How To File A Divorce: Criminal Defense Attorney Advice On How To Do One

Divorce cases is an emotionally charged and nerve-racking experience. It doesn’t matter if you are planning on hiring a legal professional or not, gradually your divorce process will start with generating and filing the appropriate state targeted divorce forms while using the family law department of the county court residence. If you are in an uncontested divorce position, filing your individual divorce is undoubtedly a viable alternative for your needs. Doing all your own divorce you will save considerably in lawyer service fees and you and your spouse could have full control of your own divorce proceedings. Should you choose to decide to take this “do it yourself” route, you are not alone.

When you are the first one organizing to obtain a divorce process, you will get to determine which area the divorce case might be held in. This would mean you can find the county the divorce occurs in. In the event you with your spouse are in totally different areas, this option is a major benefit. They’re going to finish with required to do every one of the traveling while you may only need to drive a minute or two to your local court house. An important benefits of being the main one filing for divorce is certainly you will probably be mentally ready – or at least prepared – for the coming storm. You will know that you wish the marriage to end and are willing to tackle the inevitability affiliated with this option.

Filing divorce papers is considered the initial step in the divorce process. States must have that you or your better half meet the residency requirement of that state so as to have legislation over your separation and divorce. The stretch of time necessary to qualify as a resident varies from region to region, therefore you really should look at your individual state laws to make sure that that you fulfill the demands. If you and your spouse are now living in diverse states, you’ll be able to file either in state if you both match the residency conditions of the state. Once residency prerequisites are achieved and jurisdiction is decided, the divorce application must be achieved.

A neighborhood divorce legal representative can prepare the divorce petition including a motion for temporary orders. If the divorce papers are filed with the court, you happen to be officially starting out the divorce process. The divorce petition need to be prepared in line with distinct legal requirements and must comprise certain suggestions concerning the marriage of the parties, house of each party, children of the marriage and more.

Only you can get the best actions that will discover your long term future. Read everything, get data, consult with level-headed friends and competent professionals (find an accounting firm and financial planners, and in many cases therapists, are generally just as much or more advantageous than an attorney), and use self-reflection to make a decision what’s perfect for you. Tend not to jump to a conclusion or rush to a decision. Learn much more about filing for divorce by talking to a neighborhood divorce attorney about arranging and providing the divorce petition. A divorce lawyer also can explain the impact your behaviors and choices regularly have on your divorce process, which can enable you to avoid making highly-priced mistakes.

Child Support Contempt in Rhode Island (RI) by a Family and Divorce Law Attorney

Child support contempt in Rhode Island (RI)

If a person violates a Rhode Island Family Court order by not paying child support, the parent with physical custody may file a motion to hold that person in contempt for failure to pay child support. A person accused of not paying child support has a right to a hearing. The obligor parent has the right to proper notice under the Rhode Island Family Court Rules.

If the person owed child support (the parent with physical placement / custody) is on AFDC Benefits (welfare) than payment may be owed to the state of Rhode Island. In that event, the motion may be initiated by the State of Rhode Island, Child Support Enforcement rather than the father or mother with physical custody of the minor child.

A Child Support contempt proceeding could be part of a Rhode Island divorce, child custody, Complaint for separate Maintenance, dcyf petition, child visitation, paternity or other type of Family Court legal action. If there is a potential for incarceration and a person cannot afford a Rhode Island Family Law lawyer / attorney then the Family Court must insure that the person has an attorney representing him or her. The Judge usually has a list of Court Appointed attorneys who are paid for by the state. Otherwise, the Court will appoint one of the lawyers from Rhode Island Legal Services to represent the person.

There is often an opportunity to settle the matter prior to any hearing in which a judge may find a person in willful contempt. A settlement typically may include any one of the following or a combination of the following or something different: the obligor agreeing to remain current, paying a lump sum, a payment plan, staying current in addition to an arrange order, etc.

In some situations, the parent with physical custody or Child Support enforcement is unwilling to settle the matter and insists on a hearing.

Technical contempt

If a person is found in technical contempt after a hearing, it means that the person has not complied with the child support order. However, the Court believes that the person had a legitimate reason or excuse for failure to pay, such as loss of job (being fired, laid off), decrease in income, disability, injured at work, unable to work, medical problems, or a myriad of other excuses or explanations. The judge also may not accept any of the above stated excuses as justification for failure to pay.

A person found to be in technical contempt will not be sentenced to the Adult Correctional Institution (aci) (jail)! However, the person may be ordered to find employment, raise a lump sum, stay current and / or make payments on the arrange, pay attorneys fees, make certain lump sum payments, obtain a second job etc.

Most Judges have little patience for people who do not support their children. If the person has an excuse for nonpayment it better be a good one or they may find themselves in Jail. The amount of arrears and the person’s history for compliance or noncompliance is often crucial in a judge’s determination! If a person has a long history of nonpayment then that person has a much higher likelihood to be held in willful contempt.

The more a person owes the more likelihood that the person will be held in willful contempt.

At a hearing the judge will look at all relevant supporting documentation that has been offered into evidence. The judge will almost always ask what the person can pay at that moment or whether they are able to immediately borrow money from friends or family. The Usual Dialogue is – “how much can you come up with to stay out of Jail and how quickly can you pay?” The RI Family Court judge may also be interested in whether a person has assets that he or she can sell.

If a person’s circumstances change then they need to file a motion to modify or suspend their child support rather then not make the payments! Child support does not automatically modify upon circumstances changing. If a modification is granted then the modification will be retroactive to the date of filing of the motion to modify not the date the circumstances actually changed. This does not mean that a person can unilaterally change their child support when they file a motion. It means that the child support will run retroactive after the Family Court issues an order modifying the child support. Therefore, if a person loses their job, becomes disabled, their hours are reduced or their pay decreases they must immediately file a motion to modify.

Child support can only be changed or modified if a motion is filed and an order enters. In many instances the judge’s response to a person’s plea to not hold them in contempt because they lost their job or their income decreased will be something like: “you should have filed a motion to modify or suspend child support when your circumstances changed rather than not pay.”

Willful contempt

A finding of willful contempt means that the judge believes that a person is thumbing their nose at the Court or has no reasonable justification for nonpayment. It could result from the judge not believing that the stated excuse for nonpayment is a justifiable excuse. A finding of willful contempt could also mean the following: 1) the person has the ability to pay and has not made payment 2) the person has not made proper efforts to find suitable employment 3) the person is able to work yet either isn’t working, is underemployed or not making proper efforts to find employment.

The judge may believe that the contempt is willful because the person is lying, exaggerating his excuse or that the person is not acting in good faith.

If a person is found in willful contempt for not paying Rhode Island child support, the person could be sentenced to the aci from day to day. Contempt sanctions are technically not criminal proceedings! However, since the sanctions could lead to jail time, they are quasi criminal proceedings. Contempt proceedings are not technically criminal because they are intended to compel compliance with child support orders rather then punish for nonpayment!

If a person is sentenced to the aci from day to day, then the judge of the Rhode Island Family court will usually state that upon payment of certain amount the person will be released from jail. In child support contempt proceedings there is always a ticket out of jail by making a certain payment. A person could be held in willful contempt and not be sentenced to the aci.

Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility:

The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.

Why You Need a Divorce Lawyer

I recently overheard someone in a bookstore telling a group of people why they should not have their own attorneys, how they could not trust lawyers, how lawyers would cheat them and how they should rely upon the company the speaker belonged to instead. That conversation got me thinking about why people facing separation and divorce need not just any lawyer, but a good divorce lawyer.

Reason #1-What You need to know

You need to know your rights, duties and responsibilities under the law. Only a lawyer who has been retained to represent your interests can advise you. How can you realistically discuss financial arrangements in separating and divorcing, if you don’t know what your rights, duties and responsibilities are? Not knowing what your rights are can result in not getting your fair share of assets, your fair share of support or your fair share of time with your children. Not knowing what your duties and responsibilities are can result in your paying more than your fair share of assets or your fair share of support. Most attorneys offer a special reduced rate for consulting services to encourage people to get advice early and often. There is no reason to rely on backyard fence advice, when you can get real advice from a qualified experienced divorce lawyer for a reasonable fee. Furthermore, in my experience, the backyard fence advice is usually wrong. Remember that if what you hear is half true, it is still wrong.

Reason #2-Backyard Advice

My friend is divorced. Why can’t I rely on my friend’s experience and knowledge. Well, you could do that but what you need to realize is that unless your friend is a licensed attorney, he/she is not authorized to practice law. Your friend’s knowledge will be limited to his/her particular experience. His/her experience with the law is limited to the facts of his/her case and the law as it was at the time. Things change. The law changes. Any change in the facts will change the outcome or advice. Furthermore, changes in the law will change the advice. Your friend simply lacks the knowledge and experience to give sound practical legal advice.

Reason #3-Identifying Issues

The sooner you get a lawyer, the sooner you will learn what you need to know to protect yourself (and your children and property interests). Sometimes people have no idea how to go about identifying the issues they need to discuss, even if the separation is an amicable one and the parties anticipate a “friendly divorce.” A good, experienced divorce lawyer can assist you in identifying the issues you need to discuss with your spouse to achieve a comprehensive agreement and global settlement. Over the years there have been numerous times when we were able to point out to clients areas they had initially overlooked and issues which should be included in their settlement discussions, such as life insurance, health insurance, and children’s educational needs.

Reason #4-To Share or Not to Share?

My spouse already has an attorney. Do I really need to get one too? Can’t the same lawyer represent us both? The answer is no, not really. 30 years ago when I first began practicing law, it was strictly forbidden for a lawyer to represent both sides to a divorce, no matter how “friendly” it was. There are some limited circumstances in which dual representation might be allowed, provided there is full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and a waiver of conflicts with informed consent by both parties. These situations are limited and in the event that unhappy differences or disputes should arise, the attorney must end the representation and both parties must seek new counsel. Frankly, we rarely if ever agree to dual representation. We represent our clients zealously within the bounds of the law and the conflicts in representing opposing sides are too apparent for us to agree to do so. Not only that, but if your spouse has a lawyer, that means that he/she has already sought legal advice and has some rudimentary knowledge of his/her rights, duties and responsibilities under the law.

Someone once said knowledge is power. Would you rather be the one with the knowledge (and the power) or the one without knowledge? How trusting can you be of your spouse or his/her attorney in the circumstances? Remember that your spouse’s attorney already represents your spouse. In our experience, spouses, especially those who tend to be controlling will think nothing of misrepresenting the law to gain advantage in the negotiation. Recently a client told me that her husband who remains in the marital home told her that she was now his “landlord” and therefore she could not re-enter the home without his consent and presence and that his lawyer said so. Needless to say, everything he told her was wrong. Her husband also told our client that they did not need to use lawyers and could reach an agreement on their own without lawyers. He also said that if she insisted on having her attorney review paperwork before she signed it that he would find something to disagree with on each draft to drive up her costs. Clearly he was trying to manipulate, intimidate and control his wife, who was wise to seek her own independent counsel from a knowledgeable, experienced divorce attorney.

Reason #5-Do You Feel Lucky?

Going to a court hearing in a pending divorce without a lawyer is like playing Russian Roulette. How lucky do you think you are? Would you perform surgery on yourself or would you seek out a qualified surgeon? Why do you think that you know enough to represent yourself in court? Do you know what your rights, duties and responsibilities are? The judge won’t help you out if you don’t know what you are doing. There are rules of evidence and rules of procedure that govern hearings. You need someone on your team that knows the rules of the game. You will need someone to prepare you for your testimony in court so that you don’t put your feet in your mouth up to your hip bone. You will be bound by the things that come out of your mouth in court. Recently we spoke to a man who incurred spousal and child support obligations of $4000 per month. The court issued an order based on erroneous exhibits filed by his wife’s attorney and based upon things he said in open court as to his income which were not accurate. A skilled trial attorney can get you to say things that you don’t mean to say, especially if you have not been prepared for your testimony.

Reason #6-Too Little, Too Late

Going to see a lawyer after you have already signed papers or participated in depositions or hearings pro se (representing yourself) is like closing the barn door, after the cow got out. Just because you were not represented does not mean that you can get out of a bad decision or bad deal you may have made or get out of rulings the court made when you were unrepresented. The time to get advice is before you sign. The time to get advice is before you go to court. In fact, you should get advice as soon as you receive legal notice of a pending lawsuit against you.

If you are reading this and you have already signed papers, you should still consult with a good experienced divorce attorney to have the papers explained to you and to review t he papers to see if there are any loopholes that may be used to renegotiate terms move favorably to you or to insist upon “clarification” of the agreement. The attorney can also explain the consequences of having signed the paperwork.

If you are reading this and you are in the midst of a divorce action and have been to depositions on your own, you should seek an immediate consultation with a good experienced divorce attorney to see if there is any legal basis to suppress the depositions. Be sure to take all of your documents with you to the consultation. We have seen situations where it was possible to reopen a case for a client because the depositions were taken too early. In such situations, the depositions were quashed by filing the appropriate papers under the rules of court. In your case it may be too late to do anything, but you should at least talk to a divorce attorney right away to be sure.

Reason #7-Isn’t a Lawyer a Lawyer? (A Rose by Any Other Name…)

I know a lawyer who did the closing on our house. Can’t I go to him/her for advice about separation and divorce? Yes, you could but there is a saying that if the blind lead the blind, they both fall in a ditch. Would you go to a podiatrist (foot doctor) if you had an eye infection? You could; after all, the podiatrist went to medical school and learned about the body, including the eyes. The questions are how much, if anything does he/she remember, is he/she current on the medical literature pertaining to the eye and infection, including the diagnosis and treatment of the eye? I have seen horrendous separation agreements prepared by lawyers who do not devote at least a significant portion of their practice to family law but were trying to accommodate a friend or relation in their time of need. Actually a lawyer should decline a case, if he/she does not believe that he/she has the knowledge and experience to handle it or that he/she is not willing to acquire the knowledge necessary to handle it.

It takes a significant amount of time to keep up with all of the changes in the law that affect separation and divorce. Think about it. Every week somewhere there is a court, either federal or state making a decision that could affect your situation. Every week that the legislature is in session, whether Congress or the General Assembly, they make decisions that could affect your situation. An experienced divorce attorney should make it a point to review new cases and statutes looking for those that affect family law practice; all of the best family lawyers do.

Reason #8-Prepaid Legal?

If you have paid for this service, then certainly you can talk to one of the participating attorneys. But unless the attorney is an experienced divorce lawyer with a significant portion of his/her practice devoted to separation and divorce and related issues, you should give serious consideration to looking outside of your prepaid plan. Has the lawyer written any books or articles on separation, divorce or related issues that are published? I am not a participating attorney in a pre paid legal plan. The best divorce lawyers are not participants in “prepaid” legal. To my knowledge there are no fellows (members) of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers who participate in pre paid legal services plans. If you are reading this report and have personal knowledge of an attorney who belongs to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and also belongs to a pre paid legal plan, please email us at valawtalk@justice.com to report the name of the attorney so that we can verify the information and update this report.

Think about what is at stake; the custody and support of your children, and the division of assets you may have worked your entire married life to accumulate, including your home, pension, savings, military retirement and/or 401K. Do you really want to cut corners when it comes to your kids? Your home? Your pension? Your retirement?

Reason #9-A Ship Needs a Navigator

If you think of your legal case as a ship, the client is the captain of the ship and the client’s attorney is the navigator. The navigator doesn’t decide where to go, but he/she does map out the best course to arrive at the destination. Divorce is difficult, even “friendly” divorce is not easy. It can be an emotional rollercoaster. You need emotional, psychological and legal support. In choosing to separate and divorce, you will be faced with important decisions that will affect you, your spouse and your children not only now but in the foreseeable future. Passions can run hot during this difficult time and you need a clear head. You need a team of individuals including someone knowledgeable in separation and divorce law to help you see clearly and navigate the difficult and sometimes angry waters of separation and divorce.

Not having a good divorce lawyer at the planning and separation stage leaves you without the sound advice and rational third party perspective you need to make decisions which can bind you for life. Not having a good divorce lawyer at the divorce stage leaves you without the knowledge, experience and advocacy of a good experienced divorce attorney. It leaves you at the mercy of your spouse and your spouse’s attorney. Neither your spouse nor his/her attorney is there to show you mercy. You need someone to fight for you when you cannot fight for yourself. You need someone to help you understand what is gong on and how to act in the storm.

You need someone who can help you to be pro-active and not simply re-active to steps that your spouse takes. You want a team to support you, a team which can and should include your pastor, rabbi or spiritual advisor, your CPA or tax advisor, extended family, friends and a good experienced divorce attorney.

Reason #10-You Need an Advocate

You are going through a traumatic experience. Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences in life, second only to the death of a spouse. You need someone who understands what is at stake and will advocate for your interests with not only knowledge and experience but passion and feeling. When you interview attorneys, find out why they practice family law and what motivates them in advocating for clients. What is it that makes them passionate advocates? I recently spoke with another trial attorney who does not generally handle divorce work. He usually handles criminal and traffic defense and civil suits for money damages; he told me that he was forced by the poor economy to take a contested divorce case. Divorce and family law are not his first choice of trial work. He is doing it now solely for the money. Is that the motivation you would want in your attorney? Or would you rather have a lawyer who has made a conscious decision to focus on family law and uses his/her life experience such as knowing what it is like to be a child of divorce to relate to the circumstances of your case and to advocate for you with passion and conviction?

How to Find a Good Attorney

How to find a good attorney is a question on everyone’s mind when in need of a lawyer. And it’s difficult for an ordinary person to know how to find a good attorney. The legal profession is just like any other profession where you have good, disciplined and honest members as well as bad, not disciplined and dishonest ones. And in the legal profession, unfortunately, only fellow attorneys and judges know who is who. That leaves us, the ordinary people, to learn as best as we could on ways of how to find a good attorney to represent our case.

When faced with a legal issue that requires lawyer’s participation, the only thing worse than not having a lawyer is to have a bad one. However, the “good” and the “bad” labels are a subject to a personal judgment. As mentioned above, while only fellow attorneys and judges know who is the good, the bad, and the ugly attorney, in the ordinary human world, two people could share a totally opposite opinion about one attorney who represented both of their cases. It’s all based on the results that the attorney was able to obtain for them and whether the clients’ expectations were met or not. This leads us to a conclusion that when we have a lack of resources to evaluate our prospect attorneys, we need to depend solely upon our individual judgment to pick a good attorney for our case.

On the other hand, there are ways to at least sense a bad attorney. Wait! Isn’t it the subject of this article “How to find a good attorney”? Indeed so. In order for you to know how to find a good attorney, you need to know how to at least sense a bad one. Let’s touch up on some basics.

1. Very simple. If you need to file for a divorce, would you call a criminal lawyer? Of course not. That’s a bad lawyer for your case. On the same note, if other than a divorce lawyer is offering to handle your case, you would say no. You immediately know that a good lawyer for your case would be the one who has expertise in whatever legal issue you’re facing.

2. You somehow find a lawyer that has the expertise in your problem area and you make a contact with him or her. But, it takes that lawyer a week or two to get back to you. That attorney may not be a bad lawyer but he or she may be overbooked with other clients and does not have enough time to give the needed attention to your case. That’s a bad lawyer for your case. That attorney needs to immediately tell you that because of their current work load he or she wouldn’t be able to handle your case. But if he or she doesn’t tell you that, you need to immediately dismiss that attorney and look for another one who can give you the needed attention.

3. Here comes the bad one. It is highly unethical for a lawyer to pay a referral fee or a bonus for “leads” on new cases. (Depending on state law, a referral fee sometimes may be paid to another lawyer, but it needs to be disclosed to the client). Some of the profession’s “bad apples” may still engage in the practice of paying “runners” for tips on new clients. So if a stranger (or even someone that you know) seems excessively persistent that you need to see a lawyer, or just happens to have a supply of the attorney’s business cards, look out! This is not the kind of person who deserves your trust. On the same note, if you bump into a lawyer who does not take his or her time to understand your case but is also excessively persistent that you need to hire him or her, look out!

Now, let’s cover some basics on ways of how to find a good attorney.

1. One of the best ways on how to find a good attorney is to ask someone whose opinion you trust; another lawyer, your accountant, banker, coworker, family friend, business acquaintance. These are the people that you trust and you know that they wouldn’t refer you to a bad lawyer if they happen to know one related to your legal need.

2. If the above doesn’t work for you, you could always call a company that may be represented by a lawyer of your need. For an example, if you’re looking for a real estate lawyer, call a title company and ask them who they use. If you need a collection lawyer, call a collection agency. But, if your issue is pure personal, ask anyone who you trust, who has recently been through a lawsuit, and who is very satisfied with their lawyer. Even if that lawyer is not the right one for your case, you know that you’re contacting a good lawyer. Call that lawyer and explain that you couldn’t find an attorney on your own and ask him or her if they could refer you to the appropriate attorney for your case. Lawyers are the best source of information about other lawyers. And a good lawyer will always refer you to another good lawyer who could handle your case.

3. And last but not least on how to find a good lawyer, call your local or state bar association and ask them to refer you to a lawyer who is in good standing with the bar. Also, always check with your state or local bar association if your prospect lawyer has ever been the subject of an ethical complaint or inquiry.

To sum up the ways on how to find a good attorney, the primary considerations in selecting an attorney needs to be whether you feel comfortable with the attorney selected, and if you are confident that the attorney is competent in his or her field of expertise. You must feel very comfortable with the attorney and must feel confident that the attorney selected is the one who can capably handle your needs. Make sure that you interview two or three lawyers before making a decision on which one to retain. Ask yourself when interviewing a lawyer: “Do I feel comfortable talking to this lawyer, and am I confident in his or her abilities?” If the answer is anything other than a definite “yes,” you need to keep looking. Your case is too important to entrust to someone who does not inspire your confidence.

Disclaimer: The author and publisher of this article have done their best to give you useful, informative and accurate information. This article does not represent nor replace the legal advice you need to get from a lawyer, or other professional if the content of the article involves an issue you are facing. Laws vary from state-to-state and change from time-to-time. Always consult with a qualified professional before making any decisions about the issues described in this article. Thank you.

Paralegal Studies Careers – Providing Critical Legal Services

The fast-paced excitement of a paralegal or legal services career is dramatically depicted in popular and syndicated television shows, such as “Boston Legal” and “Law and Order.” Meanwhile, the local and national news, as well as court and justice television programs, have provided coverage of high-profile trials and legal proceedings that have made major headlines over the past several years. With such easy access to law and legal action courtesy of the American media, it is no wonder that so many young Americans want to complete law degrees or paralegal certificates each year.

Like any career shown in the media – medicine, business, advertising, and so on – real-life law and legal careers do not always embody the back-to-back high-drama excitement portrayed on television. However, they are consistently interesting and engaging, requiring workers to devote focus to their careers. To get started in an entry-level legal or paralegal career (these terms will be used interchangeably throughout the article), a potential employee will typically need to have a degree – or have completed legal studies training courses or a paralegal certification.

Entry-level competition for any career, including the paralegal profession, can be tough. Students who have pursued a paralegal certificate or degree are usually considered to be stronger candidates for entry-level careers in law. This is because completing an education demonstrates that a student is mature and responsible enough to handle a daily legal services workload. Many schools in the United States offer a paralegal studies degree program to prepare students for an array of exciting legal careers. Some of the stronger programs are also approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).

The legal studies or paralegal degree program: What do students learn?

The most important skill sets that a paralegal or legal assistant will employ are good reading comprehension and writing abilities. The majority of a paralegal’s work involves reading and writing, and some legal documents or court briefs can contain fairly complex language and concepts. Besides English reading and writing courses, many paralegal studies programs require students to take specific classes in legal research and legal writing.

Strong research and documentation skills are other important components of a legal studies education. Upon completing a paralegal certification or legal studies career training program, students must be able to quickly and accurately find and interpret federal, state, and local laws, research legal precedents set by previous hearings or decided cases, and track down evidence that will support the case. Because the career opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants are very diverse, many legal programs require students to study several areas of law. Many ABA-approved schools offer classes in criminal law, family law, property and probate, torts, and civil procedure.

Many schools offer career placement options for students completing a paralegal studies or legal services degree program. These student-centered career resources can include resume-writing workshops and cover-letter coaching, as well as job leads – and career placement. This placement is often targeted in the area of the country in which the college is located. For example, a Los Angeles college might offer students placement assistance in Long Beach, Huntington, Irvine, Cerritos, or another city in Los Angeles County, California. Students interested in legal or law careers are most successful at the entry level when they use all of the resources their school or college offers, including career counselors and legal or paralegal job resource boards.

After the legal studies education: What do paralegals and legal assistants do?

Upon completing a degree and career training program, legal studies students will enter jobs with varying descriptions and duties. Paralegals perform many direct tasks for the rest of the legal team. A paralegal or legal assistant might be assigned to one lawyer or to a team of lawyers. For example, a litigation paralegal might assist the legal team in preparing for trial, which includes gathering and organizing evidence and court briefs; doing research and writing briefs for the case, and even preparing courtroom arguments or evidence exhibits.

Some of the documents a paralegal will write are dependent upon the area of law in which he or she works. Estate and trust paralegals are likely to assist in writing wills and financial contracts. Family and divorce law paralegals help write divorce agreements, child custody briefs, and hearing summaries, or or work with the courts in obtaining child abuse testimonies. Financial and corporate paralegals can prepare tax forms, work in government compliance, or write business contracts.

A paralegal might also be employed in the public or the private legal sector. Legal assistants and paralegals might take notes in meetings, help to prepare employee tax and benefits forms, and file records and major papers for the law firm. Some employees might have more opportunities to perform more extensive legal research, as well. Other employees might be in charge of determining whether individuals are eligible for food stamps, housing subsidies, social security assistance, and other benefits.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for paralegals and legal assistants is expected to increase more rapidly than average through 2014. This is partially because Americans live in an increasingly lawsuit-prone society, and partially because it is more cost-effective for law firms to hire legal assistants to perform the work of an attorney. A comprehensive education in legal concepts and applications from an ABA-approved or accredited paralegal studies or certificate program, a thorough, post-college legal career search, and the desire to work hard at acquiring increasingly challenging job responsibilities will enable a legal studies student to begin a fulfilling legal career.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Attorney?

People often ask how much it costs to hire an attorney. The answer is “it depends.” Generally speaking, there are three fee structures or ways that attorneys charge for legal representation: contingency fee, hourly billing, or flat rate. The type of fee structure used is a function of both the particular attorney and/or law firm you consult and the type of case or representation that you require.

Contingency Fee Structure

Contingency fees are paid to an attorney contingent upon the result or legal outcome that he obtains on your behalf. If the attorney is unsuccessful in obtaining a desired result or outcome for you, then he or she does not get paid. Alternatively, if the attorney achieves a successful result, the he or she is paid at the predetermined rate or fee.

Contingency fees are most often used in personal injury cases. When you initially retain an attorney for representation in a personal injury matter, no money or fee is paid to the lawyer. Instead, you and your lawyer agree that if, and only if, they succeed in obtaining money on your behalf, they will then be paid a percentage of the recovered amount. This percentage differs by state and case type. Most often the percentage is one-third or 33% of the total recovery. However, in more complicated cases such as those involving malpractice or product liability claims, or even less complicated cases that require litigation or the actual filing of a lawsuit, attorneys may require a contingency fee of up to 40% of the total recovery.

Contingency fees are very attractive to clients because they do not require any out-of-pocket expense for representation. It is important to note, however, that contingency fees are not permitted in either criminal or family law cases such as those involving divorce, child custody or other domestic issues.

Hourly Rates Fee Structure

Hourly rates are often charged by attorneys who represent large organizations such as corporations, non-profit organizations or other entities capable of affording legal services on an hourly basis. This fee structure is most commonly used in connection with corporate law, business litigation and insurance defense. Hourly rate billing is the most expensive type of fee arrangement for clients.

In this circumstance, you are billed on a monthly or quarterly basis for the time actually spent by your attorney or his agent performing work on your case during the billing period. Lawyers who charge on an hourly basis bill for everything to include, but not limited to, phone calls, copies, consultations, letters and email, research, court appearances, travel time, and any other time spent working on a case.

Before agreeing to an hourly fee structure, it is important to know what types of services are billed; how often; in what time-increments; and at what rate. Firms may charge varying rates depending upon who in the organization actually performs the billed service such as a secretary, investigator, paralegal, associate attorney or senior-level attorney. As stated above, hourly billing is most often employed by lawyers who represent corporations or wealthy clients. It is also used in connection with family law work; estate and tax planning; elder law; areas of civil law other than personal injury; and complex criminal defense cases.

Flat Rate Fee Structure

The third and last type of fee structure is the flat rate fee. With this arrangement, you and your attorney agree upon a flat rate for all legal representation pertaining to a particular matter regardless of the time and effort needed to perform the agreed-upon legal work. Some clients prefer this form of payment because it limits their financial exposure and provides them with certainty regarding the cost of legal representation. Lawyers who charge flat rates take the risk that the fee they quote will fairly compensate them for the estimated time needed to perform the required legal service.

In some instances, the lawyer may complete his work in less time than expected, and therefore, enjoy a financial windfall from a flat fee arrangement. Alternatively, and in many cases, lawyers underestimate how much time and effort is required on a particular case. In these instances, lawyers assume this risk that the quoted flat rate is not fair compensation for the actual work required. Flat rates are very typical with criminal defense cases. Many attorneys charge a flat rate for all pretrial representation related to a case, and then a second installment flat rate if and when a case is scheduled for trial.

Choosing The Best Attorney for You

Now that you have a better understand of the types of legal fees, the question remains: how much does it cost to hire an attorney. The answer is still “it depends.” Legal fees vary by geographic area; the type and nature of the case involved; and the particular attorney you choose to hire. Clients are often under the mistaken belief that all attorneys are the same – one size fits all. This could not be further from the truth.

Attorneys, even those who practice in the same geographic area and work on the same types of cases, are not alike. Each attorney has his or her own unique experience and background. For instance, some lawyers have a lot of trial experience and some do not. Researching an attorney’s true experience and background can be difficult. With the legalization of advertising for attorneys, many try to dazzle potential clients with fancy websites and colorful language regarding their skills and abilities. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Meet with the attorney in person; ask around about his or her reputation; and request examples of cases they have worked on in the past.

Aside from experience, lawyers also have different values and personalities. Some lawyers are more hardworking and dedicated to client needs and concerns than others. For instance, how many times have you heard the complaint that “my lawyer never returns phone calls” or “my lawyer is always out of the office.” These complaints do not describe all lawyers equally. Some lawyers return client calls the very same day the client leaves the message. Others work nights and weekends to be available to clients who otherwise work during the day and cannot meet with their lawyer during normal business hours.

The bottom line is that when it comes to lawyers, just like restaurants, automobiles and other consumer goods, the old adage holds true: you get what you pay for. If you prefer a lawyer who charges McDonald’s prices, you will certainly find one. However, if you choose to hire such a lawyer, do not be surprised if their representation has the poor quality of a McDonald’s hamburger. Perhaps you prefer quality and competence over discount prices.

Whatever your needs may be, take the time to find a lawyer who is right for you. When it comes to legal representation, choose an attorney who is qualified, competent, experienced, caring and devoted to your case. After all, what price is too high to pay for your rights and your future?

How to Work With Your Lawyer

1. Get organized. Prepare detailed written notes outlining your legal problem or questions. Provide the lawyer all the details, and let he or she decide what is important to your case.

2. Complete and honest disclosure of all facts. It is very important that you provide a complete and honest description of your problem, including information that may be favorable, unfavorable, or embarrassing. Leaving out a minor fact or detail could have a huge negative impact on your case. Only if you fully disclose the facts about your situation can an attorney properly advise you. Remember that there are strict rules that require an attorney to keep your information confidential.

3. Discuss fees. Your attorney will be ready to discuss fees at the first meeting, and you should be ready to do the same. You can and should negotiate fees and discuss payment plans with your attorney. Get your agreement in writing and keep a copy for your file. Most disputes about fees happen because there is no written record of an agreement.

4. Ask a lawyer questions. In order for your attorney to serve you better, you must understand all aspects of your case and the legal process. Understanding the process will help you understand how the lawyer is working and what type of information is needed on your case. But remember, you are paying for your attorney’s time. It is more cost effective to ask several questions at once instead of calling your attorney every time one question comes to mind. You may be charged for each call depending on your fee agreement.

5. Understand what you sign. Before you sign a document, ask your attorney to fully explain to your satisfaction any document. What can be clear and routine to an attorney can be confusing to people without formal legal training.

6. Keep your own records. Ask for copies of all letters and documents prepared on your case. You should also keep the written fee agreement between you and your attorney in the file. You may have to access this information at some point in the future so it is important to maintain records.

7. Legal advice. Give careful and thoughtful consideration to what your attorney advises. The attorney’s judgments are based on legal training and experience. Remember that lawyers cannot work magic. No attorney wins every case, and sometimes the best legal advice may not be what you want to hear. Your attorney will provide advice that has your best legal interests in mind. The central focus of any case is the facts. Each side will have facts that contribute to the outcome of the case. It is the lawyer’s responsibility to make you aware of the potential outcome of your case based on the facts.

HOW DO I PREPARE AND WHAT SHOULD I TAKE TO THE FIRST INTERVIEW?

Plan to go to the first interview with an open mind. You do not have to decide to employ the attorney with whom you are interviewing until you have had time to think about the interview and your experience in communicating with the lawyer.

When you go to your initial consultation, it is important to have with you a written summary, or detailed notes outlining your problem. The notes or summary should include:

1. Names, addresses and phone numbers of all persons or companies involved

2. All documents which are part of your case, including

a. Documents you have received from another attorney

b. Documents you have received from a court

c. Journals

d. Written Correspondence (includes emails)

e. Receipts

f. Contracts

g. Medical bills

h. Repair estimates

i. Checks, etc.

j. Pictures

k. Written notes detailing the history of your situation

The attorney may ask you to deliver written materials in advance of your first interview in order to have adequate time to review them. You may prefer to provide copies rather than originals at the initial interview. Remember that all lawyers are subject to attorney-client privilege and therefore, must maintain any information in strict confidence.

Next, prepare a list of questions for the attorney, such as:

1. Are you specialized and/or experienced in my type of problem?

2. Will you or one of your associates be handling my case?

3. Will you regularly contact me about the status of my case?

4. Will I be provided with copies of all important documents, and will there be a charge for those documents?

5. Will I be able to make the final decision on my case?

6. What is your estimate of time needed to complete my case?

7. What is the hourly billable rate?

8. What amount of retainer is required to request your services?

REMEMBER: When you hire an attorney, the attorney will be working for you. He or she should be genuinely interested in your problem and in giving you the best possible advice. The attorney may not be able to accomplish everything you wish because of the facts or the laws that apply in your case. Many times the best advice an attorney can give will be to avoid court action. He or she may suggest other methods to resolve your matter, such as mediation.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT OF MY ATTORNEY?

Here are a few tips about what to expect from your attorney. Your attorney should:

1. Give you candid, honest advice;

2. Tell you the strong and weak points of your case; this includes potential outcomes based on facts and your instructions on how to proceed

3. Keep you informed and follow your instructions, within the bounds of the law;

4. Protect and defend you to the best of his or her ability and to the fullest extent of the law;

5. While representing you, not represent any other client whose interests conflict with yours;

6. Provide you, if you ask, with copies of all letters and documents involved in your case;

7. Provide an itemized bill of all work done for you and all expenses incurred on your behalf.

WHAT WILL MY ATTORNEY EXPECT OF ME?

The attorney will expect you to:

1. Be prompt for court dates and appointments;

2. Let him or her know how to keep in touch with you. If you have a change of address or phone number or place of employment, let your attorney know; and

3. Be completely honest — even if it is embarrassing to tell the truth about your problem.
Remember, what you tell an attorney in private will be kept confidential. Even confessions to past crimes or criminal activity are going to be treated as confidential by your attorney. Exceptions to this rule of strict confidentiality are plans for future crimes and continuing criminal activity or if the attorney believes that you have or will cause injury to a child. Attorneys are required by law to report suspected child abuse.

4. Not withhold any important information during the conversation that could be potentially damaging to your situation. A common tactic is for the other party to discredit you. Therefore, it is crucial that you fully disclose anything you can think of that could be used against you later on in the proceedings. Understand that even with the weight of the facts on your side, the situation could change if information comes out later that gives the advantage to the other party, because this information was not disclosed earlier to the lawyer.

HOW MUCH WILL THE ATTORNEY CHARGE ME FOR HIS OR HER SERVICES?

The attorney’s fee depends upon many variables, such as amount of time, the difficulty of the work, the skill required, the customary fee in your area for similar work, the experience, reputation and ability of the attorney, and whether the fee is a set amount or contingent on the outcome of the case.

Some examples of fee arrangements include:

Flat fee: The attorney may quote you a set amount or standard fee that he or she has arrived at for your type of legal problem. An example of a legal problem that could be covered in a flat-fee matter is an uncontested divorce without children or a simple will. In addition, lawyers usually expect you to pay court costs and to reimburse them for out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel, long distance, postage, courier, or copying expenses. It is important that you find out what any fixed fee covers.

Hourly fee: An attorney may prefer to bill you by the hour and collect an initial retainer. Such fees may vary widely depending upon the complexity of the legal work, the skill of the attorney and whether there are time deadlines. If you agree to an hourly arrangement, you and the attorney could include a provision in your contract requiring the attorney not to exceed a specified amount of time or money without obtaining your permission. Insist that you be kept advised every month of the number of hours that the attorney is spending on your problem. You also have the right to ask for a written explanation of what the attorney did during the hours he or she worked on your case.

Questions about fees that you may want to ask are:

1. Can you give me an estimate of how much this legal matter will cost?

2. Can we have a written fee agreement that sets forth not only my obligation to pay you, but also exactly what services you will provide?

HOW SHOULD I MAKE MY DECISION TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY?

Based on your first interview, you should consider the following factors before agreeing to hire an attorney:

1. Could you communicate effectively with the attorney?

2. Was the attorney clear and easy to understand?

3. Are fees reasonable in comparison with other lawyers’ charges?

4. Did the attorney give clear explanations of how he or she will let you know about progress in your case?

5. If you are not satisfied with this attorney, do not hire him or her. Look elsewhere for legal help.

If it Exists, There’s a Lawyer For It

Choosing a lawyer to represent your specific case in court can be very intimidating. It’s hard enough to decide what category of law your case falls into and if you’re hiring the right kind of lawyer to present it. When you are looking for a lawyer to bring you to court, be sure to see if he has any types of cases that he specializes in, apart from the type of law he practices. Having an experienced lawyer with you while you make your case can often get you the results you’re looking for.

Family disputes are categorized into two major types of law, family law and estate planning law. Family law focuses on the relationships associated with families, such as marriage, divorce, and children. A family lawyer would be hired to deal with divorce settlements, child custody and monetary support, as well as instances of domestic violence and other forms of abuse. Family lawyers are becoming increasingly necessary.

The other sort of family dispute deals with the transition of property outlined by wills left by a deceased family member. Estate planning law comes in when a family member dies and the time has come to distribute the total of his estate. An estate doesn’t only include property and money, it deals with assigning legal guardians for minors, wills, trusts, and powers of appointment. When dealing with the transfer of assets from the deceased, disputes often arise. A lawyer specializing in trusts and estates will be called to interpret the will and distribute the property.

Corporate law is designed to protect or prosecute actions performed within the realm of a corporation’s dealings. A corporation is an entity completely independent from the people who own it and keep it operating. They are treated sort of like human beings in that they can have crimes committed against them or be charged with a crime. Corporate attorneys specialize in the legal status of a corporations and are in charge of keeping an eye on the various transactions that corporations make throughout its lifetime. As a corporate specialist, a corporate attorney studies the legal rights and duties that are associated with corporations.

Civil litigators and constitutional lawyers make up two unique branches in law. A civil litigation attorney is charged with representing people who want compensation for an action or the carrying out of a specific action. In other words, litigators don’t want criminal punishment, only remuneration for what was committed against them. A constitutional lawyer addresses situations that might not be made explicitly clear in the constitution. Constitutional lawyers can be described as lawyers for the gray areas of law, for they are in charge of interpreting certain constitutional generalities onto specific cases brought to court. This sort of law can often become very controversial, especially when dealing with two interpretations of the same constitutional statement.

Know Your Legal Rights

Do you have access to the Justice System? Do you always know what your legal rights are? You are probably like I used to be when I had to answer no to these questions. Yes, help is available, but who should you call? Don’t you have to consider the cost before you call? If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any rights.

Amazingly, 80% of the people in our country today are without legal help and guidance. What makes this even worse is that our society is growing more litigious day by day. The top 10% have legal counsel because they can afford to keep an attorney on retainer. The lower 10% can’t afford an attorney, so they are provided one by the state. That leaves the 80% majority. Going along through life not knowing their legal rights. Not being able to afford an attorney for anything unless it’s a “life or death” matter. No longer does this have to be true of you.

KNOW YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS

Things to look for to help you know your legal rights:

  • Preventative Legal Services – Toll-free telephone consultations with a lawyer on unlimited matters for personal or business questions. Letters/Phone calls made by the lawyer on your behalf. Contract/Document review (up to 10 pages). Will Preparation and updates.
  • Motor Vehicle Legal Services – Representation for moving traffic violations. Representation for certain motor vehicle related criminal charges.
  • Trial Defense – Help with attorney fees for defense of civil and covered work-related criminal charges.
  • IRS Audit Legal Services – Scheduled benefits from your Provider Law Firm to help defray the cost of audit representation.
  • Discount – Legal Services needed and not already mentioned will receive a 25% discount.

These type services are what you should look for to help you know and protect your legal rights. This way you have all your “bases covered” to take care of any legal situation that should arise. This helps “level the playing field” so you can have as good or better legal counsel than the top 10%. Many times, the top 10% just have one lawyer on retainer to call on, but you can have a whole full service law firm at your beck and call.

Lawyers, like doctors, specialize and usually concentrate on one area of law. Would you want a foot doctor to do a heart operation for you? Would you want a divorce lawyer to represent you for a traffic ticket. This is why you need a full service law firm available to you, instead of just one lawyer, to be there for you no matter what happens.

Want these services to protect you and your family?

Legal Advice – Great Help In Times Of Need

Many a times, it so happens that we really are in need of something, the longer it takes. This is so true when it comes to getting the real legal advice. So then, how does one get the right advice?

There are a number of legal firms which have 24 x 7 service. Depending on the severity of the case, the fees may vary. There are legal advice experts appointed by law firms who also offer free advice.

With the advancements in the field of technology, identifying attorneys who will provide you advice is not very difficult. You will come across many websites who advertise their list of legal advisors and you may want to select from among them. the laws may vary depending on the country or the State and hence it is important to state the right pin code when you are seeking legal advice.

Many law firms put up their advertisements in business directories. Some sophisticated legal advisory firms which have a hotline facility or a toll free number also provide free legal advice and also the next course of legal action. Based on this advice, you can proceed accordingly.

Another very good way of seeking the right legal advice is to check with friends and relatives. If any of your associates or known people have sought such a help and have found it satisfactory, then you can rest assured of the credibility of the legal firm.

Internet is undoubtedly the best way to identify the right legal firms who will provide you legal advice. With the click of the mouse button, you will get access to a plethora of law firms. You will have to fill in the questionnaire or the online form and provide all the details and submit the same. These are not for free and based on the answers replied by you, they will advice what needs to be done next.

Some companies may not offer legal advice for free and you may have to enroll for their prepaid legal advice. Once the time limit is completed, you will have to again pay for taking the advice and seeking their services.

It is advised that you hire the services of an attorney or lawyer who is close to your place of residence or workplace, so that you do not end up spending time and money visiting their office. A good lawyer who is far away may not be of great help if he or she is not able to provide the information when required.

There are law firms who specialize in certain fields like accident claims, driving offenses, divorce, financial disputes and so on. If you intend taking legal advice for trusts and wills, then you need to seek a law firm which deals in this niche. You will be greatly benefited if you seek the right advice from the right people. Hence, selection of the right law firm is very important.

The lawyers will help you with the entire documentation. Just make sure you provide the complete details so that they are able to present your case perfectly.