Fully Virtual Law Office Is Launched in Indiana


Indianapolis, IN: March 1, 2009 – Tiffany U. Vivo, an Indianapolis attorney and Managing Partner of Vivo Law Offices, LLC announced today the launch of Indiana’s first fully virtual law office (VLO) in Indiana. The VLO’s address is www.IndianaVirtualLaw.com.


A virtual law office (VLO) is a web-based law practice that enables clients and lawyers to communicate through encrypted messages from any web access point at times convenient for the client and typically at reduced costs. A VLO is a licensed law office that uses the web to facilitate attorney-client communications and the safe exchange of data and documents with a licensed attorney.

“By eliminating expensive law offices, large staffs and other unnecessary overhead, our VLO can deliver cost-effective legal services from Indiana-licensed attorneys at lower costs,” explained Vivo. Increasingly, consumers are turning to the Internet for solutions to legal, medical, home improvement, car repair and other problems. “A VLO is not right for every client, but VLO’s do offer many clients access to a knowledgeable and experienced attorney, and good legal documents at a fraction of the cost,” Ms. Vivo further explained.

The other huge advantage of a virtual law office is convenience. A virtual law office can be accessed by a client anytime from anywhere the Internet is available. “There is no doubt that clients expect more convenience. Many clients do not want to drive in downtown traffic, find parking and then fight crowds and elevators just to see their lawyer,” noted Matthew Griffith, an Indianapolis attorney who often meets clients away from his downtown office. “Coffee shops are my office away from the office,” Griffith added.

“It is important that any law virtual firm office strictly adhere to the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct and the Best Practice Guidelines for Legal Information Web Site Providers written by the E-Lawyering Task Force of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section and the ABA Standing Committee On the Delivery of Legal Services,” said Ms. Vivo.

About Tiffany U Vivo, Attorney: Tiffany U. Vivo is an Indiana attorney. At her physical law office, she practices immigration and family law.

Indiana Lease-Option Laws


A question from one of Matt’s readers-


Matt,  we are new members of CIREIA (www.cireia.org).  I read your q&a regarding landlords now being required to maintain heat/air etc… even when a lease option is in place.  Our question relates to this in that we have a property that needs rehabbed.  We have potential buyers who want terms.  We were considering doing a 6 month lease with option so they would have time to make the necessary repairs so they can finance the house.  I am now concerned that we would be required to fix all the plumbing, electrical, hvac and so on if we go through with the LTO.  What are our options?  Am I right that if we sell on contract and they default that we would have to foreclose instead of evict?  Same with seller financing?



Matt’s answer-


You got it.  You understand the law very well.  If you are a landlord, you have to honor the statute that requires you provide certain features of housing.  I have included that statute in this earlier blog: http://www.askmattonline.com/uncategorized/indianas-implied-warranty-of-habitability/


If you sell by land contract, you risk long delays and unfavorable treatment through the foreclosure and possibly bankruptcy processes.


If you’d like to discuss the matter in detail, please call me for a private consultation.


Matthew A. Griffith is an attorney, business performance coach, mentor and entrepreneur.  He coaches, advises and guides business owners, entrepreneurs, inventors, property managers, investors and real estate professionals.  Matt has nearly two decades of experience helping businesses grow.

Immigration law for business owners- Part 1




    Tiffany U. Vivo, Esq.

    Immigration & Family Law Attorney








Guest post-


If you own your own business or otherwise have employees, you are, under federal law, an agent for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (previously the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).  In an effort to reduce the hiring of undocumented immigrants, Congress created the I-9 verification process, which requires employers to confirm the employment eligibility of workers.  DHS investigators use these I-9 forms to determine whether employers are hiring undocumented workers.


I-9 forms are actually a positive thing for employers, because I-9 forms provide employers with a “good faith” defense if the employer hires a worker who is actually working illegally in the United States.


Employers can obtain I-9 forms from the DHS (800-870-3676), or download them from the agency’s Web site. You can also write to the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.


DHS can start an investigation about a company employing illegal workers at any time.  An employer can be fined and sanctioned for hiring an undocumented worker.  The standard in judging the wrongfulness of the employer’s conduct is whether a reasonable person would believe the employee was illegally employed.


Every employer must complete I-9 forms, even if the employer has just one employee.  Hiring independent contractors does not trigger the requirement to complete an I-9 form.


If you, as an employer, receive information and documents that, on their face, appear valid and consistent, you do not need to investigate further. However, if you receive obvious forgeries, information that does not match the employee, or other data that makes you think you should ask more questions, then you need to continue your inquiry as to the employee’s immigration status.


A good business practice is to conduct yourself an audit or hire an immigration lawyer to audit your I-9’s and supporting documents to be sure they comply with the law.  Here are some do’s and don’ts when going through the I-9 verification process:

  • During an employee’s first day, give the employee a list of documents that can be used to verify status.
  • Determine if the employee already has employment authorization.
  • Ask questions about name changes.
  • Make sure documents provided by the employee are on the lists of acceptable documents.  A good immigration attorney can help you with these lists.
  • Review documents for authenticity. Are there obvious signs of tampering or forgery?  Reject documents if they are clearly fakes.  If a document looks valid on its face and is listed as a qualified document on the I-9, accept the document.
  • Retain I-9’s for three years, or one year after employment ends, whichever is longer.  I-9 forms can be inspected by DHS on three days’ notice, without even a warrant or subpoena.


Employers cannot discriminate against an employee because of citizenship status or national origin through “document abuse,” which is asking the employee for more documents than necessary or different documents to prove employment eligibility.  However, employers do have duties to confirm employment eligibility as outlined in this post.


This post is certainly not comprehensive, and I encourage my employer-clients to conduct immigration and I-9 audits annually.  An immigration attorney can give you guidance in systematizing these processes to ensure DHS compliance.


Tiffany U. Vivo is an Indianapolis immigration and family law attorney. She practices exclusively in immigration and family law, and lectures and writes frequently on immigration law for businesses, employees and families.  For more information, please contact her at the above addresses and phone numbers.

Diversified Portfolios



Guest Post by-


Christopher R. Norwood, CFA(r)

Senior Investment Advisor

Biechele Royce Advisors


The Knowledgeable Investor


Many people believe they have too little money in their investment portfolio to own individual stocks. They feel that mutual funds give them the “safety” of diversification. I often review portfolios for prospects and find that they are invested in five, six, ten different mutual funds. The prospects believe they are adequately diversified; after all, they own multiple mutual funds which hold one hundred plus stocks each on average. They are often surprised when I tell them that they are not very well diversified at all. They are down right disbelieving when I tell them they could get almost the same diversification with a portfolio of 25 carefully chosen stocks. The reality is that 15 to 25 well chosen stocks provide 90% of the benefits of diversification and that a 40 stock portfolio can provide 99% of the benefits of diversification. The hundreds of additional stocks owned by the mutual funds in which our prospects are invested provide almost no additional diversification benefits. Have $100,000 allocated to equities? More than enough to build a 25 stock portfolio that will adequately diversify away your non-systemic (company-specific) risk. However, you aren’t properly diversified just because you own a properly diversified stock portfolio.

A properly diversified stock portfolio provides nowhere near the diversification benefits of investing among different asset classes. Small, large, domestic, and international stocks are sub-asset classes, not truly separate asset classes. After all, stocks tend to move together because companies tend to prosper or suffer together as economies expand or contract. Rather than limiting oneself to a single asset class, investors should build a properly diversified portfolio containing all four major asset classes (the historical data indicates that a four asset class portfolio composed of stocks – domestic and international, bonds, real estate, and commodities provides high levels of return per unit of risk).
The famous Brinson, Hood, and Beebower (BHB) study done in 1986 indicated that approximately 92% of a portfolios’ variation of returns is due to the mix of asset classes chosen. BHB used stocks, bonds, real estate, and cash in their study. Simply put, the percentage of each asset included in your portfolio will go a long way in determining your returns and the volatility of your returns over the long run. Individual security selection and market timing are not major determinants of long run returns and variation of returns relative to the asset classes in which you choose to invest. (Importantly, the value style of investing does outperform so-called growth and momentum styles over the long run and therefore does add to an investor’s returns).

Consider that approximately 80% of actively managed stock mutual funds don’t beat their benchmarks. Most large cap funds don’t beat the S&P 500 index (large cap). Most small cap funds don’t beat the Russell 2000. Furthermore, the funds that do beat their benchmarks vary from year to year and there is no evidence whatsoever that a savvy financial advisor can pick a priori (in advance) which funds will outperform (Connecting the dots – your financial advisor or planner is blowing smoke when he confidently informs you that he’ll only put you into the best mutual funds, since he can’t possibly know which ones those will be. Unfortunately, too many financial advisors put their clients in mostly, or only, stock mutual funds and they tend to use the ones with the highest commissions!)
Okay, to review: a 25 stock portfolio will get you 90% of the benefits of diversification and a 40 stock portfolio will get you 99% of the benefits (assuming diversification is your goal). But is that a properly diversified portfolio? Stock portfolio – yes, investment portfolio – NO!
Multiple-Asset-Class investing offers demonstrably superior results to investors, providing high rates of return with less volatility than one, two, and three asset class portfolios. For instance, an equally weighted four asset class portfolio (composed of domestic stocks, international stocks, bonds, and commodities) returned 11.24% per annum from 1972 through 2008 with a standard deviation of only 14.11%, resulting in a Sharpe ratio of 0.46 (high). What that means for us individual investors is that we want to create portfolios containing stocks (domestic and international), bonds, real estate and commodities for the long-term. Importantly, we can adjust volatility by adjusting the mix. Also importantly, we can add additional return by using value investing (paying less for a business than its worth) rather than growth investing (paying a premium for a business) or momentum investing (buying a stock simply because it is going up).

Christopher R. Norwood, CFA(r)
Senior Investment Advisor
Biechele Royce Advisors
Ph: 317-913-7000
Fax: 317-913-7020
Cell: 317-590-9095

I got fired yesterday. What a blessing it was!




This is a true story.  I got fired by a client yesterday.  I don’t get fired by clients often.  In fact, I can only remember a handful of times, when I have been fired as a lawyer over the past 18 years of my law career.


Getting fired yesterday was a blessing.


Here is why.  In a nutshell, I was never going to please this client.  He wanted me to tell him that the law is something different than what it actually is. 


I don’t tell my clients what they WANT to hear.  I tell them what they NEED to hear.


Lesson #1-  You are not going to please every client or customer.  So, don’t try.


Long story short, my client did not like the bad news that I delivered.  This client came to me for legal documents to complete transactions that  are generally prohibited by Indiana law.  When I explained to him that he could not do what he wanted to do, he became very frustrated.  He was disappointed that his lawyer, which was me until yesterday, would not sanction and approve his business model.  He never expected that his lawyer would discourage him from a business model that he had already spent thousands and thousands of dollars creating.  In fact, after I first met him and delivered the bad news a few months ago, he spent hours and hours on the Internet trying to prove me wrong.  He found several websites of other companies offering to do the same unlawful business that he wants to do.  So, he found it very hard to accept my advice.  Even after I printed and gave him sections of the Indiana Code that clearly prohibit his business model, he remained in disbelief.


If you are a professional services provider, your clients must have faith in you.  If they do not trust or have faith in you, they will ignore your advice or not follow it religiously.  If they do not follow your advice, they are, in essence, paying you for the privilege of ignoring your advice.  They can ignore your advice, all on their own.  If they are not accepting your advice and counsel, they are paying you for nothing.  There is no good reason for them to pay you for nothing.  That is simply a waste of their money.  So, you either need to establish a higher level of trust or terminate the relationship.


Lesson#2-  If you can’t please a client or customer, end the relationship on good terms- early.


If you do have a client or customer whom you cannot please, end the relationship on good terms now.  Don’t struggle to try to fix a broken business relationship.  There are plenty of customers and clients who need good advice, other services and products.  This is a variation of the old 80-20 rule.  80% of your problems come from 20% of your “bottom” customers.  While 80% of your profits come from 20% of your “top” customers.  Spend your time and energy on the top 20% of your customer-base.  If you spend your time and energy on the customers whom you will never please, you are doing a disservice to your best customers, that difficult customer, your employees, your business partners, and yourself.  Let the bad customers go, and add to the number and quality of your top 20% customers.


Let that difficult customer go to your competition.  You will be happier and more profitable, and your customers will be happier.


To finish my story about getting fired, I met with the client and ended the relationship on good terms.  I got paid in full for my time, and returned my client’s file to him.  I wished him the best of luck and encouraged him to reevaluate his position.  Had he asked, I would’ve helped him find another lawyer.  In fact, I spent 15 – 20 minutes with him, explaining once again that the law does not support his position.  I gave him specific examples of other cases for other clients, and even suggested that he go talk to some other lawyer-experts in this field.  I even offered to arrange a phone call with local experts, who were the chief governmental officers in charge of this area of the law.  They happen to be personal friends of mine, and I was willing to arrange private meetings with these lawyer-experts to help the client.  All to no avail, because the client is 100% committed to pursuing a plan and business model that poses significant risks to him and his business.  He is a client who cannot be pleased, and he would not remember all the efforts I made to keep him out of trouble.  The minute he gets in legal trouble, he will develop selective memory, and blame me for his refusal to follow my good legal advise.   Who needs that?

It was a blessing to be fired by that client yesterday.  I feel bad that the client is making a bad decision, but I did the right thing.  The client should have more, not less, confidence in me, but he doesn’t care about that.  He is not searching for good advice or a trustworthy advisor.  He is searching for legal confirmation that he can do whatever he wants to do.  That’s not the type of client I want to serve.  So, it is best that the relationship ended.


Can you apply these lessons to your business?  Do any of you have customers or clients whom you need to fire?  Let me hear about it.  Add a comment to this post and tell us your story.

Foreclosure investors shift tactics- IBJ INTERVIEWS YOURS TRULY



The Indianapolis Business Journal interviewed me recently about real estate, investing and the economy.  At first, the reporter misspelled my name.  So, I gave the IBJ no links or references.


I got more calls and emails from people to tell me about my name being misspelled than responses to my thoughts about the economy!  That’s funny.


Any way, the IBJ was kind enough to correct the spelling of my name, after a couple of days and just one email from me.  That’s good service.


So, I’m posting a link to the article here-  Foreclosure investors shift tactics.


I’ll post again in a day or less.  Come back and read more.  Thanks.

What to Do, When a Judge Gets It Repeatedly Wrong


Question from One of Matt’s Readers

“I am a landlord with several properties. I’ve been having a problem with a particular small claims court judge. He always want to put off rendering a decision on a cases. It takes two to three weeks to get a decision on any type of damage hearing. When I do receive the decision in the mail the amount awarded is always about half of what I asked for, with no explanation. I take meticulous records and proof to court and have everything documented. I’m always surprised when he doesn’t make a decision right there. Is the judge required to explain why he disallowed part of my damages. Is this something I should appeal? On what grounds?

or am I throwing good money after bad?”



Matt’s Answer

In Marion County, Indiana, there are nine small claims courts. You can appeal judgments from these nine courts to the Marion Superior Court on any grounds.  Actually, you don’t need a reason to appeal.  So, one option is for you to obtain your ejectment in the small claims court and then appeal the adverse monetary judgment to the Marion Superior Court. That will be a longer process, however. That is one option.


Another option is to avoid the small claims courts completely and file all of your lawsuits in Marion Superior Court. That is a slower and more complicated process, however. My law firm had a client who experienced the same troubles that you are experiencing. That client, out of pure frustration, filed all its lawsuits in Marion Superior Court. It costs more money and often requires a lawyer’s help.  That is a second option.


A third option would be to ask the judge for a few minutes of her time to discuss her court procedures in private. You cannot talk about a specific case in private with a judge, but a good judge would be receptive to a general discussion about her courtroom procedures and the evidence she requires. I would try to make that overture. That might not work, but it is probably worth a try.


A fourth option might be to change the way in which you present your case. If you do not provide the court with a one-page summary of all your damages, you should start doing so. I would label the summary as an exhibit and formally introduce it into evidence. I would make a “big deal” out of your summary of damages. It should be typed, include a title, and look like a formal document. Make it a serious effort.


Here’s yet another suggestion… file a motion to correct error or a motion to reconsider after your next inadequate judgment award. Describe why the court erred and provide an itemized damages calculation. There is not a formal means by which the court in small claims cases can consider a motion to correct error or motion to reconsider, but I would still give it a shot. If you try this, make sure you file this document soon after you get your judgment.


Another option is to simply keep doing what you’re doing. Frankly it is not unusual to wait two or three weeks to get a decision out of any judge in any court in any county in the state. So, I’m not surprised or alarmed that it is taking some time for you to get your judgments.


As a final thought, it might worth trying to bring an attorney to your next case. Judges tend to treat litigants differently when a lawyer is present. After that one case, you might find that the judge treats you differently.


I have given you several suggestions. You might experiment with one, two or all of these. Unfortunately, there is no single, absolute and perfect solution. It is frustrating when courts ignore the law and the facts. It is even more frustrating, when it seems that a court has its own agenda. Please be patient and diligent. Persistence helps as well. Keep trying, and keep fighting for a just result in your cases.  For your own good, assume that it is your fault that the judgments are wrong.  Assume that you could communicate your position better. In other words, don’t blame the judge for hearing you wrong. Try speaking clearer.  Present a better case. You may be perfectly right and you may be doing a good job of presenting your case, but assume you could do better. You might find that a better articulated and presented case will serve you well.

Good luck.

Recession -vs- Opportunity to increase market share- PART II




This post is about OPPORTUNITY.  The opportunity we all have today is to grab more market share, because of two important business realities:

1.  Your competitors are scared and aren’t fighting for market share these days.  They are not spending money on marketing, advertising, sales, creating efficiencies or their human resources.

2.  You can establish strategic partnerships today that were not available six months ago.  Today, other players in your industry will form relationships, do joint ventures and co-develop or co-market with you.  They did not need you as bad last year, but they’ll talk to you about a deal today.


Last week, I wrote a post about OPPORTUNITY.  I suggested that you should not be listening to all the negativity about the economy and should look for opportunities.  I got a lot of positive reaction to my post, which was encouraging.


Later, I appeared on the Internet show, The Buzz, with Tony Scelzo of Rainmakers.  That video will be at the Rainmaker’s website soon.  Tony and I talked about OPPORTUNITY in a down market.  Although the media does not talk about it, more than ever, there are huge business OPPORTUNITIES today.  Also last week, I was interviewed by the Indianapolis Business Journal and was quoted as saying that more millionaires will be made over the next few years than in decades past. (The IBJ spelled my first name wrong!  It’s MATT.  Not Mike.  Amazing!) 


Why am I so confident that now is the time to be aggressive in your strategic planning?


My confidence comes from history.  After every recession or depression, there is a recovery.  And in every recovery, a few get very, very rich.  Some of these “recovery millionaires” simply see growth in their existing business operations, but many others create new opportunities through discovery, invention or innovation.  Bad times cause people to become innovative.  Good times make people lazy.  

What our federal government does not understand is that recessions weed out the weak and stimulate innovation that generates new and long-term growth.  Great ideas that benefit society are generated during hard times.  Fat, bloated and inefficient businesses die or get trim during recessions.  Recessions are painful in the short term and healthy in the long term.  Recessions are a natural cycle that is disrupted by government bailouts.

The question for you is this:  Do you see opportunities to increase the market share for your current product or service?  Or, do you see a need that you can fill in a new or more creative way than the current competition?  If so, you too could be a “recovery millionaire.”


Think about the opportunity to increase market share through this analogy.  Your business is like a small boat at low tide.  Low tide represents the current recession.  If you can find a way to buy or build a bigger boat today, while labor and materials are cheap, you’ll have a larger boat when the tide returns.  And guess what-  the tide lifts large boats at the same rate that it lifts small boats.  It takes no additional effort to lift a large boat as the tide rolls in, because the returning tide (economic recovery) does it for you.  You just have to have a bigger boat in place in time for the tide to return.  A larger boat represents more sales, more profits and easier operations.


So, what’s it going to be:  a dingy or an ocean freighter?  Are you going to seize this opportunity or match or exceed your competition’s withdrawal from the market?  Do you really want to become a “recovery millionaire?”  Or, are you satisfied with the status quo?  How truly strong is your spirit as an entrepreneur?

 Have you thought about your market positioning?  Are you taking any steps to maximize your opportunities when the economy grows stronger?  Will you be ready?  Or will you be left behind?


Let me hear your thoughts.  Send me your comments.

Be a Pelican- Dive In!



Two weeks ago, I was sitting on a beach, looking out across crystal clear blue Caribbean waters with the sun about three hours from setting.  That’s when I noticed this pelican fishing.  Pelicans are large birds, so it takes some effort to lift off, clear the ocean’s surface and fly nearly straight up 50 feet or so.


The pelican slowly drifted in flight a few yards, searching for fish just below the surface, 50 feet in the air, and then the pelican folded in its wings to its sides, and would dive straight down to the ocean.  It torpedoed into the water, using its beak to stab at and capture a meal of fresh fish.


Amazing.  I watched that bird for nearly an hour.  It must have made 15 dives while I was watching.


What in the World does this story have to do with business?


You need to be “pelican like” in your business operations.  I know, I know. . .  we’re in a recession.  You have to watch cash flow.  You can’t afford to make mistakes.   Blah, blah, blah.


What was your excuse when we weren’t in a recession?  Frankly, you can’t afford NOT to take risks.


Too many businesses are too passive in exploring growth opportunities or bettering existing operations.  In a recession or in good times, you’ve got to be calculating, smart and aggressive.  Sometimes, you’ve got to go for it, just like a pelican diving for a meal!


You can be smart and aggressive.  You can take calculated risks.  Sometimes, a pelican dives but misses the fish.   Sometimes, businesses take chances that don’t work out well.  However, doing the same thing over and over without innovation, calculated risk taking and determination leads to slow deaths, for pelicans and businesses both.


Virtually every successful entrepreneur had several failures before their first success.  Then again, successful entrepreneurs understand the art of being “pelican like.”


What are you doing this week to catch more fish?

Marketing Organization Chart








I am a huge fan of visuals!  I’m talking about concepts and ideas presented in a visual format of some type.




Because we are visual creatures.  Most people learn faster and better by seeing it first.  Then, after they can “see” the concept, we are more likely to grasp/understand the details and nuances that are best explained through words in sentences, paragraphs, articles or books.


I believe in visuals in my teaching.  I use charts, graphs, diagrams, etc. when I coach, counsel, lecture or teach.  I even use role playing, chair positioning, etc. as a way for my clients to learn and remember the lessons I teach them.  Years ago, I bought a book called “The Great Big Book of Process Visuals (or Give Me a Double Axis Chart And I Can Rule the World)” by one of my learning mentors, Alan Weiss, Ph.D.  I don’t use all the visuals in Doctor Weiss’ book, but I did learn a great deal from reading and studying it.  Mostly, I learned that I need to use visuals as often as possible to help my clients learn faster, learn better and retain more of that learning.


Here’s a great example of a visual from John Janash, of Ducttape Marketing:


Can you imagine trying to teach this concept by words alone?  Better yet, can you imagine that your listener would better understand the words alone?


I think not.  I think this chart shows and reveals and teaches a great deal about marketing, without any explanation at all.


However, I’m a lawyer by training.  And lawyers love to use lots of words.  So, I am going to dedicate several blog posts to exploring the concepts presented in this chart.  Until then, take 5 to 45 minutes simply to read and read again this chart.  Consider how it was outlined and structured.  Consider the color scheme.  What do the words mean to you?  Are there other words you’d use instead.  What is missing?  What is unnecessary?


Most importantly, what does this chart make you think about when considering your company or organization?


How can you use visuals to educate clients or customers?

How can visuals help you in management?



On the subject of what’s missing, read this:  http://www.roundpeg.biz/2009/03/marketing-organization-chart-revisited/.



SPECIAL THANKS TO LORRAINE BALL.  I got this chart from Lorraine Ball at Round Peg.  I follow Lorraine on Twitter and through my blog reader, and you should too!