Welcome to Burgess, Harrell. We are a general practice law firm located in Sarasota, Florida, U.S.A. Principals of our firm have been practicing law together since 1981, and formed this firm in 1992.

We bring many years of experience to a broad range of clients and industries. We provide a comprehensive range of legal services with emphasis in contracts and commercial law, real estate and land use law, estate, probate and trust administration, asset protection planning, family and domestic relations law, business organizations and structures, corporate governance, mergers, acquisitions and business transactions, loan and financing transactions, securities law, franchise law, tax law, trademark and copyright law, mediation, commercial litigation, and insurance defense and personal injury litigation.

We hold the highest attainable rating for legal services, as detailed annually in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. We are committed to providing our clients with high quality, prompt and cost effective legal services. All of our lawyer, paralegal and non-lawyer personnel have a personal responsibility to maintain our reputation for integrity and legal expediency. We endeavor to remain at the forefront in our use of computer technology to more promptly and more efficiently serve our clients.

The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience.


Commercial, Insurance Defense and Personal Injury Litigation, and Mediation

We have substantial experience in a broad range of cases. We prosecute and defend cases and matters before various federal, state and local courts and agencies, and other forums. Our litigation emphasis is on business and commercial matters, contracts, commercial transactions, corporate and business organization matters, shareholder, partner and business owner matters, employment matters, business torts, securities matters, taxation, real estate matters, construction matters, foreclosures, lease matters, evictions, collection, loan and other workouts, bankruptcy and creditors rights matters, governmental regulatory matters, estate and probate matters, insurance defense, personal injury, wrongful death, and appellate representation.

Our litigation attorneys consult with our attorneys focused in other areas of practice to provide insight into the substantive law of the issues in dispute. We endeavor to conduct all litigation on an expeditious and cost effective basis.

In view of the cost and unpredictability of litigation, we counsel our clients on litigation avoidance and on alternative methods of dispute resolution. We are frequently able to mediate or arbitrate disputes in a manner less costly to our clients. Our litigation attorneys also serve as mediators and arbitrators in various family law and commercial disputes.

Due to the level of experience of our attorneys, they are often brought in to pending cases to act as advisors and co-counsel.

Jim Burgess also serves as a mediator and arbitrator in both pre-dispute resolution situations and in pending cases.

Jim Burgess, John Colton and Mara LaPorta devote a substantial portion of their practices to this area of practice. Don Harrell is often involved in the commercial, securities and tax litigation conducted by the firm.

Commercial, Business Organizations, Securities and Tax Law

This area of our practice spans the entire range of business counseling. Our commercial attorneys have substantial experience in contracts, commercial transactions, choice of business organization, business formation, mergers, acquisitions, purchase and sale of businesses, divestitures, dissolutions, employment, leasing, licensing, trademark and copyright, financing, franchising, securities, and tax law matters. One of our commercial attorneys is a former certified public accountant. Our commercial attorneys frequently handle real estate transactions associated with our commercial transactions or collaborate with our real estate attorneys.

We are often called upon to draft and review a myriad of contracts, agreements and business forms. This area of our practice includes countless types of contracts, and cuts across many industries.

Our attorneys structure and form many of our clients’ business organizations. We are regularly called upon to evaluate sole proprietorship, corporation, limited liability company, general partnership, joint venture, limited partnership, business trusts, and other business forms in conjunction. We advise concerning holding company, parent-subsidiary, and other affiliation issues, often designed to minimize or limit liability within a business structure. We also often address corporate governance matters.

We are experienced in mergers, reorganizations, combinations, acquisitions, restructurings and dissolutions. We have structured, negotiated, documented and closed some of the larger and more complex business transactions in our service area including the purchase and sale of technology companies, a steel company, hotels, resorts, golf courses, hospitals, health care facilities, and broadcast companies. We also handle loan and financing transactions for our clients.

Our attorneys are also experienced in the performance of securities services for our clients in both private and public offerings. These offerings involved computer, hardware, software, internet and technology companies, telecommunications companies, hospitals, health care companies, franchise companies, hotels, a maritime company, a steel company, and real estate ventures.

We are also experienced in tax planning and analysis. We have been called upon to render tax advice in conjunction with business formation choices, mergers, reorganizations, business restructurings, and the purchase and sale of businesses. We also handle various business and individual tax matters before the Internal Revenue Service and Florida Department of Revenue.

Don Harrell and John Colton focus a large portion of their practices in this area. Jim Burgess also devotes a portion of his practice to this area.

Real Estate and Land Use Law

Real estate and land use law comprises a significant portion of our practice. Our real estate attorneys have substantial experience in all aspects of real property law including the purchase, sale, transfer, exchange, development, construction, ownership, operation, management, financing, mortgaging, leasing, title insurance, and the tax-free exchange of real property. Two of our real estate attorneys have been certified by the Florida Bar with specialties in this area of law. Our real estate attorneys frequently collaborate with our commercial and tax attorneys on these matters.

Our attorneys have played major roles in structuring, negotiating, documenting and closing some of the larger and more complex real estate projects and transactions in our service area including shopping centers, retail centers, office centers, hotels, resorts, golf courses, hospitals, health care facilities, warehouse properties, industrial properties, condominiums, timeshare properties, cooperatives, subdivisions, multi-use developments, and multi-family rental properties.

Our clients include developers, contractors, institutional and private lenders, condominium associations, and commercial and residential buyers and sellers. Our legal services for these clients involve contract negotiation, financing, documentation, title examination, insurance and related matters, and closing procedures.

Our services also include the structure and establishment of real estate entities and organizations, mortgage foreclosure, workouts, short-sales, land-use planning and development, permitting, and zoning, variance, special exception, and other administrative matters and hearings.

Lynette Mancuso and John Colton focus a significant portion of their practices in this area. Don Harrell handles various real estate matters usually related to commercial transactions.

Estate Planning and Administration

We regularly represent clients in the areas of estate planning, probate, and trust administration matters. This representation often involves consideration of asset protection issues.

We advise clients in all areas of estate planning. We endeavor to structure plans designed to orderly transfer property at death to intended heirs with an effort to minimize tax consequences to all. We utilize the variety of techniques including wills, pour over wills, revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, qualified personal residence trusts, life estates and enhanced life estates, family limited partnerships, family limited liability companies, irrevocable life insurance trusts, charitable remainder unitrusts, grantor retained income and annuity trusts, and gifting.

We advise clients concerning incapacity and guardianships. We often utilize powers of attorney, health care surrogates, health care directives, living wills, pre-need, standby and post need guardians, and living trusts. We also have experience in establishing guardianships, maintaining them and complying with court reporting requirements.

We are regularly involved in all phases of probate and trust administration. We understand the problems and concerns faced by surviving spouses and beneficiaries in this difficult time. We endeavor to handle probate matters and trust administrative matters as expeditiously and sensitively as possible.

We also advise our clients regarding estate and gift tax issues and estate and trust income tax issues.

We are also routinely requested to advise or assist our clients in asset protection matters. This type of planning utilizes existing Florida homestead and other exemptions, bankruptcy vs. non-bankruptcy analyses, methods of holding title, entities and other vehicles for holding assets, and various business structures.

Don Harrell and John Colton focus a large portion of their practices in this area. Jim Burgess also allocates a portion of his practice to this area of law.

Family Law

We have substantial experience in this area of law. Our family law practice involves all areas of family and domestic relations law, including premarital and post-marital agreements, settlement agreements, divorce, post-divorce and custody proceedings, domestic violence, and paternity matters.

We advise individuals who are contemplating a marriage. We provide advice concerning premarital agreements, maintaining non-marital assets, and estate planning.

We regularly advise and represent clients in dissolution planning and dissolution of marriage proceedings. Out of respect for the institution of marriage, our policy in domestic cases is to advise our clients to attempt marriage counseling and reconciliation where possible. We understand that divorce can be traumatic and regularly suggest professional counseling for that trauma. We try to be sensitive to our clients, their children and family members during this representation. We attempt amicable out-of-court settlements where possible. Where settlement is not possible, we vigorously pursue our clients’ interest through discovery, trial and post-trial stages.

We advise clients on custody and visitation issues as well. We are particularly attuned to the interests of children and do everything possible to limit the impact on children in these representations. We also have been involved in adoption matters.

We regularly advise clients on post dissolution matters. We handle alimony, support and property distribution enforcement and defense actions, modifications of court ordered financial arrangements, and modifications of custody and visitation arrangements.

We often are called to represent clients where one or both spouses are high net worth individuals with complex business holdings. Our family law attorneys regularly collaborate with our commercial, business, tax and real estate attorneys on complex cases involving business organizations and transactions, business valuations, asset discovery, income analysis, tax and real property implications.

Our family law attorneys and our commercial, business, and tax attorneys also consult with other lawyers and law firms on complex business matters incident to divorce.

Lynette Mancuso also acts as a mediator and arbitrator in many family law cases.

Lynette Mancuso, John Colton and Mara LaPorta devote a significant portion of their practices to this area of law. Don Harrell often consults with our attorneys and other lawyers on complex business matters incident to divorce.


1776 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota,
Florida, U.S.A. 34236