The Legal Insider

April, 2010

10 Questions to Consider Before Selecting a Lawyer

Selecting a lawyer is incomparable to hiring any other kind of professional. Many occupations like doctors and mechanics can be evaluated in terms of your health and by your car's performance, but much of a lawyer's job is done behind the scenes. A good client-lawyer relationship has much to do with finding the right mishmash of price, locale, experience, and personal attention. Below are 10 questions you should ask before making any binding decisions.

  1. What do I hope to accomplish by hiring a lawyer? The bulk of people looking for a lawyer have some kind of pressing issue involving divorce, bankruptcy, personal injury, criminal charges, or immigration. Make sure you know what your why you need a lawyer and try to research the issues that may be relevant to your case.

  2. Can I sort this out on my own? Small claims lawsuits, some traffic violations, and other disagreements don't always require a lawyer. You shouldn't spend money on unneeded services but you also should be wary of biting off more than you can chew. 

  3. How pressing is my legal issue? If your case is time sensitive like many criminal cases then you should consult with a lawyer immediately. Putting your legal issues like estate planning, tax strategies, and personal injury cases off could cost you more in the end. In many cases there's a statute of limitations on cases.

  4. Are all of the lawyers I am considering qualified? Don't ever hire a lawyer who contacts you first. Make sure you do research on those you are considering. LegalMatch prescreens all of their lawyers to make sure they're reputable and in good standing with state bar associations.

  5. Which lawyer actually suits my needs best? Many lawyers specialize in particular areas of law such as personal injury or murder cases the same way doctors specialize in fields of medicine. You wouldn't want your podiatrist doing your open heart operation would you?

  6. Will my lawyer work with me to develop a strategic plan? A strategic plan is crucial in keeping your case on track but also reassures you that progress is being made. A well designed strategic plan should include a time frame and steps that end with your ideal outcome.

  7. Am I being realistic about cost and my expectations? We all hear about the injury plaintiffs that get millions of dollars as a settlement. The reason those stories are newsworthy are because they don't happen very often. You and your lawyer should be able to work out a realistic outcome.

  8. Can I fire my lawyer if something goes awry or I change my mind? The answer is yes; however, depending on your case you could be liable to give your first lawyer a piece of your settlement. Make sure you read any contracts before signing them.

  9. Have I come up with ground rules for the lawyer? Establishing ground rules with a lawyer makes everyone's lives easier. Maximum amount of legal fees, best/worst case scenarios, minimum settlement amounts, and establishing dates by which you would like the matter resolved are all great places to start building the foundation of your professional relationship.

  10. What method and how often will you be contacted about your case status? The resolution of some legal issues is a waiting game for responses and court dates. During this period your lawyer will still be tending to paperwork and other aspects of your case. By establishing regular contact you can monitor the progress.

How to Prepare and Avoid Tax Audits

Tax Audits can be nerve racking for even the most honest and forthright taxpayer. Audits are issued to a certain number of people each year after computer programs decipher which tax forms deviate from the norm. If your income is especially high or low in a given year, sending a letter explaining why could help you bypass a tax audit.

There are 3 main types of audits:

  1. An in-house audit is when the IRS agent comes to your work,
  2. An office audits require you to provide information in person at the IRS office
  3. A correspondence audit simply requires you to mail the required information

Any audit will likely bring some stress and require preparation. Below are some easy ways to prepare for an IRS income tax audit.

  • Figure out what portion of your tax return is being questioned. Sometimes it's only one portion while others it's the whole shebang.
  • Copy the pertinent information that you will need and be sure to keep the originals for your records. You may need them later on.
  • Demonstrate how you calculated the disputed figures on paper to provide an explanation.
  • Lawyers who specialize in taxes can review your case and advise you on the best way to proceed. They're experts on the law and have handled many audits and complicated tax cases before.
  • Don't volunteer information that's not under review. If your audit only concerns one portion of your taxes, bring just the pertinent documents in an organized fashion.  Preparedness will earn you some points with your auditor because it makes things for them much easier. 
  • Ask questions! If you don't know why you're being audited or what they would like to see, then ask. It will make both of your lives easier not having to make multiple appointments and suffer the prolonged frustration of someone fingering through your finances.

LegalMatch Donates $10 for Every Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Icon

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society There are lots of good deeds that we should or want to do from day to day but are deterred because actually carrying out the task becomes too complicated. For example, volunteering in a soup kitchen is a great idea but many times there's so much red tape involved that a donation seems more appropriate.

LegalMatch has partnered with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to create an icon for your website or blog that will help raise money to find a cure for blood cancer and posting the icon couldn't be easier. For every icon that gets posted LegalMatch is donating $10 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It's totally free and you don't even have to leave your seat! View Instructions.

A good deed is only a few keystrokes away, so take the opportunity and help out a great organization that helps people suffering from a tragic disease.

Even if you don't have a website or blog you can still make a difference. Please forward information on the "In Support of a Cure" program to your friends and family. The more we're able to spread the word the more icons will get put up and the more money will be raised.

If You Can't Post Anything Nice: A Guide to Online Libel

Recently, LegalMatch wrote an article in their Law Blog about an unrepentant Facebooker who dug their own grave with misguided online actions.  The impulse to post a crude joke or venomous blog can be thoughtlessly satisfied nowadays with social media at our fingertips, or at the furthest in our pockets.

The following is a list of guidelines to help protect you from a libel lawsuit from your website or blog:

  • Don't Post False Statements — The first and most obvious safeguard against online libel is to refrain from posting false statements about another person or business. If you knowingly say or repeat statements or visual depictions that are untrue and malicious, you can be held accountable.

  • Post a Disclaimer of Liability — Disclaimers can provide some protections, especially for website owners who worry about liability when others post libel on their site.  But you can't stop a personal libel lawsuit with a disclaimer if you are the one making the false statements.

  • Submit Your Own Original Content — The law treats people who reprint libelous statements the same as those who draft the original content — they are both liable. By writing your own material, you can protect yourself against libel and infringement on copyrights, trademarks, and intellectual property. 

  • Review Your Post — Read through your post, article, or blog one more time before you publish it.  Remember, there's no turning back. Some good questions to ask yourself are: 1.) Do these statements have factual merit? 2.) What if someone said this about me or my company? 3.) Is this something I would say to my mother or grandmother?

The guidelines above are simple and can help shield you from avoidable lawsuits because when you're online, you're only ever 140 characters away from a lawsuit.

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