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Civil Law Archives

The Bargain

One of the toughest issues for attorneys and clients to talk about is fees. As in any other situation where a professional of any kind is hired, there is bargain, professional agrees to provide quality services to client, client agrees to pay professional. No one like paying out money, especially for criminal or family law situations. It is like paying to fix your car or your roof, your money goes to keep you where you are and avoid a bigger problem, not for something fun like a vacation or recreational vehicle. One of the most common complaints of clients about attorneys is fees, and one of the most common complaints of attorneys about clients concerns non-payment of fees.
How to avoid fee issues ruining the attorney client relationship? Both sides need to be upfront about what they need and expect. Attorneys need to have written agreements saying what they charge and terms of payment. If payment up front is required, which is common especially in family law, that needs to be communicated in writing and orally to the client. While it is not always possible to predict how much a case will cost, attorneys need to do their best to estimate costs and tell clients what they can do to control costs. If clients have a certain budget for a case, or concerns regarding costs and payment, they need to communicate those to the attorney up front. If a client can only afford 5 thousand for a case likely to cost at least 10, some other arrangement needs to be made or there will be a major conflict. Good communication avoids most fee issues between attorneys and clients. Ed 

Not Built For Speed

Clients often ask me to get into court right away, or if they can get a court date next week. Unfortunately, with very few exceptions, the legal system is not built for speed. Cases take months to resolve. One can get into court for temporary decisions while a case is pending, but it still takes at least a couple weeks if one is lucky enough to get an opening in the court schedule.

To Plea Or Not To Plea

The term 'plea bargain' has a bad name, making people think of guilty people getting by on lesser charges or innocent people pleading guilty because their lawyer is too lazy or incompetant to take a case to trial. Those assumptions are certainly true in some cases, but plea bargaining, negotiating a settlement is no different than settling any other type of cases, both sides compromise to get a deal done. If you are charged with a crime, taking a plea bargain that keeps the consequences manageable as opposed to going to trial, where you face far worse consequences if you lose, may be a good idea. Take a good look at any plea bargain offered, taking into a account how strong your case is, and what the consequences of losing at trial would be. Remember, trials are unpredictable, there is no such thing as a 'slam dunk' for either side. 

Know Before You Go

A large number of cases I have handled recently have involved blatant rip offs. I am not talking about the disputes that often happen in business, where there are two sides to the story, but situations where someone clearly went into a situation with the intention of ripping the other person off. Whether it is a truck driver stealing from their company, a restaurant manager cheated out of his agreed upon pay, a crooked landlord, or real estate swindler refusing to pay a property owner as he promised, scams are out there, I have seen most of them.

Bridge To The 21st Century

FAMILY LAW, CIVIL LAW, CUSTODY, DIVORCE, CRIMINAL LAW, REAL ESTATE LAW. Those of you who remember the 90s probably remember this slogan, used by another Clinton running for president. Bill Clinton said that he would build a bridge to the 21st Century during the 1996 re-election campaign. Now that we are in that century, in many ways the bridge has been built, almost everyone is online, and connected to the world via their cell phones. Almost every aspect of our work and personal life have changed. Unfortunately, in many ways the Minnesota Courts have not made it into the 21st Century, they seem to have missed the turn for the bridge. The Courthouse in Brainerd does not allow anyone, except attorneys to bring computers or mobile phones into the court. Parties to cases, and witnesses are often in the building for hours waiting for their case to be called, or to testify. They are not able to get work done, or even communicate with their employer during this time. The Court System needs to treat people better than this, and take that bridge to the 21st Century. 

Your Lawyer's Toughest Job

Telling a client what they do not want to hear is probably the toughest job of a good lawyer, but also the most important. The only way a client can make good decisions is to have good information. If the client is not told that they are pushing for something that they cannot get, they will waste time and money, and may lose the chance of getting some of what they want. Taking a position that is not attainable can backfire, alienating the judge, or making it impossible to get an agreement which lets you get some of what you want. If your lawyer always tells you what you want to hear, they are probably not doing their job, unless you have a very easy case. 

I Found Out On The Internet

I cannot tell you how many times someone tells me they learned something about the law on the internet. Don't get me wrong, the internet is the greatest tool for learning ever invented. Your computer has access to more information than all of the world's libraries put together. The problem, information does not equal knowledge. Seeing parts of the law online does not mean that you know how it works and how to use it, any more than my reading online about auto repair, or medicine makes me a mechanic or a doctor. I have seen dozens of cases where someone filed papers, went into court, or made a key legal decision relying on information they had seen online that was not correct for their situation. The results were always bad, sometimes disastrous. The bottom line is: If the stakes are high, do not rely on your computer as there won't be anyone there helping you through the problems this will create. 

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