For Clients and Potential Clients
How We Might Help You: Sample Situations
How Are You Feeling?
If You Are Injured
If you have been injured in an accident, you may be in pain, you may be confused, and you may be afraid. There are many ways we might be of assistance to you in this situation. There are many legal aspects we know about that you may not. Take insurance companies, for example. Insurance companies may not necessarily be evil, as you may have seen on other lawyers’ TV commercials. Nor are they the smiling, generous benefactors you see in their own advertisements. They are something else, something in-between, and each company is different from the other, with varying corporate “personalities.” Just as importantly, people who have been injured often end up negotiating not only with an insurance company—their own or someone else’s—but also with bill collectors from the hospitals, doctors, and medical facilities that provided sometimes extensive and expensive care due to the accident. We know what that’s all about. Our clients can often benefit from our experience with all these various players and entities and their individual “personalities.”
We are unafraid to try a case when appropriate, but most of our clients’ recoveries are through settlements with insurance companies and other payment sources. Pursing and trying a personal injury case often requires the testimony of an expert, who is used when a case presents technical information that a judge or jury may need an expert’s help to understand. We maintain a resource base of highly qualified and experienced experts in fields such as medicine, nursing, hospital practices, accident reconstruction, commercial trucking safety and operations, professional standards of conduct, and similar fields
The legal system is not a cash machine and it is not a lottery ticket. However, if you have been injured by someone else’s negligent or intentional misdeed, then the law is there to help you.
If you have been injured, we are happy to speak with you regarding your legal prospects, and our initial consultation is free. Please give us a call.
If Someone Has Died
When someone dies, procedures must be undertaken to wind up the affairs of that person, called a “decedent,” and to distribute the decedent’s property and assets to those who survive the decedent and/or to those who have been designated by the decedent in a will or other document. This is called “estate administration.” This can also be called “probate,” but probate is just one form of estate administration. Probate is nothing to be afraid of; it can often be handled simply and informally. Unless a client insists, we generally do not practice in standard estate administration where litigation is not threatened or occurring. You might say we only deal with “troubled estates,” since generally there are other legal practitioners who can help administer a straightforward estate less expensively than we might. Where we fit in is to step in as advisors and litigators if and when things go wrong in estate administration, when problems occur or threaten that might require litigation.
If a Fight Has Erupted Over a Decedent’s Estate or a Trust
This is where a firm like ours can be of most help to you. Estate administration does not always go smoothly. Sometimes problems develop or people come to odds with each other, contesting what each other want to have happen with a deceased person’s affairs. This can result in litigation, much like any other litigation. If you are having problems with an estate, we are happy to speak with you regarding your legal prospects, and our initial consultation is free. Please give us a call.
If You Are Ready for or Engaged in Estate Planning
We are of course familiar with estate planning law and the instruments of estate planning such as wills and trusts. We generally do not practice directly in the field of estate planning, though. Still, we may be able to help you here.
As you are shopping for an estate planning lawyer or other professional, do be a little careful that you don’t get sold more than you need. As one example from the recent past, trusts have tended to be over-prescribed to clients by lawyers, paralegals, and legal document services in order to “avoid probate,” when in fact “probate” is not a dirty word. There are of course plenty of genuine reasons to have a trust. Trusts can help carry out complicated distribution plans, and can help larger estates avoid or reduce “death taxes.” However, for many people they simply aren’t necessary. If an estate planning professional wants to sell you a trust, simply ask them why a trust is needed. Then listen to their answer. Just saying, “avoiding probate” may not be a sufficient response.
On the other hand, use of a competent professional is a must if your financial affairs are anything more than the most basic and “vanilla” of small estates. The stories we can tell you (and some we can’t, they’re still going on) are legion and heart-sickening about people who tried to save a few dollars on estate planning and ended up subjecting their heirs and loved ones to losses of tens of thousands of dollars and more to grinding litigation. As a rule of thumb, if you consider yourself as having been at all “successful” in your business affairs or in acquiring assets or property, then you should not be doing estate planning yourself and you should be using a lawyer. We can refer you to a lawyer that can help you.
If Someone You Know Can No Longer Manage Their Affairs
The law can provide assistance to those who are elderly or incapacitated and unable to manage their affairs. A court can appoint a guardian to look after someone’s personal and medical affairs, and can appoint a conservator to look after someone’s financial affairs and assets. Our practice includes representation of guardians and conservators in administering others’ affairs. This situation can be complex, and we can help. We can also help others, such as family members or friends, when a guardian or conservator has mishandled the affairs with which they have been charged.
If You Have Been Let Down by a Professional
Everyone who seeks the assistance of a lawyer, doctor, or other professional has the right to receive competent professional services. There is usually a general consensus among those in a professional field and in the community as to what constitutes the expected level of competency, and this is known as the “standard of care.” This standard of care can vary from place to place and from time to time. When a professional falls below the standard of care in rendering services to a client and that shortcoming harms the client, the professional has committed “malpractice” for which the law can provide a remedy. In some cases the client is entitled to and can obtain compensation for the harm the professional has caused.
The first thing to keep in mind if you have been “let down” by a professional is that not every unfavorable outcome in a professional situation is an indication of professional malpractice; in fact, most aren’t. Good lawyers can’t win every case and good doctors don’t always heal all their patients. But mistakes happen, and if a mistake has harmed you, we can help you assess what to do about it.
People are sometimes surprised to learn there are lawyers who will help people who have been harmed by the negligent practice of another lawyer. Those people presume that all lawyers would just “stick together.” We are not eager to sue any professional, including lawyers. However, when any professional, a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, or anyone else, negligently harms their client, we are unafraid to take appropriate action. Performing this sort of self-policing is one of the ways the integrity of the professions is maintained.
If You Have Invented Something
Our firm can help you regarding some aspects of the situation when you have invented something, but first this needs a little explanation. In explaining it, we want to talk about the last part first. There is of course coming up with the invention, and securing legal protection for the invention, and then there is marketing the invention. For almost any invention, even a very good invention, marketing your invention is the hardest part. Securing legal protection for your invention, through a patent or otherwise, is actually the more straightforward part. Legal protection isn’t always available, and securing it isn’t cheap, but if your invention is truly new (or as the law says, “novel and non-obvious”), something can usually be done.
So let’s consider the marketing aspect. For most individual inventors it is a rookie mistake to think you can or should manufacture your own invented product or distribute your own invented process to the public. Ask yourself, though, do you possess the distribution infrastructure, the warehouses, the transportation facilities? Do you possess the marketing and sales staff? Developing all this necessary business infrastructure for yourself takes a heavy toll on your time and energy, diverting it and you away from focusing on the special aspect you are trying to bring to the table, which is your new invention. To go to market directly with an invention requires a well-capitalized business organization. If you turn to venture capital to fund such an organization, you are almost certainly not going to like the control and share requirements that almost any venture capitalist would impose on you in order to do business.
Instead of trying to build a business enterprise to surround your new invention, the far more attractive for the individual or small inventor is to license your invention to an established company in exchange for royalties. Generally an inventor will grant a license to an established business in the appropriate field covering some period of time for some or all of the rights to manufacture, market and sell the inventor’s invention, in exchange for payment of a royalty, generally a few cents on the product’s sales dollar or perhaps more, depending on the nature of the invention. Turning to a company that already possesses the manufacturing, marketing and distribution infrastructure usually takes all of that headache out of the equation, although you have in doing so gained a business contracting partner upon whom you rely and whom you must trust. While the business taking the license may not have the same undivided focus on and loyalty toward your particular invention that you have, a reputable business has a good reason for your product to succeed because their business succeeds along with you.
Finding the right licensee business most often takes elbow grease and pounding the pavement yourself. It just isn’t easy. There are services that will offer on your behalf to shop your invention around to companies, but generally you should beware them. Many of them are well intentioned, but their incentives are all in the wrong place because they take their—or rather, your—money up front. Once the marketing service has done that, and they become the exclusive avenue by which your invention might reach companies that can sell it, the marketing service has little incentive to do much actual work for you, because—let’s face it—shopping an invention is hard, and successful invention shopping is a relative rarity. The law requires invention services to disclose the percentage of deals where the inventor actually made more than the inventor paid to the invention marketing service, and those statistics are dismal. Still, since shopping of inventions to companies is so hard, there might be room for use of an invention marketing service, if it takes no money up front and seeks its payment only as a percentage—even a high percentage—or your revenues from selling or licensing the invention. A company that takes no money up front puts its money where its mouth is, takes the risk right along with you, and is powerfully incented to see that your new product gets successfully placed with a company. If you find a good invention marketing service that charges on this basis, you might seriously consider using it. But then, if you find a good one like this, please tell us about it, too!
Returning to the important concern of securing legal protection for your new invention, the most important item to remember is that legal protection must be secured before you shop the invention, or even disclose the invention to anyone. Normally securing legal protection means applying for a patent, and you do not have to wait to market your invention until a patent actually issues, which is a process that takes a few years. But, keep your invention a secret until the patent is applied for.
You need to be careful about the patent lawyer you choose to write up and apply for the patent. There are good patent lawyers and bad ones. Further, beware invention services who offer to secure the patent for you. Securing a patent is not a commodity service like submitting your papers to the DMV; it is quite a nuanced art. If the lawyer who prosecutes your patent before the Patent Office is not fully in your corner and on the ball, the results can range from the mediocre to the disastrous. We know of at least one case where an invention service that guaranteed patent results in fact secured the wrong type of patent and so the “guaranteed legal protection” it obtained for the inventor was essentially worthless.
As to how our firm fits into all this, we do practice in the area of invention licensing. We do not write up and obtain patents, which is called “prosecuting” them. However, we may be able to refer you to a legal professional that can help you with patent prosecution. And, while you are legally entitled to prosecute your own patent, as you might imagine this is definitely something we would not recommend.
We advise and negotiate on behalf of authors in their dealings with publishers. The publishing industry is undergoing radical change. For instance, self-publishing has gained prominence in the Internet age, but established publishers still have a great advantage through their extensive marketing, sales and distribution networks.
Landing a contract with a publisher is an exciting accomplishment for an author, especially one just starting out, but it also entails certain risks and downsides. Publishing contracts tend to favor the publisher strongly, and a few do so to the extreme. Most new authors just starting out have very little bargaining leverage in attempting to secure less harsh terms. As an author, it may be useful to have someone in your corner.
One main problem found in mainstream publishers’ form contracts lies in the lack of explicit contractual commitment by the publisher to promote the author’s work. It is of course presumed that the publisher will promote the work. The publisher’s representatives are usually quite optimistic and enthusiastic with the author about promoting the work, and their enthusiasm is genuine. However, time passes, relationships cool and corporate priorities change. Without a contractual provision to cover it, promotion of an author’s work then remains solely at the publisher’s discretion—some would say, “whim.” We know of authors who have actually foregone a contract offered by an established publisher in favor of self-publishing because of this.
In the age of new media, for example with e-books overtaking print books, there can be great complexity in the negotiation of an author’s rights and royalties as applied to various distribution channels and media. What an author is entitled to is actually a bundle of individual rights split among various channels and media. These are usually specified and negotiated separately, and they usually carry different royalty rates. The bulk of royalty income may not come from expected or traditional channels. The mix of rights and royalties must be negotiated with a view to the most likely expected mix of income from various channels. Authors can be quite overwhelmed with all this, and would rather be focusing on their writing. We can help to alleviate much of that load.
- Download our background information flyer on intellectual property protections for authors. (The link to the PDF is not longer working on your old site and I can’t find the PDF on the old site either.)
If You Own Intellectual Property
Like any other property, intellectual property must be maintained in good condition for its maximum life and maximum benefit. Unlike other forms of property, serious difficulties with or even total loss of the property may occur without any external indication of trouble.
Sometimes a proprietor is not even aware of the extent of the intellectual property that they own or control. Intellectual property appears in various forms, some of which may not even be apparent as property. Materials implicating copyrights and trademarks may arise without notice. Intellectual property protection may take unorthodox or subtle forms such as trade secrets, which also do not necessarily signal their creation. This can arise in unexpected or unusual areas; even the shape of a boat hull can merit and be given special legal protection. Many forms of intellectual property protection have to be renewed or maintained in order to stay in force. Intellectual property can split and divide into various forms and varieties, each of which can be a source of benefit or income, but each of which must be attended to separately. There are in fact a few very specialized forms of protection that don’t even have a name, but are still subject to protection in appropriate situations. And still other types of intangible, technology-based property such as Internet domain names are not really intellectual property, but they are looked after in much the same way.
We offer intellectual property evaluations for individuals and businesses to assess the extent and condition of their intellectual property holdings, and offer recommendations and procedures for maintaining their intellectual property in optimal condition and maximizing its exploitation and benefit.
If Someone Has Taken Your Internet Domain Name (also known as your website address)
A domain name, for example, google.com, is the name or phrase used to access a website or other resources on the Internet. You can register and hold a domain name for a period of time, and if you continue to renew it, you can potentially hold on to it forever.
It is a sinking feeling, though, once you allow a domain name registration to expire and you then go to renew it, only to find someone else has taken it. You may also find when you go to register for the first time a domain name you really wanted that someone else has already taken it. Every word in the English language and every three-letter combination is now registered as a .com domain name. Once in a while, this can mean big money—the domain name business.com was sold for $7.5 million some years back. Sort of like ticket scalping, some people attempt to make money by registering boatloads of domain names, waiting for someone to come along who wants one of them, and then selling to that person their desired domain name at a higher price.
The first question to ask is, did this other person really take the domain name from you, or did they just get there before you did? Claiming and registering of Internet domain names is largely like a land rush or a god rush, first-come, first served. However, if you have trademark rights in a name or phrase (and you don’t have to have registered your trademark to be eligible for these rights), there is a way you can legally force someone who has wrongly registered your trademark or a close variant of your trademark as their domain name (such a scoundrel is known as a “cybersquatter” or a “typosquatter”) to give it up and give it back to you. It takes a little effort, and you wouldn’t call it off-the-cuff cheap, but the process is easier than bringing a formal court lawsuit and is very straightforward to accomplish, if you can demonstrate your trademark rights.
If You Want to Enforce a Contract or Have Problems with a Contract
We practice in the field of contracts and commercial law. Commercial law is a very broad area of the law. It includes all types of business and commerce that can be carried on. Similarly, the contracts that we run into every day are as varied as the real life situations that call for them. Some of them are garden variety. Some of them are specialized and call for special knowledge and experience to handle. They are so varied and different that there is no way they could all be discussed here. If you have a problem or issue with a commercial or contract dealing, we are happy to speak with you regarding your legal prospects, and our initial consultation is free. Please give us a call.
If You Are Forming Your Own Company
We generally do not become involved in company or entity formation unless it is incidental to something else we are doing for a client. If you are interested solely in forming a company we may be able to refer you to other legal professionals who can help you on a more cost-effective basis.
If You Want to Collect a Debt or a Judgment
When someone wins a legal case, receiving money or an award from the loser is not automatic. The winner obtains a judgment, and the winner must undertake collections activities to collect the loser’s assets to satisfy the judgment. We generally do not become involved in collecting on judgments other than those we have secured for our clients. However, if you have a judgment on which you would like to collect assets, we may be able to refer you to a legal professional that can help you.
If You Have Been Hurt by a Product
People who have been hurt by products are sometimes entitled to compensation for their injury. We do not practice in the field of law related to products that hurt people, a field called “products liability.” However, we may be able to refer you to a legal professional that can help you.
How Are You Feeling?
If You Are Confident and Eager
We’re always pleased to work with clients in the blush of excitement building businesses and moving ahead in their lives. These can be heady times, and we understand you may be in a hurry to achieve and accomplish. Please forgive us if we sometimes seem excessively “measured” or even downright “wet-blanket” about your plans and your schedule. It is not our goal to hold you back. It is just that an important contribution we can make to your success is to provide perspective that sometimes counterbalances the heady mood of the moment, a contribution no less important than when our client is distressed or fearful. We want to ensure that important details or necessary steps are not overlooked in the mood or haste of the moment. We deal in risk and controlling risk. Everything of value entails risk, and you will be in the best position to move forward safely when all the attendant risks are understood and considered.
If You Are Uncertain
So many times in life, you just don’t know what to do, or in which direction to go. When that uncertainty involves legal matters and situations, we often can help. Beyond our own core competencies, we have access to a large pool of legal and other talent across many areas to support you and your situation. You may not know what to do about certain risks you face. We deal in risk and controlling risk. We will not take you on as a client unless we feel we can help you in some way.
If you’re concerned because you are doing something “different” or off the beaten path, talk with us anyway, and give us a chance to help you. We don’t exactly fit the mold either, and we don’t think that’s a bad thing.
If You Are Angry
There is a good chance you are thinking about consulting us because you have been wronged. Many of our clients have been wronged, and many of them are angry. We understand this, but we will be looking beyond your anger, and asking you to look beyond your anger, too. Angry people make mistakes. The cooler your head, the better your decisions and your chances.
Especially when you have been wronged, it is important to understand which remedies and satisfactions the Law is and is not able to provide to you, and to adjust your expectations accordingly. By and large, the remedies provided by law involve only imperfect monetary compensation. Sometimes what a wronged person really wants is an apology, and once in a while it can be arranged that they receive one. But if what you want is for your adversary in a civil case to confess how wrong they are, if what you want is for your adversary to suffer, then you are asking more than the legal system can deliver. While everyone involved in a civil action, including you, will suffer at least a little, that is never the main goal, nor is it a legitimate one. We as legal professionals are ethically bound to refrain from inflicting undue embarrassment or “collateral damage.” It is just not what we do. We can also tell you that straying away from the goal of compensation into areas of vengeance is an incredibly expensive project. “Fighting for principle” sounds very good, but it is impractical as an endeavor in the courts and before the law. In the law, it’s mostly just about the money. We will always try to bring you back to the bottom line, and to bottom-line thinking.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel (2011)
If You Are Frightened
Okay, whatever it may be, you’re telling us it is scary. We understand. First things first: Do not panic. But, do not ignore it, either. Do not freeze up and do nothing. Take a breath, or a few, and realize this is not the end of the world. There is probably light at the end of the tunnel, even if you cannot see it right now. The good news is that there may be things we can do to help you get over this, whatever it is. However, it is more important that you hear the bad news: This won’t go away. Whatever it is, you cannot ignore it. It will most likely get worse if you fail to take action, and that can happen fast. You must tend to it. There is no harm in asking if we can help, and our initial consultations are usually without charge.
How We Handle Cases
Up above we asked how you may be feeling. Now let’s talk about how we’re feeling, that is, some questions you may have about how we feel about and handle your case
Why aren’t we angry about what has been done to you?
Many of our clients come to us because they have been wronged, and they are understandably angry. They want to know that we are on their side—and we are—and sometimes they also want us to be angry like they are. We are on your side, but actually you do not want us to be angry. Angry people make mistakes. We are your counselors and we must maintain a level-headed detachment and perspective in order to serve you as professionally and effectively as possible. We do not have to get angry in order to understand the violation of your rights and what it will take to vindicate those rights, and we’re suspicious of lawyers that do show (or feign) to their clients anger over every personal slight or insulting word. Their clients will likely find that this hot pursuit of every perceived insult gets extremely expensive, extremely quickly. You may or may not even know what your goal is yet, or what the law can do for you in that direction. A certain amount of sorting out must be performed. Before your goals are known, you cannot know if your perceived enemy truly is your foe. We will be happy to discuss with you the wrongs you have endured, but in order to serve you it is important and necessary that we understand what you consider an appropriate outcome in your particular situation. We can assure you that your goal is not to make the other person suffer, even if that feels like what you want most. That is neither a worthy nor a practical goal. You may find that your anger will dissipate over time. That is a good thing. We cannot help you get through to that good thing unless we keep our own heads in the meantime.
Why aren’t we tougher?
This question really answers itself once you understand what is really being asked here. The real question is usually, why aren’t we obnoxiously bellowing and beating our chests at all the people on the other side? That behavior may seem satisfying, but bluster is not toughness. What we actually are, though, is quietly tenacious and thorough. That beats a pointless show of bravado every time. No litigant can by being or acting “tough” simply run roughshod over all the other people in a court case; there are rules and judges standing in the way of that. Television tends to overstate the ability of even well-funded litigants to bully their way to victory. In actual practice, judges stand as gatekeepers against those sorts of attempts, and judges are reasonable people who respect civility and a level playing field. So do we. Claims of being “tough” are often just puffery, and what makes for “tough” is usually in the eye of the beholder. “Effective” and “efficient” are what you want on your side.
Why don’t you hate the opposing lawyer?
First of all, let us confirm your suspicions, we don’t hate the opposing lawyer. As with being “tough,” for us to hate opposing counsel might seem satisfying, but it isn’t helpful to you or your case. Sure, there are lawyers we respect, and those we don’t, but even that is largely irrelevant to our providing you with the best, most efficient legal services we can. As much as litigating clients may hate each other or think they do, law is still a cooperative, largely self-running venture between the lawyers even on opposite sides of a dispute. The court rules and the judges expect this of us. None of this means we are not working tenaciously to advance your interests. When we don’t cooperate, costs go up and schedules slow down. It is not merely professionalism for us to respect and cooperate with the opposing lawyer, it concretely benefits you.
When I ask you a direct question, especially about the end results and whether we will win, why do you always talk in riddles and probabilities and not give me a straight-up, yes-or-no answer?
Usually, it’s because it’s not possible to do that, and it would be irresponsible to try. Okay—quick!—will the stock market go up or down tomorrow morning? You don’t really know, do you? If you are a financial professional, you may have some strong opinions and good educated guesses whether the market is going to head up or down, perhaps based on recent events or on your private research. But you can’t definitely say “tomorrow morning—up!” or “tomorrow morning—down!” You can only give your best estimates, not guarantees, and even then the market sometimes moves in an odd way sort of sideways that’s really neither up nor down. The law is like that, too. These are human decisions being made by human judges and tribunals, and it’s rarely so cut-and-dried that we can say, “yes, we will win,” or “no, we will lose,” or even, “here is precisely what you must do, and there is no other direction you can possibly take.” We can help with probabilities and options, but crystal-ball gazing is not our stock in trade.
Fees and Deposits
We generally charge fees on one of three bases: Hourly fees, contingent fees, and flat fees.
Other than the types of matters listed below, we usually handle matters based on our hourly rates, for the hours we spend working on your case. The client is billed monthly for the charges incurred during the previous month and pays the hourly rate for each professional multiplied by the hours expended by that professional. The rates charged per hour depend on the type of case and other factors. A different rate may be charged as between the more senior or more junior lawyers, paraprofessionals, and professional staff. The client also pays for costs and expenses incurred in the matter.
We sometimes handle personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice matters on a contingent fee basis. That means that the client pays nothing for our time and work unless we recover money on the client’s claim. Such fees are generally charged as a percentage of the amounts recovered. We can also advance costs and expenses. The percentage or amount of the contingent fee varies depending upon the nature and circumstances of the case.
Occasionally we will charge for a particular activity on a flat fee basis. That means the client pays one standard fee, decided in advance and usually paid in advance, for us to perform that particular activity, regardless of who long the activity may take. We do this for activities that are more well-defined and separate or discrete.
In all cases, our fees ultimately will be calculated in order to be fair and reasonable under the Rules of Professional Responsibility for lawyers in Arizona.
It is our policy to require an advance deposit—sometimes called a “retainer”—from hourly-rate clients with whom we do not have an established payment history. The amount of the deposit can vary widely, and depends on the nature and size of the case, but generally it runs in the thousands of dollars. The deposit is paid to us before we begin work, and we may specify it either to be of the type that must be replenished monthly or else temporarily drawn down in amount and then replenished over longer periods. These funds are held by us in trust for the client until they are drawn upon, and any undrawn funds are refunded to the client at the end of the representation. In case you’re curious, we do not benefit from the interest generated by those funds while we are holding them; that interest instead is taken and used by the State Bar to fund their educational and legal service programs.
Giving You Only Cost-Effective Legal Representation
Law is a very broad field, and no lawyer knows every single area of the law well. We will not in any event represent a client in an area or regarding a procedure in which we are not competent. In other areas, we could competently represent clients but we generally refrain from doing so if we feel we cannot offer the most cost-effective representation as compared with other competent legal professionals. In other words, we can perform such services for you, but we generally will not because we know others can perform them as well less expensively. We will still perform such services where our clients insist, but we will let our clients know when we feel another legal professional might be a better option.