How to Choose a Great Business Lawyer for Your Business: My Top Ten Tips

Conventional wisdom (and many lawyers) will tell you that, if you’re a business owner or manager, you will get yourself in trouble if you don’t have a good business lawyer. But when I hear this, I view this as somewhat of a negative statement, which frankly annoys me. I assume that smart business people do not want to be belittled and told that, they if they don’t have a lawyer, they will be too naive or inexperienced to avoid pitfalls.

Another way of saying this is that I personally hate doing anything to move away from something. I much prefer to make choices that allow me to move towards perceived advantages of my actions. So I address my clients accordingly.

So with this in mind I will rephrase the primary benefit of having a great lawyer by your side as follows: you will make more money. You should thus view a business lawyer as your partner who will help you make the choices that will improve your business and drive your bottom line upwards.

Now, if you are looking for a lawyer or are not happy with your present lawyer, how do you choose a great business lawyer. But first a definition. What is a business lawyer? I personally distinguish a business lawyer from a corporate or commercial lawyer. To me the business lawyer in the classic sense of the term denotes the classic lawyer-client relationship where the lawyer is more than someone who cranks out paper. I define the business lawyer as your quasi business partner or confidante. Someone you can confide it, who can solve your problems, understand you and help you grow.

Now Here are my TOP 10 TIPS to choosing a GREAT BUSINESS LAWYER, not in any order of importance.

10. Don’t assume you need a big blue chip firm. I come from several big blue chip law firms. They do great law and sometimes you need the “brand” or “label” of the big law firm next to you, for instance if you’re going public. But for more routine work, you don’t need such a firm. They are expensive and comprise many layers. So for you to deal with the top dog, you will be paying up to $1,000 per hour, or more. If your budget is one quarter of this, you will mostly be dealing with a junior associate who will not have the business experience you are looking for. It really depends on your needs, and your budget.

9. Don’t focus only on the billable hour rate. If you’re hesitating between someone who costs you $250 per hour and someone else at $350 per hour, don’t make your decision strictly on cost. What matters are two things: first what the final bill will be and, second, what value who will have received. The hourly rate is a red herring. What is the point of asking someone to do a job for you at $250 per hour if the person needs 40 hours for the job where the other lawyer at $350 per hour only needs 20 hours? Particularly if the other lawyer can do a better job for you. Billing policy is too much of a thorny and elaborate issue to address in a few lines. My point is simply that the hourly rate is not the be all and the end all.

8. Look for someone you would be happy to have a drink with. If your relationship with your business lawyer is going to be successful, you need to connect with him (her) on a personal basis. It is to your advantage to let your lawyer into your life as a quasi-friend. For this to happen there must be personal chemistry.

7. Look for business experience. If your business lawyer is going to advise you on your business, it is trite to say that having business experience is a must. Again it goes to the difference between dealing with a junior associate just out of school and someone who has real practical hands on business experience.

6. Look for someone open to a fixed fee arrangement. No one I know wants to retain a lawyer not knowing what the final bill will be. While this is often difficult for a lawyer to estimate, he (she) may be open to a flexible or fixed fee arrangement. And he (she) should be able to give you at least a good idea on the fees.

5. Look for a deal maker not a deal breaker. In any business deal, there can be dozens of reasons why the deal can’t work or why the agreement is not right. You don’t want a lawyer that throws unnecessary obstacles to making the deal work. It takes a practical approach. It is all about business risk and your lawyer should give you the pros and the cons and provide advice rather than blocking the deal.

4. Think of your business lawyer as your part-time VP legal. Some business lawyers are open to retainer arrangements where they will agree to act as your part-time VP legal at a lower cost than hiring a law firm. A lawyer could for instance offer to work a certain numbers of days per month for you at a fixed fee. It could save you money and help you grow your business with a smart person on the inside who gets to understand your business inside out.

3. Find someone with good business connections. Getting things done in this world often requires a good business network. Having access to this through your lawyer is invaluable.

2. Find a people person. If you want your lawyer to make things happen for you, he (she) will need to be someone who does not antagonize everyone around him (her). Having someone who relates well with other people can be a key to making something work.

1. Think bottom line. Lawyers cost money but I submit this should not be your first thought. What you should be thinking about is whether by spending say $1,000 your lawyer can help you generate $2,000. If so, the lawyer is not a cost. He (she) is a co-generator of a rate of return of 100%. If you think about it that way and your lawyer delivers, the cost will not be so bad to digest.

With these elements, you will be in a position to make the best decision for what works for you.

The Lawyer Business Coach: Humor Means Health! Are Lawyers ‘Legal Eagles’ Or ‘Legal Beagles’?

Yes, I’m a lawyer. Please don’t hold it against me. Many people don’t like lawyers. They say they seldom return phone calls. Others complain that they charge too much money. Many say they don’t speak plain English, and instead speak what is sometimes called ‘legal gobbledegook.’ Some even think lawyers are all crooks.

Many people think lawyers should be eliminated altogether. But America loves lawyers. We have more lawyers, per capita here, than any other nation in the world. When I passed the bar and started law practice, the registration number I was assigned was 2,386. That’s how many lawyers there were in Colorado, USA. If I were to tell you how many Colorado lawyers there are today you wouldn’t believe me and you would think I was lying. By the way, you do know how to tell if a lawyer is lying don’t you? If his mouth is moving.

Again, many people think lawyers should be eliminated altogether. Shakespeare, in Hamlet, has the line, “The first order of business should be to kill all the lawyers.” Heaven forbid! Pogo, our cartoon philosopher friend, gave us an alternative: “Let’s just shorten their legal pads.” This sounds like a much more realistic idea to me. Doesn’t it to you too?

I write different types of articles: business, spiritual, and human development. I call myself ‘The Lawyer Business Coach,’ and ‘The Gospel Coach.’ Most people can understand me writing law-business articles. But many can’t understand me writing spiritual articles. I’ve had people say, “How can you be a lawyer, and a Christian too? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?”

At a funeral service the minister said, “Here lies a lawyer, and a good Christian man.” One fellow asked the minister: “Did they bury two men in the same grave?” But, yes, I do write spiritual articles. My focus is living daily life in the power of the finished work of the gospel of Jesus.

My purpose in these humor articles is simply to give you a greater fondness for us lawyers. Maybe just a greater tolerance for us? Take your pick. Don’t forget to hug your lawyer today. On second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea. Ignore that counsel.

Remember, lawyers are people too. Well, at least most of us. And at least most of the time. Whichever is greater. Or least. Or perhaps both.

Those Legal EAGLES (or is that ‘BEAGLES’?)

Lawyers are the legal eagles of society! We are the custodians of liberty!! We are the protectors of the people!!! We are the stalwarts of justice!!!! We are the upholders of the Constitution!!!!! And if you believe this, then I also have some ocean-front property in Denver, Colorado I want to sell you too.

We all know what an eagle is. It’s a large, gorgeous, strong bird that is the symbol of America herself. We lawyers like to consider ourselves legal eagles. We also all know what beagles are. It is defined as a dog who is a small hound, with a smooth, lavish coat, short legs and drooping ears. They also have a wide throat, and produce a deep growl or fierce bark. This describes a lot of lawyers I know.

It’s Hard For Lawyers To Stay Motivated

It’s especially hard for us lawyers to stay motivated because of all the negative lawyer jokes we hear all the time. I wish people would go back to Pollock jokes. But then I’m not so sure about this either, because Sir Frederick Pollock was a famous English lawyer barrister, and jurist.

I feed myself this stuff because it’s so hard for us lawyers to stay motivated. That is, unless we are suing someone. Why? Because we lawyers are the most enthusiastically negative people in the world. But it’s not without cause.

In defense of lawyers (most of whom need a lot of defense), do you have any idea how difficult it is to stay motivated, enthusiastic, or ‘up’ when you face one negative person or situation after another, hour after hour, all day long?

Law offices are negative, because they consist of lawyers. Also, a lawyers’ secretary is often down in the bumps because of her boss. After all, how would you feel if you were a legal secretary and you were ready to leave work for the day. You pop your head into your bosses’ office and say, “Hey boss, have a good day!” He snarls back at you: “Don’t tell ME what to do!”

That’s how it is in most lawyers’ offices. Wouldn’t this negative atmosphere rub off on you too if you had to work in it constantly?

Of course, clients are usually negative because of the things they are facing – criminal matters, traffic violations, divorces, bankruptcies, corporate problems, contract breeches, and many, many other types of things. When you’re a lawyer, you must handle those negative clients – and then fight with other lawyers and judges on top of that.

At the end of the case you often have to fight your client to collect your fee. Especially if you lose! What a business. It is no wonder lawyers are negative people.

Practicing law is a lot like practicing prostitution. In both cases, the value of services rendered drastically declines – once those services have been performed. It’s because clients don’t like to pay once services have been performed that makes many lawyers collect their fees in advance.

So, we lawyers spend all of our days fighting with everyone we come into contact with. Then we spend our nights worried about the next day’s activities. And you thought being a lawyer was just a lot of fun and games, didn’t you?

Next time we’ll talk about the mixed messages that lawyers often give people.

My human development articles have a different twist to them, and will challenge you: http://www.JohnDenverTheSinger.blogspot.com. The articles come from a 39-line thought stimulating song I wrote in tribute to John Denver. Get my FREE TRIBUTE CD when you buy the book: John Denver’s Legacy — A Fire In His Heart & A Light In His Eyes. Also, as the gospel coach, I minister the gospel FREE to help you live at least a 50% better spiritual life, in less than a year, than you do today: http://www.TheGospelCoach.com. No wonder Paul calls the gospel, ‘The Power of God.’

Mesothelioma Litigation Lawyers – What Questions Will The Lawyer Ask During The First Meeting

When a client goes to see a lawyer, there are some specific things that the lawyer will want to know and will subject the client in a line of questioning; the first interview is usually the crucial interview. This is because this is the meeting that will determine if the lawyer will represent the client or not. So the lawyer will want to know why the client needs the services of a lawyer. The reason why the want to know why the client needs their services, is to enable them evaluate the matter and see if they are going to represent them or not. In cases where the client cannot be represented by a particular lawyer, they are forwarded to a more appropriate lawyer who will be able to handle his or her legal matters.

Another common question that lawyers ask clients at a first meeting is if the client has seen other lawyers before. If other lawyers have been hired to represent the client the lawyer will want to know why their services to the client were terminated. They will also want to know if there were other lawyers so that the lawyer can be able to work with other lawyers. The other lawyers that have worked with the client could have unraveled matter about the case that could help the current lawyer who has been assigned to the case.

Another common question that a lawyer asks at a first meeting with a client is the financial stand of the client. Lawyers rarely give free services even at a first meeting. They do not charge that meeting and they will want to get the best out of it. So they will want to know if that client is in a position to pay the lawyer fees. If the client finds the rate to be very high, then other lawyer who has lower rates can be recommended.

An initial client lawyer meeting will include questions of the criminal record of the client. This prepares the lawyer and also gives him the opportunity to understand the legal stand of the client. The lawyer will want to know if there are people who will be able to act as witnesses or even act as proof of good conduct. They will want the list of the witnesses so that the lawyer can be able to compare the facts of their client and the other people so that they see if the client is saying the truth or not.

Smart lawyers will ask about the legal problems of the client and will not interrupt them as they narrate. While the client is talking the lawyer will be noting important points. As much as they would want the meeting to be brief so that they can save a lot of time and money. Many lawyers have come to realize that they get a lot of information from their clients when they are talking without being interrupted. After the narration they will then ask specific questions to get the some things clear and they stand a better chance of winning a case.

At the conclusion of the interview the lawyer will give you specific recommendations. They may tell you they can’t take the case. These lawsuits have built-in time frames so it is imperative that you file as soon as possible to make sure you haven’t missed any deadlines. Please go to Mesothelioma Litigation Lawyers [http://www.mesotheliomalitigationlawyers.com] for more information.

Workers Compensation Lawyer Proved Employer Had Every Reasonable Opportunity To Get Information

A workman’s compensation lawyer knows how an injured worker may need to borrow money or have help from family during their injury. In the following case, an employer tried to use these sources of money to wrongly stop benefits payments… and the employee’s workman’s compensation lawyer successfully stopped the employer from misinterpreting these deposits into the employee’s savings account. The hearing officer in the case agreed with the workers compensation lawyer, and made a finding that the injured worker was entitled to supplemental income benefits (or SIB’s) even though he did have some additional money (loans from his parents), and also a little self-employment. The insurance company appealed this decision, claiming to have gotten evidence to prove their argument… “after” the hearing was over, stressed the workers compensation lawyer. The injured employee’s workers compensation lawyer then successfully defeated the insurer’s arguments.

Workers Compensation Lawyer Defended Right To Part-Time Self-Employment

The workers compensation lawyer answered the insurer, saying the hearing officer correctly decided the injured worker was entitled to SIBs. The insurer’s real argument, the workers’ compensation attorney pointed out, was that the injured worker “could have worked more,” and claimed he didn’t make a good faith effort to get work, based on these “extra” deposits. But the workers compensation lawyer stressed very detailed medical findings of a serious disability.

Besides, the workers compensation lawyer noted how the hearing officer was the most important judge of the evidence. The hearing officer heard all the evidence from the workers’ compensation lawyer and from the employee himself, as he told the workers’ compensation lawyer about the injury and his job search. As the trier of fact, the hearing officer clearly agreed with the workers’ compensation lawyer about the strength of the medical evidence. Based on evidence presented by the workers’ compensation lawyer, the hearing officer reasonably decided the injured worker (a) was not required to get additional employment, once the workers’ compensation lawyer proved employment at a part-time job and (b) was being self-employed, consistent with his ability to work.

Workman’s Compensation Lawyer: A Serious Injury With Lasting Effects

The insurance company also argued the injured worker’s underemployment during the qualifying period wasn’t caused by his impairment. The workman’s compensation attorney noted the injured worker’s underemployment was also a direct result of the impairment. This was backed up by evidence from the workers comp lawyer that this injured employee had a very serious injury, with lasting effects, and just “could not reasonably do the type of work he’d done right before his injury.” In this case, the workers comp lawyer showed that the injured worker’s injury resulted in a permanent impairment. The employer didn’t prove (or disprove) anything specific about the extent of the injury, the workers comp lawyer observed, but only suggested “possibilities.”

Employer Was Stopped From Use Of “Confusing” Evidence By Workman’s Compensation Lawyer

For example, the workman’s compensation attorney said the insurance company emphasized “evidence” obtained after the hearing. Yet the insurance company said this came from a deposition taken three days before the hearing. At that time, the workers comp lawyer pressed, it learned that the injured worker had a personal bank account for depositing wages. The insurance company subpoenaed copies of the injured worker’s deposit slips, and got the records after the hearing from the workers compensation attorney. The insurance company argued that the deposit slips “proved” that the injured worker earned more than 80% of his pre-injury wages. But the workers comp lawyer stressed how the insurer should have worked harder to prove this argument before the hearing.

Specifically, the workers’ compensation attorney pointed out that documents submitted for the first time (on appeal) are generally not accepted… unless they are newly discovered evidence, noted the workman’s compensation attorney. The evidence offered by the insurance company wasn’t newly discovered evidence, proved the workers comp lawyer. The injured worker testified to his workman’s comp lawyer that the deposits included wages from his self-employment and “money I borrowed from my mother.” The evidence didn’t, proved the workers comp lawyer, show how much (if any, noted the workers comp lawyer) was deposited from the injured worker’s wages versus how much was from borrowing. Though the insurance company had known about the evidence, it made no request to get the evidence, emphasized the workers comp lawyer. Nor, concluded the workers comp lawyer, did the insurance company ask for the hearing record to stay open for evidence once it was received… which, the workers comp lawyer stressed, they had a right to have done. The Appeals Panel agreed with the workers comp lawyer and “refused” to consider the ‘evidence’ attached to the insurance company’s appeal. The workers comp lawyer had completely defended the worker’s award.

There’s often uncertainty about how long an injury may last, an experienced workers comp lawyer knows. In this case, talking with an experienced workers comp lawyer helped deal with issues from this uncertainty. For anyone who survives a period of injury, through self-employment or family loans, it’s important to discuss these matters as soon as possible with a knowledgeable workers comp lawyer.

At Ogletree Abbott Law Firm, we have over 75 years of experience handling workers compensation claims all over Texas. If you’ve been injured on the job and are struggling to pay your bills because you’re not being taken care of by your employer, visit us at http://www.complawyers.net or contact us today at 1-888-434-COMP. We will help you with your Texas workers’ compensation claim and make sure your employer takes care of your immediate and long term needs as prescribed by law.

How to Find a Lawyer – Some Useful Tips

In any complex legal problem and especially one that involves a lot of money, it is good to have a lawyer. Apart from dispensing information, lawyers offer the much needed advice and apply their skills to all legal problems. There are many lawyer firms out there but that does not mean that all lawyers are good. In fact, finding a lawyer who is able to help well with a particular problem is not an easy task. A good lawyer serves as the client’s legal coach and he/she goes an extent further to educate the client on all legal technicalities involved in the case.

If you are looking on ways how to find a lawyer, then you need to be a little bit more careful on your selection. However, the facts below can help you a great deal.

Through Personal Referrals

It is in your best interests to talk to a person or a group of people who have gone through the same ordeal as you so as to find the best lawyer. For instance, anyone who has a sexual harassment case should talk to a women rights group and ask them who their lawyers are and if they can help with the case. Talking to about five people will eventually provide very good leads.

However, it is important to make a decision that is not solely dependent on other people’s recommendations. A decision should not be made until you have met with the lawyer and felt comfortable working with him/her.

Through Online Services

There are many online services that connect with local lawyers on different locations and depending on the type of legal case that one might have. All that is needed of the person looking for a lawyer is to answer a few questions about the case and then give his/her contact information. After that is done, the right lawyers for the case contact the customers directly.

Through Business Referrals

Businesses which provide services to lawyers and lawyer firms can provide very good links to finding a good lawyer. For example, someone interested in a good small business lawyer will need to talk to his/her insurance agent or accountant. These people make regular contact with the lawyers and are therefore able to make judgments that are informed.

Through Lawyer Referral Services

Lawyer referral services offer a very good platform for anyone wondering on how to find a lawyer. These services list only screened attorneys who have the most attractive qualifications and a given amount of experience.

When looking for a lawyer, it is also important to look for one who is a specialist in that particular type of case as opposed to a general practitioner. Although a specialist lawyer charges a little more, his/her knowledge is truly valuable. Lastly, it is important to interview the lawyer personally.

Lawyers in Thailand are in most cases willing to meet face to face for the first time between thirty minutes to 1 hour at no charges. This is the best opportunity for the client to size the lawyer up and make an informed decision.

Working With a Lawyer – Part 1

In this Part 1 of this 2-part article, you will have an opportunity to read about the role of your lawyer and about establishing a strong lawyer-client relationship. In Part 2 you can read about various points on what it takes to build a strong lawyer-client relationship with your lawyer.

The Role of Your Lawyer

Many people may not understand the role of a lawyer in representing a client. Lawyers do charge a lot, but that doesn’t put them in control of their client’s destiny. When a major decision must be made, your lawyer would provide you with information, advice and recommendations about the decision, but the decision is yours to make. When a lawyer makes a decision on your behalf without your knowledge or consent, and without taking his or her time to provide you with the details beforehand, it is time to hire another lawyer. Likewise, if you just hand your legal matter to your lawyer while expecting him or her to pull a miracle and decide the success of your case, you’re just asking for trouble.

A decision carries consequences. A legal decision carries legal consequences that you need to deal with as a result of making that decision. A lawyer is always obligated to use his or her best efforts on your behalf while applying his or her legal training, knowledge, experience, resources and skill to resolve your legal issue. But it is your obligation to remain informed and fully involved in your case. The success of your case doesn’t solely depend on your lawyer’s ability, but in the team work between the two of you.

Establishing a Strong Lawyer-Client Relationship

Some people may believe that once they hire a lawyer, they can simply put their legal issue behind and let their lawyer win the case. In reality, hiring a lawyer is just the beginning of a successful teamwork. The success and the degree of success of your case will depend on how good your “legal team” plays. Sometimes your legal team will consist of just you and your attorney. But in most cases, your legal team will include other people, such as legal assistants, consultants, experts, court reporters and the like. But regardless of who might be a part of your legal team, you and your lawyer are the key players in the success of your case. Developing a good working relationship between you and your attorney from the very beginning and all throughout the life of the case will radically increase the odds of a positive outcome.

A strong lawyer-client relationship is a two-way process. It requires both of you and your lawyer to provide each other with information necessary to reach satisfactory resolution of your legal issue. It requires a very good and an open communication. Your lawyer needs to keep you advised of the status of your case, inform you of important developments, include you in the decision-making process, prepare you for important events, such as testifying in court or answering questions in a deposition, and so on. But, you must also hold up your end of the responsibilities. You need to be aware that a failure to provide all relevant information to your case and to provide it when requested by your lawyer may have an unfavorable effect on the lawyer’s ability to represent you. You and your lawyer need to agree on the most effective and efficient way to communicate the information.

If you’re concerned about how your lawyer handles your legal issue, freely express these concerns directly to your lawyer. And don’t wait for it to build up. Addressing these concerns promptly will avoid damaging the level of trust that is essential to the relationship. But, if your concerns are never resolved even after discussing them with your lawyer, you’re fully entitled to seek another attorney. However, you’ll still be responsible for paying the legal fees to that lawyer. And, if you happen to fire your lawyer, remember that you’re entitled of getting a copy of your file.

Please refer to Part-2 of this 2-part article to read about various points that will add to developing a strong work relationship with your lawyer and lead you to more successful results in your lawsuit.

Working With a Lawyer – Part 2

Please refer to Part-1 of this 2-part article to read about the role of your lawyer and why it is important to have a strong lawyer-client working relationship with your attorney.

The following points will add to developing a strong work relationship with your lawyer and lead you to more successful results in your lawsuit.

First and Foremost, Give Your Lawyer the Whole Story – As soon as you hire your lawyer, tell him or her everything that is related to your case and provide him or her with every relevant document, even those facts and details that you think are damaging to your case. Lawyers have been trained to sift and sort through the information you provide and determine what information is useful for your case and what isn’t. Every fact and detail could be crucial to your case. Facts which may not seem important to you may have serious legal consequences. Your lawyer might be able to use a fact or a document you thought was unimportant as the basis for a creative legal argument. And if something might harm your case, your lawyer will have plenty of time to prepare defensive maneuvers.

Respond Promptly – This factor alone will certainly damage the relationship between you and your lawyer and almost always hurt your case – that is if your response is of an irresponsible nature. Lawyers often have to work under very tight deadlines. Your prompt response to your lawyer’s requests will insure those deadlines are met and your case is flowing smoothly. Your prompt response will also give your lawyer enough time to go over your information and better prepare his or her next step. If you are not able to respond quickly for one reason or another, let your lawyer know immediately. Your lawyer might be able to get an extension of time from your opponent or the court, or rearrange other matters to accommodate the delay.

Cooperation – During the course of your case, your lawyer will ask you for particular documents or certain facts relevant to your lawsuit. Instead of making your lawyer hunt down those details, remember that you’re the one who is undertaking this legal action. In most instances you have much easier access to the information relevant to your case than any one else. By cooperating with your lawyer in gathering the important details for winning your case, you will not only help your situation, but have your lawyer spend less time, which will reduce your legal cost.

At a beginning of a lawsuit, your lawyer may ask you to write down a summary of events leading up to the lawsuit. Make sure that what you write is extremely accurate – only known facts. Your lawyer will base your claims and defenses on this information.

Preparedness – Always remember that your attorney’s time is your money. Better prepared you are, less money your legal matter will cost you. When you meet with your lawyer, have with you already prepared written summary or detailed notes outlining your problem or questions; bring copies of all documents, letters and other correspondence relating to your case. Also, provide your lawyer with a list of all names, addresses, and telephone numbers of persons involved in the case. This will avoid unnecessary delays. Be as brief as possible in all interviews with your lawyer, and stick to business. At the rate that you are charged for calls and conferences, socializing gets very expensive.

Keep Your Lawyer Informed – Your lawyer can work only with the information that you provide him or her with. Failure to keep your lawyer updated with information about any new developments relevant to your case can be disastrous to your final outcome. Tell your lawyer immediately of changes or new information that might affect your case. On the same note, holding back information can as well prevent your lawyer from obtaining your desired results. That’s why it is very important for you to be truthful and complete about the facts of your situation.

Keep Your Schedule Flexible – There are certain legal events in which you must participate. Very often these events are scheduled weeks or even months in advance. Most of these events can be rescheduled to accommodate your schedule only if your lawyer knows in advance. But, be prepared to change your plans if you must because sometimes a judge may insist on holding the scheduled meeting whether your schedule permits or not.

Various Other Points

– Take your lawyer’s legal advice seriously. When an attorney gives legal advice, the attorney may be liable for malpractice if the advice is wrong. For that reason attorneys are hesitant to give legal advice and expose themselves to liability without first checking the most current legal facts. And that takes time. That’s why they charge a fee for legal advice because they give you facts and not an opinion. So when your lawyer gives you legal advice relevant to your legal issue, you better follow up on it because it’s a real deal.

– Many legal problems cannot be explained simply. We live in a complex society with an extremely complex legal system. So if you don’t understand something that your lawyer says, don’t just take it as is – ask for an explanation. Maybe you need to ask your lawyer to explain it with a non-legal jargon.

– Respect your attorney’s time. Avoid phoning repeatedly about every single question that comes on your mind. First of all you will pay for the time spent on the phone. Second, your lawyer has other clients who require attention too. So, it would be in your best interest and is usually more cost-effective to ask several questions at a time, rather than calling each time a question arises. By all means, do not wait to call your lawyer if your question is so important that it will affect your case significantly.

– Avoid legal debate. If you sometimes feel that your lawyer is not quite handling your legal issue the way you think he or she is suppose to, try to first gain an understanding by asking your lawyer questions about his or her course of action instead of directly engaging into a debate. But if you really must engage into a debate because you’re certain that you know it better, check the facts before you start the discussion. You don’t want to embarrass yourself when your lawyer proves you wrong. Lawyers have extensive legal training. Their actions sometimes may seem weird to you but they may be just the right move for obtaining positive results for your legal issue.

– Respect your lawyer’s pride. One common characteristic amongst all lawyers is their strong pride. That comes with their profession. Sometimes it may feel that this pride borders on arrogance or egotism. Maybe so. But, so what? Actually, this feature may win your case. It gives lawyers more confidence even if they lack the experience. So, treat your lawyer with respect and he or she will do more than their very best to get you your desired results.

– Your lawyer is a professional. As such, address your lawyer in a professional way in your communication, whether written or oral. You’ll get much better results. For an example, which of these two sentences do you think would get you better response by your lawyer? “We need to talk right now because my case is not moving the way I want and I want to see what you’re doing wrong” – or – “I would appreciate if we could schedule 30 minutes of your time to discuss the current developments of my case.” You get the point.

– Communicate your goals very clearly. Tell your lawyer exactly what your expectations are from your legal matter. If you deliver unclear picture to your lawyer, he or she wouldn’t know how to set the “Theory of the Case.” This is the first and most important step that will support every step of the trial. Your lawyer needs to know exactly what your case is truly about and establish your final objective accordingly.

– Be on time for appointments, whether in court or for anything related to your case.

– Be patient and understand that legal problems require time and research.

– Respond promptly to your lawyer’s requests and phone calls.

– And of course, pay your legal fees promptly as agreed in the fee arrangement you made.

The Need For An Entertainment Lawyer In Film Production

Does the film producer really need a film lawyer or entertainment attorney as a matter of professional practice? An entertainment lawyer’s own bias and my stacking of the question notwithstanding, which might naturally indicate a “yes” answer 100% of the time – the forthright answer is, “it depends”. A number of producers these days are themselves film lawyers, entertainment attorneys, or other types of lawyers, and so, often can take care of themselves. But the film producers to worry about, are the ones who act as if they are entertainment lawyers – but without a license or entertainment attorney legal experience to back it up. Filmmaking and motion picture practice comprise an industry wherein these days, unfortunately, “bluff” and “bluster” sometimes serve as substitutes for actual knowledge and experience. But “bluffed” documents and cture production procedures will never escape the trained eye of entertainment attorneys working for the studios, the distributors, the banks, or the errors-and-omissions (E&O) insurance carriers. For this reason alone, I suppose, the job function of film production counsel and entertainment lawyer is still secure.

I also suppose that there will always be a few lucky filmmakers who, throughout the entire production process, fly under the proverbial radar without entertainment attorney accompaniment. They will seemingly avoid pitfalls and liabilities like flying bats are reputed to avoid people’s hair. By way of analogy, one of my best friends hasn’t had any health insurance for years, and he is still in good shape and economically afloat – this week, anyway. Taken in the aggregate, some people will always be luckier than others, and some people will always be more inclined than others to roll the dice.

But it is all too simplistic and pedestrian to tell oneself that “I’ll avoid the need for film lawyers if I simply stay out of trouble and be careful”. An entertainment lawyer, especially in the realm of film (or other) production, can be a real constructive asset to a motion picture producer, as well as the film producer’s personally-selected inoculation against potential liabilities. If the producer’s entertainment attorney has been through the process of film production previously, then that entertainment lawyer has already learned many of the harsh lessons regularly dished out by the commercial world and the film business.

The film and entertainment lawyer can therefore spare the producer many of those pitfalls. How? By clear thinking, careful planning, and – this is the absolute key – skilled, thoughtful and complete documentation of all film production and related activity. The film lawyer should not be thought of as simply the cowboy or cowgirl wearing the proverbial “black hat”. Sure, the entertainment lawyer may sometimes be the one who says “no”. But the entertainment attorney can be a positive force in the production as well.

The film lawyer can, in the course of legal representation, assist the producer as an effective business consultant, too. If that entertainment lawyer has been involved with scores of film productions, then the motion picture producer who hires that film lawyer entertainment attorney benefits from that very cache of experience. Yes, it sometimes may be difficult to stretch the film budget to allow for counsel, but professional filmmakers tend to view the legal cost expenditure to be a fixed, predictable, and necessary one – akin to the fixed obligation of rent for the production office, or the cost of film for the cameras. While some film and entertainment lawyers may price themselves out of the price range of the average independent film producer, other entertainment attorneys do not.

Enough generalities. For what specific tasks must a producer typically retain a film lawyer and entertainment attorney?:

1. INCORPORATION, OR FORMATION OF AN “LLC”: To paraphrase Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko character in the motion picture “Wall Street” when speaking to Bud Fox while on the morning beach on the oversized mobile phone, this entity-formation issue usually constitutes the entertainment attorney’s “wake-up call” to the film producer, telling the film producer that it is time. If the producer doesn’t properly create, file, and maintain a corporate or other appropriate entity through which to conduct business, and if the film producer doesn’t thereafter make every effort to keep that entity bullet-proof, says the entertainment lawyer, then the film producer is potentially shooting himself or herself in the foot. Without the shield against liability that an entity can provide, the entertainment attorney opines, the motion picture producer’s personal assets (like house, car, bank account) are at risk and, in a worst-case scenario, could ultimately be seized to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the film producer’s business. In other words:

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts my head when I do that”.

Doctor: “So? Don’t do that”.

Like it or not, the film lawyer entertainment attorney continues, “Film is a speculative business, and the statistical majority of motion pictures can fail economically – even at the San Fernando Valley film studio level. It is insane to run a film business or any other form of business out of one’s own personal bank account”. Besides, it looks unprofessional, a real concern if the producer wants to attract talent, bankers, and distributors at any point in the future.

The choices of where and how to file an entity are often prompted by entertainment lawyers but then driven by situation-specific variables, including tax concerns relating to the film or motion picture company sometimes. The film producer should let an entertainment attorney do it and do it correctly. Entity-creation is affordable. Good lawyers don’t look at incorporating a client as a profit-center anyway, because of the obvious potential for new business that an entity-creation brings. While the film producer should be aware that under U.S. law a client can fire his/her lawyer at any time at all, many entertainment lawyers who do the entity-creation work get asked to do further work for that same client – especially if the entertainment attorney bills the first job reasonably.

I wouldn’t recommend self-incorporation by a non-lawyer – any more than I would tell a film producer-client what actors to hire in a motion picture – or any more than I would tell a D.P.-client what lens to use on a specific film shot. As will be true on a film production set, everybody has their own job to do. And I believe that as soon as the producer lets a competent entertainment lawyer do his or her job, things will start to gel for the film production in ways that couldn’t even be originally foreseen by the motion picture producer.

2. SOLICITING INVESTMENT: This issue also often constitutes a wake-up call of sorts. Let’s say that the film producer wants to make a motion picture with other people’s money. (No, not an unusual scenario). The film producer will likely start soliciting funds for the movie from so-called “passive” investors in any number of possible ways, and may actually start collecting some monies as a result. Sometimes this occurs prior to the entertainment lawyer hearing about it post facto from his or her client.

If the film producer is not a lawyer, then the producer should not even think of “trying this at home”. Like it or not, the entertainment lawyer opines, the film producer will thereby be selling securities to people. If the producer promises investors some pie-in-the-sky results in the context of this inherently speculative business called film, and then collects money on the basis of that representation, believe me, the film producer will have even more grave problems than conscience to deal with. Securities compliance work is among the most difficult of matters faced by an entertainment attorney.

As both entertainment lawyers and securities lawyers will opine, botching a solicitation for film (or any other) investment can have severe and federally-mandated consequences. No matter how great the film script is, it’s never worth monetary fines and jail time – not to mention the veritable unspooling of the unfinished motion picture if and when the producer gets nailed. All the while, it is shocking to see how many ersatz film producers in the real world try to float their own “investment prospectus”, complete with boastful anticipated multipliers of the box office figures of the famed motion pictures “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” combined. They draft these monstrosities with their own sheer creativity and imagination, but usually with no entertainment or film lawyer or other legal counsel. I’m sure that some of these producers think of themselves as “visionaries” while writing the prospectus. Entertainment attorneys and the rest of the bar, and bench, may tend to think of them, instead, as prospective ‘Defendants’.

Enough said.

3. DEALING WITH THE GUILDS: Let’s assume that the film producer has decided, even without entertainment attorney guidance yet, that the production entity will need to be a signatory to collective bargaining agreements of unions such as Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Directors Guild (DGA), and/or the Writers Guild (WGA). This is a subject matter area that some film producers can handle themselves, particularly producers with experience. But if the film producer can afford it, the producer should consult with a film lawyer or entertainment lawyer prior to making even any initial contact with the guilds. The producer should certainly consult with an entertainment attorney or film lawyer prior to issuing any writings to the guilds, or signing any of their documents. Failure to plan out these guild issues with film or entertainment attorney counsel ahead of time, could lead to problems and expenses that sometimes make it cost-prohibitive to thereafter continue with the picture’s further production.

4. CONTRACTUAL AFFAIRS GENERALLY: A film production’s agreements should all be in writing, and not saved until the last minute, as any entertainment attorney will observe. It will be more expensive to bring film counsel in, late in the day – sort of like booking an airline flight a few days before the planned travel. A film producer should remember that a plaintiff suing for breach of a bungled contract might not only seek money for damages, but could also seek the equitable relief of an injunction (translation: “Judge, stop this production… stop this motion picture… stop this film… Cut!”).

A film producer does not want to suffer a back claim for talent compensation, or a disgruntled location-landlord, or state child labor authorities – threatening to enjoin or shut the motion picture production down for reasons that could have been easily avoided by careful planning, drafting, research, and communication with one’s film lawyer or entertainment lawyer. The movie production’s agreements should be drafted with care by the entertainment attorney, and should be customized to encompass the special characteristics of the production.

As an entertainment lawyer, I have seen non-lawyer film producers try to do their own legal drafting for their own pictures. As mentioned above, some few are lucky, and remain under the proverbial radar. But consider this: if the film producer sells or options the project, one of the first things that the film distributor or film buyer (or its own film and entertainment attorney counsel) will want to see, is the “chain of title” and development and production file, complete with all signed agreements. The production’s insurance carrier may also want to see these same documents. So might the guilds, too. And their entertainment lawyers. The documents must be written so as to survive the audience.

Therefore, for a film producer to try to “fake it” oneself is simply to put many problems off for another day, as well as create an air of non-attorney amateurism to the production file. It will be less expensive for the film producer to attack all of these issues earlier as opposed to later, through use of a film lawyer or entertainment attorney. And the likelihood is that any self-respecting film attorney and entertainment lawyer is going to have to re-draft substantial parts (if not all) of the producer’s self-drafted production file, once he or she sees what the non-lawyer film producer has done to it on his or her own – and that translates into unfortunate and wasted expense. I would no sooner want my chiropractor to draft and negotiate his own filmed motion picture contracts, than I would put myself on his table and try to crunch through my own backbone adjustments. Furthermore, I wouldn’t do half of the chiropractic adjustment myself, and then call the chiropractor into the examining room to finish what I had started. (I use the chiropractic motif only to spare you the cliché old saw of “performing surgery on oneself”).

There are many other reasons for retaining a film lawyer and entertainment attorney for motion picture work, and space won’t allow all of them. But the above-listed ones are the big ones.

What Does a DUI Lawyer Cost in Washington, DC

Most lawyers do not put their legal fees online. The reason they don’t is because generally each case is different and there may be a fluctuation in prices between clients. However, you should have a starting point for DUI lawyers cost in Washington, DC. DUI lawyer cost is primarily driven by experience of the lawyer and the amount of training the lawyer has had in DUI law. The are some other reasons cost may fluctuate between lawyers such as the overhead of the lawyer.

Training/Associations

When I speak of training I am not referring to law school. All lawyers have to pass the bar and so I am not talking about the bar. DUI law is an area of law that requires additional training beyond law school and taking the bar. Continuing legal education of the lawyer is important because the laws change and the DUI lawyer needs to be aware of the changes. For example, DUI lawyers should be trained or “qualified” by National Highway Safety Administration Standardized Field Sobriety Course. This course is usually 25-40 hours of in class instruction. It’s the same class police officers need to take to give citizens the Standardized field sobriety test on the streets. Another example, DUI lawyers may take to advance their knowledge is going to the annual National training in Las Vegas once a year put on by the National Association Criminal Defense Lawyers and National College for DUI Defense. Here some of the best DUI lawyers in the country share their knowledge with other DUI lawyers. Generally, the more training your lawyer has the more you will pay.

Experience

Experience can only come through time. Yes aging sucks, but through age comes wisdom. Just like it takes a young doctor years before he can be polished and experienced in his field – the same applies to lawyers. It is hard for a lawyer to come out of law school and start trying DUI cases because there is a level of complexity to them. As you may know there are a lot of lawyers in the Country. Just because the lawyer has a license to practice in the Courts does not mean he or she has the experience to handle every type of case. Generally, the more experience your lawyer has the more you will pay.

Office and Overhead

This is the area you will never hear the lawyer talk about with the client. However, the truth is the client pays the overhead cost of the DUI lawyer. The lawyer can do work cheaper and faster if he or she is using technology to shift cost. For example, a lawyer should provide documents to his or her client; however, sending through the mail is slow and cost more. Using the internet and a closed portal system the lawyer can communicate with the client, provide dates, share documents, and communicate with the client more effectively and save money. If your lawyer is still using paper and mailing documents he is costing you more money. Times have changed and DUI lawyers need to be more efficient with their productivity. The other part of the lawyer’s overhead is office space. This is where the cost of the 2 equally lawyers differentiate. If the lawyer has to pay for marble floors and expensive staff then he shifts the cost to you. We understand some clients feel as though if he has beautiful marble floors and beautiful paintings on the wall then he must be good. This is not necessary true. Remember, this is your dollars at work. Without question, the more your lawyer pays for his overhead, the more you will pay for his service.

So what should you pay for a good DUI lawyer in DC

Like most urban court houses, the dockets are crowded and so a lawyer spends more time waiting for cases to be called which is why the cost of a DUI in DC cost more than say in a rural courthouse. In the District of Columbia there is a bare minimum of 2 court appearances for DUI cases. Below are estimates for typical cost of a DUI lawyer in DC.

1st Offenses

The cost for a DUI lawyer for a non-jury trial first offense cost is usually between $2000.00 to $3000.00 dollars. If you pay a DUI lawyer less than $1000.00 you are probably getting what is referred to as a “dump truck” lawyer. He just pleads you out at the first opportunity. Remember, a lawyer has a duty to investigate, consult and prepare the case regardless of whether the case goes to trial. Trials generally take a day or less but can be spread out based on the Court’s schedule.

2nd Offenses, 3rd offense cost

Jury Trial for a DUI in the District of Columbia is minimum of $4000.00 -$6000.00 dollars, depending on the facts. Jury trials usually take one or 2 days, not including waiting for verdict.

Be wary of any lawyer who gives guarantees. In fact, there are no guarantees. The only guarantee a lawyer should give you if you are charged with a DUI – is that he zealously advocates within the bounds of the law.

Remember if an expert is used at trial, the cost could be higher because the client is usually responsible for all expert fees. This also does not include representation before DMV. Representation before DMV is usually a “stay of the proceeding” until the outcome of DC Superior Court proceedings. The typical cost for DMV representation is $300.00 to $500.00 dollars.

How to Avoid the 12 Biggest Mistakes People Make in Hiring a Lawyer

I hate to see people taken advantage of and I hate to see people suffer after choosing the wrong lawyer. Maybe those are two of the reasons that I became a lawyer, so that I could do something about those situations. I have seen clients who had lawyers neglect their cases for not just weeks but years. I have heard complaints about lawyers who would not tell the client what was going on with their cases, but would bill the client when the client called to ask what was happening. I have heard complaints about lawyers who took money from clients without a clear understanding of the expectations on either side.

I also hate to have to clean up a mess made by another lawyer. It is much easier to assist a client and avoid potential problems than it is to repair damage from choosing the wrong lawyer. I have seen poorly drafted prenuptial agreements and separation agreements. I have had to step in to repair and finish a botched annulment. I have had to step in to repair and finish a botched divorce.

One woman’s tale of woe especially comes to mind. Around the office, we call her story “The Tale of the Nine Year Divorce.” She had hired an attorney to defend a divorce action here in Virginia and to counter sue for divorce. She was living out of state at the time and paid the attorney a significant retainer. There was no written contract. The lawyer she had chosen seemed to be afraid of the opposing counsel and did nothing to move the case forward. In fact, the lawyer allowed the case to be dismissed from the court docket for inaction.

Cases are not dismissed on this basis without prior notice to counsel of record. The lawyer did not notify his client of the potential dismissal. It was not until the court notified her of the dismissal that she found out what had happened. The client was in an automobile accident, as a result of which she was hospitalized and undergoing multiple surgeries. She trusted her lawyer to look out for her interests; she did not know or understand what should have been taking place and had no idea until she received notification from the court that the case had been dismissed.

When the client contacted the lawyer, he had the case reinstated. However, it was not until the opposing attorney withdrew from the case, that the lawyer acted to put forward the interests of his client. Meanwhile, the lawyer allowed the woman’s husband to abscond, fleeing the jurisdiction of the court, with the bulk of the marital assets. The lawyer did get an order of spousal support, but did nothing effective to collect or enforce the spousal support order against the defendant who was not paying.

In fact, the lawyer allowed tens of thousands of dollars of arrears to accumulate. Meanwhile, the lawyer asked for and got a court award of $10,000 of attorney’s fees from the absconded husband. When the lawyer realized that the husband had spent the money and the attorney fee award would not be easily collected, he began to demand money from the client. Being disabled and not having received a penny of the support award, she was unable to pay the lawyer and he withdrew from her case at the final hearing. Needless to say all of this left the woman with a bad taste in her mouth when it comes to lawyers.

The woman heard about me and came to me despite having had a bad experience, because she was in need of help. We were able to finish up the divorce and property division, which had been started 9-10 years prior and we began enforcement of the support award by attaching social security and retirement income due her husband.

Through our efforts collection began and an income stream began to flow to the client. We were also able to successfully defend the woman from an attempt by her husband to stop support payments and at the same time recover some of the items of personal property which had been awarded to her by the court. The woman still had to defend herself from a law suit brought by the lawyer who was demanding over $10,000 and had not credited the retainer which the woman paid at the beginning of the representation.

I have written this article in hopes that it may help you avoid the costly mistakes of the Nine Year Divorce.
There are two areas where people make mistakes. The first area is in selecting the lawyer and the second area is mistakes made after selecting the lawyer.

HYPE IN LAWYER ADVERTISING

COMBINED EXPERIENCE HYPE. Law firms that tout “*** years of combined experience” are probably trying to magnify or enhance their credentials. If you are looking for a lawyer with experience, this hype does little to inform you of the actual experience of the individual lawyers. My question is if the lawyers each have significant years of experience, why don’t they say how much experience each lawyer has? Why? Because it sounds grander to use the combined figure. Even an ant looks like a mighty monster under a magnifying glass.

LAUNDRY LIST HYPE. Law firms that have a laundry list of services may not be the best choice for your situation. Remember the proverb “Jack of all trades, master of none”? You can certainly be a jack of all trades, but can you be a master at all trades? How much of the practice of the firm is devoted to your type of case? For example, does the law firm (and the particular lawyer) you are considering devote a significant portion of the practice to the type of case for which you are seeking representation?

Perhaps you are looking at one stop shopping and it is important to you to find a lawyer or law firm that can handle multiple matters for you. Then you may want to ask if the lawyer handles each of those areas, but you should also ask how much of the practice is devoted to each area and how much experience the lawyer has in each area. Are there client testimonials available for each area? Think carefully and decide if it may be worthwhile to seek out a more specialized practice for each of your problems.

BIGGER IS BETTER HYPE When it comes to law firms, bigger is not necessarily better, much less the best. If you want personal attention, you may find that a medium sized or smaller firm will be more attentive. Law firms that have group photographs with all of the clerks and secretaries are trying to look bigger to compete with mega firms with dozens or hundreds of lawyers. But in the final analysis size does not matter; bigger is not better than smaller, nor is smaller better than bigger. What does matter is personal care and attention. This is something that you will have to ask about and be sensitive to as you call on various lawyers and law firms in your search for the right lawyer and law firm for you and for your case.

IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE… [CHOOSING A LAWYER BASED ON COST] Cheapest is seldom the best. On the other hand, just because something costs a lot does not make it better than something that costs less. Would you choose a doctor or dentist based on how cheap his services are? No, not if you can help it. You want the best doctor, the most attentive doctor, the smartest doctor, the most knowledgeable doctor at the best price. Cost may be a legitimate factor in choosing a lawyer but it should be the last and least significant factor. Cost certainly should not override other factors such as ability, experience, reputation within the legal community and client testimonials. Can you afford cheap legal advice that may be bad or wrong?

ASSUMING AND NOT CHECKING Related to falling for hype in lawyer advertising is assuming and not checking. Don’t believe the yellow page ads. All lawyers are not equal. You should investigate any lawyer or law firm before engaging them. Inquire about his/her reputation in the legal community. Check out what clients have to say about the lawyer and the law firm. ASSUMING PRE-PAID LEGAL IS THE WAY TO GO. Don’t assume that pre-paid legal is the way to go. Just because you have pre-paid legal available for use does not mean that you should use them. The best lawyers are seldom members of a pre-paid legal service panel. You certainly should not allow the pre-paid attorney to represent you without first investigating him/her.

Of course, you may not need the best lawyer, but you should at least want to insure that the lawyer you choose is a good lawyer for the matter at hand. You should also realize that a lawyer may be a good lawyer for some matters and not for others. This is where knowledge, experience and ability must be weighed and examined. Does the firm or attorney you are considering take a “no holds barred” approach to family law? If so, be prepared for lengthy and expensive proceedings.

You should investigate a pre-paid lawyer as diligently as you would any other lawyer and ask the same questions. If the lawyer does not devote a significant portion of his/her practice to the area of law involved in your matter, you should look elsewhere. If the lawyer does not have a good reputation within the legal community, you should look elsewhere. If the lawyer cannot point to articles written or cases won, if he/she cannot point to client testimonials, you should look elsewhere.

Once you have done your homework and selected the lawyer and law firm you believe will best serve your needs and protect your needs and protect your interests, you could still make costly mistakes in hiring your lawyer.

MISTAKES AFTER YOU HAVE SELECTED A LAWYER

NOT ASKING FOR A WRITTEN FEE AGREEMENT While oral contracts are recognized at law, enforcement can be problematic and requires proof of the essential terms. Without a written fee agreement, how can you be sure that you and your lawyer have truly reached an understanding? Basic contract law requires that there be a “meeting of the minds” to create a contract. It speaks of “an offer” and “an acceptance”. A written fee agreement serves to clarify and solidify the expectations of the client and the attorney. The agreement should spell out the responsibilities of each party and the parameters of the representation. This protects you and your lawyer. Written fee agreements are recommended by the Virginia State Bar and by the American Bar Association. If your lawyer does not bring up the subject of a written fee agreement or representation agreement, you should do so.

NOT ASKING TO READ A DOCUMENT BEFORE YOU SIGN IT. Whether it’s the fee agreement, a lease, an affidavit or a pleading, just because the document is presented to you by your lawyer, does not mean you should not read it carefully and ask questions about anything you do not understand. If the document is not correct or contains errors or omissions, you should bring those to the attention of your lawyer.

FAILURE TO ASK FOR A COPY OF WHAT YOU SIGN. You should always ask for a copy of a document that you are asked to sign. In our office, when we are retained, we give the client a pocket folder with copies of the fee agreement, office policies and, in appropriate cases, the client divorce manual.

FAILURE TO KEEP COPIES. You should have a safe place to keep important documents. If documents are from an attorney, they are important and worth keeping, at least until the case or matter is concluded and in some instances longer than that. The fact of the matter is, if you don’t keep the copies, you may not be able to get duplicates later. Believe it or not, I have had several clients over the years who were victims of unscrupulous lawyers who destroyed documents to avoid having to produce them when a conflict arose with the client. One actually shredded file documents in front of the client. Aside from those issues, most lawyers do not retain client files forever. In our office, we routinely shred aging closed files to make room for new files. We advise clients to retrieve anything they might want or need from their file when it is closed, because it is subject to destruction.

FAILURE TO ASK QUESTIONS. You should ask a lawyer you are considering who he/she would hire for a case such as yours. You should ask the lawyer you are considering questions about his/her experience and credentials. Can they point to satisfied clients who have given testimonials of their experiences with the lawyer and law firm? Who besides the lawyer will be working on your case? How do they handle telephone calls? How do they charge? What does the lawyer expect of you? How will he/she keep you informed of progress on your case? How does he/she plan to present your case/defense? You should ask questions about court procedures or other procedures pertaining to your case or legal matter. If there are terms that you do not understand, ask your lawyer to explain them to you.

FAILURE TO STAY IN TOUCH. If you move or change employment or telephone numbers, your lawyer may not be able to reach you to communicate about your case. It is important to keep your lawyer abreast of changes in your circumstances, employment and residence contact information.

FAILURE TO PROVIDE A CELL PHONE NUMBER. This is related to the failure to keep in touch. Depending on the nature of the representation, your lawyer may need to be able to reach you quickly. It is frustrating to the lawyer not to be able to reach you and it can adversely impact your case. You should take steps to insure that your attorney is able to reach you and speak with you promptly or within an hour or two. For example, suppose your lawyer is engaged in a negotiation in your behalf. If he/she is unable to reach you at a critical point in negotiation, it could result in “blowing” the negotiation or losing the deal.

In today’s world of instant communication, there is no reason not to facilitate communication with your lawyer.

What mistakes could have been avoided in the Tale of the Nine Year Divorce?

INVESTIGATION-The client could have investigated the lawyer before hiring him. She could have googled him. She could have interviewed more than one lawyer. She could have asked another lawyer who was the best divorce lawyer for a contested case with allegations of adultery and property issues. She could have asked the lawyer for client testimonials or client expressions of their experiences with him.

WRITTEN FEE AGREEMENT-She could have asked for a written fee agreement and a receipt for her retainer. Or she could have written the lawyer a letter setting out her understanding of the representation and of the fee charged or to be charged in the matter and the application of the retainer which she had paid, retaining a copy of the letter for her file.

QUESTIONS-She could have asked the lawyer how he charges and how much he would estimate the case would cost. She could have asked if he had experience with opposing counsel and if he was afraid of her or if he felt confident he could handle the case, despite opposing counsel. She could have asked what to expect and she could have asked about the procedure in a contested Virginia divorce.

She could have asked the lawyer what strategy he planned to use to defend her and how he planned to take her case on the offensive. She could have asked the lawyer how he planned to keep her abreast of developments and progress in her case and how long he estimated it would take to get to final hearing in the case. She could have asked him how he planned to enforce the spousal support order and what could be done to collect the money.

When the lawyer got a court order of attorney’s fees from her husband for $10,000, she could have questioned the lawyer about what he was doing and why. She could have asked for an itemization of charges and whether or not she would be responsible if her husband did not pay.

She could have consulted another attorney or the State Bar to ask about what was going on and what rights she had as a client.

COMMUNICATION – She could have made a greater effort to remain in touch with the lawyer and to keep him abreast of changes in her circumstances, such as her accident and being out of work due to disability from the accident. When time passed without hearing from the lawyer, she could have telephoned the lawyer. When the lawyer failed to return her telephone calls, she could have scheduled an appointment to see him or written him documenting his failure to return her telephone call and asking for a status report and what the next step would be.

When the lawyer began to demand money from the woman, she should have responded to the bills and letters in writing with questions about the charges. She could have demanded an itemization of charges and an accounting of the retainer which she had paid.

SECOND OPINION – When she became dissatisfied with the progress of her case, she could have sought a second opinion and considered changing counsel before the lawyer moved to withdraw from the case, or at least before the lawyer filed suit over the fees. In fact, when the case was dismissed by the court for inaction, she should have sought a second opinion and considered changing counsel and asking for the return of her retainer.