Lawyers & Money 7

One more time: I am a paralegal not a Lawyer. Also when a lawyer or a paralegal becomes involved your problem or concern becomes an issue.
Picking up from last week I told you, larger the Firm the more technology needed. So more money spent on it. That pretty much covers technology for Firms. I won’t have to go into the standard office costs will I? Such as legal pads and paperclips or file cabinets and desks? They all cost after all. Right then, moving on.
Now let’s talk about the Independents. Some Independents do try to rent an office. Usually their office is one of those holes in the walls. You know the ones were all the landlord rents out is a room and a bathroom for a couple $100 a month. Sometimes not even a bathroom. Most Independents’ however do take over a spare bedroom, a basement or even the laundry room to set up their office and save money. Sometimes an Independent will even use the kitchen table. While this does cut some of their expenses it does create a huge number of other problems. I am sure those of you with children can understand what I mean.
Seriously an Independents’ major problem comes back to image. It seems a lot of clients believe that these Independents’ are failures a 1/2 a step from bankruptcy or just too incompetent to get a job. While it may be somewhat true, you can find just as many these types of lawyers in the biggest, fanciest law Firm in town. In mid to large Law Firms incompetents are usually hidden with the boot camp lawyers doing research for the other lawyers. The Independents I have run into will literally bust ass meeting their clients’ needs but if they can’t help most independents will try to help their clients locate Law Firms that can help. Most Independents can give their clients more focused one on one time then Firm lawyers.
However, an Independent will still need the same technology as a regular Firm. Just not as much of it. An Independent needs at least one computer, telephone system, printer, copier and scanner. Like I said before technology costs. .
Unlike regular Firms most independents’ do not have the expense of a support staff. Simply put Independents’ don’t have paralegals, secretaries, or file clerks. Independents’ even have to take out their own trash unless they can browbeat their spouse, kid or significant other into doing it for them.
Let’s not forget the survival costs. Mortgage payments, food, cable bill and the huge student loan payments to say just a few. An Independent cannot spread these costs among several other lawyers. In Firms with 3 or more lawyers operating costs are much more spread out. Often the only person most Independents can share operating cost with is their spouse or significant other.
Next week I will be getting into actual court costs you and your lawyer may face when you get to the court house

Money & Lawyers 6

To repeat myself; I am a paralegal, not a lawyer. Plus when a paralegal and or a lawyer get involved your problem becomes an issue.

All right, let’s talk about office technology. Things have changed over the years. 30 or 40 years ago office technology consisted of telephones and maybe a fax machine. Let’s be real fax machines 30 years ago always made a huge amount of noise that is if someone was brave enough to use it. Let’s be honest the 1st fax machines weren’t that reliable. Today we are talking about computers, wireless telephone systems, copiers, scanners, printers and fax machines.

Let’s say you found a fairly small firm, no more than 3 or 4 lawyers. Each lawyer will need a desktop for the office and a laptop computer for their home. Your firm will probably have at least 2 paralegals. Each will need a desktop and a laptop.

Side-note: Being a lawyer or a paralegal is not a 9-5 job. Your lawyer will almost without fail put in another 3 hours of work after they get home. Plus lawyers and paralegals do travel as part of their job. In a lot of firms this size paralegals and lawyers supply their own laptops. There are computer systems that let the paralegal and or lawyer’s laptop communicate from home or on the road with the firm’s mainframe.

Let’s not forget the office manager ‘the real boss’ and the receptionist each will also need a desktop each. That makes about 8 computers needed for the physical office. Most firms this size will also need at least 3 printers. This does not include the printers in lawyer’s home. This size firm also needs at least 1 copier and a fax machine.

Side-note: There are printers that can double as a copier, scanner and fax machine.

Now we come to the software needed to operate the equipment. We are talking about MS Word, Excel, and Adobe, PowerPoint, Paint and Access. Plus your lawyer has a video conferencing programs like Skype. These programs are just the general programs you’ll find in most law offices. There is more specialized software used by law firms.

Your law firm will need to use the professional grade software which will cost your lawyer’s at least $150 per computer.

Side-Note: I will be getting into specialized software as I move deeper into the world of Law. Especial the video conferencing there are programs much more secure and professional than Skype. Always remember keeping your information private and secure is majorly important to your lawyer.

Most firms will have spent at least $1200 per desktop. Next let’s talk about the printer, copier, scanner, and fax combo machine, which will run your lawyer about $300. Don’t forget 2 standard printers which run about $100 each. That will make up the 3 needed printers.

Next week I am start into some of the expenses faced by the Independents as they practice law.

Lawyer & Money 5

Once again, I am not a lawyer, I am a paralegal. Also when a lawyer or a paralegal become your problem becomes an issue.

Getting back to Virtual Firms. When the intake form you filled out online has been downloaded, and has been be evaluated by a paralegal or lawyer. One of 3 things will happen after the evaluation. 1st a paralegal may call you asking for more information about your issue, 2nd a receptionist will call you to set up an appointment with the firm lawyer that is best equipped to deal with your issue, Last if your issue is something like Incorporation, a paralegal will be in contact with you to gather the needed information to correctly create the Incorporation forms after which the forms will be either mailed, faxed or emailed to you. Also, the paralegal will give you the instructions on how to make sure the form is correctly filed when you get to the courts. You will still need to deal with the court costs and filing fees. A lot of Legal documents like Incorporation, a Will, bankruptcy discharge do not become real until they are registered with the court. Unfortunately these fees vary from city to city and state to state. Just wait until I start getting into the money you will need when you and your lawyer actually go to the court house.

Side-Note: The web-site legalzoom specializes as a 3rd type law firm.

Okay, I’ve covered some of the personal expenses faced by your lawyer. I’ve also touched on the support staff used by law firms. I should include the tech support personal your lawyer will need people to keep all the computers and other tech. up and running. I have yet to hear of or meet a judge willing to accept ‘Oh, yeah we had a computer crash’ as a valid excuse. Let’s not forget about the contract support personal like accountants and investigators. All these people want to get paid.
There is additional support personal like experts in different types of evidence that will have to be paid for. Which, I will be getting deeper into later. In the mean time let’s talk about office costs.
Just renting an office costs a small fortune. Let’s say you’ve gone to a small firm located in an older building. Your firm has only 2 or 3 lawyers and only needs about 500 square feet. Smaller than the apartments many people live in. The landlord is a real nice guy and is changing your lawyers only $10 per square foot. Not a lot of money huh?
Well that comes out to $5000 a month and your lawyers haven’t even turned on the power yet. Next worry, equipment for the office. Desks, chairs, filing cabinets and the potted plant. All of which costs money too and I haven’t got into the technology yet.
That’s why a lot of independents work from home. They take over one of the bedrooms or basement and build their office there.
See you Next week

Money & Lawyers 4

As before when a lawyer becomes involved your problem becomes an ISSUE. Also, I am a paralegal not a lawyer.

Side-note: A Casual Business dress style for men is usually a very nice, starched pair of blue jeans, (I am not talking about the $12 Wal-Mart specials) a sport coat and good shirt. (No t-shirts) For women it is a lot more complicated. We are talking about really good dresses, slacks, blouses make up, shoes and so on. Let’s face it is more expensive to be a woman then a man.

Let’s not forget everyday expenses like rent, food, non-work clothes, and even medical expenses. You know, unimportant silly things like that.

Oh yeah, let us not forget about those no big deal student loan payments. After all finance companies are certainly not going to wait until your lawyer finishes his/her boot camp years before student loan companies start collecting. Like I said before these people don’t play. After all the 8% interest your lawyer has to pay on thousands they owe means a lot more money, than the 0.5% interest on the government loans to corporations   have yet to pay on the millions they owe.

So after 5 years of busting ass your lawyer maybe making from between $65,000 to $130.000 per year. This depends on the size and location of the firm your lawyer is working for.  The larger the firm means a larger salary for the associates.

Side-Note:  Associates are the employee lawyers of a law firm, there are firms that have no Associates.  These firms only have 2 or 3 lawyers.

Now depending on the size of the firm there is support personal.  In a super small firm with 2 lawyers there is at least one receptionist/paralegal.  In other firms there will be file clerks keeping hard copies of all the written documents, paralegals, litigation assistants, data entry clerks, evidence clerks (They record and keep track of all evidence, discovery brought to the law firm and what case it relates to.)  All these employees need to be paid. Not to mention the contract employees like investigators. With the advent of the web something new has been added, the Virtual Law firms.

Side-Note: Discovery is almost exactly what it sounds like. It is the forms, documents and evidence opposing law firm submitted to the court or your lawyer. Sometimes your lawyer has to take your opponent to court and force them to grant access to records or material that could prove your case.

Side-note: Intake is the interview performed by a lawyer or more often a paralegal. The interview is an effort to define and gather information about your issue.

Virtual law firms are basically websites.  A lot of intake is now done on the website by filling out a form online which is then downloaded to a firm paralegal to be evaluated, then transferred to the firm lawyer best equipped to handle your issue.

Next week I will get into more of the support staff. Plus I will get into the costs independents face.

Talking Firms part 3, & Types of Lawyers

As before when a lawyer becomes involved your problem or concern becomes an issue. Also please remember that I am paralegal not a lawyer.
Returning to the firm categories. There are many different categories of firms. There are firms that only devote themselves to Medicare or Social Security issues. There are firms that center on family law issues. There are firms that limit themselves to intellectual property issues. Firms that will only handle real estate issues. Firms limit themselves to surgical errors. Another firm will focus on bad medications. Usually these highly specialized law firms are very expensive or run by an independent. Unfortunately you may have to expand to a nationwide search if you want to find a law firm solely dedicated to your particular issue.
Now let’s talk about what I call the “combo firms”. Combo firms focus on 2 or 3 separate issues. Usually these issues are somewhat related. For example there may be a firm primarily focused on Bankruptcy which will also handle Tax Law issues. Also there are firms that handle domestic and criminal issues.
Plus there are firms that manage to focus on 2 or 3 very different issues. For example a Personal Injury Firm may also deal with Social Security and or Medicare issues.
Just like doctors there are law firms that take care of legal malpractice issues. Yes, these are the fabled lawyers’ lawyer. These law firms focus on the mistakes and errors that lawyers make. Let’s be honest there are a few lawyers who should have never gotten their license. Plus Lawyer’s whose support staff is not of the ‘best quality’. Clients who despite how weak their case is or how much they hamstring their lawyers and feel it must be the lawyers fault when they lose.
Moving on to types of lawyers. Generally speaking and setting the need for money aside, there are 4 types of lawyers in the world. 35% of the lawyers out there are what I would call “White Knights”. These are lawyers like to ride in on their white charger and save the world because they are just so special. Next is what I call “Dark Knights”. About 40 to 45% of the lawyers out there are Dark Knights. These Knights had something bad happen to them or someone the dearly cared about and they decided if they became a lawyer they could prevent that bad thing from happening again or to someone else. Almost the same reasons Bruce Wayne gave for becoming Batman. There are the know-it all’s, these lawyers will do their very best just so they look you in the face and tell you ‘Aren’t you glad I am way smarter than you?’ Last and very least are the last 1-3% of the lawyers, these idiots make life extremely difficult for the rest. These lawyers are more concerned with the dollar and really don’t care how they make it. You most often hear about them in the news. They’re the ones caught ‘stepping around’ rules and regulations. Who shaft their clients or get themselves killed by their crime lord clients.
Next week we will talk about why lawyers want so much money.

Talking about Law Firms Part Two

Just a reminder, when dealing with lawyers your problem or concern becomes an issue. Also, please remember I am a paralegal not a lawyer.
Let’s move on to the small firms now, in most cases these firm’s are made up of 2 maybe 3 lawyers. Lawyers, who have joined forces to create their own firm, more often than not, are started by lawyers fresh out of law school, eager to take on the world. Sometimes these lawyers come from 2 or 3 of the larger firms. Unhappy with the treatment they received, or with the treatment of one or two clients, these “Knights” decided to give it a go on their own. Unfortunately, they have a lot less operating capital than larger firms. The supporting staff at a small firm is going to be a lot smaller. Which means their paralegals may even have to double as a receptionist from time to time.
Now let’s start with the Independent Lawyers. Even an Independent is often referred to as a law firm. These law firms consist of 1 lawyer and no support staffs. These troopers even have to take out the trash themselves. The Independent lawyer has to rely on their own skills, ingenuity, knowledge and cleverness. Occasionally, these Independents do get lucky and connect up with a skilled paralegal. It works like this, 2 or 3 independents will share the expertise of a paralegal. The Independent will call and or email the ‘shared’ paralegal with an assignment. When the paralegal completes the assignment h/she will email, fax or hand deliver the results back to the assigning lawyer. Unlike the larger firms, you will probably see more personal involvement from an Independent lawyer.
There are a few Independents that will dedicate themselves to try and help you. If the independent truly believes your issue has grown beyond his skill, a few independents will swallow their pride and help you find the help you need.
For some Independents, especially those fresh out of law school, where they live is the most important. However, these independents do try to connect with a local law firm. These local firms are usually fully staffed. Depending on the reputation earned as an Independent, these Independent lawyers usually get snapped up by a local law firm as soon as there is an opening available. Sometimes, and only sometimes openings are made available for them.
Next, let’s talk about the law firm categories. Law firm categories can be just as complex and confusing as lawyer specialties. There are firms that only deal with one issue, plus sub-issues as related to the main issue . I want to start with a Personal Injury Firm (the PI firm). There are PI firms operated by an Independent exclusively handles auto accidents. Another PI firm with more than one lawyer may handle auto accidents, and truck accidents. There are firms that only deal with medical malpractice exclusively. Medical malpractice firms only deal with surgical errors. Yet still other medical firms that will solely take on surgical and drug issues.

Next week we’ll talk more about specialized law firms and the types of lawyers out there.

Talking about Law Firms.

Just a reminder, when dealing with lawyers your problem or concern becomes an issue.
The Firm has almost become the generic name for a lawyer working in an office. Even, if they are found working all by themselves in a rundown rented room, in the not so nice section of town.
First, of course are the Mega-Firms. These bad boys have an impossible number of lawyers and support staff working for them. Their clients are corporations and people with more money than God. The chances of finding help you can afford here is not very good.
Then there are the large firms. These are firms owned and operated by Partners. Partners are the lawyers ultimately in charge of the firm. There are 2 types of partners, ‘equity’ and ‘income’. The ‘equity’ partner are the ones who gets to have their name on the firm’s letter head and get a lion’s share of the firms ‘pure’ profit. The ‘income’ partners are essentially the salaried department heads of the firm. Each of these lawyers will be in charge of a particular area of law. For example, one partner would be in charge of all domestic issues. Now, these firms may have upwards of 200 additional lawyers working for them. These lawyers are referred to as associates. The associate lawyer will handle the sub-specialties. These firms will have a large support staff. Paralegals, computer engineers and investigators to name a few of the support personal types they have access too. Downside, you may meet and talk with your lawyer only once, maybe twice. Unless, you have to go to court, then you might visit with your lawyer a few more times. You see, your case may be only one many. If they do take you on, will probably have more dealings with the paralegal assigned to your issue. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be a lot like going to your doctor’s office. You may see and talk to your doctor for a few minutes. However, the blood draws, vital checks, getting the diagnostic exams scheduled, billing your issuance are handled by the support staff but the staff will report every test result and action taken on your behalf back to your doctor. Again, these firms are rather expensive.
Next on the ladder, are the firms with only are with only 20 or 30 lawyers. They don’t have any associates but may have 2 or 3 young lawyer’s fresh out of law school. Each of the lawyers may specialize in one or two areas of law. Again, they will have a good supporting staff. Namely paralegals my favorite profession. Just not as many, which means the paralegals may be assisting two or more of the lawyers in the firm. Unlike the larger firms you will see a bit more of your lawyer.
In these last 2 types of firms, a partner or a couple of firm’s associates may become passionate about a particular issue. In this case these lawyers will help but with that issue. However, these lawyers will have set up their own rules and regulations to qualify for their help.
Next week I want to talk about the Independents and Firm specialties