Legal Services

Corporations & LLCs that Must Appear in Court by Attorney (Midtown)


If you are seeking legal counsel in this area, please read and review this page in its entirety.

When your company is sued, or when it must bring an action in court, the company must be represented by an attorney. The present economy may cause companies to try to reduce costs by having someone who is a non-attorney, such as a corporate officer or LLC member, appear in court on their behalf. It is common knowledge that individuals can appear in court pro se (representing themselves without counsel) -in civil and even criminal matters. This has led to confusion concerning whether an individual with an interest in, or even sole ownership of, a company can represent it in court.

New York State requires corporations to be represented by an attorney. Section 321 of New York’s Civil Practice Law & Rules (CPLR §321(a)) contains the law governing this issue. Case law has interpreted the rule also to apply to LLCs, because they share the same characteristics of corporations as independent ‘entities.’ (Michael Reilly Design, Inc. v Houraney, 40 A.D.3d 592, 835 N.Y.S.2d 640, 2007.) A corporate or LLC defendant’s failure to retain counsel is grounds for entry of a default judgment against it. This rule requiring an attorney for a corporation or LLC is also true of Delaware-formed entities or any other corporate entities appearing in a New York court. (In fact, it is also true in all other states that I am aware of.)

For this reason, avoiding legal representation at the outset is not a good idea. Waiting to retain an attorney can cost money, cause legal complications or simply to have the matter be defaulted.
It is true that default judgments are often vacated, often on the grounds of “reasonable excuse,” because the courts are directed to judge on the merits where there is no prejudice to a party. But a company that fails to retain counsel and defaults may not rely on that failure to appear by counsel at a later time and then vacate the default. Also, having the corporation or LLC assign its claims to an individual who then appears pro se has been found impermissible, too.

I am a reasonably priced attorney with many years of experience both as a litigator, and in advising and assisting small businesses and entrepreneurs. I handle business litigation and advisement. Whether starting a new business or managing an existing one, consulting an attorney helps to ensure that your interests are protected. Certainly you should retain an attorney immediately if you are in litigation or expect to be.

While many businesses choose to avoid legal fees by using free online advice, stock company formation ‘kits’, online forms, or by reusing old forms and documents, such a strategy entails short-term savings that often pale in comparison and consequence to the long-term costs of relying on a legal structure, or essential documents, unsuited to protecting their interests. Problems in business enterprises are best prevented with counsel who can first explain the risks, then construct and review with you the documents necessary to protect your interests. From the inception of a business to its dissolution, I can help you make informed decisions that are best for your business. Most small or start-up businesses cannot afford in-house counsel, or to keep an attorney on retainer, but should at least have one at the outset, then consult with that attorney at each important change or decision made in the life of the company. As part of my services, I advise entrepreneurs and businesses on the legal issues of operating in their particular field by reviewing litigation and agency decisions so that they may avoid certain ‘red flag’ legal problems and potential lawsuits.

I also counsel clients on all actions necessary to remain in compliance with state laws, such as the maintenance of business records and the scheduling of annual meetings of owners and directors. Moreover, if you are developing your business in New York you will need to know the city, state and federal regulations governing your enterprise. I can investigate and advise you on regulatory compliance and related issues.

Successful operation of a business requires complex legal documents that need review by an attorney, including:

Confidentiality agreements

Non-compete agreements

Employment contracts

Commercial Leases and real property contracts

Vendor agreements

I do not however provide tax advice.

My practice is based in Manhattan, though I handle clients in the other Boroughs, Westchester and Long Island. Any matter that I take up will be handled discreetly. My legal fees for representation are fair and reasonable, though not cheap, and you will learn about them as part of our initial conversation by telephone. I offer flat fees in many, but not all, matters. I will consider offers of alternative compensation, or barter, if appropriate.

If I do not answer your telephone call directly, please leave a message that you are seeking legal counsel, provide a contact telephone number and then I will return your call as soon as possible. Meetings can be arranged at a location in Manhattan convenient for you, if you prefer.

Alternatively, if you are not comfortable in seeking legal counsel through Craigslist then you should consider contacting the appropriate local Bar Association. Either without cost or for a small fee, they provide the names of attorneys that the Bar has reviewed and vetted in particular areas of specialty to ensure that they have knowledge and experience to meet your needs.

Michael R. Horenstein, Attorney & Counsellor at Law. Tel.:
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No Solicitors or cold-callers: advertisers contact by email only

† “Attorney Advertising” statement as required pursuant to the NYS Rules of Professional Conduct: 7.1(f)

The information in this post is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client privilege. It is a general overview only, not advice on a particular and specific matter, and should not be relied on.

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