Archive for the ‘Attorney’ Category

posted by Legal Executive on Jun 2

Law firms come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny offices run by a couple of partners to national firms whose staff numbers in the thousands. Both size and scope play a big role in how well a firm can represent you, as they influence all other factors including clientele, practice areas, and work policies. Needless to say, these two should be on top of your list when choosing a law firm.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but it usually is. Past a certain size, law firms are more likely to be able to branch out into different practice areas. They may keep their specialties, but they would be better able to afford training for their staff and have more hours to spare for individual cases. Larger firms are also able to attract more experienced, more established lawyers with better stability and compensation packages.

So is there a reason to opt for a smaller firm? Many experts suggest working with a smaller outfit for proportionately smaller cases, as they tend to be wary of putting too many of their hours into one client. You might also end up paying less, as less established law firms are more inclined to accommodate clients’ needs.

For the reasons mentioned above, you’re more likely to find an experienced lawyer in a regional or national law firm. These firms set high standards for attorneys, and the typical associate comes from a highly ranked school and graduated near the top of their class. If you have a particularly difficult case, this might be worth the premium rates.

If your needs are simpler, local firms may be a better choice–they’re more accustomed to middle-market clients who don’t need the services of an entire staff. In this case you generally have two options: a generalized practice where routine cases are handled fairly efficiently but without much personalized service, or “boutique” firms, which have a narrow specialization. The latter may cost you more simply because there’s little demand, but you can usually expect fast, personalized service and expert advice.

The bottom line is that you have to know your needs and how they can best be addressed. A DUI charge and a high-profile bankruptcy don’t call for the same services, and probably don’t carry the same budget profile. Get quotes (most firms should provide them for free), shop around, and try to get firsthand feedback from clients in the same boat, and you’re more than likely to get the best value.

posted by Legal Executive on Jul 21

In the U.S., attorneys’ fees run the gamut: you have benevolent lawyers who lend their hours to to people in great need and work for little or nothing, and firms that charge upwards of $1,000 per hour for high-profile cases. For those of us in between, it’s hard to get a ballpark figure. How much does legal representation cost? Is there a limit to the amount a lawyer can charge?

Fees vary from state to state, and even from city to city. Nationwide, large law firms charge an average of $200 to $1,000 per hour, although smaller outfits can charge much less. A common benchmark for courts is the American Intellectual Property Law Association, which releases a survey of members’ hourly rates every two years. Although mainly used in intellectual property litigation, the numbers are widely used for all areas of law. The state bars of Oregon and Colorado are also commonly cited.

Most courts, however, refer to the Laffey Matrix. It is designed for use in the Washington and Baltimore area, but is gaining wide acceptance across the country. The document is updated every year and shows the recommended lawyers’ fees based on years of experience. From June 2011 to May 2012, the rates are $166 per hour for law clerks and paralegals, $305 for lawyers with up to three years’ experience, $374 for up to seven years, $540 for up to ten years, $609 for up to 19 years, and $734 for those in the business for more than 20 years. These numbers must be adjusted locally to reflect legal costs in a particular city, usually determined through the Consumer Price Index of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Besides size, location, and experience, an important factor is a lawyer’s area of specialization. Areas that see a lot of activity, such as insurance defense, can usually charge less in exchange for a steady stream of work. For instance, an associate can charge about $150 per hour on simple cases, but will raise his rates if a larger firm comes along because there’s more at stake. This is why the law firm handling the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy case, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, is able to charge more than $500 per hour for associates and $1,000 per hour for partners.

Alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) have become increasingly common as companies and individuals found themselves in need of legal aid, and often unable to afford it. An AFA can be charged per matter or per book of matters, on contingency (i.e. payment due only if the case is won), a percentage of the winnings, and success bonuses.

posted by Law Help on Oct 25

Why an Attorney Must For Loan Modification?

We all know it is very time consuming to talk or even to find the right person for a request for loan modification. We are constantly transferred from one line to another and of course to various countries during few minutes. Well, my experience in contacting the lenders has resulted many times in many frustrating experiences as well. However, when I told them that I am an attorney some of the non sense is washed away very quickly. Phones messages starts returning, letters being replied and they cut short the delaying tactics which are meant for almost all of the borrowers. I meet clients all day in reference to their loan modification needs. Here, is the summary of all the experiences what my clients had told me and my office staff in handling their own loan modification requests:

We were transferred from one phone to another. We were transferred to a dead line. The average time of greetings last about 5 minutes, and each transferred calls is started again with greeting on the phone. You are advised to identify yourself each time. You are requested to send the same papers which you had faxed many times before. At each layer, the representative would ask you money. Each representative would give you same stale information, and invariably the first answer is “there is nothing we can do”. Lots of lenders would give you the run around, attorneys know how to stop this waste and cumbersome process. Once attorneys are invovled, the collection process stop the harassing calls. All calls are routed to the attorneys office. Furhtermore, only written requests can be made. All the annoying phone calls can be stopped. Attorneys can collect and compile all the papers and can start calling the lenders on your behalf.

By: Malik Ahmad Attorney at law

About the Author:

Malik Ahmad is a Nevada licensed attorney and counselor at law. He is admitted in all courts in the state of Nevada, including US District Court. He has an extensive experience in real estate, including mortgages, escrow, rela estate and foreclosure. He is a solo proprietor and the principal of a small firm in Las Vegas, Nevada

posted by Law Help on Oct 17

Millions of people dream about owning their own business. Having the independence that being your own boss brings, the security that no one can fire you, enjoying a good income – and for the most successful – the accumulation of wealth and prosperity. Unfortunately, the cards are stacked against a new small business making it big – or making it at all. An endless stream of problems makes competition from large, sophisticated chains too intense. Many new start-ups end as failures.

Buying a franchise represents a different approach to starting a business.  For an upfront franchise fee plus ongoing royalty payments, the parent company teaches its business model and methods to the franchised-operator who shoulders all operating and financial responsibilities of the outlet. Some statistics are impressive: it is said over 40% of all U.S. retail sales are through franchised establishments. While franchise giants like McDonalds, KFC, H&R Block and Radio Shack are familiar, household names, franchises are available in a wide range of industries. The list of 3,000-plus companies selling franchises span over 100 different industry categories.

American Dream … Or Nightmare?

But just as franchising represents a chance to get rich, it’s also a chance to get stung. An alarming number of franchised operators make less than the minimum wage, working seven days, sixty to eighty hours a week, pursuing an expensive and elusive American Dream that turns into a nightmare. Since the ongoing franchise royalty payment comes right off the top, as a percentage of gross sales or a fixed minimum amount, the franchise company gets an assured revenue stream, even if its franchised units are operating unprofitably and are sold over and over again to new, unsuspecting buyers. The internet is filled with comments of the many people who lost $250,000 and more on concepts like eBay Drop off stores (iSold It), 30 Minute Fitness concepts (Curves), The UPS Store, etc. Yet many of these companies continue to sell and resell franchises over and over again. How do they accomplish that? Because there are enough people who think they can “believe” their way to success, even with a concept or business that’s not working in the marketplace. As discussed below, in many cases franchise investment decisions are incredibly based on emotionalism, not on business logic or even common sense.

Ownership And Being Your Own Boss?

Pride of ownership and being your own boss are highly touted phrases in franchise recruitment ads. But these are more fantasy than reality. Although you get all the financial exposure, headaches and stress of business ownership, what do you really own? A franchise owner is merely licensing a trademark (or service mark) from a company that dictates every detail of business operations. So the real boss isn’t you, but the company that sells you their franchise rights . . . and sea of franchise obligations.

Equity Build up?

But at least you’re building up equity, the ownership value of the business as a going concern beyond your investment of money, to compensate for all those years of hard work and long hours – right? Wrong – at least in the world of franchising. The franchise company reserves rights to acquire your entire business at below wholesale prices if their contract is not followed precisely. The acquisition rights provide for predetermined asset-based valuations, like book or liquidation value. These valuation methods provide bare minimum compensation (the used value of some file cabinets, office furniture, equipment, etc.) and are not generally used to determine the selling price of any business.

Absolutely no compensation is paid for established goodwill, the value of a business that is generating $X in profit or cash flow every month after years of effort, investment and expense – thus eliminating the most valuable ownership asset. Of course, you may be able to sell your franchise to a third party for a sales price that includes an earnings-based valuation. But that’s possible only if:

(a) you can find a buyer who is willing to live within the complexities of a franchise relationship, and

(b) you happen to own a franchise that’s showing healthy profits.

What follows is a bottom-line franchise checklist and tips compiled by franchise attorney and franchise expert, Mr. Franchise, based on reviewing over 500 franchise offering circulars and twenty-eight plus years of experience in the franchise industry – including ownership of a very successful franchise. These factors to consider in making a franchise investment will help you eliminate 95% of the companies you are considering. Then, you can concentrate your efforts on the 5% “cream” of the crop” companies that may deserve consideration. This franchise checklist assumes you’re suitable for and willing to live within the confines of a franchise relationship. It also assumes the franchise company:

(1) has itself successfully operated the concept being franchised for at least five years at multiple locations;

(2) is not plagued by franchise litigation and franchise lawsuits from disgruntled franchise owners;

(3) does not have unusually high franchise attrition rates (owners who have “left the system”); and

(4) has a balanced, fair franchise contract.

SOLD It – An American Dream That Turned Into A Nightmare

An example of a franchise company in trouble that failed to meet basic threshold standards is iSOLD It, an eBay drop-off store franchise. The company started its one and only company-owned store in November of 2003. Just weeks later, on December 10, 2003 they filed an application to sell franchises. The California Department of Corporations didn’t say “What are you thinking? You’ve only been in business a couple weeks, how can you even consider selling franchises?” Nor did they require this be disclosed as a risk factor on the cover page of the Franchise Offering Circular, as it should have. Disclosure responsibilities ultimately rest with the company (and its attorneys), and this will become one of many issues in future franchise litigation.

Instead, the Department simply collected its $675 filing fee and issued an order declaring the franchise registration effective the next day – on December 11, 2003. Then the magic of franchise marketing  took over. By 2006 the company had nearly 200 franchised drop off stores in operation and was touted by Entrepreneur Magazine as #1 in their list of “Top New Franchises for 2007” and #17 on their “Hotter Than Hot” franchise list. Entrepreneur Magazine, which requires franchise companies to submit their FOC’s (Franchise Offering Circulars) for supposed review each year before they’re listed, didn’t consider the high attrition rate (franchise owners leaving the system) or the fact that the audited financials in their FOC showed the company hadn’t operated profitably since 2004 as serious negatives and awarded iSold It the #1 listing for Top New Franchises of 2007. How did all of this happen? It’s yet another bizarre reality in the world of franchising.

The franchise company’s audited financial statements for the year ended 12-31-05 showed an operating loss of $1.1 million. Nine months later, in September of 2006, the net operating loss mushroomed to over $4 million.

In its November 3, 2006 Franchise Offering Circular, the table in Item 20 disclosed a total of 10 franchise owners leaving the system, yet a hand count of Exhibit D-3’s “Former Franchisees” revealed a significantly different number – 44. A similar “discrepancy” exists about franchise transfers. Item 20 says 12 transfers whereas Exhibit D-3 discloses 27.

In a long overdue letter distributed to franchise owners on April 5, 2007, CEO Ken Sully painted a dire picture of an American Dream that had turned into a nightmare. Mr. Sully’s letter admitted the company has not been profitable since 2004 (according to the audited financials, the company showed its one and only operating profit of $356,286 in 2004 before the precipitous downward spiral of 2005 and 2006). Over 60 franchised stores have closed and many more are struggling for survival. Mr. Sully observed “Tragically, many individuals who believed passionately in the potential for the category have lost sizable investments, including homes and retirement savings.”

Lost homes and retirement savings? How could such a travesty happen? I counseled a number of persons considering an iSold It franchise and warned all of them against the investment. Fortunately, they followed my advice. The concept was never proven in the marketplace before franchise efforts began, violating the most basic Franchise 101 precept. I also felt the management team lacked strong franchise credentials and the five-day training program was woefully inadequate. Finally, the franchise company was operating increasingly in the red and had a high attrition rate (owners leaving the system). It didn’t take a lot of brain power to see this was an accident waiting to happen. I predicted the bubble would burst and, sadly, it did.

Common sense could and should have prevented so many people from losing so much. Unfortunately franchise sales persons appeal to emotions (passions and potential, to use Mr. Sully’s terms) and strive to keep common sense and business logic out of the buying equation. If a franchise company is able to obtain a ranking on a media list, the sale is even easier. Reprints of high rankings on lists, like Entrepreneur Magazine, are included in the package given to franchise buyers, who are lulled into a false sense of security and begin to stumble over each other in a rush to sign up before someone else takes their desired territory (another favorite closing technique used to sell franchises).

iSold It! amended its FOC at the end of May, 2007 to add some long overdue risk factor language to the cover page of its Franchise Offering Circular. Hmmmm… maybe they read my comments above and did a little research. The new FOC cover page risk factor language says their “franchise system is still new and unproven.” That’s very interesting. How can they say a franchise system, that’s approaching its fourth anniversary, is “still new?” Maybe they’re looking at things from a ‘how old is our universe’ perspective? The word “unproven” is another play on words. The system is most certainly proven in the sense that many people, to quote Mr. Sully, “have lost sizable investments, including homes and retirement savings.” So why not use this quote directly in their Franchise Offering Circular? Answer: can’t sell any franchises that way.

In an August 31, 2007 Business Week article, CEO Sully claimed it wasn’t necessary to disclose these risk factors in the FOC. His reasoning: “We told everybody that this is sort of like the wild, wild West” he says. “It’s a brand-new concept and nobody knew for sure where it was going.” Disclosure was added to the UFOC recently, he says, “because of the number of stores that weren’t understanding the complexity of the business.” Hello? You don’t tell your franchise investors after the fact what you were required to disclose in the FOC before they bought so they could make an informed investment decision. That’s the purpose of franchise disclosure laws. And claiming written disclosure of risk factors in the FOC is not necessary if a prospective buyer hears a salesman’s verbal wild, wild West story ignores franchise disclosure responsibilities and is really an admission the company failed in this regard. With its amended FOC, the company incredibly continues marching forward with franchise marketing efforts.

Now, let’s consider the franchise checklist and factors to consider before any leap into franchising.

INDUSTRY TREND

Is the franchise in a cutting-edge industry that is doing well currently and is projected to do well in the future despite any economic slowdown? Education and home-improvement services are stable categories. Food is over-saturated generally and, except in exceptional circumstances, is not worth the high investment, long hours, headaches and marginal income.

TOTAL INITIAL FRANCHISE INVESTMENT

In general, don’t expect a franchise that requires a five-figure initial franchise investment to produce a six-figure income. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. On the other hand, don’t assume a six-figure investment will lead to a six-figure income level. Be realistic and conservative. Is the total initial franchise investment range (including working capital) $125,00 or less; and the maximum investment less than $200,000? You can find solid companies in this investment range if you’re willing to look around.

Don’t forget to consider long-term financial commitments, particularly the real property lease (see discussion below under “LEASING AND LOCATION”). Also, the working capital estimate (called “additional funds” in Item 7 of the company’s franchise offering circular) does NOT cover operations up to the break-even point. It only covers a short initial phase (usually only three-months) of operating costs As the break-even point (where revenues cover all operating costs) may not happen for one, two or more years, knowing only what it’s going to take to get you through the first 90 days is not helpful – in fact it may set you up for financial suicide. In many cases, reaching the break-even point can require more reserve funds than the total initial capital investment. Don’t ever forget the name of Item 7 in the Franchise Offering Circular: “Initial Investment.” If you don’t have enough reserve capital to reach the critical break-even point, your entire investment will go down the drain and franchise failure occurs.

One franchise owner in a relatively low investment and low operating cost window cleaning franchise said his biggest surprise was how long it actually took his franchise to be profitable. Going in, he thought it would take 12 to 15 months. It ended up taking twice that time. Fortunately, he had enough reserve capital to make it there, but declined to say what his actual franchise profits or income level were once he reached “franchise profitability.” If you’re operating just above the break even point and making less than minimum wage, is that anyone’s definition of success?

REAL BUSINESS

Is this a legitimate retail business, as opposed to a “work out of your home” operation? The vast majority of work out of your home concepts produce marginal income at best.

FRANCHISE MANAGEMENT EXPERTISE

Does the management team of the franchisor (the company selling you the franchise) have executives with demonstrated past achievement and experience in operating a franchise company (not just persons who have sold franchises)? If not, this is a big RED FLAG. Many companies enter franchising and fail to realize they are in a brand new business – one requiring entirely different management skills and abilities to navigate franchise relationships. A seasoned franchise management infrastructure must be in place. If the franchise management team lacks strong franchise credentials, or does not receive ongoing advice from qualified individuals, you might as well take a trip to Las Vegas with the money you’re intending to invest. Your chances of making vs. loosing money are roughly equal.

NORMAL WORKING HOURS AND DAYS; SUFFICIENT FRANCHISE INCOME LEVEL

Will the nature of the business allow you to work a normal five-day, forty-hour workweek? Life is too short for the seven-day, sixty to eighty hours a week, workaholic lifestyle that destroys health, family and pocketbook. Financially, we’ve calculated the true hourly rate for franchise owners who work these workaholic hours and discovered many are making far less than the minimum wage. One couple who operated a $200,000 fancy pizza franchise in an upscale mall were shocked to discover they were making fifty cents an hour each. Hardly an income level to recoup or justify the franchise investment. Many more fast-food franchise operators make even less, or operate at a loss until their funds, retirement savings, homes, etc. are exhausted. Buying a franchise in a non-food industry doesn’t necessarily improve the franchise profit picture. In a 2006 article “Mail Boxes Etc. Owners Fighting UPS Conversion,” a Mail Boxes, Etc. franchise owner who operated his franchise since 1993 reported profits for a typical MBE store like his were $16,000 per year after paying royalty and advertising fees to the franchise company. That calculates out to about $8.33 per hour for a forty-hour work week, approximately the wage of an entry fast-food worker.

Another major shortcoming of disclosures in the Franchise Offering Circular is not telling you how much money the franchises in the network are making. Instead of answering what is the most important question in a franchise investment decision, the franchise disclosure laws make this “optional” for the franchise company to answer or not. If they do answer this critical question, it will be found in Item 19. But don’t hold your breath – more than 90% of franchise companies “decide” not to answer this question. It’s another bizarre reality in the world of franchising. Although they collect complete monthly (and in many cases, weekly) financial profit and loss statements from their franchise owners, and know exactly how much their franchises are making (or losing), more than 90% decide not to share this information before you buy one of their franchises. A number of franchise salespersons have told persons asking this question: “the franchise laws don’t allow us to answer that question.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

And just because you’re a business executive making a 6-figure income now, don’t assume this income level will be duplicated in a franchise investment just because the company “approves” your application. One such executive, despite a plethora of negative feedback from current and past franchise owners who’d lost everything, marched forward with her franchise investment in a 30-minute fitness concept. Despite her 6-figure income, she didn’t invest a dime in professional franchise evaluation advice and stated she was taking a leap of faith, hoping to build her wings on the way down. Build her wings on the way down? Sound’s (and is) crazy, but this happens all the time. Due to the ploys of the franchise salesperson, too many franchise investment decisions are based on emotionalism. Prior business skills, business sense (and even common sense) are short-circuited. Needless to say, if this business executive made a similar investment decision for her corporate employer paying the 6-figure salary, she would be promptly fired.

MINIMUM NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES

Can you operate the franchise business with 6 or fewer employees? Managing dozens (or in the case of some fast-food operations – hundreds) of minimum-wage teenagers who are constantly quitting or simply not showing up for work is a royal pain in the ….. Well, you know what we mean.

LEASING AND LOCATION

For most retail franchises, the triple net lease of the location is the biggest financial commitment, larger than the total franchise investment. Yet, the typical real estate lease and its ramifications are not required disclosure in any Franchise Offering Circular (FOC). For example, an estimate that you’ll need 2,000 sq. feet of space with expected rental of $5 to $10 a foot per month is normally disclosed in the Franchise Offering Circular’s initial investment table as Leased Real Estate $10,000 to $20,000. A footnote to the investment table may say “assumes 2,000 sq. ft. at $5 to $10 a foot.”

But, that’s only the beginning of a much longer story. The lease is normally a 5 to 10 year triple-net lease. So, the financial commitment made when the lease is signed is at least $600,000 (at $5/foot for 5 years) to $2,400,000 (at $10/foot for 10 years). And this doesn’t include substantial, additional obligations to pay all of the landlord’s yearly property taxes, insurance, common area operating expenses, etc. With hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars in financial obligations at stake, personal guarantees and other risks, more than just a warm, fuzzy feeling that everything will work out is necessary.

Key questions to ask here:

(a) is the franchise you’re considering one that can be operated in a low rent commercial business zone? Avoid franchises requiring the costly expenses and triple-net leases of a visible retail storefront and the extravagant rent associated with areas of high foot traffic, like shopping malls. You’ll sleep much better at night.

(b) What’s your total financial commitment under the lease?

(c) Do you have sufficient liquid assets (or a willing, sufficiently liquid third party guarantor) to meet the landlord’s lease qualification standards?

If you don’t, you might as well forget about investing in the franchise. Or even worse, getting involved in a questionable franchise and business model, then realizing you’ve made a big mistake – and discovering you’re on the hook personally for a $500,000+ lease obligation.

A related real estate variant is securing a lease with a sufficient term (with renewal options) to recoup your investment and make a profit. In July, 2005, an attorney in her mid-forties purchased an existing ice cream store franchise for $375,000 believing it to be a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Trading her briefcase for an ice cream scoop, she attended the company’s 11-day Ice Cream University and assumed operations of the ice cream store. Turned out it was an opportunity – but only to inherit a store with numerous problems. These problems included (but were not limited to) a lease that would expire the following summer and a landlord who’d previously announced the lease would not be renewed. Rather than pay the $100,000-plus in relocation costs, the attorney returned to the practice of law, but is still paying off $350,000 remaining on the loan taken out to buy the once-in-a-lifetime franchise opportunity. Although there’s a franchise lawsuit pending, it’s yet another case of “franchise fever” – this time attacking a professional no less. Who would ever commit to paying $375,000 for an existing retail franchise without checking out the l-e-a-s-e? Sound’s like another bad attorney joke, but I can guarantee she’s not laughing. Business fundamentals were ignored or forgotten in the rush to acquire the opportunity of a lifetime. And I’m willing to bet not a dollar was spent on competent, pre-investment franchise advice.

IMAGE AND LIFESTYLE

How does flipping burgers, scooping ice cream and cleaning restrooms fit the image of what you want to do for a living? Investing in a franchise will be the most important financial and psychological decision you ever make. Many prospective franchise owners fail to realize they’ll be wearing virtually every hat at some point, from salesperson to bad-debt collector, from firing employees to bathroom janitor. The franchise owner is usually the first one to arrive in the morning – and the last one to turn out the lights late at night. And you’ll need to forget about corporate perks like paid vacations, paid holidays and sick pay. In their place, substitute financial pressures, unexpected events and money draining out of your savings and retirement accounts. Does the typical working day and responsibilities of the franchise you are considering fit your personal image and desired lifestyle? You can experience some of this BEFORE you invest by working for a couple weeks in an outlet owned by one of the existing franchise owners.

TRUE FRANCHISE VALUE

Buying a franchise from a “blue chip” franchise company that has spent decades and hundreds of millions on advertising to develop their brand can make a lot of sense. These companies have “true franchise value” that compensates for the long-term disadvantages of ongoing royalty and advertising fund payments. Often these additional payments literally mean the difference between earning a profit and operating at a loss. In unknown franchise chains with little or no brand recognition, you the franchise buyer are building their brand from scratch, and are saddled with severe, long-term competitive disadvantages.

In these unknown franchise chains, you have to ask yourself a simple, common sense question. What value is the company giving you that you couldn’t learn on your own by working at one of their locations as an employee for a couple months? Franchise truth be told, what most unknown franchise companies are selling is just a business opportunity – teaching you how to get into a new business venture. But unlike a business opportunity seller that charges a one-time fee to help get you into business, they call it a “franchise” and charge ongoing royalty and advertising fees like they’re a McDonalds or other blue chip franchise company.

The reality is they’re not a McDonalds type franchise – not even close to one. In the majority of these lesser-known franchise chains, you’d be much better off starting an independent business on your own. You can learn most or all of their so-called “secrets” in the franchise interviewing process and by talking to (and possibly working a short time for) existing franchise owners.

FRANCHISE PROFITABILITY & “SUCCESS”

Dr. Timothy Bates’ study released in 1993 by the Entrepreneurial Growth and Investment Institute in Washington, DC (and another study published in 1996) was the first to compare start-up costs, franchise profitability and franchise failure rates for franchised vs. nonfranchised firms. In his analysis of some 7,270 firms over the test period, Dr. Bates found that startup capital for a franchised business averaged $85,293 compared with average startup capital for nonfranchised firms of $30,156. In 1987 nonfranchised firms reported average pre-tax net income of $19,744 as compared to a loss of (-$1,548) for franchised firms. Dr. Bates concluded “Despite their larger revenues, much better capitalization, and their supposed advantages of affiliation with a franchisor parent firm, the franchisees lag behind cohort young firms in profitability and rates of survival.”

The franchise companies ignore both studies by Dr. Bates, pretending they never happened. Instead, other techniques are employed. For example, some franchise companies use misleading success statistics to sell their franchises. Their promotional materials say franchises generally enjoy a 90% success rate, compared to less than 20% for independent firms. These figures are based on unverified information supplied thirty years ago by a select, non-representative group of franchise companies. A full third of the companies receiving “questionnaires ” elected not to participate. There was no verification of any of the information supplied by the franchise companies, not even random, spot checking. Nor was any effort made to identify franchise companies who, along with the franchise owners in their chain, had gone out of business.

Even more recent “studies” saying nine out of ten franchise owners (90%) consider their franchise to be somewhat or very successful also suffer from serious methodological flaws. These were simply telephone surveys of franchise owners who were still in business and asked to say (with absolutely no definition of the term “successful”) whether they felt their business was “very unsuccessful,” “somewhat unsuccessful,” somewhat successful” or “very successful.” Franchise owners who had gone out of business or bankrupt were not included in the survey.

Even if terms are defined and a representative sample obtained, franchise owners can be a quirky group. Hence the need, as in Dr. Bates’ studies, for review of financial data. I remember evaluating an existing franchise for a client. I asked the current owner of the franchise if his business was successful. He said it was very successful. But his financial statements revealed a different picture. He’d never taken a dollar out of the business for himself, never made a profit in two years of operation, and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Another owner of a bakery franchise, interviewed by Business Week, says being successful in franchising means “adjusting your definition of success.” He says he makes a profit, but declined to say what it is, or if he’s ever recouped his $250,000-plus initial franchise investment. Incredibly, he insists he’s in business “for lifestyle reasons, not profit reasons.” Huh? Probably a quote from the company’s franchise recruitment materials. In the world of franchising “success” and “profitability” are very subjective terms.

FRANCHISE BROKERS WHO FIND YOUR PERFECT MATCH?

Does the franchise you are considering have its own in-house marketing department, or does it utilize outside franchise brokers? The use of franchise brokers is a definite red flag. First, it indicates the franchise company is not very serious about who it lets into the franchise network, or even worse, they’re desperate to sell franchises. Second, franchise brokers receive a substantial commission up to 50% or more of the franchise fee you’re paying the franchise company. Franchise Broker Realities: (1) Their service is definitely not “free” despite these and other similar misrepresentations. It’s really common sense – how could anyone offer a “free” service and survive in business? Unfortunately, the common sense part of the brain tends to short circuit when the franchise brainwashing process begins. The simple truth is if you buy one of the franchises they’re hawking, your money goes to the franchise company, then into the broker’s pocket. If anyone ever calculated how much time they spend to collect their $15,000 or $20,000 commission, it’s probably a lot more than a brain surgeon earns. (2) Franchise brokers definitely do NOT have your best interests in mind. They will do or say whatever they have to in order to close a deal and earn their commission.

Many franchise brokers claim they will help you find a franchise company that is the perfect match for you. In the beginning it sounds good. There’s some personality testing and review of your personal finances. At the end of the day, it turns out they only represent (and steer you towards) a handful of small franchise companies you’ve never heard of before. A detailed analysis often reveals these highly touted franchises produce mediocre or even below minimum wage financial performance. Yet franchise brokers don’t mention this, and individuals continue to rely on their recommendations, believing the broker represents them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Also, many franchise brokers call themselves franchise consultants. A franchise consultant is usually an independent adviser who offers advice to others (usually franchise companies or firms that want to franchise their business) for a fee. This makes their advice more impartial in theory as long as they are not compensated by third parties. Because they are not legally required to disclose actual or potential conflicts of interest, it’s important ask questions. For example, if you’re using a franchise consultant who is recommending the “best franchises,” are they paid anything by the companies on their list? This could be a commission, kick-back or consulting fee. As mentioned, many franchise brokers call themselves “franchise consultants” to hide their true identity. So, make sure if you’re dealing with a franchise consultant, he or she is not really just a franchise broker in disguise.

FRANCHISE DISCLOSURE LAWS

The franchise disclosure laws, while requiring franchise companies to give you certain, limited information, don’t come close to protecting your interests. For example, as discussed above, Item 7 of the Franchise Offering Circular only requires an estimate of additional funds for 90 days as part of the investment information. But economic reality is you need to know the additional funds you’ll need to reach the break-even point, which can be years away, or your entire “initial” investment will go down the drain. You’d think this type of information would be required by franchise disclosure laws, but it’s not.

FRANCHISE REGISTRATION LAWS

Don’t ever assume that because a company has registered its Franchise Offering Circular in your state, someone at the state has approved or reviewed the document in your favor. Franchise registration is obtained by simply forwarding documents and paying a filing fee – period. In most cases, franchise offering circulars are given an extremely limited review to ensure state-specific disclaimers are present.

I remember filing a registration application for a new franchise company in a state with a reputation for being one of the “toughest” franchise registration law states in the country. After the three-week review period set forth in the statute had gone by, and not hearing anything, I called the examiner assigned to the application. After looking through his files, he finally found my client’s offering circular and application. He apologized for entirely misplacing the file and promised to immediately review the application and call me back. Ten minutes later, he called to say he’d finished and was making the registration effective that day. Ten minutes of review and the franchise company was given the state’s green light. This is not an isolated case – it happens all the time.

WHAT STANDARDS MUST A FRANCHISE COMPANY MEET TO SELL FRANCHISES; ARE THERE ANY REQUIREMENTS TO FRANCHISE A BUSINESS?

Incredibly, the answer is – none. There are no minimum standards or requirements to franchise a business except preparing a Franchise Offering Circular. It’s yet another bizarre reality in the world of franchising.

You and I could have no background in any business, form a new corporation or LLC, capitalize it with only $1, put together a Franchise Disclosure Document and file it with any franchise registration state. While the offering may be subject to an impound or escrow requirement because of the low capitalization ($1), we’d still get “registered” and be able to sell as many franchisees as we want.

In these 14 franchise registration states, we may not be able to receive any money until each franchise actually opened, but simply posting a bond would alleviate this difficulty in the franchise registration states. And in the vast majority of states there are no franchise registration laws, so we’d be able to sell franchises and collect fees with impunity once we compiled our Franchise Offering Circular. The federal FTC Franchise Rule doesn’t protect against this risk either – it only requires disclosure (i.e. provide a Franchise Disclosure Document) and has no registration component or minimum standards for franchise companies.

Basic investor protections and requirements found in both federal and state securities laws for over 50 years were never carried over to franchise investments. While most non-blue chip franchise companies could never even qualify to sell you a single share of stock in their company, they are entirely free to collect unlimited franchise fees, ongoing royalties, equipment and other purchases, as well as cause you to incur financial obligations totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions in some cases. This isn’t information you’re likely to find in the glowing articles about franchising and franchise companies prevalent in the media.

CLOSING REMARKS

Remember, you are the only guardian when it comes to your franchise investment. It’s definitely an environment where the phrase “Buyer Beware” applies. So, before you sign on the line and make what will undoubtedly be the most serious financial and emotional commitment of your life, get all the facts and figures.

One couple I counseled after-the-fact, invested $2 million in a new franchise company. The contract they signed gave them no right to terminate, no matter what the franchise company did or didn’t do. Of course, the contract gave the franchise company unlimited termination ability, a right it had exercised. The franchise company’s management team had no one with experience in running a franchise company. Incredibly, the couple had not spent a dime on legal or business advice before investing $2 million. The once friendly franchise company had transformed into a formidable foe and was poised to take over their franchise. Sadly, this happens too frequently in franchise investments. Decisions are made on fuzzy feelings and emotionalism. In an effort to save a couple thousand dollars, franchise investors risk homes, retirement savings, everything they have. Then they scratch their heads in amazement later on after inevitable and often horrific problems develop, wondering how they could have been so nearsighted.

Another indispensable level of inquiry is whether you’re getting true franchise value and whether you’d be better off doing the business on your own. In the overwhelming majority of franchises touted by unknown companies, franchise value isn’t there and doing the same thing independently makes better economic sense and actually decreases the risk of failure.

Finally, and this applies to franchise investments as well as investing in any business venture, develop a plan to succeed but also plan a franchise exit strategy that minimizes financial risk in case things don’t work out. Both plans need to be thought through before the investment is made. Don’t wait until problems develop to start thinking about a franchise exit strategy – by then it’s usually too little, too late.

For more information, visit the Franchise Foundations Website.

© 1990-2008, Kevin B. Murphy, B.S., M.B.A., J.D. – all rights reserved

By: Kevin B. Murphy, Franchise Attorney, MBA – Mr. Franchise

About the Author:

Known in the industry as Mr. Franchise, Mr. Murphy is an internationally-known franchise attorney, franchise expert, author, and instructor. For the past twenty-eight years he has specialized exclusively in the franchise industry and owned a very successful franchise in the home improvement field. He has written over 30 publications, including four books on franchising and one book on trade secrets. Mr. Franchise has drafted, reviewed and negotiated more than 500 franchise offering circulars and instructs franchise company personnel in best franchise practices. He also teaches franchise, licensing and intellectual property courses to attorneys. Mr. Franchise is a franchise attorney and Director of Operations for Franchise Foundations a San Francisco-based professional law corporation.

posted by Law Help on Oct 15

Enough is enough as lenders had their say and swayed of course in all loan modification programs and in preventing the foreclosures process. They have frustrated almost every program the government and the fed had announced. The latest of course was the Obama Plan, which was launched with great fanfare, and of course it had helped the deterioraing foreclosure situations little bit but not enough–it has not stopped tremendous homeowners and their foreclosures. Banks had frustrated all these efforts, and are determined to do their nitpicking on every small issues. We agree with the analysts that the Obama Plan had no teeth in it when it comes to enforcement. Also, the 31 percent limitation of loan modification is not rationale. Again, it had not addressed the principals reduction which is a core issue in this crisis and bring it to the latest market values. Lately, the state top prosecutors are agreeing to seek the judicial remedy again, and are thinking of taking the lenders back to the judicial process. In our view, they are late. A judicial remedy is best, and of course quite expensive for the lenders, who had lately again been giving the despicable bonuses to their executives for doing nothing. When are they going to learn a lesson in this regard.

Here is what you should do and write to your state attorney general:

1. Write all the facts about your loan, no doc, full doc, ARMS etc.

2. Write down the name of your loan officers, and all the names of the concerned parties like escrow agent, loan officer, real estate agent, the full docs situations, your credit report score at that time etc. Make a detailed summary and send to attorney general’s office.

3. Find out what issues your are claiming like issues under TILA, RESPA, HOEPA and deceptive trade practices etc.

4. Attach the copies of default notices.

5. Send them the copies of your detailed notes with the lenders and the helplessness they had shown in this regard to have a viable workout program with you.

 

By: Malik Ahmad Attorney at law

About the Author:

Malik Ahmad is a Nevada licensed attorney and counselor at law. He is admitted in all courts in the state of Nevada, including US District Court. He has an extensive experience in real estate, including mortgages, escrow, rela estate and foreclosure. He is a solo proprietor and the principal of a small firm in Las Vegas, Nevada

posted by Law Help on Sep 23

There are several ways in which you can communicate with your divorce lawyer, but some methods may be more effective than others. When a marriage dissolves there are several important topics that need to be discussed and sorted out such as child custody and visitation, division of property, and support. Communicating effectively with your attorney about such issues will help your lawyer properly gather the information he/she needs to put your case together and can reduce your attorney fees at the same time.

In-Person

Meeting with your attorney in-person when there is an extensive amount of material to go through is often a wise choice. When you meet with an attorney face-to-face there is less chance for distraction and it is more likely you will have the attorney’s undivided attention. Any material you or your attorney may have can be reviewed and any questions can be addressed. Each party will have an equal opportunity to discuss and cover any important details. Additionally, the amount of time spent in an in-person meeting is traceable and should be reflected accurately on your attorney bill.

E-mail

Assuming your attorney checks his/her e-mail regularly, email communications with your attorney can be very effective, especially if a response is not needed immediately or an attachment needs to be sent. Unlike faxes, there is usually no charge to receive an e-mail. However, there will be a cost for your attorney to review and respond to your e-mail. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep your e-mail concise and to the point. This is often a difficult adjustment for those who have a tendency to write wordy e-mails. Further, depending on how savvy your attorney is with technology, he/she may spend more time in an e-mail communication than if the message were communicated via phone or fax. Further, the amount of time an attorney actually spends in an e-mail communication is virtually untraceable, so you will want to closely monitor your bill to make sure the charges are reasonable.

Telephone

One of the most common forms of communication you may have with your attorney may be via telephone. Telephone communications can be very effective, especially when you or your attorney have a quick question. Such communication is quick and timely. Additionally, the time spent on the telephone is the most traceable form of communication. The time spent on the phone may be recorded on your phone bill and should be reflected accurately on your attorney bill. However, problems may arise when more than a couple questions need to be covered. Long telephone calls can be subject to distractions and retaining large amounts of information can become an issue.

Fax

Communications with your attorney via fax can be very useful. For example, when a lengthy document needs to be reviewed or if your signature is required on a document (and a faxed copy of your signature is acceptable), faxes can save you an unnecessary trip to your attorney’s office or the wait time associated with mailings. Like the postage fee for a mailing, there may be a cost associated with the fax, such as the call charge or the time a person in your attorney’s office had to stand in front of the fax to send or receive documents.

Mailing

Communications with your attorney via mail can be very effective when a reviewing of a particular document is not extremely urgent. Additionally, any serious issues or requests you may need to make upon your attorney may be best done in writing. Mailings are a common way attorney’s keep their client informed or on copy of all filings and communications with opposing counsel. Mailings are easy to organize and typically easy to manage.

There are several ways in which you can communicate with your divorce lawyer and choosing the right method can significantly enhance your communication with him/her. When a marriage dissolves there are several important topics that need to be discussed and sorted out such as child custody and visitation, division of property, and support. Communicating effectively with your attorney about such issues will help your lawyer properly gather the information he/she needs to put your case together and can reduce your attorney fees at the same time.

© 2007 Child Custody Coach

Child Custody Coach supplies information, online materials, and coaching services to parents in the field of child custody, namely, divorce, child custody and visitation, child custody evaluations, 730 evaluations, parenting, and all issues related to child custody and divorce. “How to Win Child Custody – Proven Strategies that can Win You Custody and Save You Thousands in Attorney Cost!” is a unique child custody strategy guide written by The Custody Coach and made available by Child Custody Coach in an easy to read, understand, and apply E-Book format. Custody Match is an online consumer and family law attorney matching service to help you in your search for the right attorney for your divorce or child custody case. Custody Match can help you find the right family law attorney, divorce lawyer, or child custody attorney in your area.

By: Steven Carlson

About the Author:

Steven Carlson is the founder of Child Custody Coach. He is known nationally as The Custody Coach and provides individualized help and one-on-one coaching services to parents in the field of child custody and visitation issues, divorce, child custody evaluations, parenting, and attorney fee disputes. He is the author of the child custody E-Book strategy guide, “How to Win Child Custody – Proven Strategies that can Win You Custody and Save You Thousands in Attorney Cost!“. He provides support for Custody Match, a Southern California consumer and family law attorney matching service.

posted by Law Help on Sep 18

Before selecting a local personal injury attorney directory website you must be assured that the local personal injury attorney directory is unbiased and fiercely independent. Which means that when selecting a personal injury attorney at law, personal injury lawyer your selection from the local injury attorney directory is not influenced or based on financial kickbacks – payments received by the website to refer local injury attorneys to potential clients?  Unfortunately, this biased local injury attorney practice is extremely common on the internet and definitely not needs led based and beneficial to the potential local injury lawyer client.

The three category areas of discussion in this article and is a simplified analysis of the three main category types of local personal injury attorney, local personal injury lawyer directories on the internet – there are more than three types of personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyer directories available, though we will concentrate on the three main types of the local personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyer directories. The three main categories of personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyer directories are local injury attorney referral website, nation wide injury lawyer directory out of state referral system practiced, definitely not an independent directory and not an independent local injury attorney directory which is purely used as a referral system and paid for by local personal injury attorneys and personal injury lawyers’ local law firms, thus paying the local personal injury attorney, lawyer directory website handsomely for potential client leads and intensive local referrals – both types of personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyers’ directories exploit the potential client by depriving the potential client of freedom of choice and thus driven being driven by financial gain.

The third and final category type of local personal injury attorney, lawyer directory – complete attorney index, and entirely independent of outside interference, should be similar in structure to your local yellow pages directory whereby a potential client searching for an independent personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyer will be directed by individual choice options to firstly their State of residence, their local area – city, town or rural area, and finally an independent and complete attorney index of the personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyers’ contact details, personal injury attorneys – firms name, address of law firms office, and contact telephone number and fax. At this stage the independent complete attorney index directory is concluded and will not assist in the potential clients’ choice, neither directly or indirectly. The potential client will be expected to contact their independent personal injury attorney, local injury lawyer by their own means how and when they so desire, or just jot down the local personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyers’ contact details for future contact, the contact details available on the complete attorney index comprises of all local personal injury attorneys personal injury lawyers contact details as available at the time of searching.

Unfortunately, the third option is not a financially viable business option as the daily running costs of an independent choice personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyer directory – especially one which benefits from regular updated local personal injury database, can be quite a financial burden when providing an independent and unbiased directory which allow the potential personal injury client a needs led and recommendations free local personal injury attorney directory. On the independent complete attorney index website the only access to beneficial financing is the unobtrusive display of click on advertisements which will not necessarily divert the potential client from an independent personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyer search, as the click on advertisements will not display keyword related  – injury attorney, injury lawyer adverts, again the keyword related adverts – google adsense, would destroy the independence while selecting an impartial and unbiased local personal injury attorney, local injury lawyer.

You are the person best suited to understand the legal services you need and you must insist that you have an independent right of free choice which must be based on freedom to choose and freedom to select the most appropriate and relevant local personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyer based on your needs, not based on the most lucrative profits from referral law firms to biased legal directory directories.

Complete Attorney Index is a free independent and regularly updated, US directory of thousands of highly experienced local personal injury attorneys and local personal injury lawyers who regularly consult people like you with personal injury issues, often free of charge. Free Nation Wide Search…

Excellent resource, completely free, unbiased and intensely independent search directory. Without doubt the most freely available local personal injury attorney, local personal injury lawyer directory on the internet today. Complete attorney index US local injury attorney, local lawyer directory is regularly updated with local personal injury attorneys, local personal injury lawyers. I have created and own a wide ranging variety of websites with the absolute priority of providing a free, unbiased, efficient, and effective and needs led freedom of choice service. I honestly believe complete attorney index website have definitely accomplished my lifelong goal in providing an independent and unbiased legal directory. Your Freedom of Choice is your protected right – Complete Attorney Index website if intensely independent and intensely unbiased. You search and contact with no introductions whatsoever – exercise you freedom to choose Search Now! Find local personal injury attorney free. Find local personal injury lawyer free.

Offer you an unbiased local personal injury attorney local personal injury lawyer search directory.

By: Desmo Boss

About the Author:

I am a mature family orientated male living a traditional family lifestyle. I have worked in various employment positions and the current position is in a Youth Offending Team as Project Manager of an extremely busy City Youth Offending Team, thus providing needs based supportive packages – education, leisure, befriending and support.
http://wwwcompleteattorneyindex.com
Free independent and unbiased local injury attorney Search facility

posted by Law Help on Sep 8

If the thought of tax payments and sights of envelopes with Inland Revenue address frighten or push you back, you may address your problem through the help of an online tax attorney or company. As the laws pertaining to tax in most of the countries are turning more and more complex, taxpayers are resorting to tax attorneys and lawyers to take care of their tax liabilities. Whether it is to perform reduction in tax returns legally to the minimum or understanding or interpreting complicated tax laws, professional guidance and support from a tax attorney is tremendously required.

How Does A Tax Attorney Intercede Between A Taxpayer And IRS?

The IRS or the government department working for tax raising hires highly efficient tax attorneys to persuade tax payers. Those attorneys are extremely persuasive and get paid substantially for being persuasiveness in their jobs. More they prove themselves to be persuasive in collecting taxes from tax payers’ pockets, higher they can charge their fees. Just like the IRS tax attorneys who are constantly persuading tax payers, as a tax payer, you may also hire an equally efficient and persuasive tax attorney for yourself to counter the persuasive actions of IRS attorneys.

As per different categories of tax like income tax, business tax, income tax and etc, there are different types of attorneys to take care of individual tax laws. If you need to settle disputes of business tax, you may hire a business tax attorney or an income tax attorney to reduce income tax returns. Task of tax attorneys of all types includes mediating between the IRS department and you. On your behalf, those tax attorneys will deal with the IRS department and adopt legal procedures in negotiating the tax settlement. As the disputed amount tends to get larger, the job of a tax attorney is to reach a minimum payable amount of tax through negotiation. They can minimize originally claimed tax amount to a much smaller amount. When you want relief from pressures from the IRS department, just get online. The best and the shortcut route to find a really efficient tax attorney is through online tax attorney websites and directories.

Tips On Finding The Right Attorney

Thousands of websites and directories enlist online tax attorney professionals and you can search to select the right one. Most of the websites cite examples of the cases they have successfully handled. Therefore, you may shortlist your options as per the profiles of the companies. There are also online forums, blog sites where people share their experiences of using the services of various tax attorneys. You may use those sites as your referrals and gain useful suggestions to keep away from those inefficient tax professionals.

By: Apurva Shree

About the Author:

Online tax attorney directories list several types of tax attorney websites, including business tax attorney, income tax attorney etc, which you can browse to hire a suitable attorney for you.

posted by Law Help on Aug 26

While selecting the attorney, some care and considerations are necessary. Most attorneys have been educated by law schools, law firms, and the individual attorneys with whom they have had collaborations. Most State Bar Associations require not only the successful completion of law school, however they also need to qualify the special bar tests to be sure that attorneys are aware of both the basic precepts of the law which apply to various fields of law and also the suitable ethical considerations. The Bar Associations assist in the policing of its members to make sure that attorneys act in accordance with ethical considerations, and correctly apply the practice of law.

Lawyers are also allowed to publicize in the yellow pages for an area of specialization. This specialized area is regulated by the Bar Association. The Bar Association wants the practitioners to uphold a skill level which mandates the annual conclusion of supplementary study in the area of expertise under which each attorney is listed. For example, if an attorney lists his area of proficiency to be Corporation Law, then that attorney must, maintain continuing legal edification for a set number of hours each year in that area of law. This is often true of other areas of specialty such as Domestic Law, Bankruptcy Law, Trials/Litigation, Administrative Law, Criminal Law, etc. Some of the areas are internally protected by the government agency which administers a particular area of law. For example Securities Law, wherein government agencies regulating securities will require attorneys to meet certain standards and objectives.

Some watchfulness should be worn while viewing most of these publications since such ratings may be politically motivated. A number of services look at the number of years an attorney has practiced. Every now and then special ratings are given to attorneys who are members of large firms. As a result, if an attorney is not rated as highly by some of these various services, it does not necessarily mean that the attorney is not extremely skilled or well qualified for that particular purpose. These sources of attorney rankings may be helpful, but should be a secondary matter in the process of selection.

Primary considerations while selecting an legal representative should be whether the client feels at ease with the attorney chosen and if he is convinced that the attorney is proficient in his field of expertise. Much depends upon an individual’s verdict, and a lot of times an attorney is hired on the basis of referrals from other individuals who have for one reason or another experienced an attorney/client relationship as a result of work performed. The client must feel very comfortable with the attorney and must feel confident that the attorney selected is the one who can capably handle the client’s needs. Some of the questions that would be helpful to most individuals in selecting an attorney include the following:

By: ravi

About the Author:

Munish Rathee working for Visibility Partners, the client sites he is working on are http://www.keyeslaw.com/
“> Virginia divorce attorney
, http://www.stlouisfamilylaw.com/ “> st.louis collaborative divorce .“>http://www.mark-weiss.com”> Orange County Family law.

posted by Law Help on Aug 11

Many single parents will need the services of a family law attorney at some point. Separation, divorce, death of a partner, modifying a visitation agreement or child support order are just a few of the times to seek out a family law attorney. However, many of us have little experience with attorneys. The following will give you some general information on how to select and what to expect from a family law attorney.

Where Do I Find an Attorney?

The phone book – Look under the Family Law section in the yellow pages. Here you will find a wide selection of attorneys. There are attorneys who specialize in the representation of men or the representation of women. Some attorneys specialize in a particular component of family law, for instance custody. There are attorneys that are Christian focused, and some that offer payment plans. Many offices will give you a free phone consultation.

The library – Ask to see the Martindale & Hubbell Law Directory. This directory lists most lawyers and areas of practices within the United States.

State or Local Bar Association – Most operate a Lawyer Referral Service. After asking you to briefly describe the facts of your case, they will refer you to attorneys in your area. Tell the attorney you were referred from the State Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service and you will often get a half-hour consultation at no charge. The referral service does not give legal advice.

Network – Ask friends, family, and co-workers for names of attorneys they would recommend. Ask friends who have used a family law attorney if their attorney did a good job and if they would hire him/her again.

Legal Aid Offices – If lack of money is a problem call your local legal aid office to determine if you qualify for representation. Your income has to be below a certain point to qualify for most services. Legal aid organizations often have restrictions on case acceptance. For instance, they may only take domestic violence cases. If they are not accepting your type of case ask them to refer you to pro bono attorney programs. These are local attorneys who have agreed to provide free legal representation to eligible persons, usually lower income. Like legal aid, some have restrictions on case acceptance.

 

Shop around for an attorney just as you would a doctor. You want them to be knowledgeable in family law but you also want to feel comfortable working with them. Some things to consider besides their expertise in family law:

 

Do they have weekend or evening appointments? This is important when you work full-time.

Are their offices fairly close to where you live or work? Single parent time is stretched to the limit. You want one located in a convenient location.

 

The Initial Consultation:

Many attorneys offer a free initial consultation. This is usually half-hour to listen to an overview of your case and give you options on how to proceed.

-Create a “cheat sheet” – Write down the main facts of your case and put them in chronological order. Also, list the questions you have about your case. Bring it to your initial consultation. Refer to your sheet when speaking with the attorney. It will ensure that you don’t forget to tell the attorney something important.

Some Questions to Ask in the Initial Consultation:

 

How long have you practiced family law?

Do you have experience dealing with cases similar to mine?

If all goes well, how long will it take for my case to be resolved?

What should I expect? What will be happening step-by-step?

How can I be sure I get my child support, visitation, etc?

What are the best case and worst case scenarios in regards to the outcome of my case?

How much will this cost?

How do you bill?

How Do Attorney’s Charge?

 

Some attorney’s charge by the hour and some will charge you one lump sum when your case is completed. Some of the common ways lawyers bill for their services:

Retainer Fee: advance payment to the lawyer for a portion of their fee.

Contingency Fee: an agreed upon percentage of any money obtained through settlement, trial or negotiation.

Hourly Fee: the lawyer’s hourly rate. They will take their hourly rate and multiply the number of hours worked on your case.

Fixed Fee: a specific amount of money charged for a specific service.

Cost advance: reoccurring advance payment for on-going expenses related to the case.

Mixed fee: A combination of contingency and hourly fees.

How Will the Attorney Bill Me?

If the attorney charges an hourly fee ask how often they bill. A monthly invoice is common. Ask for a detailed monthly billing statement that specifies what services the attorney provided and how much time they spent on each service. Do not accept a bill that says: ” service rendered.” This doesn’t tell you what you are being charged for. Be assertive. If you don’t understand your bill ask the attorney to explain If the attorney charges a fixed fee ask if they have payment plans. Paying a little each month is easier to budget than paying one lump sum.

Hiring the Attorney:

When you decide to hire an attorney you will sign a retainer agreement. This is a document that states what services the attorney will perform and what the fees for the service will be.

If you accept the fees and understand the services to be performed then, and only then, should you sign the retainer. Find out if the quoted fee includes court costs, copying costs, and filing fees or if these services will be extra charges.

Do not sign the retainer unless you understand all the terms of the agreement!

After You Have Hired the Attorney:

-Be prepared and organized for each appointment.

-Obtain the documentation your attorney has asked for.

-Put in writing what you want out of the case. For instance, what property you want, how much child support, etc. Give this to your attorney. Ask what problems you face in getting what you want.

-Create a folder labeled “Attorney”. Keep all correspondence and documentation relating to your case in the file so it will be easily accessible.

-Write down what you want to ask your attorney before you call him. This will ensure you don’t forget anything. It will also help you stay on track since most attorneys will charge for time spent on the phone.

-Listen carefully to what the attorney says and make notes if necessary so you can review them later.

Selecting and hiring an attorney is an important decision. You should research your selections carefully. He should be receptive to your questions and keep you informed about each step in the proceedings. If you do not feel that your attorney is representing you in the best possible manner than dismiss his services and find another attorney. Remember, the attorney works for you!

 

Start an Online Petition now if you feel you are being misguided.

By: M Roger

About the Author:

Providing Consumer Information on various subjects.
http://www.petitionvoice.com – Your Online Voice

Article Source: Legal Articles