Thursday, July 29, 2021

Why Small Businesses Need Workers' Compensation Insurance

As a small business owner, you may think that your company of 3-4 employees is so small that you do not need to have Workers’ Compensation Insurance. However, you may be surprised to learn that many states require by law that employers provide workers’ compensation benefits to their employees.

            Let’s start with the basics. What is an employee? “Employee” means any person who receives payment from an employer for the performance of any work or service while engaged in any employment under any appointment or contract for hire or apprenticeship, express or implied, oral or written, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed, and includes, but is not limited to aliens and minors.

            What is Workers’ Compensation Insurance? It is a mandatory type of insurance that typically covers medical costs and a portion of lost wages for an injured or ill employee as a result of their employment. Injured workers receive benefits regardless of who was at fault in the accident.

            Here are some important reasons why you need Workers’ Comp. insurance:

            1.) It is required in most states. Although requirements vary by state, generally all small business are required to have some form of coverage. Certain states have allocated state funds for workers’ comp. insurance whereas others can obtain their coverage from a local agent or carrier.

            2.) It allows injured workers to get the help that they need. This safety net gives injured employees the benefit of having medical coverage and wage replacement benefits that they may need as a result of experiencing a workplace injury.

            3.) It protects your business. Having workers’ comp. insurance allows a business to be protected from the financial harm that would result from having to cover the real cost of medical expenses that comes with a workers’ compensation claim. Having the proper coverage allows for the reduction of costly claims.

Perhaps you are wondering, “What about if I am an independent contractor, or as an employer have independent contractors under me?

Firstly, an independent contractor is not considered an employee if:

            a. The independent contractor maintains a separate business with his or her own work facility, truck, equipment, materials, or similar accommodations;

b. The independent contractor holds or has applied for a federal employer identification number, unless the independent contractor is a sole proprietor who is not required to obtain a federal employer identification number under state or federal requirements;

c. The independent contractor performs or agrees to perform specific services or work for specific amounts of money and controls the means of performing the services or work;

d. The independent contractor incurs the principal expenses related to the service or work that he or she performs or agrees to perform;

e.  The independent contractor is responsible for the satisfactory completion of work or services that he or she performs or agrees to perform and is or could be held liable for a failure to complete the work or services;

f. The independent contractor receives compensation for work or services performed for a commission or on a per-job or competitive-bid basis and not on any other basis;

g. The independent contractor may realize a profit or suffer a loss in connection with performing work or services;

h. The independent contractor has continuing or recurring business liabilities or obligations; and

i. The success or failure of the independent contractor's business depends on the relationship of business receipts to expenditures.”

While employers themselves are not required to provide insurance for independent contractors, most, if not all, states require that each individual independent contractor carry their own form of workers’ compensation insurance. This helps your business avoid liability if a contractor is injured during the course of employment. It is in your best interest to hire independent contractors only after you have received record of their coverage that they hold.

            Although Workers’ Compensation Insurance can be confusing, it is always best to make sure that you as an employer or employee are protected. An attorney can answer any questions or confusion that you may have and guide you in the best way to protect yourself and your employees.

***The information contained in this blog post is meant to be informational only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions regarding your small business and Workers’ Comp. insurance please reach out to an attorney or use our contact information below to schedule a free consultation with Marcie Baker.***


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Meet the Team!

            Now that I have had this blog up and running for a couple of months, I thought it would be the perfect time to introduce you to the amazing people who make up the Law Office of Marcie Baker and keep the office running smoothly.

            First, we have Office Administrator, Ruthie Ortiz. As an office administrator, Ruthie handles the phones, screens new clients, maintains our filing room, and completes various other administrative tasks. Ruthie has been working for Marcie for 3 years. Ruthie was born in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, but as an infant moved to Vineland, New Jersey. She later moved to Florida and has been living here for almost 47 years. She has been married for 37 years and has two children (a daughter and a son) and three grandchildren who are her WORLD. She worked in the banking industry for 13 years and then for attorneys in the Tampa area before coming to work for Marcie. She loves everything about working for Marcie, but her favorite thing about working for Marcie is that she treats us all like family. She spends every moment of her off days with family. One unique thing about Ruthie is that in her early 40’s she was diagnosed with Vitiligo. It used to really bother her, but eventually she realized it doesn’t define who she is as a person and now embraces it.


            Next, we have Paralegal, Brandy Rich. As a paralegal, Brandy handles court documents, communicating with opposing counsel and other paralegals, and handling whatever other legal assistance Marcie may need. Brandy has been working with Marcie for 11 ½ years. She is a true Florida girl, she was born in nearby Plant City and has lived in Zephyrhills since 3rd grade. Her favorite thing about working for Marcie is that the office always has a family atmosphere. Marcie makes sure that all of us take care of ourselves and our families first no matter how high the pile of work is on our desks. She will never hesitate to ask about our lives, families, and health because she truly cares. On her days off, Brandy loves anything outdoors, especially boating/fishing. Brandy says she isn’t unique (I disagree), but her guilty pleasure is online boutique shopping and she will never turn down a dress with pockets.


            I serve as a Law Clerk/Legal Intern. Besides running this blog and social media platforms, I also conduct research on various topics for Marcie as well as sit in on client meetings, depositions, mediations, and other court proceedings. I have been working with Marcie since May, and hope to continue with her through the next school year as long as my schedule allows it. I was born in Illinois, and raised about an hour south of Chicago. I moved to Wesley Chapel in 2019 and absolutely love Florida. I hope to practice law in Florida after graduating law school and have already began my application to the Florida Bar. My favorite thing about working for Marcie is that she makes sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We work hard and get the job done, but that doesn’t mean we don’t take time to laugh, tell stories, or witness Marcie’s impromptu hallway dance parties. I also knew that I liked Marcie right away when she called me to come in for an interview and we immediately bonded over Chick-fil-A. On my “off” days you can find me baking banana bread and other sweet treats, dog sitting, and/or working as Research Assistant and Judicial Law Clerk. One unique thing about me is that if my dream was not to become a lawyer, then I would go to culinary school to become a chef.


Marcie grew up in Virginia and moved to Florida after her dad retired from the military. Growing up, she always thought that she was going to be a librarian after falling in love with reading when she was 12. At age 16, she started working in a nursing home as a nursing assistant, and in 1981, she entered the retail world. From 1981-1983 she worked in stores like Leewards. One of her main jobs was working in the art class section of the store where she would teach oil painting, stained glass and floral design. She even did private painting lessons. In 1984 she moved to the Gainsville/Ocala area and worked in retail management at a specialty clothing store until 1988.

At the end of 1988, Marcie decided to go back to school to become a legal assistant after an employee told her that she would be good at it. While working on her degree, she worked as a manager of an assisted living facility and obtained her degree in 1990. She was inspired by the lawyers who had taught her classes and ultimately decided to go to law school. After completing her Bachelor's at UCF in December of 1992, she prepared to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) while also working as a manager of a fine jewelry store. She started at Stetson Law in May of 1994 and went on to graduate cum laude in December of 1996.

Marcie has always been a people person who is also incredibly selfless and never fails to put the needs and concerns of others before her own. She quickly discovered that she liked more of the administrative law aspect, and that criminal law was not for her. Workers' Compensation is very administrative in nature - while there is a Work Comp judge, there are no jury trials. After being admitted to the Florida Bar in 1997 she went on to practice Work Comp for her first 7 years as an attorney. In 2003, she knew that the field of Work Comp was rapidly, and drastically, changing and decided to expand her specialties to family law. Family law is similar to Work Comp in that it is also administrative in nature. She would be bored just doing transactional work and loves that every day and every case is different. She has always been an advocate of alternative dispute resolution and in 2011 she became certified as Family law mediator. She believes that in Family law it is important for clients to understand that they have the power to control their future. To add to her Family law skillset, she trained in Collaborative Family Law in April of 2019 and has been bringing that in to her Family law practice ever since. She is a firm believer in giving clients the ability to retain the power to make decisions in their cases.

Marcie and Sandy

            And last but certainly not least, our unofficial 5th team member and office cat, Sandy. Sandy is about 2 years old. Despite this being Marcie’s office, Sandy believes that she’s the boss of us all. Besides Marcie loving cats, one of the main reasons for keeping Sandy in the office was that she played, and continues to play, a role as an unofficial therapy cat. Pre-COVID, she would sit in on mediations acting as a stress reliever for clients. During COVID, she was a bright spot in the office for the team when there was so much uncertainty and sadness. The day of my interview, she stood outside the conference room doors yowling, demanding to be let in so that she could have all of the attention. Now that is a daily occurrence, sometimes multiple times a day, as she makes her rounds to our offices looking for back scratches and a pile of paperwork to lay on. We also recently discovered that in true prima donna fashion, Sandy will only eat name brand tuna. So it looks like there will be a bulk purchase of StarKist in Marcie's future.

She wanted her own headshot of course.

            It is truly a privilege to work with these ladies (and Sandy) and I am so thankful for all of the experiences they are exposing me to and the lessons they are teaching me during my time here. I look forward to continuing to work with all of them as I begin my 2L year at Stetson next month.

Hope you enjoyed meeting our team!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

How to Choose the Right Attorney


            My law school class of 2023 has about 300 students. However, just because we will all graduate with a Juris Doctor from Stetson does not mean that we as attorneys will all be the same. The field of law is incredibly diverse and the career paths are endless. I know some attorneys who have never stepped foot in a courtroom since getting their degree. You can work in academia, work in the private or public sector, work for a non-profit, or work your way to becoming a judge.

            Practice areas for attorneys are incredibly diverse as well. An attorney can practice everything from Animal Law, to Civil Rights Law, to Intellectual Property Law. Even Cannabis Law is up-and-coming in the legal world. Some attorneys, like Marcie, specialize in Workers’ Comp, and the professor that I am a research assistant for specializes in Constitutional Law.  For me, I am hoping to pursue a career in Criminal Law, with a focus on International Law and Civil Rights. Some attorneys specialize in Family Law, others in Constitutional Law, some in Personal Injury Law, and many other areas.

            Due to the diversity in our profession, it is incredibly important that when seeking an attorney for your needs you find one with experience, and someone who specializes in the practice area that you are seeking help in. It is not as easy as running a google search and selecting the first hit that pops up. Just as you wouldn’t want a renowned French chef to cater your Taco Tuesday party, you wouldn’t want an attorney who specializes in Aviation Law to handle your divorce. Finding the right attorney requires time, research, and “shopping” for the attorney that can best meet your needs.

            So what makes a good attorney? A few important qualities to look for are honesty, objectivity, understanding, and effective communication. You want an attorney who is going to pursue a professional relationship by seeking all of the facts and willing to seek the truth at all costs. They should be a good listener who can clearly understand your goals and be responsive in a way that shows they heard your concerns and are working to effectively address them.


Here are some key things to consider when selecting an attorney:

1.)    Find an attorney that is familiar with the area that you live in. You wouldn’t want an attorney from Miami to represent you on a claim that concerns something in Wesley Chapel.

2.)    Expect that your attorney will be a good communicator. You should not have to reach out for updates, but should instead be one step ahead, always keeping you up to date on matters involving your case. Also, your attorney should be able to effectively explain you case to you in ways that you understand and be able to answer all of your questions to the best of their ability.

3.)    Ensure that the attorney has the right experience for your claim. You don’t want to hire an attorney that specializes in Estate Planning when the problem you are seeking help with concerns Personal Injury.

4.)    Interview potential attorneys. Many attorneys, like Marcie Baker, offer a free consultation. Sitting down and conducting these “interviews” will allow you to decide if this attorney is best fit for you and you can evaluate if they have the time and passion to handle your claim accordingly.

5.)    Finally, trust your gut. Your attorney should be someone that you feel comfortable discussing personal matters with and make you feel confident that they truly care about your case. Don’t settle for the first attorney you find, but instead find one who you feel satisfies your needs and will be the best advocate for you. 

Marcie specializes in Family Law, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, and Workers’ Compensation. She has years of experience in all three fields and zealously works to be the best advocate that she can be for her clients. She would love to discuss a case you have in any of these fields during one of our free consultations. If you feel that she may be a good fit for you, please use our contact information below to set up a meeting.

**The opinions expressed in this blog are completely my own. I have listed sources for topics that I referenced, but none of the material written constitutes legal advice. You should always contact an attorney before proceeding with any legal issues you may have.***




Thursday, July 8, 2021

A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Crash Course


What is bankruptcy? When an individual or business is unable to pay their debts, they may find relief from the debts owed to creditors by filing for bankruptcy. Doing this allows for a potential fresh start if the claim is accepted. A judge will review your bankruptcy case and then decide whether to accept or deny your request.

            Bankruptcy can come in many forms. The most common you may have heard of would be: Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13. The type you file depends on your situation, income, and status as an individual or corporation. The Law Office of Marcie Baker focuses solely on Chapter 7 Bankruptcy which I will explain in detail below.

            So what is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is the most common type of bankruptcy that is filed in the United States. Not only is it the most common type, but it is also the shortest termed form of bankruptcy that you can file. When Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is filed, the court will appoint a trustee who will oversee your case. One of the jobs of the trustee is to take over your assets and use the money from their sale to pay back your creditors.

            One thing to be aware of is that while a trustee will take over your assets, they cannot take ALL of your assets. The assets they cannot take over are known as exempt property and allow you to keep things that you need to live as well as have a foundation to begin a fresh start. Some examples of exemptions are: property used for work, a residence, and certain retirement accounts.

            In addition to knowing about exemptions, it is also important to note that while Chapter 7 Bankruptcy discharges many debts, there are types of unsecured debts that are NOT discharged. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not absolve you of all financial obligations. For example, some debts that are not discharged are: Child Support, alimony, student loans, HOA fees, and court fees are some that you will still have to pay on despite filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

            Here are some important tips to consider when you are thinking about filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy claim.

            Be organized. Make sure to collect and have copies of receipts, bank statements, and any other financial documents prior to ever meeting with your attorney.

Be cooperative. You want to provide information promptly, be timely, attend any and all meetings, and be sure to email and call back to make sure that everything is going smoothly and no additional information is needed from you.

Although bankruptcy law does not require you to hire an attorney to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, we highly recommend that you obtain an attorney to help you with your proceedings. Since you may not have a full understanding of the law, confusion or incomplete documents could lead to complications in your claim. It is always in your best interest to consult with an attorney regarding these matters.

            As always, the Law Office of Marcie Baker would be happy to speak with you and set up a free consultation to address your needs or concerns. We will do our best to provide the information and help that you require.

***The information in this blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions regarding Chapter 7 bankruptcy please fill out our contact form.***


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Courtroom Zoom: Is it here to stay?


            Life as we knew it froze in March of 2020. The past year and a half has challenged us all in many ways. From going to school remotely, to donning masks in public settings, to our kitchens becoming the office, we have all had to adapt to a “new normal.” One area heavily impacted was the justice system. Attorneys, judges, and clients all had to shift to handling courtroom matters via zoom, telephone, or e-mail correspondence.

            As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s one common question everyone in the law field is asking, “Are Zoom court proceedings here to stay?”

            Having spent my entire spring semester of law school online, I will admit it was nice to wear a suit jacket and pajama pants for Zoom class, especially Constitutional Law at 8:30AM. I really couldn’t complain about my commute from the kitchen to my bedroom/classroom, and saving money on gas (and frequent Starbucks visits) was certainly a plus. However, I definitely missed the personal element of interacting with classmates, attending office hours with professors, and studying with other people on campus. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the court system to transition to a way of life not previously practiced when dealing with legal matters.

            A benefit that I can see from all of this, is that should any similar situation like COVID-19 happen in the future, I already have an idea, and some experience, in navigating the virtual legal world. However, attorneys have mixed views about the benefits and setbacks of living in a virtual legal world.

This is what Marcie had to say when I asked her about the pros and cons of conducting legal matters via Zoom:

 “Zoom kept things going during COVID 19—while we have mediated many claims, in both workers’ compensation and Family law, I believe that live mediations are more productive, as the parties are more invested when they have to leave their homes to negotiate.”

“Another con is client access to a home computer and stable internet access. While you can call in like a phone call on Zoom, this does not ensure that the connection will be stable, and without a video, it is hard to know who else is present, if they are being coached, or if they truly understand the proceeding.”

One of the pros that she pointed out was, “Zoom has been great for Case Management Conferences as those are generally short and are not evidentiary hearings.  It saves clients significant time and attorney fees for clients.  It also allows attorneys to be more productive, rather than waiting to be called in to a live hearing, where often we would wait an hour for a 10 minute CMC.”

And when asked about the future of Zoom court proceedings she said, “I believe that many simple hearings (ie. uncontested divorces, non-evidentiary motions) can and will continue to be conducted by Zoom or telephone.”

            A panel of judges from the district to the appellate level in Tennessee also weighed in on the pros and cons of virtual litigation. Judge Hurd has found the transition to a virtual world to be going extremely well and has also allowed her to preside over more bench trials than ever before due to fewer scheduling conflicts. Chancellor Lyle agreed with Judge Hurd and said that her experience has been productive and she even set up a YouTube channel to allow the public access to court proceedings.

            They did note some of the virtual pitfalls, like keeping jurors off of electronic devices if they are not physically in the courtroom. They also noted that technological glitches can slow things down or create communication problems.

            Judge Davis, while appreciating the new way of doing things also noted, “From my perspective, I really enjoy and prefer the in-person oral argument. It’s a bit old school of me, but I think there’s something to be said and gained from the process of being in that courtroom and standing up and walking to that podium in front of the panel of judges and making your argument.”

            While there are many benefits to a Zoom court lifestyle, it is important to remember to always be professional as you are still serving and impacting the lives of your clients even if you’re doing it from the comfort of your home. As their advocate, they’re counting on you to be ethical, knowledgeable, and prepared.

            It’s hard to say exactly what the future of the legal world and Zoom is, but we can certainly see how its implementation has helped both attorneys and clients, and how it has also shed light on areas of the law that are served better in-person.

And perhaps most importantly, make sure that you are not showing up to a Zoom court proceeding as a cat. J



Time to Say Goodbye

Happy Thursday, all! Enjoy this upcoming long weekend and the unofficial start to summer! Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and to...