Court Costs/Small Claims and More

Sorry folks for being so late with this week’s article. I understand from my internet service provider that a series of sunspot created significant interference was blocking my internet connection. I have been down for 4 days.

All right then to work. Once again I am not a lawyer, I am a paralegal. Also when a layer or a paralegal becomes involved you problem becomes an issue.

Picking up from last week, in small claims court, the court clerk can help you with services of process. For a fee. They will send your opponent a certified letter of your complaint for $15. In some county’s you might even be able to get the county sheriff to make service of process or hand deliver your complaint for $80.

SIDE-NOTE: Service of Process is the methods used by the courts and lawyers to notify someone they are being sued. If you mess up notifying your opponent, your case will be terminated or to but it simply ‘thrown out on its ass’. I will get deeper into that in future posts.

Now there are ‘people’ who get to be sue happy in the small claims court system. You see technically you can file as many court cases as you like. Using the county of Los Angles small Claims rules and regulations. For example, let’s say you file up to 2 complaints asking for $2500 in each case during the same calendar year. Each case costing you $50 dollars in filing fees. However if you file a 3rd, 4th or 5th case during the same calendar year each case will cost you a whole lot more in filing fees. You see each additional case you file will cost you $100 per case. Additionally the amount you can ask for in damages reduces. In the first two cases you filed you asked for the $2500 and if you file a 3rd one you can only ask for $1500. Additionally you can only claim the standard $30 filing fee as part of your damages even though you paid $100 in a filing fee.

SIDE-NOTE: Damages is supposed to mean how much money it will take to repair or fix your problem (issue) and make you ‘whole’. Your Lawyer’s fees, court costs and filing fees do count as damages. Just remember if you file more than 2 small claims court cases in the same calendar year you cannot claim the more expensive filing fees you have been charged as damages. You can only claim the slandered filing fee

Again please forgive me for being late. I will try to make sure tech didn’t become a future issue. Next week’s article will touch on probate and court costs.

Court Costs/ Small Claims

Once again I am not a Lawyer… yet. I am a Paralegal. Also lets not forget when a paralegal or a lawyer become involved your problem becomes an issue.

As promised I am now gonna talk about Small Claims court. Small claims court system is a court set up to deal with small problems/issues. For example you move and your landlord refuses to refund your security deposit. You can use the small claims court system to try to force your landlord to pay up. On the flip side your landlord can also file a counter-claim saying you trashed your apartment and you owe them money. If you have a neighbor that won’t keep their dog from pooping in your yard and won’t clean it up you can take them to small claims court to try and force your Irresponsible Owner to pay for a yard cleaning service. Another reason, you may have loaned Cousin Fred $2500 and hasn’t paid you back yet, you can take him to small claims court to try to force him to pay you back. There are hundreds of things you can take into small claims court.

There is a limit on the amount of damages you can ask in small claims court. On average the most you can ask for is $5,000. In some states and or cities you like Los Angles can ask for as much as $10,000. If you want more after then that your case gets moved over in to Civil Court where sky’s the limit.

This is a piece of friendly advice not legal advice. If you are asking for damages over $3000 strong>PLEASE GOD SEE A LAWYER!
SIDE-NOTE: A good rule of thumb the more you ask for in damages THE MORE YOU NEED A LA<wyer!!!

SIDE-NOTE: A counterclaim is when the person you are suing is telling the judge ‘Yeah but the complainant (you) caused me damage too and my damage is more important.

SIDE-NOTE: Damages is supposed to mean how much money it will take to repair or fix your problem (issue) and make you ‘whole’. Your Lawyer’s fees also count as damages.
Now we come to the actual filing fees. Filling fees can vary from city to city and by how much you are asking for in damages.

For example in the county of San Diego California you decide to file a small claims court case asking for $1500 this is going to cost you $30 in filing fee. The same case in Dallas Texas will cost you a $61. Understand though if you ask for more in damages it will mean a higher filing fee. Going back to San Diego if you ask for $5000 the cost jumps up to $50.

strong>SIDE-NOTE</wyer!!!: Service of Process is the methods used by the courts and lawyers to notify the person you are suing that there is now a law suit filed against them. If mess up notifying your opponent, your case ends. I will get deeper into that in future posts.

Next week I’ll finish with small claims, also I might do more opinion pieces

Court Costs/ Bankruptcy 2

As before I am not a Lawyer I am a Paralegal. Also when a Lawyer or a Paralegal becomes involved your problem becomes an issue.

WARNING! When you make your 1st, 2nd, 3rd or last filing fee payment make damn sure that check will clear. If it bounces, it is a $53 fine. Plus, neither Trustee nor your Lawyer is gonna be happy with you if it bounces. So if you run into trouble talk to your lawyer or with the bankruptcy court clerk. If you keep them in the loop, the clerk or your lawyer may be able to get a payment rescheduled. Just remember the entire fee must be paid in full 180 days after you started your Bankruptcy. Also remember, if you get into serious trouble and can’t make your payments, talk to your lawyer you may now qualify for the full fee waiver.

Now this is a piece of friendly not legal advice. If you decide to go down this road make damn sure you got every single debt you owe listed and turned over to your Lawyer. There have been cases of Clients who kept certain debts back from their lawyers because they thought could manage this debt on the sly. Unfortunately everything crashes after they receive their discharge and their lawyer is forced to go back into their bankruptcy filing and add this debt. This costs the client another $245 in court costs. Not to mention what their lawyer charges for getting the right forms filled out and convincing the Trustee that their client isn’t playing games.

Seriously amending or adding debt to a Bankruptcy Discharge is meant for unforeseeable financial emergencies. For example if you suddenly find yourself hit with several thousand in unexpected medical bills after receiving your discharge; you can get them added to your bankruptcy.

All right than moving on to Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. A Chap. 13, basically means, ‘ I messed up give some time to get my shit together.’ The cost of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy breaks down as follows, $235 filing fee plus a $46 miscellaneous administrative fee. Don’t worry you will have the same options to get the filing fee paid as is in a Chapter. 7. Except for the fee waiver, the waiver is for souls with absolutely no income.
The way a Chapter 13 works is once again you list all your debts and assets. Plus how much you can reasonably pay, not comfortably pay, reasonably pay. What happens is your payments are given to the Trustee and she/he will give your debtors a portion of that money. You also will have given the Trustee a workable plan to get your finances back to where they needs to be so you can handle your debt.
Side-Note: A reasonable payment is how much you can give the Trustee and still keep your family fed and housed. Plus enough for a dinner and a movie every now and then. A comfortable payment lets you go out partying every weekend.
More about the Costs of Captor 13 next week.

Court Costs/Bankruptcy

I am not a Lawyer I am a Paralegal. Also when a Lawyer or a Paralegal becomes involved your problem or concern becomes an issue.
Okay there are two types of Bankruptcy used by the average person. The most well-known are Chapter 7, and Chapter 13. A Chapter 7 basically means

‘I ain’t got it and I can’t get it. Back off.’

When your bankruptcy is filed with the courts your creditors do have to back off but each and every one of your creditors must be officially notified of your Bankruptcy. This usually means a certified or registered letter through the post office. Most honest debt collectors will treat a telephone call as notification until they receive the official notification. If you have a lawyer her/his Firm will take care of that for you. Unfortunately Chapter 7 bankruptcy is where a lot of your valuable assets/possessions could be liquidated/sold to repay your creditors. If you own your own home or have specialized equipment that you need to keep or find a job PLEASE GOD SEE A LAWYER!!!!! A good lawyer will be able to help you protect at least some if not all of such assists/possessions.
Example: You are a Plumber and you just bought a brand new Cadillac. Your lawyer will be able to protect your work van and equipment but that Caddy you are so pleased with. So, sorry your shiny Caddy has to go back to the dealer. You’ll have to make do with a used mini-van for about a year.
If you really behind the 8-ball and if you take the time to look you can find a Bankruptcy Firm and Legal Aid group that will be willing to make their fees a part of your Bankruptcy debt. (They get a tax write off which balances the taxes paid on fees they charge rich people) However you will still have to come up with the Filing Fee. Currently the fee breakdown goes like this $245 case filing fee, $45 miscellaneous administrative fee and $16 Trustee surcharge. This is according to the United States Courts website. Bringing the total to start your Chapter 7 up to $306.
Don’t Panic! There is a way to break that $306 into manageable payments. It is just a matter of adding the right form to your bankruptcy petition. You will have to make the 1st payment when turn over your bankruptcy petition into the courts. In some cases your lawyer could get the whole fee waived. Also remember your protection officially doesn’t start until your bankruptcy petition is filed with the court.
Side-note: A petition is not a complaint. Simply put when you are filing a petition you are saying one of 2 things to the court. ‘I have this problem that I need your help with.’ or ‘this is a bad thing and I think you need to look into it.’

Next week I’ll talk about Chapter 13. Which simply put means ‘Give some room to get my act together.’

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