Finding an Attorney – Know Some Basics

At some point in life, just about everybody is going to need an attorney for something. It may be as mundane as signing finance documents to close on the purchase of a home or writing a simple will to issues as serious as accident liability or criminal defense. Whatever the situation, it is important to have wise and competent counsel. The problem is, most of us don’t need the services of an attorney very often, may not know one, or know how to go about finding an attorney that’s right for you. Like most things in life, the more you know and the more you are prepared the better. Selecting an attorney is no different. Let’s start at the beginning and work through the process.

It may sound simple, but the starting point should be to define if and why you need an attorney. There are times when not having one, or putting off contacting one, can actually make things worse. Don’t fall for ads claiming you can write your own will, handle your own divorce or set up your own Limited Liability Company (LLC). It may be possible to so with some of the packages that are offered, but what you don’t get is important legal counsel to advise you of any legal vulnerabilities, how to be sure your rights are being protected or whether those documents will stand up if challenged in court. There’s some truth to the old axiom, “A person who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.”

Once you’ve defined why you need an attorney, decide what type of attorney you need. Some attorneys are “general practitioners” while others are specialists in one particular area of law. If you are going to be involved in a personal injury case or a divorce, it may be wise to seek out an attorney who has experience specializing in that area.

Finding the right attorney is going to take a bit of work on your part. You can always start by checking the Yellow Pages or web sites, but the most effective means is to ask people you know or professionals in your community for referrals. You can also check with the state bar for a list of attorneys in your area as well as consult a legal referral service. Whatever you do or however you begin your search, you must do your due diligence. The more you know, the more satisfying the results of your search.

When you’ve narrowed your list of potential attorneys, the next step is to begin contacting them. That contact may be made by phone, or by scheduling a meeting, and many attorneys don’t charge for a “first consultation.” However, before scheduling such a meeting, be sure you understand whether there will be any fee involved. Through the process of choosing an attorney, remember that you are the consumer purchasing their services. Don’t be shy about asking questions. It’s always best to be a smart consumer.

During your search and consultation meetings, be prepared and specific about your expectations. If there are any documents that pertain to the situation you will be discussing, have them with you should they be needed for reference or verification of information. It is also a good time to talk about the attorney’s fees. Depending on the case, fees may differ. Some examples are:

Hourly: Many attorneys base their fees on an hourly rate. This can vary significantly depending on the experience of the attorney and the size of the law firm.

Flat Fee: Some cases may be charged a flat fee. For example, a simple divorce, bankruptcy or basic will may be handled for a set amount with any additional charges added like mileage or court fees.

Retainer: There may be times when an attorney asks for a certain amount up front to work as an account to draw against as the case progresses. In other instances, like for a business, an attorney may be retained on a continuing basis for an agreed upon fee.

Contingency: In this case, the attorney receives a percentage of the judgment as the fee. This is most common in personal injury and liability cases. The fee is paid once the court has set the judgment. If the judgment does not go in your favor, there is no fee.

Be sure you understand and agree to the fee schedule before signing an agreement with an attorney.

The last step in choosing an attorney is interviewing, checking credentials and references. When you hire an attorney, think of it as hiring an employee. In many ways, that’s what they are. They are working for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about other cases they have had that are similar to yours and what was involved in the case. You need to know what the attorney’s previous experience is. He or she may have been practicing law for twenty years, but they may not have extensive experience with cases like yours.

Ask for references. A reputable attorney will not have a problem with this as long as giving you such information does not breech any attorney/client privilege. It may not be out of order to ask what the attorney’s success rate is. In some instances it may help give you an impression of their skill or complexity of the cases they handle. Ask what percent of the cases handled by their firm is normally devoted to cases like yours.

Be prepared to answer personal questions that may be relevant to your case such as information regarding your finances, marital status, lifestyle or criminal record. Should you be asked such questions, be truthful. Your attorney cannot be effective if you don’t tell them the truth, even if it’s embarrassing or you think it may hurt your case.

There can be a great deal involved in working with an attorney when you need one. It is important to find one you feel comfortable with and trust. Taking the steps discussed above is by no means a comprehensive list of everything you may need to do to select an attorney that is just right for you, but it will give you a good start.

Remember to be proactive, do your due diligence in your search and don’t be afraid to compare and ask questions. Choosing the right attorney is a big decision, but one that you can make with confidence when you have done your research and come prepared.

What Kind Of IRS Tax Law Attorney Do You Need?

OK, you have come to the conclusion that you need an IRS tax law attorney to help with your current tax problems or for tax advice, but there is still one question that needs answering: what kind of tax law attorney specifically do you need?

Not only do tax attorneys come in different shapes and sizes, they also come with a range of skills and expertise. Choosing the right kind of tax attorney to handle your case is important so you can not only save on time and money but you can have peace of mind knowing that you have chosen the best tax lawyer to represent you.

To know the different types of tax law attorneys, all you have to know is the different types of taxation laws and tax problems then find one with the greatest amount of knowledge, experience, and expertise in it.

Tax Planning Attorney – IRS Tax attorneys that specialize in tax planning will assist in reviewing and structuring your financial affairs to prevent IRS trouble for you. Tax planning attorneys must keep themselves abreast with the latest tax laws to make the necessary changes for their clients. Tax planning attorneys can provide aid to both civilian and business clients alike.

Tax Controversy Attorney – If you already have a pending case filed in court, you need to hire a tax law attorney that is proficient in managing tax controversies. This type of tax attorney is experienced in the courtroom he is used to defending his client to the judge and jury. He is also familiar with working with the IRS and knows the right buttons to push in order to prove the innocence of their clients.

Tax controversy attorneys can be further divided into two categories: attorneys who handle civilian lawsuits, and those that are involved with corporations and businesses.

Property Tax Attorney – Tax attorneys with expertise in property tax are those who can help you renegotiate your property taxes with the IRS and ensure that you are paying the right amount. They will also help you form a solid case to present to the court and prove that whatever information gathered against you is incorrect or inaccurate. Property tax attorneys can also help you survive tax audits, file the right income and tax deductions, and make appeals if your previous attempt to clear your name fails.

Bankruptcy Tax Attorney – These are tax attorneys who specialize in handling bankruptcy cases. Bankruptcy tax attorneys help their clients file for bankruptcy and ensure that all information their clients provide about their finances is accurate and valid to achieve a positive outcome. They will also help their clients negotiate with the IRS and other creditors if any repayment is required.

It is possible that you will find tax attorneys specialize in handling all aspects of the tax law. These tax attorneys however may only choose to take on either civilian or corporate clients.

Civilian Tax Attorneys – They are able to help individuals straighten out their finances, catch up with unpaid taxes, and make sure that they continue to pay their dues on time in the future. They are usually hired on a consultation basis only.

Corporate Tax Attorneys – These attorneys are usually paid with a monthly retainer to smooth out any possible tax difficulty when the company is involved with a new project or a potential dispute with the IRS.

Based on your circumstances choose an IRS tax law attorney that is most adept in the area that you have tax problems. Remember however a tax law attorney can be hired before you encounter tax legal problems, you can get sound advice or consultation concerning your tax affairs. The tax issue that you want addressed will dictate what kind of IRS tax law attorney you need, choose wisely.

Online Attorney Directories – How to Evaluate a Legal Directory on the Internet

There are a number of websites that purport to have lawyers waiting to help. The reality is most of these websites are only attorney directories created by marketing teams who have no understanding of the law or, in many cases, who have no connection to a real lawyer or law firm.

These online attorney directories often end up in the top of the search engine results. The marketing teams help ensure this happens. This leaves you, the consumer who is looking for an attorney, with the obstacle of having to evaluate the online attorney directory. Here are some tips for evaluating online lawyer directories as you search for the right lawyer.

  • Determine whether the directory is a paid directory.
  • Paid directories are those that require lawyers to pay a fee to be listed in the directory. Paid directories usually have the most accurate contact and practice area information. Attorneys who pay to be included in the directory have an interest in making sure their information is correct.

    The downside to these directories is they may have very few attorney listings. This raises the question as to what types of attorneys pay to be listed on an online legal directory. Many successful attorneys do not have to incur this expense in order to carry out their trade. Other very good attorneys do incur this expense, but most of them do not do it regularly. For example, attorneys who are just starting out, are changing practice areas, or are relocating to another state may initially use these directories as they establish their new law practices. Is this the type of lawyer you want to hire? If so, the paid legal directory may be just what you are looking for.

  • Scrutinize free attorney directories.
  • Not all free online lawyer directories are bad. There are some very good ones. The best online legal directories usually have some direct involvement by attorneys themselves. For example, many free online attorney directories have forums where lawyers answer free legal questions. This allows the attorneys to get the word out about their practice and their expertise, while helping point folks in the right direction.

    Some other free online attorney directories focus on compiling contact information for lawyers. Most of these directories compile the information without any direction or input from the lawyers who are listed in the directory. These directories stand out as they usually just provide a listing of attorneys. These directories often scrape the information off of legitimate websites with the sole aim of generating advertising dollars for themselves.

    A recent trend is for these websites to have an attorney profile page that can be “claimed” by the attorney. The purpose here is to bring visitors to the directory using the search engines thereby generating advertising revenues for the directory. The directory may also hope the lawyer will notice the profile and “claim” it by entering their information. Very few attorneys actually claim profiles in this manner. Indeed, many of them have to contact legal directories and ask to have their names removed from the directory. Thus, you should avoid any attorney directory that indicates attorneys should “claim” their profile.

  • Avoid attorney rating sites.
  • Attorneys help clients with a multitude of legal issues and the facts of each case are different. The work of attorneys cannot be boiled down to a number or other rating. These rating systems often try to gauge an attorney by the number of years the attorney has been in practice. Older is not always better. Statistics show that most complaints filed with state bar associations are filed against attorneys who have practiced a number of years. These complaints relate to failing to provide quality client service to failing to keep abreast of the law. While it is somewhat rare to see the same complaints filed against younger attorneys, this has no bearing on how the attorney is likely to handle your particular legal matter. You should avoid attorney directories that rate attorneys in this manner.

  • Avoid the attorney directory that includes prices.
  • Attorneys are highly regulated. The attorney professionalism rules for every state say that attorneys must charge reasonable fees. What is reasonable for a particular matter is dependent upon a great number of factors. Unless you have provided all of this information to the attorney directory, it should not quote prices. This seems like common sense, but it needs to be said. Avoid attorney directories that include pricing information.

    These steps should help you screen the online attorney directories you find in the search engine results.

    How to Find a Reasonably Priced Bankruptcy Attorney?

    If you are facing bankruptcy you are probably experiencing severe financial problems. The last thing you want is to incur more expenses. You may be thinking that you would not even need a bankruptcy attorney if you could afford to have one in the first place. However, one of the expenses you should never cut back on is a good bankruptcy attorney. The field of bankruptcy is a complicated one with many minefields. You cannot go without the expertise or skill of a good bankruptcy attorney during this process. There are far too many opportunities to get something wrong and destroy your entire case. You will be much better off if you hire a bankruptcy attorney. What is complicated for the every day man and woman on the street is a daily activity for bankruptcy attorneys.

    How Much Does a Bankruptcy Attorney Cost?
    There is no fixed fee for a bankruptcy attorney so it is impossible to predict exactly how much you will have to pay your attorney. There are many things that determine the fees (continue reading to learn more about them). But, it is possible to make a general estimation of how much you should expect to pay. Note that the fee that you pay is for his or her service and assistance. It is not the total mount that you will have to pay for the entire process. For example, when you file for bankruptcy you will have to pay a filing fee. For now, you can pay something from $800.00 to $2,000.00 in case your case is a normal one.

    What Determines Bankruptcy Attorney Fees?

    – Location:
    The area in which you find a bankruptcy attorney will greatly determine the fees that you have to pay for his or her services. For example, if you hire an attorney in the Upper East Side of Manhattan you will have to pay more attorney fees than someone who hires an attorney in Brooklyn which is a cheaper area of New York City. If you live in an expensive area you can save on the fees by hiring an attorney from a different location. Just make sure that the attorney you hire has experience in the court in which you are filing as procedures sometimes differ from court to court.

    – If you want to save money on bankruptcy attorney fees you should talk directly to the attorney that you are interested in hiring. Firstly, only the attorney will be able to tell you exactly how much you will have to pay for their services. Also, many attorneys are willing to negotiate their fees. If you are in a very bad situation you can use this to show the attorney your financial limitations and have them bring down their fees for you. Note that if your case is a very complex one it will be harder to renegotiate attorney fees as your case will not be run of the mill and will require more time and expertise on the part of the attorney. They too have financial responsibilities.

    – If you really do not want to pay a large amount of bankruptcy attorney fees you should consider hiring an attorney who has just completed his training. Their fees will be significantly lower than an attorney who has had many years of expertise handling different kinds of bankruptcies. However, only hire an inexperienced attorney if your case is fairly standard and will not be a challenge for them. If your case is a complex one, you cannot take the risk of hiring someone inexperienced who could mess things up for you.

    Defending Against Abuse of a Power of Attorney

    Attorneys will advise you that you should have a power of attorney. A Power of Attorney is an important document that allows someone else to handle your affairs if you have difficulty or are unable to do so. With age and illness, a Power of Attorney often becomes necessary. Usually the person who is given the authority to act will do so with the best of intentions. What happens, however, if the person you trust misuses the Power of Attorney for personal gain or benefit? A Power of Attorney may seem like a simple document, but it can have far-reaching and unintended consequences. A Power of Attorney can be very tempting to the person who has it.

    A Power of Attorney is a legal document by which a person (the “Principal”) gives someone else (the “Agent” or “Attorney-in-fact”) the authority to act on the Principal’s behalf. If the Principal becomes ill, incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle her financial affairs, or simply chooses to let someone else do it for her, the person or persons she designated in the Power of Attorney can pay bills, deal with banks, lawyers and other professionals, and do other things that are in the best interest of the Principal.

    A Power of Attorney can be general, meaning that it gives the Attorney-in-fact the authority to do whatever the Principal might do for herself, or limited, meaning that it is limited in scope and/or time. For example, a Power of Attorney may be limited to one specified act or type of act, such as a limited Power of Attorney to attend a real estate closing and sign the closing documents on behalf of a buyer or seller, or it may be limited in time, such as a Power of Attorney that is effective only during the time that someone is out of the country on a trip. A Power of Attorney also may be durable, meaning that it takes effect upon its execution (or a specified date) and continues in effect even if the Principal becomes incapacitated, or springing, meaning that it only takes effect after the Principal is incapacitated (or some other definite future act or circumstance). The problem with a springing Power of Attorney is that it requires a judicial determination of incapacity for the power to take effect. This can take a considerable amount of time – plus the initiation of legal proceedings, the hiring by the Court of an independent person to interview and investigate the circumstances of the alleged incompetent, and a hearing in Court – often exactly at a most trying time when there is a need for prompt or immediate action.

    In New Jersey, a Power of Attorney can include provisions with respect to making health care decisions, including the power to consent to any medical care, treatment, service or procedure. A health care power of attorney is different than a “Living Will”, which is a written statement of a person’s health care and medical wishes, but does not appoint another person to make health care decisions.

    A Power of Attorney is a useful and powerful tool. Unfortunately, as with many things, something with a good purpose still can be used for improper purposes. A general Power of Attorney allows the Agent or Attorney-in-fact to do almost anything the Principal could or might do herself. As a result, it can be an invitation to abuse and self-dealing.

    The victim of Power of Attorney abuse often may not be aware of what is happening, or even if she is may feel powerless to say or do anything because she is dependent on the abuser for care and companionship. The nature and extent of the abuse may not come to light until after the person has died and someone else is able to obtain access to her banking and other financial records.

    Disputes can arise when the Agent or Attorney-in-fact has used the Power of Attorney to transfer the Principal’s assets to himself or his family members. This may be done as an estate planning technique, such as making gifts to take advantage of the annual exclusion from gift taxes. On the other hand, it may be done to deprive other family members of a share of the Principal’s assets that they otherwise might eventually inherit. For example, a person may wrongfully use a Power of Attorney to withdraw money from the Principal’s bank accounts and deposit the money in his or own bank account. We have seen this and been involved in litigation to get the money back.

    Under New Jersey law, the traditional rule was that a power of attorney should not be construed to allow the Agent or Attorney-in-fact to give the Principal’s assets to himself or others without clear language in the power authorizing such gifts. See Manna v. Pirozzi, 44 N.J. Super. 227 (App. Div. 1957). In 2004 in New Jersey a law was passed stating that a Power of Attorney shall not be construed to authorize the Attorney-in-fact to gratuitously transfer property of the Principal to the Attorney-in-fact or any one else except to the extent that the Power of Attorney expressly and specifically so authorizes. N.J.S.A 46:2B-8.13a. If this happens, the Superior Court, upon application of any heir or other next friend of the Principal, may require the Attorney-in-fact to render an accounting (i.e. an explanation of when and for what the money was used) if there is doubt or concern whether the Attorney-in-fact has acted within the powers delegated by the Power of Attorney for the benefit of the Principal. N.J.S.A. 46:2B-8.13(b).

    A Power of Attorney also may be attacked as having been procured by undue influence, or when the Principal already was incompetent and therefore legally unable to execute a Power of Attorney. This type of action is similar to a will contest in which a will is claimed to have been procured by undue influence, or in which it is claimed that the testator was of unsound mind and unable legally to make a will.