Policies and Procedures for All Clients
The following provisions set forth the regular operating procedures a client should expect from the law firm. These are not material elements of the agreement for legal services, but rather they are guidelines for us to follow in order to have the best possible attorney-client relationship. As a client, you are welcome to suggest changes or additional terms to meet your needs.
Forming an Attorney-Client Relationship
- I do not accept new clients over the phone, by e-mail, or by any means other than an in-person consultation. This consultation is necessary to evaluate your case fully, gather information for a conflict of interest check, verify your personal information, to help you understand the legal process, and to create a solid plan for you.
- If we agree at an in-person consultation that it would be appropriate to represent you, you will be required to sign an Agreement for Legal Services, which and is a contract between you and me. The Agreement will specify the matter for which my services are being retained, the fees, and other essential aspects of the relationship. Absent a signed contract to represent you, I will not be your attorney.
- I will make every effort to include you in decision-making about your case. You will have the final choice for all decisions regarding bringing suit or settling cases. As well, I believe that a that an involved and educated client can be an asset to their case; therefore, I am happy to educate you about the procedural options we face, to discuss the substantive law that applies to the case, and to hear your perspective on our legal strategy.
- Although I am generally available in my office between 8:30 AM and 5:30 PM, I am frequently called away for entire mornings, afternoons, or entire days. Moreover, unscheduled phone calls and visits tend to disrupt my other planned activities. Although I maintain an open door policy and try to answer calls when I am in my office, the better practice is to book a time to meet in advance. This practice allows me to focus on working for you uninterrupted, which allows me to meet deadlines and do better work for you. If you wish to book a time to speak, please email me or text me a message at least 48 hours in advance. If you have an epiphany or emergency, please indicate the details clearly in your email or voicemail so that I may prioritize appropriately.
- EMERGENCIES: If your have an emergency, call immediately. If you reach the voice mail, please leave a specific message advising that you have an emergency. If you have access to text messaging or email, you should also send me a message indicating that there’s an emergency, and I will return your call as soon as possible. Although my phone will not normally ring after 5:30PM or before 8:30 AM (my normal business hours), I normally check for text messages and voicemails in the evening and early morning.
Service of Documents
- After I have been retained as your attorney in a matter, you should ensure that all correspondence from the other party, or their attorney, is directed to me. Should you receive any documents after that point, please immediately fax or scan and e-mail it to me, call me to arrange to drop it off, or call me, explain the contents, and ask whether it is OK to send it by regular mail.
- Please do not use your workplace email account or any other means of communication that a third party could access, as that could destroy the legal privileges normally enjoyed by the attorney-client communication.
- You should do a complete information security assessment at the beginning of any litigation, to make sure you are not sharing any litigation-related information to the world, and that all of your accounts are secure so that nobody can obtain sensitive information. The use of social media, mobile devices, unsecured wireless networks, or synchronization among devices, in relation to any litigation-related communication or records, is discouraged. Please always use complex, unique passwords, and specifically, do not re-use passwords from other sites/services for anything related to your litigation
- You may wish to create a new e-mail address just for legal correspondence, with as many security features as possible, to reduce the likelihood that anyone will be able to access our communications.
- Not all data you send me will be copied, downloaded, or backed-up. I will generally exercise my professional judgment about the number and type of copies made, and whether they are backed-up, as well. If there is something you DO NOT wish me to back up, please let me know.
- More specifically, only some e-mails are printed, and very few are downloaded to the computer and backed-up. There is only one copy of those e-mails, and they could be lost relatively easily. However, this also allows me to read and evaluate your message effectively, without maintaining an archive of every single e-mail I receive. However, almost all incoming mail is routinely scanned and backed-up. Therefore, if there is a particularly important note that you want to be part of your file, I would encourage you to either mail it, or scan it and send it as an attachment.
- I utilize a variety of data systems to create both local copies of data and copies hosted on the Internet (aka "Cloud computing"). You should feel free to speak with me about the security issues involved, as well as the risk of data loss under some circumstances.
- As part of my commitment to serving the needs of diverse members of the community, I am willing to provide my services on a sliding scale for persons up to 150% of the poverty line for their household/family size, or who is eligible for Medicaid, Work First, or Food and Nutrition Services (Food Stamps), or WIC. Disabled persons may also receive discounted services. Proof of income and/or disability will be required.
- Unless you have a true retainer with me or have arranged for a flat fee, this firm's legal services will be billed at an hourly rate. For cases that are billed hourly, I will make best efforts to always use time-tracking software or a stopwatch to track billable time, in the hopes of having the most accurate and fair billing entries possible. Unless your fee agreement specifies otherwise, I will invoice you monthly, and you will have 30 days to pay any balance and to restore any positive trust account balance ("evergreen trust") to the contractually-required level.
Law Clerks and Paralegals
- From time to time and as may be necessary under the circumstances, I may assign certain parts of your case to be worked on by a law clerk or paralegal. I will ensure that they are properly supervised, and that their work meets the same high quality standards I set for myself. If you are being billed hourly, you will also enjoy a cost savings, as their time will be billed at a lower rate than mine, with the exact value to be calculated based on their level of experience and training, between $25/hr. and $75/hr.
- I will provide hard copies of all significant documents pertaining to your case that I receive during the course of your representation. Should you misplace anything, I can provide you with copies of the file or a CD or DVD of the contents of your file. During the course of my representation, I may scan and digitize any documents and retain only the digital copy, except for documents which have independent significance that would be lost by digitization. I will generally make any paper copies available for you to retrieve, if you wish to maintain the physical copies yourself.
- I will maintain your client file and all its contents in digital form for 7 years, with no fees during that time. I will be happy to transfer the file to a subsequent attorney at your request. However, in any event, you must make arrangements for storage of your file after the 7th year, or I will securely shred the file after providing notice to your last known address.
- However, for all wills, lifetime storage of an original is part of the fee. Should I ever cease private practice, I will ensure the documents’ safekeeping with a licensed attorney for the duration of your lifetime. However, in order for me to notify you of such a change, you must continue to provide me with your updated contact information.
- Upon your request, other incidental services may be performed for you, and billed, independently of your current agreement for legal services, as we may in the future agree. A partial current list of available services will be maintained at the firm’s website.
- Any notarial acts I perform on your behalf will be charged separately, at $5.00 per person, per signature, per document, and I will be happy to make sure you are using the right forms. Please let me know if you have any questions about any new cases you would like to discuss, or whether a service you would like performed is included in your contract.
Determining Filing Fees and Court Costs; Such Costs May Change
- You can check the current schedule of fees for the uniform statewide court costs, which is published by the NC Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) by clicking here. The Federal Court (Middle District) fees for General Civil and Criminal matters are HERE. You may also check the current costs for filing any Corporations/UCC/advanced-directive documents with the Secretary of State by surfing their website HERE. Each County's register of deeds may post their schedule of fees for recording documents, with Durham's fee schedule being available HERE. The US Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services post their fees on THIS page. Please be aware that costs may change after the beginning of your case. The amount charged to clients is the amount actually billed by the Court or Government Agency.
Applicable Professional Rules
- Almost all aspects of the Attorney-Client relationship are governed by the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, promulgated by the North Carolina State Bar. Be aware that I may be unable to take certain actions you direct due to my obligations under the Rules. If you have concerns about how any attorney is behaving, you can investigate the information available on the State Bar’s website at http://www.ncbar.gov/public/ or to report serious matters of attorney misconduct you should call at (919) 828-4620.
- I am personally dedicated to providing the highest quality legal services for a reasonable fee. However, if you genuinely believe that the fees you have been charged are unreasonable, the State Bar has a fee dispute mediation program, with information available at http://www.ncbar.gov/public/alternatives.asp or by calling their number at (919) 828-4620.
No Representation of Results
- Because every legal matter is different, and since chance and many ever-changing human factors are involved, I cannot warrant the results of your case. Any predictions I may give have been just that - best guesses at the most likely outcome.
Honesty toward the Courts and Government
- No matter what your personal feelings may be toward the opposing party in your case, I have a duty to maintain the integrity of the Judicial System and any administrative bodies before which I practice. I cannot knowingly allow you to lie in any documents or oral testimony submitted to the Courts. Many times, it is possible to overcome unfavorable facts by putting on a stronger case in other areas, and many times it is possible to say and do nothing instead of telling a lie. However, if you insist on dishonesty as a course of action, the ethics of my profession and the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct may require me to withdraw from representing you.
Relationship of Attorney and Client
- Loyalty: My clients have my undivided loyalty in their case. The opposing party is not our client, even if they are your spouse or business partner, and I will not assist any other person in your case unless you instruct me to do so.
- Please do not mistake professional civility toward other lawyers with any loyalty to another attorney’s client. As part of my service to you, I will endeavor to maintain good working relationships with other legal professionals so that I may be credible and persuasive with them. Good lawyers can and will zealously represent their client in court or in negotiations with opposing counsel, but at all other times strive to maintain a perfectly cordial or friendly demeanor.
- Confidentiality: All communications between you and your attorney are confidential and privileged against disclosure in court. Do not disclose your communications to anyone else. Showing your correspondence to others or discussing your case with family and friends destroys the privilege and may waive all confidentiality. During the course of your litigation, do not show anything to anyone that you would not want the other party to see, unless and until you consult with your Attorney.
Current Personal Information
- Inform your attorney at all times of your most current mailing and physical address(es), phone number(s), and E-mail address(es). Failure to do so may result in serious consequences to your Attorney’s ability to handle your case, and may require the Attorney to withdraw from your case.
Contact with Opposing Party, Opposing Counsel, and Others
- Unless your attorney specifically instructs you otherwise, do not communicate with the opposing party. Once you are represented by an Attorney, under no circumstances should you communicate with opposing counsel, the Judge, or any other court personnel, except as may be required at a hearing. Under certain circumstances, you may be requested to copy an attorney on certain correspondence, but you should always discuss the matter with your attorney before including them on any electronic communications. If you feel that settlement is best for you, or that you wish to undertake settlement discussions on your own, please advise your Attorney immediately. Not only must we always work as a team, but reconciliation and settlement have significant legal consequences about which you should be advised.
LAWYER'S PROFESSIONALISM CREED
- To my clients, I offer competence, faithfulness, diligence, and good judgment. I will represent you as I would want to be represented and to be worthy of your trust.
- To the opposing parties and their counsel, I offer fairness, integrity, and civility. I will seek reconciliation and, if we fail to achieve it, I will make our dispute a dignified one.
- To the courts, and other tribunals, and to those who assist them, I offer respect, truthfulness, and courtesy. I will strive to bring honor to the search for justice.
- To the profession, I offer assistance. I will strive to keep our profession a high calling in the spirit of pro bono and public service.
- To the public I offer service. I will strive to improve the law and our legal system, serving all equally, and to seek justice through the representation of my clients.