Stand-In Attorneys Don’t Hold Water in Some Courts

Today with the increased bankruptcy filings throughout the Nation, attorneys are changing the way the run their practices. The model that is being developed does not sit well with many including the courts.

When a client comes in and meets with an attorney and then signs a representation agreement, that may be the last time, the file or that attorney even touches the file. Clients need to be sure to question the attorney to be sure that the attorney is doing more than meeting and turning over the file to an associate or paralegal. It is also key to ask whether that attorney will appear with you in Court matters, e.g. Meeting of Creditors.

The Courts have noted that they do not approve of this “model” of attorneys office practices.

In a recent opinion by Judge Jeff Bohn (Consumer Bankruptcy News – Volume 23, Issue 19) he stated:

“The use of appearance attorneys deprives clients… Such a practice is insulting to the client, the Court, and the principles upon which the judicial system is built. Attorneys are not fungible. Attorneys are not all equal to each other, either in their courtroom abilities, their understanding of the law, or in their communicative skills.”

Clients choose a firm and an attorney for a reason, and clients have a right to be represented by the attorney of their choice during all portions of their case.

The justification for certain consumer bankruptcy attorneys that their business model will not work unless they are allowed to use appearance attorneys HOLDS NO WATER with this Court. If a firm’s business model conflicts with the professional standards of the legal profession, the former must give way to the latter.”

Be sure to ask when you interview or have your first meeting with an attorney, who will be handling my case?

  • An assistant,
  • Another attorney,
  • Appearance attorney???

When an attorney takes a case, they should initially meet with the client to understand and become familiar with the client’s needs. After that time, a Representation Agreement is agreed upon and signed.

As for Bankruptcies, there are many important deadlines and criteria to meet to finalize what type of bankruptcy is right for the client. During this time, a learning period begins for the attorney where he/she becomes very familiar with the case and interacts closely with the clients.

As the information and data are collected from the client, the attorney is able to fully understand not only the client but also the details of the case. Most of the time, there is a great deal of interaction between the client and the attorney. Much is learned about the client’s financial situation, spending habits, debts, how the debts occurred and the household income, etc.

At the 341(a) Meeting of Creditor’s is scheduled, the attorney presents his client to the Trustee and is there to assist and explain the petition that was put together for the client.

If an attorney who worked on the case does not come to Meeting of Creditors but sends an alternate attorney, how can that alternate attorney/stand-in attorney provide the proper representation and support to that client?

I don’t recommend having someone stand-in for an attorney when dealing with bankruptcy cases. Do you?

How Do People Select Rhode Island Divorce Attorneys to Interview?

Let’s face it. Rhode Island lawyers and lawyers in general are officers of the court. We’re supposed to be servants of the public. Yet at the same same we’re independent practitioners and we we’ve got a job to do and money to bring in through our private practice or we don’t survive.

It’s no wonder Rhode Island Lawyers are viewed with skepticism and even cynicism, especially when it’s time to hire one and you’re not sure who to hire or what to do. Here you are, you have a legal issue that needs to be addressed and you take the time to try to identify an attorney who will meet your needs.

It’s easy for questions to surface as to whether the attorney you’re interviewing is looking out for your best interests or simply looking out for his or her own interests and making some money to put food on his or her own table. It is, in fact, appropriate for you to question the attorney’s motives. The best time to do that is at the time you interview the attorney.

You should know that when you set up an appointment to see an attorney, YOU are interviewing the attorney just as much as the attorney is interviewing YOU.

So how do people generally go about choosing an attorney?

1) A referral from a friend or family member.

This is a good source of referrals for the attorney, but is the attorney right for YOU? What did the attorney do for that friend or family member who made the referral? Did the attorney settle a personal injury case? That’s not going to do you much good if you need someone for a family law matter. If your referral isn’t to an attorney that regularly practices in the area of law you need and it isn’t from a person who used those same type of family law services then the referral is “empty”, in other words a referral should be better than just hunting around in the yellow pages. It should provide some valuable reassurance that the attorney you’ve been referred to, can and has already provided valuable an competent services to the person who is making the referral to you, and that those services are in the area of law that you need help with. Without that criteria, the referral is “Empty”.

2) An advertisement in the yellow pages.

This is of course an even less effective way to select a suitable lawyer to interview than the referral from a friend or family member who did not use the attorney for the same type of legal services that you are in need of. When you just select attorneys out of the yellow pages you will most likely do like everyone else does. You select the attorney based on the advertisement itself, particularly its size and its wording. Unfortunately neither of these are indicators that the attorney is competent or will serve you well in the area of law you are in need of. Imagine that you are in need of a divorce attorney and you select the attorney’s advertisement that is the largest and includes the words “Estates”, “Personal Injury Cases”, and Divorces, etc… with 15 years in practice”.

First, that advertisement probably cost quite a bit since even small advertisements in the yellow pages run $3,000 to $5,000 a year. From there you can take a guess who has to pay for just that single marketing ad. That’s right…that attorney’s clients. You can almost certainly plan to pay more for an attorney with a decent sized yellow page ad. Conversely, that attorney might be worth it if you select just the right one.

Second, the “15 years in practice” tells you one of two things. Either that you are going to pay more for those years of experience or that he has been doing “something” law-related for 15 years. I know attorneys who have been in practice for 20 years and have handled perhaps 10 divorces in that amount of time. By the same token the advertisement above wouldn’t seem as impressive if you knew that the attorney only handled 4 divorces within his 15 years of practice. That might not want to be the attorney you want to represent you if you need a Rhode Island Divorce attorney and complex divorce issues regarding pensions, alimony and tax consequences on the sale of a home come into play.

3) Search for the kind of Rhode Island lawyer you want on the internet.

This is becoming more and more the method of searching for attorneys in the technoliterate sector of society. Those who choose this method of searching can go to Google.com or another search site of their choice and type in the various terms they want to search on. Searchers can also vary their search terms if the results do not suit them. The main benefit to searching the internet to find Rhode Island attorneys to interview is the third party nature of the ranking system. In a search system such as Google.com, the primary listings are ranked by criteria that are not controlled by attorney. It is Google’s system that analyzes the attorney’s websites and/or pages and determines from there whether the attorney’s website matches the criteria you are looking for. In this way you are getting an unbiased selection of attorney websites to review.

Secondarily, if you are searching on the internet for an attorney, you will know if the attorney has a website or not. This will at least give you some indication that the attorney has kept up with technology. If he or she has done so then if it is important to be able to communicate with your attorney by email this may be a factor in your decision to interview that particular attorney. The information on the website of the attorney is also likely to be the most focused regarding what his or her primary practice areas. In some instances the attorney’s website will provide the most valuable information about the attorney in order to decide which attorneys to interview.

Attorney Videos in Today’s Marketplace

The increase of home personal computers, Internet, and new technology is providing a lawyer with a way to connect effectively with the public. How can an attorney take advantage of this new Internet marketing tool? The lawyer can have an attorney videos created specifically related to his legal practice. The advantage of attorney videos allows web page visitors to achieve better understanding by being able to hear and see a presentation about the attorney practice instead of reading the information.

This is the preferred way of most Internet users, and 99% of users have the ability to view these videos. Future clients can access the videos seeking legal information and may choose the lawyer to represent them with their legal issue. Attorney videos allow the lawyer a chance to showcase his legal skills, knowledge, and his courtroom presence. Then he can have his attorney videos place on his Web page to market his legal practice to the public, and reach a target group of potential clients. In today’s market place and bad economy the attorney can use his videos to expand his client base allowing for the attorney maintain a profitable practice.

Some benefits of attorney videos are:

1) Increases visibility in customer’s geographic area, and area of the attorney’s practice.
2) Increase credibility with current clients, and potential clients.
3) Brings qualified new clients seeking an attorney who will meet their legal needs.
4) Minimize time lost talking with people whose legal issues doesn’t match the type of law the attorney handles, and clients not ready to hire the attorney.

Is creating attorney videos something the attorney can do himself? Attorney videos need to be effective, and provide a positive first impression of the attorney’s law firm. Plus the attorney’s Web page needs to well design like the lobby in the attorney’s office to convey the attorney’s unique professional image to possible clients.

The attorney would be wise to hire a professional video producing company who specialize in creating attorney videos. The professional should be highly experience, and showcase the attorney’s image as positive, helpful, caring, and successful. It’s very important that the attorney videos are effective and flexibility so the attorney can use the videos for other business applications.

Some new technology that will increase the effectiveness of the attorney videos are:

1) Flash which provides an element of motion and sophistication. Plus it allows for the attorney to advertise a key page, or section within the website.

2) Cascading menus provide easy navigation of the website allowing the viewer to go from the home page to anywhere on the website with a simple mouse click.

3) On-site search engine giving the ability for prospects and clients to search by topics without leaving the website. Plus the on-site search engine increases the website usability and provides a positive user experience.

4) Streaming media (audio/video) will engage potential clients and reinforce the marketing message, and provide education, news about the firm’s legal practice, and introduce the attorney giving him a personal connection with online visitors.

5) Control access a security major that protects the website by requiring a password that only existing clients have or known individuals approve to access protected information. When a visitor comes to the website they must submit their name and E-mail address.