PROBATE

All right, once again I am not a lawyer, I am a Paralegal, so anything you read is not to be taken as, construed as, intended to be taken as legal advice.  Let’s not forget when a lawyer or a paralegal becomes involves you problem becomes an issue.

Okay let’s talk about Probate. Probate is a legal system focused on taking care of things after you die. Namely it takes care of who administers and how someone handles your Wills and your Estate after you leave. Simply put, Probate Law will make sure your wishes are followed and no one is cheated.

Let’s start with Wills.  Wills are binding legal documents describing what you would like done after your death.  For example you have an ancient beautiful grandfather’s clock that has been handed down through generations and you want it to go to your great-grandson Eric who has been in love with your clock since he was two.  With a Will you can make sure he gets it. Also if you think there might be a huge fight over your clock and you’re afraid that fight might hurt your family, you can order your clock sold and have the money equally divided among your heirs.  You can also leave directions on how to deal with your physical remains.  If you have children, you can leave directions about who you want to take care of them.

Speaking of wills, let’s talk about a living will.  A living will is once again a legal binding document. It deals with what you want done if things go bad with your health.  You can direct how long you want to be kept on life support, or how far your doctors can go as they try to save your life.  If your heart stops do you want CPR?  Who can make decisions about your care or what life support measures can be used in your care. If can’t think for yourself but don’t need life support who do you want making decisions about your care.

Probate law also covers your life insurance policies. Making sure your loved ones gets their money and what you want done with it gets done.

An Estate is your money, for example bank accounts, even to your last tax refund and personal property such as cars, jewelry and art work. Of course let’s not forget your house.

SIDE-NOTE: Just so you know the infamous Estate Tax as of 2013 does not come into play unless you have property and assets worth over $5,250,000.  I don’t know too many people in my world

with those kind of assets.

SIDE-NOTE; An Asset in the legal world is anything such as a house, car, jewelry bank accounts or stocks and bonds. Or say you have written a book and it sells fairly well. It can be anything as long as it has a money value attached to it.

This is Probate next week I will be getting into the actual costs of the Probate Legal System.

Congress Bankruptcy

A letter to Congress

A letter to Congress 

I found this great post on facebook and it got me thinking. I guess a lot of tea party republicans seem to believe that that worst comes to worst the federal government can just file for bankruptcy and everything will be cool. I wonder if any of these lawyers ever read the laws concerning bankruptcy.

First none of the debts I have seen listed on the news is dischargeable under Chapter 7.   I don’t think the United States Government can even apply for bankruptcy protection.  Would congress have to go to the United Nations for Bankruptcy protection? There was an article on a MSN new website that said if we default China our largest debt holder would foreclose on the United States.

 

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.

Money&Lawyer 3

When a lawyer becomes involved your problem becomes an issue. Also remember I am a paralegal not a lawyer.

Okay, picking up from the last lawyer post. As I said your lawyer is tremendously in debt when s/he starts their career. Now begins the task of paying that debt.  Unlike the movie ‘The Firm’, I doubt very much that your lawyer will have found law firms that will help your lawyer pay off that debt.

More likely if a new lawyer manages to connect up with a law firm s/he is looking at 80 plus hours per week, for the next 2 to 3 years. More often than not your lawyer will have to pull an extra 6 or 7 hours on Saturdays. Then they’ll spend Sundays reading and or writing legal briefs, or legal memos. This is often referred to as Lawyer’s boot camp.

Side-note: A lot of very happy marriages came to an end during those boot camp years.

Now unless your lawyer has graduated from a high and I do mean high-ranking law school.  Plus s/he was in the top 5% of that graduating class. Your lawyer’s salary for the next 2-3 years is going to be $30,000 per year. Just so you know in most law firms for your lawyer to get a sick day during boot camp, s/he or their spouse, or her/his child had better be in intensive care with the mortuary staff standing just outside the room.

Side-note: Being a salaried employee means no matter how many hours you put in you do not get any more money. There is no overtime, no time and a half, no holiday pay, no sick pay, and forget about paid vacations. Your lawyer’s agreed salary is all s/he is going to get until boot camp is over.

The next worry, these new lawyers have are uniforms.   These are specific types of cloths s/he will have to have once the start work at a law firm. I am talking about very nice cloths. You see for lawyers in law firms packaging is everything. Even independent’s worry about packaging but they can break a few more dress codes rules then an attorney working for a law firm.

Side-note: Packaging is how a lawyer presents themselves to the world Let’s be honest the average person is more likely to trust and higher a well dressed, successful appearing lawyer and their paralegal than ones that look like they have been on the street for the last 3 months.

Most of the smaller firms will let their lawyers get away with a style that is called business casual. However, going to court still takes a formal suit and those cost.

Next week I will continue with more start up costs your lawyer faces.