No Lawyer Required – Small Claims Court

Your best friend, or someone you thought of as a friend, asked you for a loan of $2,500.00. You had the money, and you liked the guy, so you said okay. Two months have passed, and he bought a new house. You know he’s not hurting. You called him after you heard about the house and asked when he was going to pay you back. He said he had huge expenses now because of the new house. He said soon. Two weeks later you called again. Again he said soon. You just put the phone down. You’re tired of calling. He said soon again. What to do next?

This situation sounds like a case for small claims court. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Letter

Write your friend a letter. Tell him that he has two weeks to pay you back. Tell him you want to resolve his payment to you in a friendly manner, but if you do not receive a check within two weeks, you will see him in small claims court.

We’re hoping that the letter resolves the non-payment problem. If it does not, you’ll have to continue to step two.

2. File a claim

Go to your local small claims court and complete the forms. You can probably download the forms from your county’s small claims website. Submit the forms to the small claims court. The court will schedule a hearing.

3. Service of process

Your friend has become the defendant. He must be served at least 15 days before the hearing date if the defendant lives in San Francisco county. If the defendant does not live in the county, s/he must be served at least 20 days before the hearing date. A capable adult must serve a true copy of the claim. You cannot serve the defendant.

4. Evidence

You next gather all evidence to submit at the hearing. Evidence would include a copy of the cancelled check that you gave your friend and dates and notes of all phone calls that you made to him. You may want to take a photo of his new house.

5. At the hearing

Small claims courts are generally much more informal that other courts. The judge will ask you questions, and then s/he’ll ask your friend, the defendant, questions.

If you have presented the situation with evidence, the judge will probably rule in your favor.

You’ve won your case, and your friend is now going to pay you back, but suppose he doesn’t. Suppose he is a real jerk and has decided that he wants you to have to work just a little harder to get your money back.

6. Collecting a judgment

You have to collect the judgment. The defendant may pay the amount directly to the court. If the defendant does not have the money, the defendant may have to pay installments.

If your friend refuses to pay, you can complete an Application and Order for Appearance and Examination which would require your friend to appear in small claims court to have his income and resources examined.

You could also consider wage garnishment by completing a Writ of Execution. This writ could also levy your friend’s checking or other bank account.

If your friend has a business with a cash register, a sheriff can go to the business for a till tap. The sheriff can take enough money from the cash register to pay the judgment debt. The typical sheriff’s fee for a till tap is $85.00. We hope your friend doesn’t put you in this situation, but if you are ever in this situation, the purpose of small claims courts is to resolve small problems without the expense of an attorney. This is the do it yourself legal remedy.

Disclaimer: This article is not to be considered legal advice. If you need legal advice, seek out a licensed attorney. Remember that small claims courts do not require an attorney. If, however, the losing defendant appeals the small claims court’s decision, the new venue is a superior court. In a superior court, you will need an attorney.

What Is Business Law?

In today’s society, many people are starting new businesses and they need to legally register their company. If a business is not registered, the owners may be breaking the law as they would be accused of running the business illegally. When a company wants to merge with another firm, they should have a written contract which both parties need to sign. These agreements should be drafted by a business lawyer who should guide the firms during the process. Business law covers a wide branch of knowledge across a variety of disciplines.

Business law covers all aspects of trade from the registration of a business to hiring employees and selling goods across the globe. A business may need a lawyer to help with the relevant terms of agreement and sales and present them to the other parties. When a company wants to bid for tender or have a project, the lawyer needs to come up with various proposals to present to the other parties. At times, disputes arise and when there was no binding agreement, the business suffers a huge loss.

There are some companies that do not keep in mind the terms and codes of trade especially within their intentional market. Failing to comply with the law is a serious offense and the company may end up folding as a result. A company should look to hire a lawyer who is aware of the business laws set by the Department of Trade and the lawyer ought to find out how the company performs in their industry without bypassing federal laws.

Business law also covers the partnership aspect of the company. At times, the companies who want to merge but they may still want to maintain their rights and recognition within their market. A good contract should be put in place and both parties should agree to work within the laid down rules and regulations in the contract. Many partnerships have landed in court simply because some codes were not met or the other party had more benefits than the other party did. Some aspects like profits, shares, and investments need to be addressed fully before signing a partnership agreement.

Before someone starts any business, they need to know the codes, laws, and terms of reference. Business law applies to all types of businesses whether it is a corporation, a sole proprietorship, or a company. The law requires that all companies and businesses need to be registered and trade within the law. When someone trades in illegal goods, they are required by the law to stand trial. The codes of trade need to be enforced fully and that every businessman understands what they mean. Business law terms are difficult to understand hence there is sometimes a need to hire a lawyer to interpret the message and ensure that the client know what each business documents entail. At times, some businesses may want to trade with other companies and need advice from their lawyers and other business professionals on the proposed plan. Business law can also cover issues such as privacy, copyright and issues involving tax.

All in all, business law ensures that a company practices in the correct way and that the business runs smoothly and that all the parties involved in the various commerce sectors understand the codes of operation.

Online Law Firm Marketing: Are Attorneys Complying With ABA Ethical Rules?

Law is a profession ripe with tradition. This profession is one of the few self-regulating professions and is governed by a myriad of professional rules, ethical opinions, and applicable common law. It is well-known that, historically, the law itself has slothfully adjusted to incorporate technological advances within its parameters. This is true regarding the ethical rules of professional conduct. Yet, as more and more legal professionals are now turning to the internet to market their practice through legal websites, blogs, and other social media outlets, there will become an increased need for further regulation regarding ethical advertising on the internet.

The American Bar Association (“ABA”) has draft model ethical rules for states to adopt and lawyers to follow. Today, these rules are called the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (the “Rules”) and were adopted by the ABA’s House of Delegates in 1983. These Rules were modified from the Model Code of Professional Responsibility. Additionally, the precursor to both was actually the 1908 Canons or Professional Ethics.

As noted, the Rules are not actually binding on an attorney until their state has either adopted them or some other related professional rules. Presently, all states except for California have adopted the ABA’s Rules at least in part. Most of the states have adopted the ABA’s Rules in full with slight modifications or additions to them. Other states, like New York, have adopted the ABA’s Rules but included somewhat substantial modifications.

The Rules and each state’s compilations do include provisions related to advertising and solicitation. Depending on the state, the distinction between each of these terms could be minimal or significant. Generally, “advertising” refers to any public or private communication made by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm about the services available for the primary purpose of which is for retention of the lawyer or law firm’s services. In contrast, “solicitation” is a form of advertising, but more specifically is initiated by or for the lawyer or law firm and is directed to or targeted at a specific group of persons, family or friends, or legal representatives for the primary purpose of which is also for retention of the lawyer or law firm’s services.

Even though the Rules do address advertising and solicitation to the internet, they are unsurprisingly lacking. These gaps are somewhat filled by ethical opinions or case law. But this generally means that an attorney has already gone through the litigation process and, unfortunately, likely been subjected to discipline.

However, the Rules do provide a fairly strong foundation for an attorney or law firm read over. Even if your state’s professional rules do not adequately present internet marketing provisions, you may still consult the ABA’s Rules for guidance.

Within the Rules, the primary place to look is Rule 7. This rule pertains to “Information About Legal Services” and houses the majority of the applicable rules to internet marketing for attorneys. Duly note, that there still will be other provisions scattered throughout the Rules which apply to marketing. This is just the most applicable concentration of provisions an attorney should consult first before looking for those ancillary sections elsewhere.

Rule 7.1 is the first and more overarching provision an attorney should be concerned with. This section is entitled “Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services” and prohibits a lawyer from making “false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A “false or misleading” communication is further defined in the rule and Comments as one that “contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.” Most pertinently, Comment 1 expressly states that Rule 7.1 does apply to a lawyer or law firm’s website, blog, or other advertising because it states that this provision “governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising permitted by Rule 7.2.”

Under Rule 7.2, which is entitled broadly as “Advertising,” allows attorneys to advertise “through written, recorded, or electronic communication.” Comment 3 confirms that “electronic media, such as the Internet, can be an important source of information about legal services.” Thus, this only solidifies the fact that 7.2 and, therefore 7.1, apply to internet legal marketing.

In addition, Comment 2 for Rule 7.2 provides further information regarding what can actually be included in these advertisements; for our purposes, websites and blogs. It permits the following: Information concerning a lawyer’s name or law firm, address, and telephone number; the kinds of services the lawyer will undertake; the basis on which the lawyer’s fees are determined, including pricing for specific services and payment or credit arrangements; a lawyer’s foreign language ability; name of references; and a catch-all for all other information that might invite the attention of those seeking legal assistance.

However, there is a caveat! First, your state may actually have additional requirements. For instance, New York only permits foreign language ability if “fluent” and not just as for a general ability. Therefore, you might be complying with the persuasive ABA Rule, but in violation with the mandatory state rule (in this case, New York). Second, this Comment is also misleading. Sub(c) under Rule 7.2 actually requires that a communication–such as an advertisement which we now know includes an attorney or law firm’s website–to contain the name and office address of at least one lawyer of the firm or the actual firm itself.

Rule 7.3 is entitled “Direct Contact with Prospective Clients” and deals more so with solicitation–as opposed to advertising–to prospective clients. But, if the attorney or law firm has a mailing list or sends out a newsletter via e-mail, this rule can also be applicable to past clients are well! The rule prohibits in-person and live telephone calls to prospective clients, which includes “real-time electronic contact[s],” that involving advertising an attorney’s services in hopes or retention. Further, this rule requires that every e-mail sent must include “Advertising Material” at the beginning and end of the transmission. Moreover, this rule provides an exception for family, close friends, or past clients,

That is, unless another exception applies. Rule 7.3 still prohibits a lawyer from sending, for example an e-mail newsletter, to another person if that person has either 1) “made it known” they do not want to be solicited or if the communication 2) contains “coercion, duress or harassment.” Meaning, if a past client tells you they want to be unsubscribed from an e-mail mailing list, and you fail to do so, you will be in violation of this rule just as much as if you directly communicated with a prospective client!

Additionally, you may be able to extrapolate this rule to other aspects of social media. There is a seasonable argument that an attorney who directly sends a Facebook Friend message or “Friend Request” to the prospective client hoping for them to “Like” the attorney’s professional page might constitute a violation of this rule. Even if it does not generally violate this rule, if the prospective client rejects the first request and the attorney sends a second “Friend Request,” is the attorney now in violation of this rule? Arguably it would appear so!

Finally, the last rule that really applies directly to internet marketing such as attorney websites and blogs is Rule 7.5; “Firm Names and Letterheads.” Even though it does not appear that this rule applies, looking at the Comments clearly shows that it does. Specifically, Comment 1 directly remarks that firm names include website addresses. Further, it refers back to Rule 7.1 and reminds us that website addresses cannot be false or misleading. In effect, this means that an attorney or law firm cannot make their domain name “http://www.WinEveryTime.com” or something of that effect.

Yet, the Comments do permit trade names in a website address such as the example “Springfield Legal Clinic.” But duly note, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that state legislation may prohibit the use of trade names in professional practices if they deem fit. So this is another state-specific area for the attorney or law firm to review.

In conclusion, even though law has typically lagged behind in adopting such advancements like technology, there are still ample provisions in the ABA Rules to guide an attorney or law firm to comply with internet marketing. More and more legal professions will branch out on the internet, which will create a greater need for more ethical regulation. Yet for now, with the ABA Rules as a guidepost, a profession should understand their obligations in creating, managing, and promotion their legal practice on the internet through websites and blogs.

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