191 Peachtree Street, NE
Suite 4400

Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 523-3550

111 W. Adair Street
Valdosta, GA 31601
(229) 244-7774

Services

What We Do for People Like You

We represent business owners, professionals, individuals and couples throughout Georgia and North Florida.  We may be their regular outside corporate counsel, estate planner or real estate closing attorney.  We also work with a number of attorneys to offer specialized services for their clients.

We are the primary business and personal lawyer for many of our clients.  Whether they need a shareholders agreement, an employment agreement or a new office, we can typically assist.  And if we can’t assist, we’ll try to put you in touch with someone who can.

Here are some of the services we offer, followed by an explanation of each:

  • General Business Representation
  • Buying or Selling a Business
  • Estate Planning
  • Real Estate
  • Estate Administration
  • Mediation
  • Working with Other Attorneys

General Business Representation

We participate throughout the lifecycle of a business – from formation through growth and success leading ultimately to sale or transition.  Most of our clients are business owners with established businesses who are looking for someone who’ll put the same care into their legal work as they do in running their business.  We represent traditional goods and services providers, medical professionals, farmers and property owners.

Clients look to us for advice to protect losing their valuable investment to creditors, competitors or former employees. 

For new businesses, that includes choosing the right type of entity for your business (limited liability company, corporation or partnership). 

Expanding businesses may grow through purchasing other businesses or lines.  If you’re buying or selling a business, our experience in negotiating and drafting the necessary documents may help make sure your investment is protected. 

Proprietary or confidential information is the key to many businesses’ success.  We help protect that information by drafting contracts for key employees.  Also, we regularly draft contracts with customers and suppliers and leases with landlords and tenants. 

Georgia law has frequently changed in terms of how you may protect your proprietary information by prohibiting former employees from competing with you.  The law has changed again in 2010, so if you have existing agreements with employees, they may need to be reviewed as the law only protects agreements entered into after its effective date.

Often, the businesses we represent have co-owners.  We recommend maintaining up-to-date agreements (such as shareholders agreements or buy/sell agreements) to ensure that the value of the business is preserved.  We have found that most people do not have the protection they need when it comes to ensuring they or their family is treated fairly in the event of death, disability or retirement of themselves or a co-owner. If you have a shareholders agreement that you haven’t reviewed in a number of years, it may need to be modified to reflect the changes in your business and goals. 

Protecting the value of a growing business means employing responsible asset protection strategies.  Although we do not sell insurance, we frequently advise clients who are looking to purchase or exchange policies to accomplish their goals.

We believe your business should be designed to survive without you once you’re ready to retire or if something happens to you.  We stress the importance of integrating your business’s plan with your estate plan.

For most business owners, the past few years have been very difficult. Virtually every sector from stocks to bonds to business profits has taken a hit.  Imagine now that something happens to you with your current plan.  Would the loss in value look like another 2008?  Could your estate stand another 2008?  Because that’s what can happen without an updated plan in place.  For a business owner, planning is essential to avoid losing great value to competitors, partners or even the government – value that could have gone to their families in their greatest time of need.

For more information about business planning, check out our Resources section.

Buying or Selling a Business

If you’re looking to expand your business by purchasing another business or line, it helps to have someone looking after your interests to protect the investment you’re about to make. No one wants to get hit with a liability they didn’t anticipate after buying a business. Having assistance may help flush out potential problems along the way before they become your problems.

We help buyers throughout the acquisition process, from letter of intent through due diligence, negotiating and finalizing the definitive agreement, working with lenders and closing.  We want to be part of the team helping make your transaction occur and can offer creative solutions to common and uncommon problems.

Similarly, if you’re a business owner looking to sell all or a part of your business, we can help to suggest ways in which you can assure you receive the compensation you deserve.

In this context there’s rarely a second opportunity to do it right.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of doing the best you can so that what you want to have happen, happens.  Estate planning helps you make informed decisions about planning for your loved ones in the event of your death or disability.  You’ve spent years building the value of your business and other assets – estate planning helps to preserve that value.

We work with our clients to craft plans that help achieve their goals.  We also use our experience in administering estates to advise what may work well in a particular situation and what may not be as productive for your family.

While taxes may affect your estate, we start first with what you’d like to accomplish and work from there.

We advise couples in first marriages, second marriages and beyond, with no kids, minor kids or grown kids. We work with young professionals all the way up to veteran retirees.  We have particular experience in family members with special needs, disabilities, dementia or addiction issues.

We prepare simple wills, complex wills, revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts (including life insurance and special needs trusts), charitable trusts, split interest trusts and a host of other planning techniques.  Regardless of the technique you ultimately choose, it all starts with listening to what you want to accomplish.

For more information about estate planning, check out our Resources section.

Real Estate Services

We offer assistance with commercial real estate transactions.  If you’re expanding, downsizing, upsizing, rightsizing or refinancing, we can work with your lender, real estate agent and buyer or seller to help you get the closing done and move on with your life.  We believe in what we do and the value we add and think our clients have a better chance of getting a good result if we’re involved from the outset of the transaction.

We’ve represented buyers, sellers, contractors, developers and lenders.  We’ll help you when purchasing an office, farm or other commercial property.

Estate Administration

Estate administration is the process of implementing a person’s final wishes after their death.  In a will or trust, the executor or trustee is responsible for gathering assets of the deceased person, paying bills and managing and divvying up the estate or trust.  There’s often a good bit of paperwork involved, plus court appearances, so we frequently work with executors and trustees to help make sure the right boxes are checked and forms completed in accordance with the deceased person’s wishes and applicable law.  We provide these services whether or not we drafted the original will or trust. If a person dies without a will or trust, often an administrator will need to be appointed to oversee the estate and we work with those as well.

Georgia has a new Trust Code, effective July 2010, that affects how trustees are to manage trusts.  We were involved with the new Code prior to its adoption by the legislature and can help advise on how it may impact you.

Probate in Georgia doesn’t have to be time consuming, messy or expensive.  We can help you through this difficult time.  You don’t have to go it alone.

Mediation Services

Mediation is a way of resolving disputes outside of the courtroom and without a judge or jury.  In a mediation, the opposing parties will meet with a mediator, who assists the parties in reaching a result that’s fair to both.  The mediator doesn’t make the decision, he or she assists the parties in negotiating a compromise. Richard Barnes is a registered mediator with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution and can assist in resolving commercial and estate disputes. 

Working with Other Attorneys

We realize you may have an existing relationship with a lawyer or firm who may not offer the expertise you need in a particular matter.  We’re happy to work with you and your primary counsel to provide you the assistance you need.  We enjoy working with attorneys and your other professionals as part of the team.

We also work with lawyers from other states who have clients with legal issues in Georgia.  We can assist in making local filings, helping with estate administration, and drafting and negotiating legal opinions in corporate and secured real estate transactions.

Not that you know what we do, let’s spend a few minutes in looking at what you can expect and our philosophy on legal services.

Our Goal – to Get You From Need to Do It to Done

We realize that legal work may be high on the things you need to do list, but not so much on the things you want to do list. Our approach, developed over 20 years, is pretty simple:

  • Get you in
  • Get you out
  • Get it done right

For estate planning matters, on average, we’ll meet in person three times: first to get a handle on your goals; then, after you’ve had a chance to review an initial draft of your documents, we’ll meet to answer any questions you may have.  Last, after we make changes based on your choices, we’ll arrange to sign everything.

We know there are a lot of other places you want and need to spend your time.  We respect that.

What You Can Expect

We take our work very seriously – after all, we’re not dealing with abstract ideas, but your business, your family, your hopes and dreams, and that’s a big responsibility.  We invest a lot of time and resources in making sure we have the information and tools we need to assist with your matter. We read and re-read and tweak your documents until we’re satisfied that it’s the best we can do.

At the same time, we don’t take ourselves very seriously.  If you come here, you can expect that we’ll laugh and talk and share our experiences.  But mostly we’ll listen to you in a warm, friendly atmosphere.  Our offices are comfortable, not clinical or intimidating.  We want you to want to come here.

We’re not judgmental, we accept where you are and try to help get you where you want to go.  You may have hoped to be a little farther along by now, but who hasn’t felt that way after the last few years?

We Believe Most People Don’t Need a Plan or Contract that Looks and Reads Like a Leather-Bound Copy of the Atlanta Phonebook.

In our work, our goal is to get you the most benefit for the least hassle and expense. Shorter is often better. 

While boilerplate has its place, we work very hard to create comprehensive yet comprehensible documents. We want you to understand what you’re signing.  You won’t get a 50 page agreement with a 30 page cover letter explaining the 50 page agreement.  You’re much more likely to get a picture to explain any document we prepare – a flow chart or drawing that shows what’s intended.

Fees

There’s no getting around it: good, customized legal work is expensive.  Our fees for a particular matter are based on the time we spend and any significant expenses we incur.  We use experience and technology to be as efficient as possible in working with you.

Our philosophy on fees is simple:  no surprises.  By the end of our very first meeting you’ll know exactly how and for what you’ll be billed.  Of course, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and give you an estimate based on our experience with other clients.  You’ll approve this before we move forward.

Good, customized legal work is expensive.  But consider the alternatives to good and custom.  Our clients have, and recognize that what may seem cheaper at first can end up costing much more in the long run.

Deep, Dark Secrets?  We Hear Those

People who come to us are sharing information that they hold very dear. You can rest assured that what is told to us, stays with us.  Because we deal with sophisticated issues, many families come to us with special needs or concerns – a child with substance abuse issues, a spouse or parent with age-related dementia, a family member who is disabled or is in a rocky marriage.  Chances are, we’ve heard something similar before and we’ve crafted solutions to deal with the issue. 

Some Things We Don’t Do

Although we try to provide a broad range of services to our clients so they don’t have to look elsewhere, there are some things we don’t do. For example, we don’t do workers compensation, insurance defense, union negotiations, contested child custody matters or nasty divorces.  We may assist with litigation, but we’re typically not the lead counsel. We don’t offer strategies to help people qualify for Nursing Home Medicaid.  We do provide referrals to other lawyers who do these things, so if you have a question, then feel free to contact us.  From time to time, lawyers refer their clients to us if they don’t offer a particular specialty that we have, and we’re happy to work in a limited representation in association with their regular lawyer.

Giving Back

We are pleased to be able to contribute to a growing number of local and regional causes.  BarnesLaw, LLC has supported the American Cancer Society and the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts.  We support athletics at Lowndes and Valdosta public schools, Valwood School and Valdosta State University.