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Selecting a Lawyer

January 7th, 2011 ernie Posted in Selecting a Lawyer No Comments »

Selecting a LawyerSelecting a lawyer can be difficult , particularly when you are under stress because of a police charge or some other traffic offense or legal issue. Most people when it comes to selecting a lawyer will talk to a family friend or someone at the office and asked for a recommendation. What you’ll get when you ask these questions is probably the lawyer that person or family uses for preparing wills, real estate transactions, or setting up a small business. The majority of people do not have experience with lawyers defending traffic infractions or other more difficult charges such as DUI offenses and it can be difficult to find a qualified lawyer to mount a defense for you under those conditions. Finding the right lawyer may mean the difference between a conviction and not.

Selecting a Lawyer – First Step

The first step in selecting a lawyer should be to look for a lawyer that matches the area of law that you need. For example if you are purchasing a home then obviously a real estate lawyer would be your first choice. Someone who specializes in closing real estate transactions whether it is your home or small business. On the other hand if you need someone to defend you over a traffic violation or worse a charge of reckless driving or something similar you will want to choose a lawyer who has had courtroom experience.

After narrowing your search of lawyers in the area of law that you need, you can then look for review ratings and client review of the lawyers that you’re looking at. You may want to interview several lawyers if you have a difficult case that you need help with. Be prepared to pay if your case is difficult and will take a long time to resolve.

Twelve Questions to Ask Your Lawyer

Here are 12 questions that you might consider asking the potential lawyer that you may hire to help you with your situation:

  • what is your experience in this field
  • have you handled matters like mine
  • what are the possible outcomes of my case
  • what are my alternatives in resolving this matter
  • approximately how long will it take to resolve
  • do you recommend mediation or arbitration
  • what are your rates and how often will you bill me
  • what is a ballpark figure for the bill, including fees and expenses
  • how will you keep me informed of progress
  • what kind of approach looks at what you take to resolve the matter – aggressive and unyielding, or will you be more inclined to reach a reasonable settlement
  • who else in the office working on my case
  • Can junior attorneys or paralegals in the office handles some of the substantive legal work at a lower rate

The answers to these questions will be very helpful for you to select a lawyer that will best meet your needs and will ensure that you have the desired outcome that you’re looking for.

Other Considerations

As an example if you are looking for a divorce lawyer, and the lawyer that you interview indicates that they will be aggressive and non-yielding, you could end up with a very large legal bill after your case is settled if your spouses lawyer takes the same approach. A friend of mine fell into this situation where both lawyers were aggressive and would not negotiate. There was a legal battle in court and my friend ended up with a huge five figure legal bill. Of course it did not help when my friend was also aggressive and had decided that his ex-spouse was not going to get much of his asset base.

Neither his spouse nor himself ended up with any money after the divorce due to the long protracted legal battle. A lawyer who seeks a reasonable settlement will likely find a fair solution for both parties at minimum cost.

When requesting legal services you must understand that there is a need to manage the lawyers services that he is providing. If you want a lawyer to be aggressive, he will be aggressive. If you want a lawyer to reach a settlement quickly instruct him to do this. He will find a reasonable way to get to a settlement quickly. The outcomes are much different and the bill for his services can also be quite different. You must find someone you can work with. You must find someone who will follow your direction, and someone who will provide you with excellent legal advice prior to making any decision.

Listen to Your Lawyers Advice

A good client will also listen to his or her lawyers recommendations regarding how to proceed with the case.

The comments in this post are not intended to be providing legal advice. Instead it was posted to help people look at the common sense process of selecting a lawyer.  It also looked at some of the ramifications regarding the decisions you might make. Please provide comments or additional ideas regarding this post. You can also add comments regarding other issues that or readers may want to consider.

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Small Claims Court & Neighbors

June 21st, 2010 ernie Posted in Selecting a Lawyer 2 Comments »

Small claims courts are used for a variety of situations. Many disagreements are between individuals and involve a small amount of money or services.  When it involves a neighborhood dispute there are far more ramifications than who wins in the court. This post is about one such situation that arose in our area and ended up in small claims court. Although the claim was resolved to one parties satisfaction, the impact of the claim and the subsequent decision lasted for many years.

Imagine a new subdivision, young families moving into their homes and beginning the process of developing their homes and their yards. Obviously a high priority are things like window coverings, furniture and decorations indoors.  Families tend also to add fences around the yard. Complete some landscaping, and some people will go as far as adding a pool, trees and fountains. Usually the first priority is to add a fence and this is were discussions can get complicated with neighbors.

First of all most people will have at least 3 neighbors. Some could have as many as 6 or 7 neighbors depending on the shape of the lots and how they line up with each other. You will need to negotiate with each one to come to an agreement regarding the location of the fence, the type of fence, the cost of the fence and who will build it. Sometimes a meeting is required to discuss these issues and come to an agreement.

Most people can agree easily on the type of fence and location. What is sometimes  difficult is who will build it and sharing of the cost to build the fence. The particular situation that developed in our area involved two people who agreed on the type of fence, the location and the cost.  What they did not agree on was who would build it and who would pay for the fence. Normally you split the cost 50-50, however one neighbor said that he would build the fence himself while the other wanted to hire someone.

Small Claims Court – Agreement

Were this situation went bad was when one of the neighbors hired a contractor and had the fence erected while his neighbor was at work. When the second neighbor  came home, he found the fence built and the first neighbor was demanding 50% of the cost including the labor and this was the basis of the disagreement.

What to do? Neighbor number 2 said he would pay for 50% of the material and nothing for the labor since he was planning to build the fence himself as per their verbal agreement with him and all of the other neighbors. This position was based on the agreement he thought he had with his neighbor and was definitely in agreement with all of the other neighbors since they were planning to also build their own fences to save money.

This was the disagreement!

On to small claims court with the 1st neighbor asking for 50% of the labor cost which amounted to less than a thousand dollars! Neighbor #2 got all of his receipts together and asked two of his neighbors to join him in small claims court.

The upshot of all of this is that the judge listened to both parties, reviewed the receipts, and listened to the two witnesses that came along. Neighbor #1 did not have a chance and the court ruled in favor of neighbor number 2. He also made the first neighbor pay for all court costs in addition to paying for 100% of the labor costs.

Now the real fun begins, since the entire neighborhood was against the 1st neighbor.  He still lives in the same home, in fact they both do and they have never spoken since that day of the disagreement over the fence.  Most , if not all of the other neighbors in the area, basically ignore the one that tried to take advantage of a friendly neighbor. If they do talk to him, they are polite and that is about it.

Sometimes small claims court is the right place to go to deal with disagreements that require a judges ruling. However most cases are better settled between neighbors in a fair and friendly manner to avoid long term hostilities and unfriendly behavior.

The moral of the story is to make sure your agreements are clear, well understood and written down before you start and think twice before heading off to court!

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Missing DUI & DWI Court Dates

June 7th, 2010 ernie Posted in Selecting a Lawyer 3 Comments »

DWI Court DatesThe first thing we want to say is “Don’t Miss Your Court Date!!” The second thing we want to say is that this blog is based on research that we have done and we believe it represents real legal issues and guidance, however before you make any decisions or take any action, “Talk to Your Lawyer and if you do not have one, get a lawyer right away!”

We would really like to emphasize this point about talking to and communicating with your lawyer at all times. He or she can provide you with appropriate guidance that is specific to your situation and your case and he or she can also help you avoid getting into even more difficulty with the judge and the legal system.  The legal system sometimes is very unforgiving and you definitely want to avoid doing things that can make your situation worse.

DWI Court Dates & DUI fines

If you have already been charged with a DWI or DUI offense, chances are you have already appeared once before the judge, perhaps been given a court date and released with or without bail.  Your lawyer will have represented you in court and requested that the court allow you to walk out on bail with the huge assumption that you will arrive back in court for your hearing on the assigned court date.

DWI and DUI are separate issues and let’s face it you should not have put yourself in a position where you could be stopped and charged, however this is what has occurred and now you have to deal with appearing in court to find out what your fine will be and whether you will pay a fine or do some time in jail.

Why would you miss a court date?

From the courts perspective, short of being dead or incapacitated, there is no legitimate reason that you can come  up with for not appearing in court at the prescribed time.

Many people do however miss their court dates for a variety of reasons. Some people are just too lazy to get there on time, while others have a variety of mishaps that prevent them from arriving for their court date. Some have accidents, some are too sick, some cannot get off work and some are just too afraid to go to court.

If you cannot make it to court, the minimum you should do is call your lawyer and explain. There may be a solution that he or she can provide, or at the very least they can explain it to the judge why you are not in court and request leniency from the court and request a new court date which you had better make.

Will the Judge issue a warrant?

In some cases the judge based on the information that your lawyer provides will schedule a new date for you to appear. In many cases your bail will be revoked and a warrant issued for your arrest.

Now comes the really tough part. If there is a warrant issued, you may not be arrested immediately, however if should happened to be stopped by the police for any other reason, or come in contact with the police, they will arrest you on the spot based on the warrant and take you straight to jail!

Now it really depends on your past relationship with the courts if you have one, the reason that you missed the first court date, how good your lawyer is, how you appear in court, your attitude in court towards the judge and the  attitude of the judge that day. You could have your bail rescinded permanently and you go straight to jail, and stay there until your next court date to hear the original DWI or DUI charge! Make an effort to be respectful to the court!

Follow Your Lawyers Advice

Not only have lawyers spent a long time in school to learn the laws of the nation, they have also gained a great deal of experience in dealing with the courts and how laws are applied. They have a pretty good idea what will fly and what will not when it comes to missing dates and appearing for DUI and DWI charges.

If your lawyer tells you that you really need to attend the next court date and you need to dress appropriately, he or she is telling you this based on the experience they have in dealing with cases such as yours. If you do not communicate with your lawyer, advise them that you cannot make it to court for some reason , there is not much they can do for you. Always call your lawyer and follow their advice. They will ensure that whatever charge you are faced with will be minimized to the extent the law allows given your circumstances.

Your comments are welcome on this and other issues.

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Financing Legal Fee’s

January 21st, 2010 ernie Posted in Selecting a Lawyer 1 Comment »

Financing Legal Fee'sThe are few times the vast majority of people ever need to contact a lawyer and incur legal expenses. When they purchase a home, sell  a home, prepare a will, or deal with minor traffic infractions. Few of us ever have to worry about a major criminal case, or lawsuit or  major divorce proceedings.

Selling a home for example can incur legal fees of between $500-$1000. Preparation of  a  will particularly if it is uncomplicated can be in the range of $300-$600. Court cases involving criminal activity or defense of DUI type traffic infractions can cost significantly more and approach $10,000-$100,000. Not everyone can afford to pay these kinds of fees so it is important to understand what the cost will be prior to your case being taken by a lawyer and how you will finance your legal fees.

Financing Legal Fee’s – How Much Will my Defense Cost

Most clients want to know how much their defense will cost when they are facing criminal charges. The answer depends on the circumstances of your case and the quality of the defense team. Most attorneys will be able to provide a quote after initial consultation regarding your situation. There are some points to consider when shopping for an attorney. Here are several questions that you may want to discuss.

Fixed or Variable Costs

Will the price of the case be fixed or will the price increase as the case progresses? Pay-as-you-go contracts can become very expensive particularly if the case lasts a long time. You do not want to find yourself running out of funds in the middle of the criminal process. Competent attorneys should be able to provide a fixed price up front.

Does the Price Include the Trial

Another question to confirm is whether the total price quoted by the attorney includes  the trial process. If your case needs to go to  court and be heard by a judge or jury an extended court case can drive up the costs significantly. Good trial preparation can result in a settlement or even dropping of charges before the case ever goes to court. Skipping proper case preparation to save money might actually cost you more in higher legal fees and in the worst case a guilty verdict.

Hidden Costs

You need to ask your lawyer if there are any hidden costs that you should be aware of. Better to find out before you make the decision to hire instead of when you receive his invoice. Request a full disclosure of all possible costs and legal fees prior to signing an agreement. A good law firm should be able to provide all of the required legal service for a flat fee and then absorb the cost when legal assistance may be needed from other firms. If professional services are required your lawyer is legally required to disclose any fee splits.

Other Expenses

Complex cases often require the use of investigators, psychologists and other non-legal staff. There may be costs associated with obtaining documents, evidence or other records. You need to understand these fees upfront and you should discuss them with your attorney. Experts agree that a good rule of thumb is to estimate about 10% of your legal fees for these outside costs.

Financing Legal Costs

There are companies who will provide loans for you to finance your legal fees. Be very careful when negotiating these fees regarding payment terms, interest rates, and other fees that may be included. Legal firms will also sell your legal fees to collection agencies and other firms that specialize in collecting debts. These firms may take a cut of 10 to 12% of your legal fee. So don’t be surprised when the company different than your legal firm comes calling to collect your legal fees.

We are providing this information to assist people in selecting lawyers and understanding how financing of their legal fees will work. You need to take full accountability for hiring a lawyer and negotiating the legal fees prior to entering into an agreement for your defense. These are guidelines only and in no way are providing legal advice. Your comments are welcome.

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