma, investor-owned electric companies are “rate-regulated” by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Regulating the rates of investor-owned utilities is necessary based on their monopoly status, i.e., customers generally can’t choose among other competing utilities for the same service. As a result, companies like Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service of Oklahoma must seek approval from the three elected Corporation Commissioners before increasing rates. When a utility requests a rate increase, the resulting procedure is referred to as a “rate case.” A rate case is a formal, evidence-based, court-like process, open to the public. In a rate case, the commission determines the amount of revenue a company reasonably needs to operate, and then decides how best to allocate any increase (or decrease) among the company’s customers. This allocation process involves dividing customers into classes (such as residential, commercial, industrial, municipal, public schools), and even subclasses, and then, ideally, assigning rates across classes in an equitable manner.

Q: What types of issues exist in OG&E’s and PSO’s current rate cases?

A: Primary drivers in any rate case include the utility’s operational costs, costs associated with plant investments, and the utility’s right to earn a fair profit. On the generation side, national trends evidence a shift toward renewable and natural gas resources, and conflicts abound concerning how utilities should deal with their existing fleets, including coal plants. In its current rate case, OG&E has requested about $54 million annually to recover the cost of retrofitting its Sooner coal plant to reduce air pollution. Meanwhile, historically low load growth and other market trends are causing electric utilities to reconsider the manner in which they obtain rate increases from the commission. In PSO’s ongoing rate case, the company is proposing a “performance-based rate plan,” in which its earnings would be subject to more frequent, annual reviews, allowing for periodic rate adjustments. Such annual reviews, while occurring with more regularity, would be structured differently and allow for less in-depth analysis than a traditional rate case. However, PSO has proposed a backstop, stating it would file a full-blown rate case after three years.

Q: Who may participate in rate cases?

A: Anyone can take part in a rate case, whether by emailing public comment to the commission, or formally intervening as a party. Formal parties have the right to issue discovery, present witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses of other parties, including the utility’s witnesses. Common parties include the commission’s staff, the attorney general, large industrial customers, AARP, and the Department of Defense. Intervening parties may aim to influence utility policies, or ensure the utility’s costs are reasonable. Parties also may advocate on behalf of particular customer classes during the rate design process, ensuring costs are fairly apportioned among customers.

 

Published: 2/6/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5622090/qa-by-c-eric-davis-anyone-can-take-part-in-utility-rate-cases

NewsOK Q&A: IP assignment agreement is key to invention ownership

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.

In this article, Oklahoma City Patent Attorney Cody J. Cooper discusses the rights inventors have when inventing under the employment of someone else.

Q: When an employee invents something during the course of his or her employment, who owns the invention?

A: The employee owns the invention. Inventors’ exclusive right to their inventions is specifically written into the United States Constitution and, as such, courts have generally interpreted ownership of inventions to favor individuals, except in very narrow circumstances.

Q: How can an employer assure ownership when an employee conceives of an invention on the job?

A: The employer must have employees sign an intellectual property (IP) assignment agreement. Because the general rule is that an inventor owns the rights, courts strictly interpret IP assignment agreements. Recent case law has instructed employers that how you draft the assignment agreement is equally as important as having an agreement in the first place. In fact, the Federal Circuit recently determined, in Advance Video Technologies LLC v. HTC Corporation Inc., that an IP assignment must include language saying the employee “assigns” — present tense, not future tense — their employer all IP rights. The small difference in language had a tremendous impact on the employer’s ability to sue another company for patent infringement.

Q: Should IP assignment agreements only be used by businesses in manufacturing, research or product development?

A: No. I would suggest any company consider having its employees sign an IP assignment agreement if the company expects employees to create work or inventions to which the company would expect to have rights and expects to protect it through application for apply for a trademark, patent, copyright or other appropriate protection to keep others from using it without permission.

Q: What are some other employer considerations regarding IP assignment agreements?

A: Make sure that your employees sign IP assignments before they begin working for you, and make sure that you consult an attorney on the drafting of the IP assignment to ensure that it complies with current law and effectively assigns the IP rights you are seeking to protect.

Q: What if an employer has employees who’ve already created inventions that the employer presumed the company owned but doesn’t have an IP assignment in place? Can the company enter into an IP assignment agreement retroactively?

A: If this is the case, the invention is owned by the employee, and the employer likely has no rights to the invention. Nevertheless, the employer and employee can still enter into a IP assignment agreement, but there must be some sort of consideration (exchange in value) passed between the parties. The law makes clear that it is not enough for the employer to say that the consideration the employee is receiving is that they get to keep their job — there must be something more passing to the employee for their assignment of their invention (i.e. money, stock, etc.).

 

Published: 1/30/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5621521/qa-with-cody-j-cooper-ip-assignment-agreement-is-key-to-invention-ownership

 

Phillips Murrah Blocks for Bucks campaign breaks $10K mark

Sign of the Times – The Nuts and Bolts of Raising Awareness

What’s in a name? For Phillips Murrah, our name represents over 30 years of dedication and partnership with our clients and our community. We are proud to announce our new exterior sign, which proudly hangs on OKC’s Corporate Tower, wherein our headquarters is located.

It’s no secret that Phillips Murrah has ramped up our effort to raise the profile of our Firm’s name and recognition of our logo, and our new Corporate Tower sign is a fine example of “pure branding.” However, it is important to also point out that “pure branding” has not been our recent promotional path.

Over the years, our Firm, as well as our individual attorneys and staff, has been very active in the community through dedicating time, energy and funding to many causes and organizations throughout Oklahoma City.  However, many of these efforts have flown under the radar regarding our position in the consciousness of the community. The fundamental motivation for these actions simply does not include praise or recognition.

However, from a branding standpoint, it is important to tie our innate philanthropic spirit, both as individuals and as a corporation, into a larger campaign designed to share who Phillips Murrah is and what we do outside of providing excellent representation for our clients. This is why many of our recent promotional campaigns are concerted efforts to achieve two goals: One, to raise awareness of our brand in the community, and two, to ensure that each of these campaigns demonstrate our commitment to the community.

For example, our partnership with the Oklahoma City Thunder, through our Blocks for Bucks campaign, directly benefits the Thunder Cares Foundation. For each shot blocked by our home team during home games, Phillips Murrah donates $100 to Thunder Cares, which helps fund the great work they do in the community. For the 2017-2018 season, Phillips Murrah donated a total of $17,000 to Thunder Cares. We are happy to say that we’re on our way to exceed that amount for the 2018-2019 NBA season.

Another example of this two-pronged strategy is our sponsorship of the Six Day Cellars tent at the 2018 Festival of the Arts. While helping provide a great area for leisure and refreshment to patrons of OKC’s annual art festival, we are also proud to help fund one of our city’s great non-profit organizations, Arts Council Oklahoma City. We are repeating our sponsorship of Six Day Cellars at the 2019 Festival of the Arts.

Through these and other campaigns, including with the StoryCorps Mobile Recording Booth, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Cristo Rey, Phillips Murrah goes beyond “pure branding” to ensure that those who become more aware of our Firm’s name through our promotional efforts also understand that, while we are committed to the success of our clients, we are also committed to helping build a better community.

Phillips Murrah announces new Director, Shareholder for 2019

Director Zachary K. Bradt

Director Zachary K. Bradt

Phillips Murrah proudly announces the promotion of Zachary K. Bradt to a Director and Shareholder for the Firm. Zac’s selection brings the Firm’s total number of Directors to 37.

“I feel very honored and fortunate to be a part of the outstanding team at Phillips Murrah,” Zac said. “During my time here, the Firm has placed great emphasis on developing its Energy and Natural Resources practice to meet the ever-growing needs of our clients. I look forward to using this new role to facilitate further growth and continue providing services that help our clients succeed.”

In his practice, Zac has prepared numerous drilling title opinions, division order title opinions and acquisition title opinions, and conducted due diligence in the acquisition and divesture of oil and gas properties. His growing oil and gas transactional practice is focused around the preparation of various oil and gas agreements, instruments, and conveyances as well as the drafting of curative documentation to clarify record title for his clients.

“Since joining Phillips Murrah almost five years ago, Zac has shown considerable commitment to his clients and to improving and growing his practice at the Firm.” said Thomas G. Wolfe, President and Managing Partner. “We are confident Zac’s experience and success at the Firm will thrive in his position as Director and Shareholder.”

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Zac makes his home in Edmond, with his wife, Amy, and son, Jude. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, watching sports, traveling, and golf.

He officially assumed his new role on Jan. 1, 2019.

Phillips Murrah helps empower women as 2019 NAWL Sustaining Sponsor

National Association of Women Lawyers logoContinuing its dedication to diversity and inclusion, Phillips Murrah is proud to announce its inclusion as a 2019 National Association of Women Lawyers Sustaining Sponsor. Founded in 1899, NAWL’s goal is to empower women in the legal profession while cultivating a diverse membership dedicated to equality, mutual support and collective success. The organization’s mission is “to provide leadership, a collective voice, and essential resources to advance women in the legal profession and advocate for the equality of women under the law.”

NAWL’s initiatives and activities include:

  • National and regional programming focused on giving women lawyers the legal and business skills to succeed in the legal profession.
  • Increasing the percentage of women equity partners in law firms with talented high-potential women who are on the equity partner track.
  • Amicus support in the Supreme Court of the United States and in other federal courts on issues of concern to women.
  • Liaison relationships and partnerships with other professional organizations.
  • Publications of interest to women in law and opportunities for NAWL members to publish scholarly articles.

NAWL’s events and resources help bring awareness to gender-based topics and challenges within the legal profession, such as diversity scholarships, workplace equality in areas of compensation and influence, and guidance and networking opportunities for women in a variety of practice areas.

For more information, visit the NAWL website at https://www.nawl.org.

 

Firm selects Employee of the Month for November 2018

Stacye Snow, Accounts Payable, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for November 2018.

“I am truly blessed to be a member of the Phillips Murrah family and honored with the recognition for my part with the firm and my work family,” Stacye said.

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

“Stacye 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. She deserves this honor.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Stacye chose the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

“I believe that the suffering of animals is one of the most heartbreaking injustices, and that we as a society cannot allow to go unchecked by supporting those who give of themselves, their time, love and compassion to champion these lives, both great and small, that cannot defend themselves is vital,” Stacye said.

To learn more about ASPCA, 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.

The Oklahoman honors Phillips Murrah as Top Workplace for fourth year

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce its inclusion as one of Oklahoma City’s Top Workplaces for the fourth year in a row.

The Oklahoman newspaper published their annual list of Oklahoma’s Top Workplaces on Dec. 10 ranking the Firm No. 20 out of 40 in the small employer category (fewer than 125 employees), up one spot from last year.

“Being recognized for our workplace culture for the fourth year in a row is a thrill for us,” said Phillips Murrah Marketing Director Dave Rhea. “It affirms to us that not only do we excel at the practice of law, we also provide a positive work environment for everyone on our team – attorneys and staff, alike.”

The Firm was first named to the Top Workplaces list in 2015 and moved up the list in 2016 and 2017.

In determining the defining criteria of Top Workplaces, The Oklahoman partners with the Philadelphia-based company, Energage, which evaluates companies across the country, pertaining to internal components of healthy workplace dynamics.

Every year, the newspaper encourages local participants in Oklahoma City to nominate businesses for the program. The methodology of candidate evaluation is determined from anonymous surveys, detailing employee satisfaction, company values, internal communication, leadership and other various determinates.

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

Director Nikki Edwards quoted by Journal Record on divorce settlements

Nicholle Jones Edwards

Nicholle Jones Edwards’ practice focuses on family law, labor law and general civil litigation. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

A change in tax deductions regarding alimony has lead to an influx of clients looking to expedite their divorces.

Nikki Edwards, Phillips Murrah Director and Family Law Attorney, was quoted in a Journal Record article addressing the circumstances agreeing with Ron Little, McAfee & Taft Family Law Attorney.

Phillips Murrah Family Practice Law Director Nikki Edwards said she’s seeing the same issues from her clients as Little. She has clients who are trying to get the agreement finalized in a few weeks, while others are willing to push it into 2019.

“It was a surprising change because it’s been well-settled for many years,” she said. “The impact will be to restructure the settlement negotiations.”

She said from a practitioner’s standpoint, the change gets back to why alimony was created, which is predicated on one’s ability to pay versus one’s need.

“(The new law) will take out the thoughts of paying more because of the tax benefit,” she said. “It takes out the incentives for both sides.”

Read the full article by The Journal Record here.

OKC Beautiful appoints Newton treasurer

Sam Newton

Samuel D. Newton is an attorney practicing in Oil and Gas, Construction, and Healthcare Law.

OKC Beautiful, Oklahoma City’s only nonprofit organization dedicated to the beautification of Oklahoma City, elected Phillips Murrah Attorney Samuel D. Newton to its Board of Directors to serve as the organization’s treasurer.

“I feel that, at some point in the not too distant past, aesthetics gave way to efficiency,” Newton said. “Cities and towns often fail to think about how the atmosphere of the city helps attract businesses and promote civic involvement.

“Coming from Austin, where the city is very deliberate about growth, I was heartened to see that Oklahoma City also had an understanding of the importance of atmosphere and aesthetics in an overall plan.”

Newton said Attorney Mary Holloway Richard suggested he consider OKC Beautiful. He met with Carla Sharpe, past OKC Beautiful President, to discuss the organization and how his skills and abilities could be of use and was nominated to be on the Board.

“As treasurer, I will be responsible for working with the Executive Director and Finance Committee to ensure that budgets are met and kept,” he said. “More importantly, for my new role, I want to work to increase the OKC Beautiful endowment to ensure sustainable growth and future successes.”

Newton’s appointment comes at the same time as Attorney Ellen K. Spiropoulos’s role as President of the organization comes to an end.

“Finishing my two year term as President of OKC Beautiful is bittersweet since it also means I will soon be leaving the Board per our mandatory term limits,” she said. “I have been privileged to be President as the organization prepared for and celebrated its 50th anniversary, which was a great opportunity to reflect on all the individuals and achievements of our past and how the mission of OKC Beautiful continues and into the future.

“Sam will bring to his new position as Treasurer all the qualities that he make him an outstanding lawyer—attention to detail, strategic insights and problem solving skills. When you add to that his passion for Oklahoma City, he was a perfect choice for the OKC Beautiful board and now its executive committee.”

Newton will begin his role next year.

“Coming from a small town that didn’t put much stock in beautification and being a big proponent of the ‘broken windows’ theory, the mission of OKC Beautiful speaks to me as does its inter-meshing of educational and beautification programs,” Newton said. “So, I look forward to working with the organization and our other board members as we strive to build our endowment and grow our programs.”

To learn more about the organization or make a contribution, please visit the OKC Beautiful website here.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for October 2018

Cory Everett

Cory Everett

Cory Everett, Information Technology, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for October 2018.

“It is truly an honor being voted Employee of the Month,” Cory said. “We have so many great people that work here and do far more important work than what I do.

“My Phillips Murrah family has given me more than I could even begin to describe.”

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

“It has been a pleasure and honor to work with Cory,” said Sam Lincoln, Information Technology Director. “No matter the task, Cory always has a positive and professional attitude.

“His work ethic and dedication to excellence is immeasurable.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice.

“The work at Hough Ear Institute of restoring hearing for people all over the world is truly a modern miracle,” Cory said. “This is the future we are living in and to see a group dedicated to reaching ‘all who have ears will hear’ is so awe inspiring.”

Hough Ear Institute is currently running a campaign to raise $300,000 to dedicate to the Institute’s research efforts and will match contributions.

“Our research is truly cutting edge and is on the way to restoring one’s natural hearing for less than the cost of one hearing aid,” said Justin DeMoss, Director of Development at Hough Ear Institute. “This will revolutionize the way hearing loss and tinnitus is treated.”

To learn more about Hough Ear Institute or make a personal contribution to their fundraising campaign, click here.


Top Work Places 2017Phillips 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.

Phillips Murrah helps bring NPR’s StoryCorps to OKC

In February of 2018, Phillips Murrah partnered with local NPR radio station, KOSU, to bring the nationally renowned StoryCorps MobileBooth to Oklahoma City.

Through StoryCorps, Oklahomans were able to record their meaningful, intimate personal stories in the MobileBooth, an Airstream trailer containing their travelling recording studio. From February 8 to March 9, 2018, as part of a cross-country tour, the famed MobileBooth was parked at Pop-Up Park at NW 10th St. and N. Hudson Ave.

From KOSU’s website:

In StoryCorps’ MobileBooth, two people are able to record a meaningful conversation with one another about who they are, what they’ve learned in life, and how they want to be remembered. A trained StoryCorps facilitator guides them through the interview process. At the end of each 40-minute recording session, participants receive a complimentary CD copy of their interview. With participant permission, a second copy is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear.

Phillips Murrah is proud to partner with KOSU to help facilitate our community’s ability to tell their stories.

Newton presents on preemptive business practices for ASA-OK

ASA LogoPhillips Murrah Attorney Samuel D. Newton gave the last presentation for a Fall educational series on Nov. 2 for members of the American Subcontractors Association of Oklahoma.

Newton’s presentation was entitled “Protect and Preserve: Considerations and Implications of Business Practices on your Company’s Future” and follows presentations given by Attorneys A. Michelle Campney and David A. Walls in September and October, respectively.

“In the discussion, we covered maintaining corporate best practices to preserve the corporate shield, non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, discussed the implications of the Oklahoma Uniform Trade Secrets Act and how it works with confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements and how they all apply to protecting your business,” Newton said. “I switched to discussion of preserving businesses either through succession planning or selling the business.

“With succession planning, I discussed the importance of seeing the truth of the situation and not the idea (ie, who really is most apt to take over your business) and how to implement such changes, like through a buy-sell agreement or the organizational documents. I then gave a basic overview of a sale and the initial documents owners may be confronted with (letters of intent, confidentiality agreements) as well as the importance of preparing for due diligence.”

Newton, Campney and Walls will continue the series and each give presentations to ASA-OK in the Spring.

For more information about ASA, visit their website here.

Firm celebrates Halloween, raises funds for Oklahoma Regional Food Bank

Phillips Murrah staff members dress up for the Firm's annual Halloween costume contest.

Phillips Murrah staff members dress up for the Firm’s annual Halloween costume contest.

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 $580 from those in attendance for Firm’s Annual Harvest Food Drive fundraising campaign.

Rachel Schones, Receptionist, won First Place by a landslide with her pregnant nun look. Second Place was awarded to Cristal Bazemore, Administrative Assistant, dressed as an alien, and Third Place was won by Tess Bromme, who dressed as Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones.

“I enjoy dressing up every year,” Schones said. “It’s fun to see the creativity of the different costumes each year.

Receptionist Rachel Schones in her First Place costume

Receptionist Rachel Schones in her First Place costume

“I was very surprised this year when I heard that I won first place. I wasn’t sure what people would think about the pregnant nun costume, but it was a fun day.”

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

“A lot of people didn’t know it was me and some people were creeped out,” Bazemore said. “It was the best ever, seeing people’s reactions!”

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.


Top Work Places 2017Phillips 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.

Director presents for OU Women and Gender Studies class

Nicholle Jones Edwards

Nicholle Jones Edwards’ practice focuses on family law, labor law and general civil litigation. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

Nicholle Jones Edwards, Director and member of the Family Law Practice Group, presented to the Women and Gender Studies class at the University of Oklahoma on Oct. 23.

The class is comprised of mostly seniors and students looking to attend law school. Her presentation focused on custody and the impact of gender on custody disputes.

Edwards advised that Oklahoma law has enacted statutory measures to prevent gender bias in these matters, lending the example that in divorce cases, mothers’ rights are no greater than fathers’ rights under the law.

However, the issue in same-sex divorces as with any other divorce will focus on the best interest of the child, she said.

Edwards previously served on the Advisory Board for the Women and Gender Studies program and continues to lend support.

To learn more about OU’s Women and Gender Studies class, click here.

Family law attorney leads conference for Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute

Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra (middle) at Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute's first annual conference.

Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra (middle) with attendees of Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute’s 1st Annual Champions for Children Conference.

Monica Y. Ybarra, Phillips Murrah Family Law Attorney, helped orchestrate the 1st Annual Champions for Children conference for the Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute on Oct. 27.

A guardian ad litem is often an integral part of a family law case involving custody, visitation, and other child-related issues. However, it is often an added expense that the parties, especially low-income families, cannot afford, Ybarra said.

“I became involved when Sharon Byers, Executive Director for the Institute, asked me to assist her in coming up with ideas for CLEs,” Ybarra said. “One thing led to another, and the vision for a GAL-specific conference came into focus.

“This has never been done in Oklahoma, and we weren’t sure how it would be received; however, it was a huge success.”

The Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute was formed to provide this essential service to low-income families. It is a non-profit organization, and one of the ways the Institute raises money is to put on CLEs, or Continuing Legal Education seminars.

“This was one of our most successful CLEs based on the number of attendees,” Byers said. “We are grateful for Monica for that and the Firm for supporting this social event.

“Without people like Monica and Phillips Murrah, we wouldn’t be able to sustain and provide services for the children of Oklahoma and families that can’t afford it.”

More than 40 attorneys and law students interested in becoming GALs attended the first annual conference.

“I gave a presentation, along with Reagan Barham, another Oklahoma City attorney, called ‘Know your Judge: Judicial Expectations and Preferences’ in which we educated attendees about what judges want to see in a GAL’s representation,” Ybarra said.

Nicholle Jones Edwards, Director and Member of the Firm’s Family Law Practice Group, also presented, showing a cross examination of a GAL in a mock trial setting.

“Monica was instrumental in getting it done,” Byers said. “She is a workhorse and went above and beyond to organize the whole thing. Both Nikki and Monica did an excellent job and had valuable information to contribute, and we are very appreciative.”

For more information on the Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute, click here.

Phillips Murrah’s legal team welcomes labor and employment attorney

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah law firm is proud to welcome Lauren Barghols Hanna to our downtown Oklahoma City office.

The Firm welcomed Lauren to the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group as an Of Counsel attorney.

As a part of her employment practice, Lauren counsels and represents management in all phases of the employment relationship, including litigation matters involving discrimination, retaliation, harassment and wrongful discharge claims, whistleblower claims, claims related to employment agreements and theft of trade secrets, and other disputes arising from the workplace.

She also works with employers in crafting appropriate employment policies and procedures, employee handbooks, non-disclosure/non-solicitation agreements, and employee severance agreements and releases.

Lauren’s practice in the area of water rights frequently involves the representation of landowners in obtaining groundwater and streamwater permits for irrigation, oil and gas industry production, and other beneficial uses.

Lauren is a contributing author to the Oklahoma Employment Law Letter and has been interviewed by The Oklahoman, served as a guest legal columnist for The Journal Record business newspaper, and spoken at seminars on a variety of employment-related topics. She also authored the Oklahoma chapter of the LexisNexis Waters and Water Rights treatise.

Lauren’s achievements have earned her inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (employment law—management; labor and employment litigation) and Oklahoma Super Lawyers.

In addition to her legal practice at the firm, she serves as a volunteer attorney for Oklahoma Lawyers for Children, a nonprofit organization that uses the time, talent, and resources of pro bono lawyers to represent and assist children in various matters, including parental termination jury trials before the Oklahoma County District Court (Juvenile Division).

In 2014, the Oklahoma CASA Association honored Lauren with its “Attorney of the Year” award for her work with OLFC. Lauren and her family also work with the Tinker Air Force Base Home Away From Home Program, welcoming Airmen serving their first tour into their family for holiday meals, birthday celebrations, summer cookouts, and other activities to create community and mentorship for young enlisted airmen.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Lauren lives in Edmond with her husband Adam and her two children. Her hobbies include rowing, camping, and OU sports.