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A Word of Advice About Managing Legal Fees

A Word of Advice About Managing Legal Fees

A Word of Advice About Managing Legal Fees . . . Because of the unpredictable nature of legal matters, legal fees can increase quickly. This is especially true if there is a pending lawsuit, which creates necessary actions with specific deadlines. Other times, professional services will not be necessary for several weeks or even months. For example, if we file a lawsuit, the opposing party frequently seeks an automatic extension of time for him or her to file a response, such as an Answer and Counterclaims. In that situation, it could be 60 days before we receive those responses telling us what is actually contested. In some cases, we do not have any tasks to be done on our part during that 60 day time period because we are waiting for the other party’s response to be filed. When the funds in your trust account are expended, we will ask you to replenish those funds as needed. Sometimes, clients don’t take this into account when they manage their finances or attempt to borrow funds. It is with that in mind, in an effort to prepare clients for this possibility, that we offer this advice. Consider automatically making smaller contributions to your account as your case proceeds so you are not then asked to provide larger payments when the funds in your account are applied to your bill and the account is depleted. Any funds that remain in your account when your case is completed will be refunded to you. Please call us if you need assistance estimating your future billing. (c)...

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Hired Guns: Experts in Family Law Cases

Hired Guns: Experts in Family Law Cases

Hired Guns: Experts in Family Law Cases In cases of marital property, child support, alimony and even child custody cases, an attorney may advise a client to hire an expert.  In these types of cases, there are two types of experts, those who act as a consultant for the attorney and client, and those who testify in depositions or court as expert witnesses. Typical experts in family law cases include CPAs, business valuators, medical doctors or psychologists, appraisers or any number of professionals to shed light on the situation at hand. Consulting Experts When one or both parties are self-employed, a CPA might review the case and advise the attorney what the true income is. Income for support is usually quite different from incomes claimed on tax returns, even when the tax returns are perfectly legitimate. The IRS looks at the tax code at things like deductions and depreciation. However, the judge in a support case is looking at the true income available to a party, which might include non-cash compensation such as a company car or other expenses paid by the company. Appraisers are not just used to value homes, but for anything from jewelry and collections of guns, to paintings or baseball cards. Occasionally, both parties may reach an agreement on a value when the expert gives his or her opinion. Other times, there is no agreement on what the expert says, so a trial is necessary. Expert Witnesses Non-expert witnesses testify about facts based on what he or she has seen or heard, and cannot give their opinion on those facts. By contrast, an expert gives his or her opinion about something. Although there are many types of experts, all must have “scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge” to help the judge understand the evidence.  The expert generally has special skill, experience, training, or education. See Rule 702 of the NC Evidence Code. For example, a psychologist may qualify as an expert to testify about what he or she believes is in a child’s best interest in a child custody case. The psychologist meets with each of the family members several times and performs psychological testing on them before he or she prepares a report for the judge known as a child custody evaluation. It is then given to both parents so their attorneys can ask the expert questions or cross examine the expert in court. Parents can request a child custody...

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Who Has the Final Say, the Client or the Lawyer?

Who Has the Final Say, the Client or the Lawyer?

Who Has the Final Say, the Client or the Lawyer? When there is a difference of opinion between an attorney and a client, there are not always black and white answers. But the NC State Bar has rules that specify the appropriate course of action in response to some of the most common ethical dilemmas. This article is about North Carolina family law matters. Clients Decide: Objectives and the Process A lawyer must abide by a client’s objectives of representation. Client goals must be respected, so long as those goals are legal (and ethically sound). For example, the client may choose whether to file a lawsuit for paternity testing. Another decision reserved by the client is the process to be used in moving forward with the case. The lawyer may advise a client to litigate a case, which means filing a lawsuit. However, the client might decide when to do that, or whether to pursue mediation instead. The client is entitled to decide what to do in response to an offer. Clients may accept or reject an offer, ignore it or make a counter-offer. The lawyer must take all offers of settlement to the client, even if the lawyer does not believe the offer is a good one. Lawyers Decide: Ethics    The attorney must take immediate action if directed to do things that violate the mandatory NC Rules of Professional Conduct or the law, even if it is against the client’s wishes. An attorney cannot commit fraud or help a client to commit fraud, or any illegal action. The Rules do not allow frivolous lawsuits, even if a client demands it. Each time a lawyer signs a document, it is a certification that the attorney has read the document and that it is factually correct to the best of his or her knowledge. It also means the case is not filed “for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation.” Rule 11 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. A lawyer cannot advise a client to violate the law or a court order. He or she may advise the client about the consequences of doing so. What if We Don’t Agree? In most cases, clients are free to make their own decisions, even if the lawyer has advised against it. However, if there is a strong enough difference of opinion with serious consequences,...

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I Have a Friend Who Said . . .

I Have a Friend Who Said . . .

I Have a Friend Who Said . . . Friends and family members are a critical part of your support system when you are dealing with a family law case. Based on my experience, those in your inner circle offer unique care and concern when you are dealing with a separation, negotiation or lawsuit. They take you to dinner so you can “vent” or they send you a funny card to make you laugh. When you need a shoulder to cry on or you need to talk, hopefully, they are there. Because of their love and affection for you, they may offer you advice about the handling of your legal matter. Frequently, such advice is not accurate and you should be cautious in following it. Although your loved ones mean well, they may be telling you to do something that will create real problems in your case. Even when someone has also gone through the process, it might’ve been years ago based on old laws that have been changed, or based on laws in a different state. On top of that, there are probably different judges, different lawyers and even different disputes within each case. The facts surrounding your marriage, separation, divorce, children, and property are unique and they are different from any other case. When you need emotional support, call your loved ones. When you have questions about the law or your case, call your...

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What is a Board Certified Legal Specialist?

What is a Board Certified Legal Specialist?

What is a Board Certified Legal Specialist? North Carolina is in the minority of US states that offer an attorney specialist program. Attorneys can’t call themselves legal specialists unless they meet the requirements to be certified by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. This article refers to specialists in family law. According to their website, the purpose of designating legal specialists to help “consumers to identify lawyers who have experience and skill in a certain area of practice.” Candidates must successfully complete a six-hour written exam, similar to the bar exam but specifically for family law. There are a number of requirements to be met before the candidate may sit for the exam. The attorney must be “substantively involved” in family law for at least 5 years. Additionally, an attorney must have specific continuing education classes during the three years when the attorney applies to take the exam. The last requirement is peer review, demonstrated by references from ten lawyers or judges who are familiar with the attorney’s “competence and qualification of the applicant in family law.” References cannot be related to the attorney or colleague of his or hers. Once designated as a specialist, there are certain continuing education requirements, and every five years the attorney must be recertified and once again present references....

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Tips For Hiring an Attorney

Tips For Hiring an Attorney

Tips For Hiring an Attorney When you are considering which attorney you should hire, there are several main points to consider. First, look at the experience the attorney has.  How long has he or she been practicing?  How long has that attorney practiced in the local area?  Or practiced in the particular type of law, such as family law? Second, when you talk to the attorney at the consultation, consider his or her personality.  Is this someone who you feel comfortable confiding in, or is he or she intimidating or uninterested?  Do you get the feeling he or she will really listen to what you are saying?  It is common for family law cases to take a number of months or even years to complete, so be sure you feel good about the attorney. Third, does the attorney “dabble” with a certain type of case here and there, or does the attorney focus on one area of practice?  Family law is a difficult area of the law to master. Family law changes very frequently, unlike some areas of the law.  Family law consists of both statutes (i.e., law written by the legislature), and cases from the NC Court of Appeals interpreting the law as written.  If the attorney dabbles, it can be difficult for him or her to stay current on both the statutes and all the...

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