Limiting Business Risk Through Prepaid Legal Service Plans

Preventive legal services is a feature that all business operators should have. Your contracts and documents being read before entering into a contract, a partnership, or even a purchase can afford the operator with a handle upon the risk involved. Mistakes are costly as with anything prevention with a little due diligence can make the flow of business less of a risk. Prepaid legal (PPLSI) service contracts provide many features and surely being able to make a phone call concerning a legal question would be important wouldn’t you think? Your attorney writing letters on your behalf researching legal matters for you would that be a great service?? Would being able to build your business and having remedies for adverse legal issues being taken care before they occur provide peace of mind?? Surely not to be negative being in business one must have solutions before they occur as best as possible.

Assets are generally of a depleting and wasting nature surely legal issues can hasten the depletion of your precious assets. Time, money, and your health the worry and stress of what may or may not occur!! Would having the assurance whenever a legal issue arises you have locked in your cost for legal representation provide comfort?? Being in business and having assets there is always that element that strive to defraud and cause financial gain at the expense of another. Legal representation provide protection from legal predators, zealous regulators, and unfair practitioners of business. Time surely is a wasting asset and identity theft protection is another service PPLSI provides.

Your identity protection is critically important in these days identity theft is a crime that is increasing. PPLSI has partner with Kroll a worldwide company that render the services of identity theft protection. Through checking your credit reports regularly and with a limited power of attorney from you they can correct the damage that criminals has inflicted upon you quicker. Time again being a critical and wasting asset with the identity theft protection you will not have to miss days from your business tracking documents, and going courthouse to courthouse defending yourself kroll will handle all of that. There is much much more available that PPLSI has to offer upon request for further information the additional features and benefits can be explained. Hopefully the awareness of criminals banding together to devise more ways and means to defraud honest business owners it just made good sense to have legal services at your access.

5 Best Practices for Controlling Legal Costs

Many people cringe at the mere thought of being “forced” to hire an attorney. Hiring legal expertise is an expense that most people would live without and unfortunately there is the pervasive myth that all attorneys are out to gleefully take the shirt off your back! While the average consumer may only have to occasionally hire legal expertise, businesses must include legal as a line item expense in their budget. Fortunately, as with every service there are things that you can do to keep your legal costs from spiraling out of control.

Hire an attorney. One of the best ways to control legal costs is to seek legal expertise before there is a problem! Attorneys will help you to manage risk so that you avoid pitfalls that could cost you money. If you are setting up a corporation, or negotiating a large contract, it is worth it to involve an attorney experienced in that area. Your attorney will ensure that the terms minimize your exposure to risk. Even if you have contracted with a firm, or have in-house counsel it is important to communicate with them to avoid costly legal mistakes. Having a firm on retainer will mean nothing if you do not stay in communication with them about your business.

Hire the right attorney. This may seem counter-intuitive but many businesses believe that one firm can handle all of their legal needs. The most productive and cost efficient path is to hire the specific expertise you need. A firm that specializes in a particular area of the law will handle a much higher volume of those types of cases as opposed to a firm that handles those same cases on an occasional basis. In example, you have contracted with a large law firm for your business. You have a copyright issue that occurs and the firm has their in-house Corporate specialist handle the matter. This attorney has handled 6 copyright cases in the past 12 months. As such, it takes him 30 hours to research your case. Another firm that specializes in copyright issues handles 10 cases per day. This firm would be able to research and resolve your issue in 10 hours. In hiring the right attorney you have saved money and time. In another example, let’s assume that you have a neighbor that is an attorney who specializes in trademarks. You are planning to invest in a real estate deal and seek her advice. Although your neighbor is an attorney and as such has legal expertise this is not her area of practice. She could certainly research the issue and in the end would do a competent job. (This is for illustrative purposes only. In the real world your neighbor would explain to you that it is not her expertise and would offer to refer you to someone else.) However, it would be much more time and cost efficient to deal with an attorney whose area of expertise is real estate. Hiring the right attorney is much like choosing the right physician. If you have a heart problem you would see a cardiologist and not a podiatrist. While both are trained medical professionals they each have a specific area of expertise.

Negotiate the right fee structure. Law firms offer many types of billing arrangements beyond the traditional hourly billing schedule. You should explore the options with your attorney and decide on the best fee structure for your legal needs. Hourly billing is not to be avoided at all costs, it may be the best option for you, but it is important to have the discussion. You may decide upon a fixed fee agreement. This is similar to a project fee in that you and your attorney agree to a scope of work and agree on a flat fee for that work. This is helpful in that it enables you to budget your legal expense in advance. Contingent fees are another fee structure. In this arrangement, the legal fees are contingent upon the results. In most contingent fee structures there is also some type of fee, typically a limited number of hours at a reduced hourly rate. In example you would pay 10 hours at $200.00 per hour, but if you won your case, there would be an additional 10% of the settlement. Similar to a contingency fee, you and your attorney may agree upon a reduced hourly rate plus a bonus structure. The most important thing is to have the discussion and work with your attorney to define the fee structure that meets your needs.

In addition to negotiating the fee structure, you should also clearly define what is included in the fees and what would be considered an additional expense. In example, if your attorney has to meet you on location, will you pay for the transportation expense? Will you be charged for document services, such as process serving, title searches, or photocopying? If the firm outsources a portion of the work, how is that billing handled? You can avoid surprises and control your costs by clarifying these issues up front and negotiating how they will be handled.

Review your bills. We all know that we should carefully review every bill we receive and clarify any questionable item, but too often we perform a cursory review and write a check. In reviewing your legal bills, you will be analyzing two broad areas, accounting and performance. In reviewing the accounting you want to ensure that the bills accurately reflect the negotiated terms. Are there other expenses included on the bill? Are you being billed for supervisory, clerical or administrative tasks? Your bill can also help you to analyze your firm’s performance. How many hours are being spent on tasks? How does this compare to other firms? What is the cost per activity? Is time being spent and billed appropriately, i.e. is a senior partner doing the work of a paralegal? You are in control of your legal spend and it is important to identify the firm that meets your policies and has the best practices. The firm with the lowest billable hour may not be the most efficient, thus costing you more money in the long term. Without reviewing your bill and comparing you will not have the needed information to control your legal costs.

Communicate with your attorney. You should clearly identify your goals to your attorney. It is not enough to simply present your attorney with a legal task but ensure that the attorney clearly understands your goal for the end result. In example, if you are in a partnership with another party and you hire a firm to sue the partner over a specific dispute, but never tell the firm that you want to dissolve the partnership you will spend money on litigation that will not net your desired outcome. Just as important as stating your goal is to maintain close communication. Monitor your attorney’s activities, stay in close contact either through phone calls, emails or regular meetings. You will keep the firm up to date on your business activities as well as ensure that your legal dollars are being wisely spent.

It is impossible for businesses to avoid legal expenses, but it is quite feasible to manage those expenses. The best practices outlined along with a clear legal strategy will help you to have a better relationship with your law firm as well as feel a lot better when you receive their bill!

We Need a Justice System, Not a Legal System (an Inside Look)

In the United States, above all things, the legal system should be fair, but instead, it is big business.

Additionally, engaging the legal system should not be a major financial decision, but for millions of people in America, it is. Yet, it is also difficult to imagine that this grim reality was one of the original goals defined by those apt gentlemen who created and signed the Declaration of Independence as they chased the dream of a country that could consistently provide the opportunities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in equal doses to all.

Unfortunately, the legal system that has evolved in the United States, does guarantee equal protection, representation or opportunity to each and every citizen. Perhaps, upon being founded, the legal system should have been foregone and instead replaced by the notions of a justice system. In a justice system, the fair assumption would be that justice as determined by reasonable peers, would prevail. In stark contrast to a justice system, the modern legal system permits those individuals with the most money to prevail. And this, quite simply does not often lend itself to any form of justice, regardless of how remote that form may long to be.

If a person Googles, “average cost per hour for an attorney”, that person will learn that an attorney in rural areas may earn between $100 and $200 per hour, while the slicker, big city attorneys are in the average range of $400 to $600 per hour. Extrapolating this information over a 40 hour work week for one year, the lowest paid full-time lawyers on the attorney totem pole are earning over $200,000 a year ($100 per hour x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year = $208,000). When considering this dim reality, it quickly becomes obvious that the average citizen does not possess the means to pay even the cheapest attorney for any significant length of time.

Upon further examination of the facts, we must consider salaries and wages. The minimum wage varies from state to state. As per the 2016 National Conference of State Legislatures, two states have now passed laws to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. California was the first state to pass such laws. This state has now formally required employers to pay $15 per hour by January 1, 2022. New York quickly followed suit, passing legislation requiring employers to pay $15 per hour by July 1, 2020. This means that once the minimum wage is actually increased, earners in each of these states, will be able to afford an inexpensive rural attorney for 39 days by spending an entire year of wages earned ($15 per hour x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year = $31,200 annually / $100 per hour for an attorney = 312 total hours / 8 hours per work day = 39 days). However, if someone in a big city needs to hire an attorney and is making $15 per hour, that person can afford an attorney for less than 10 days by spending an entire year of wages earned ($15 per hour x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year = $31,200 annually / $400 per hour for an attorney = 78 total hours / 8 hours per work day = 9.75 days). Clearly the minimum wage earner will not have fair or adequate representation, for any real length of time in the current legal (not justice) system, against any sizable entity whose coffers may be ever so scantily lined with rotting cash.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the real (inflation adjusted) median household income in the United States was $51,939 (or $24.97 per hour) in 2013. The United States Consumer Law Attorney Fee Survey Report for 2013-2014, published statistics on attorney’s fees by geographical region. It also separated small firms and large firms into different categories. The lowest average hourly rate available from any law firm in the United States, is $253 (available in the Pacific States of AK, HI and WA), which is billed by small firms. Whereas, the biggest average hourly rate required by law firms in the United States is $546, billed by large firms in North East (CT, MA, MD, ME, NH, RI and VT). This means that the average American income, at the cheapest average hourly rate in the United States, would be able to afford legal representation for less than 26 days ($51,939 annually / $253 per hour for an attorney = 205.29 total hours / 8 hours per work day = 25.66 days), while the lowly, average, full time attorney billing $253 per hour earns $526,240 per year ($253 per hour x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year).

And, if a person happens to be in need of legal representation or was falsely accused of a crime and is in need of a defense, that person faces a painful reality. But, don’t forget that this pendulum swings both ways, just ask O.J. Simpson, who perhaps bought his way out of a murder conviction by spending an exorbitant amount of money on attorney fees.

Also, please be aware that this disparity does not stop with these details. Moving away from the low and average range for attorney’s fees, forces our attention only in the upward direction. A large group of attorneys easily make over $1,000 per hour and many of those proponents of a fair legal system claim to bill at double that amount. For example, the notorious bankruptcy attorney Theodore Olsen (although I bet all of his friends just call him Teddy the Bankruptcy Bear) is on record for billing $1,800 per hour, according to court filings in the LightSquared Inc., wireless network bankruptcy case filed in 2012. But the thick, brown, gravy train doesn’t stop to even glance at that billable fee as it trucks on down golden plated tracks. Berge Setrakian and Ralph Ferrara were both reported to make approximately $12.5 million in 2011. Again, simple math tells us that a person earning $12.5 million, who works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks per year, is earning $6,009.62 per hour, which makes a teacher’s salary pale in humble comparison.

Additional figures that do not bode well for most Americans in need of legal representation are the following supplementary facts. As per the U.S. website, the average time for a jury trial is 4 days for civil cases and 5 days for criminal cases (at least, in 2009). However, cases do not start in trial and they often take a substantial amount of time to get there. To help illustrate this point, a person must first be arraigned. After arraignment, the preliminary hearing phase usually takes 5 to 6 days. In the case of misdemeanor charges, the next step in the legal system is the motions and hearing phase. This typically takes 3 months, but may also exceed 2 years, during which time an attorney is billing the client to file court documents and respond to documents filed by the opposition’s legal team. Based on this reality, the average American may run completely out of cash long before the case ever makes it to trial, in which case, justice is not part of the destination and possibly never even made it onto the legal landscape map.

For business, this dynamic is even worse, because numerous states permit an individual to file “pro per” on behalf of a business. This means an individual or owner chooses to represent him/herself, even though state laws might clearly require a business to be represented by an attorney in a court of law. In systems such as these, the individual may file the case on behalf of a company and begin paying court fees only to learn at a later date that an attorney is required to move the case forward. These legal systems actually cause financial harm and damage to the suffering individual in addition to the actual damages that motivated the case to be filed in the first place. With a minimal amount of expectations, one should be able to assume that engaging the legal system, unto itself, should not inflict a greater financial wound on the already injured party, but it does.

That said, it isn’t just the structure of the laws that make a mockery of the legal system, it is also the system itself. Fortunately, in an effort to dive deeper into the vastness of this overwhelming problem, we may also turn to the US Federal Government for more insight. Twice each year, it publishes statistics on the Federal Court System. Please note however, that these statistics do not include any of the non-federal courts, such as the state and municipal courts.

First, understand that there are 9 different Federal Court Systems:
1. U.S. Courts of Appeals
2. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
3. U.S. District Courts – Civil
4. U.S. District Courts – Criminal
5. Federal Probation System Courts
6. U.S. Bankruptcy Courts
7. Federal Pre-Trial Service Courts
8. U.S. District Courts – Grand and Petit Jurors
9. the U.S. Federal Courts.

And, let’s not forget that the first court on that lists, consists of thirteen different courts:
1. U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
2. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
3. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
4. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
5. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
6. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
7. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
8. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
9. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
10. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
11. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
12. U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
13. Supreme Court of the United States (Court of Last Resort)

After a quick glance, it becomes quite apparent that an individual not only needs an attorney to understand the laws and the intention of those laws, a person may also need the assistance of an attorney to grasp the purpose of each of these courts and the appropriate place to begin seeking “justice” by filing a case in the proper court, since there are soooooo many to choose from.

Truly, it is unfortunate that a person literally has no individual rights unless that person knows the law and most Americans can’t afford to pay an attorney to know the law. So then, how free is the land of the free and the home of the brave when freedom and fair legal representation require money to attain?