Hamptons Legal – The Daily Detail

News, Service & Small Practice Management

Archive for May, 2007

Informant v Defendant

Posted by pbsweeney on May 22, 2007

Say you’re a criminal defense lawyer with a client facing charges as a result of information provided by an informant who has agreed to work with law enforcement as part of his own plea arrangement in a criminal case. Naturally, you want to know something about this informant in preparing a defense for your client. Armed with the informant’s name and criminal record, you start researching the disposition of his previous arrests. With the ready availability of court records online, wading through files is made somewhat easier. But imagine for a minute, if details of the informant’s plea arrangements were sealed or unavailable – where does that leave you?

The New York Times reports today that “…the Justice Department has begun urging the federal courts to make fundamental changes in public access to electronic court files by removing all plea agreements from them — whether involving cooperating witnesses or not.

“We are witnessing the rise of a new cottage industry engaged in republishing court filings about cooperators on Web sites such as www.whosarat.com for the clear purpose of witness intimidation, retaliation and harassment,” a Justice Department official wrote in a December letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the administrative and policy-making body of the federal court system.”

Could we please solve this problem in a manner that does not trample the civil rights of the entire citizenry by denying access to public record? And by the way, we really wish the Justice Department was as interested in protecting the privacy of the rest of us.

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Posted in Ethics, Federal Spotlight, Law, News, Practice Management, Research | Leave a Comment »

Who’s Really a Lawyer & Where

Posted by pbsweeney on May 18, 2007

About 40 states maintain online databases regarding attorney bar status, primarily for consumers who want to find out if an individual they are dealing with is really a lawyer.  But often times, as attorneys, it’s worth a look to see if your opposing counsel is really licensed to practice in a particular court venue. Is He Really a Lawyer is a simple page consolidating links to all the 40 state databases currently available, and it is consistently updated. (While you are there, check that your own status and info is correct!) It saves a great deal of hunting.

Posted in Business, Ethics, internet, Law, Practice Management, Research, work | Leave a Comment »

Ah, the hilarities…

Posted by pbsweeney on May 16, 2007

“When Ravalli County, Montana, fined itself $350 because one of its truck drivers committed a loading violation, it paid the local lawyers hired to prosecute AND defend the county, $1,175.00.”

from Lawyers & Other Reptiles by Jess M. Brallier

Posted in Business, Ethics, Humor, Law, Law Lit, Life | Leave a Comment »

Estate Planning Strategies – Crisis Pending

Posted by pbsweeney on May 9, 2007

At HamptonsLegal we had read in Forbes & various journals, of a trend toward patenting tax loop holes, but we did not realize the extent to which the patent office has apparently been extending its reach in this area. We’d love to hear from our readers about any litigation pending or thoughts on this trend.

“Imagine, before sitting down with your client to advise her about her legal options, having to consult the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site to determine whether someone else already owns the patent to the course of action you want to suggest.

If that’s the case, you’ll have to pay the patent holder so your client can take your advice. But the patent holder also might refuse to sell you the license, limiting your client’s legal options. Then what? Welcome to Dennis Belcher’s world.

In 2004, Belcher—a trust and estate attorney in Richmond, Va., with three decades of experience—learned that patents had been issued on certain estate planning strategies for minimizing taxes. At first, he says, “I thought it was absurd that someone could patent an estate planning strategy.” But now, “I realize how dangerous this matter is, and I follow the topic for professional protection and to keep my clients out of a patent lawsuit.”

For good reason. Since issuing its first patent for a tax strategy in 2003, the Patent and Trademark Office has issued at least 52 patents covering specific tax strategies. Another 84 published applications for tax strategy patents are pending.”

To read this article in its entirety from the ABA Journal, click here….

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Educating the New Litigation Client

Posted by pbsweeney on May 2, 2007

Often, one of the most challenging jobs of any attorney is to educate a new litigation client in being a client of a law firm. Many clients appear for the first time as the result of crisis situation for which they need assistance, and in many cases are hiring an attorney for the first time in their lives. Clients come in completely unaware of the extent of their roll in their own matter, how fees work, how a case is managed, and what are reasonable expectations. Clarity on these issues is very important not only to overall success, but also as it relates to retaining that client for the future.

Spending time on these issues during an initial consultation and during regular follow up thereafter, promotes a sense of partnership for the road ahead. The better your fundamental work here, the easier it will be to create movement in the case through client cooperation, and the happier your client will be even if the inevitable outcome is not in their favor.

The first thing a client needs during an initial consultation once rapport and confidence have been established, is fee sensitizing, as we like to call it. Litigation is expensive in a way that many clients cannot seem to fathom. It makes no sense to them that a 25K rip off will likely cost them the same amount of money to recover, and is simply not worth it. There is little understanding that 50K is a starting point for serious work, so that often even an exaggeration on the costs is a better approach than talking minimal numbers. If this realistic communication about fees is not adequately established, there’s really no point in taking this client on. You’ll only end up spending valuable billable time sorting it out later, or lose the client in the long term, neither of which helps to grow a practice.

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