Sunday, August 4, 2019

25 Years Means a Break or a Full Stop

August 1, 1994, a week after taking the Maryland bar exam, I started at a large white shoes corporate law firm.  There was a normal delay between taking the bar in Maryland and getting sworn into the bar.  So, I have two anniversaries.
When my official 25 year anniversary rolls around on December 14th, I will stop accepting new clients and take a much needed break.
Those current clients and those who sign up between now and December 13th will receive full services and representation even if it extends into 2020 or even later.  Many of my clients have been extremely loyal to me. So, I intend to remain loyal to them.
I'm looking forward to my freedom for a few years or to my retirement from the law.  25 years seems like a good time to try to do something else.  I have a law degree and an MBA in finance. So, the skies are the limit. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

COUNTIES WHERE THE FIRM ACCEPTS NEW CASES

Primary Practice Counties

FULTON 
DEKALB
COBB
GWINNETT

The Firm accepts cases in all of its practice areas and in all courts
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Secondary Practice Counties

Cherokee
Clayton
Douglas
Paulding
Henry 
Fayette 
Forsyth
Newton 
Rockdale

The Firm accepts limited cases in its practice areas in State and Superior Courts.
Magistrate Court cases will be accepted in Cherokee, Paulding, Clayton and Forsyth Counties. 

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Additional Locations

Savannah 
Macon
Augusta

The Firm accepts limited cases in its practice areas in State and Superior Courts. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Listen to Your Attorney After You Ask a Question

After you ask a question on a legal position or strategy, listen to the explanation and take notes. Even better, record the conversation. Unless the lawyer is being paid by the hour, no attorney wants to waste time explaining the same thing numerous times.

Before you hang up or leave a meeting, ask questions. If you don't understand it, ask the attorney to put it in layman's terms. After you get home, if you have additional questions, ask.

However, there is no excuse to have to ask the same question 5 times over numerous weeks because you don't listen and take notes.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

A Work-Life Balance is Necessary in All Professions

https://www.healthyfoodhouse.com/experts-say-people-over-40-should-only-work-3-days-a-week/

The balance between work and everyday enjoyment should be a goal for employees and employers.

The last paragraphs of the article concede that 25-40 hours per week are ideal.  Anything over 40 may decrease productivity.

Of course, as long as wages are held artificially low, those at the bottom of the income scale need to work beyond 40 hours. However, that can be changed with a mandatory minimum wage that is tied to inflation and the cost of living.

This Firm has decreased its hours to allow for this work-life balance. It has also eliminated weekend and extended office hours for routine calls and inquiries. Therefore, if you are looking for legal services or if you are a returning client, please take this into consideration.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Limited Availability

This small firm lawyer couldn't be happier. Effective today, I am booked up. Except for dispossessory and wrongful eviction cases, I will not be taking new cases until July.

If you have already contacted me about your case, you have a spot. So, don't worry.  This is limited to those who are contacting the Firm for the first time from June 11-June 30th.

___________
6/14/2019

Already, I've had to turn away people who can't find satisfactory lawyers to represent them.  Unfortunately, I've had to abandon the triage and number system as I described in my prior posts.  Oftentimes, complainers cause unlimited harm by their complaints.  This is just one example of the problems caused by those folks. The triage method worked for nearly 10 years, and assisted over 10,000 people who called and received assistance or retained the firm. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Starting July 1 Residential Tenants Will Not Receive the 5 Minute Free Screening Consultation

The Firm will no longer give residential  tenants free 5 minute screening consultations. 
If you are a residential tenant and want to consult with the Firm, you can schedule a 15 minute paid phone consultation for $50.  This $50 will not be applied to the retainer.
The areas of consultation for residential clients are the following:
(1) filed or threatened evictions;
(2) wrongful completed evictions; or
(3) landlord's claim for damages to the rental property that exceeds $15,000.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Retainers and Invoices

All retainers for work more than 7 days out must be paid by certified check, money order, cash, Money gram or Western Union.

The Firm will no longer accept debit or credit cards for IOLTA retainers

Invoices for completed work, initial consultations, or dispossessory actions can still be paid by debit and credit cards.  Cash App and Venmo can also be used for invoiced completed work and initial consultation.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Some Folks Have Made the Tenant Attorney Shortage Even Worse

Effective June 1, the Firm will phase our its residential tenant practice.  I personally like the practice area, but financially and otherwise, it's not worth it anymore.  Over the years, I have been told that other lawyers have stopped their representation in this area out of frustration.  Some people can't be helped and others aren't worth helping.

Effective June 1, the landlord tenant practice will focus on the following:
1. Commercial Tenants
2. Commercial Landlords
3. Residential Landlords
4. Management Companies

Also, I'll be expanding my representation of homeowners and Homeowners' and Condo Associations. 

These groups tend to understand business, time constraints, and the court system.  Furthermore, they understand the importance of paying for quality services and extended statute of limitation periods. They tend to be more realistic about goals, return calls, start and termination timing, and other procedures.

I've met, talked to, and helped  numerous good residential tenants.  Like everything else today, the slaggers have ruined it for them and everyone else.  Therefore, if you are a tenant and can't find a lawyer to assist you, you can thank them. 

Although I will still be accepting new residential tenant cases through September 15, if I don't think the case will end by September 30th, I will not start it.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Correcting Rental History, Rental Reports, and Credit Reports

The Firm no longer handles demand letters and litigation to correct erroneous information on a consumers credit and rental report unless it is part of a larger lawsuit for other claims that does not have to be filed in Federal Court.  It is more efficient to have an attorney who normally handles FCRA claims if that is the sole claim in the case.

A consumer can find attorneys who practice in this area by Googling "Fair Credit Reporting Act" and attorney.

REFUNDS FOR UNPROCESSED WORK --- JUST ASK FOR IT

The McGill Law Firm is busy with calls, meetings, hearings, and trials.  When a client wants to go to another attorney because of delays, just say, I want a refund for my unprocessed work.  Some folks get so dramatic about a simple request.  Think of it as returning a blanket at Target.  The only difference is services already performed are taken out of the refund.   You really don't even have to tell me why you want a refund for your unused retainer.

I have about a 10% quit or fire rate (either I fire the client for many reasons or the client fires me because they can't wait).  Those slots are quickly filled (within the week) with other people who need legal advice and representation.   Most of those new clients have just received notice of a potential eviction.  Therefore, as much as I would love to have 100% completion rate, it's just not realistic.  Delays happen all the time, including having a 5 minute screening call turn into a 30 minute screening call; preventing an eviction with a trial in a week; a morning trial that turns into an all day affair; or a motion that takes much longer to complete. 

I get those same calls from people who are impatient with their current attorneys.  If you want to call me because your landlord-tenant attorney is moving too slowly, you may be calling the wrong attorney.  If you are impatient with an attorney with a paralegal and legal assistant because he's not getting to your case fast enough, you will be impatient with this solo attorney. 
 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

New Rates for Initial Consultations

Effective June 1, 2019, the rates for initial office consultations will increase to $200/hour.  30 minutes is $100.

Tenants with pending dispossessory actions filed against them will be charged $85 for 30 minutes.

Nothing paid in the initial consultation will be applied to the retainer.

The rate for contract and lease reviews will be $275/ hour. This rate also applies during the first office visit.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Anti Retaliation Law to Protect Renters

The Georgia governor signed the renter anti-retaliation bill into law. The law goes into effect July 1, 2019. It's a good start, but a well drafted lease and careful planning by the landlord should prevent liability.  Of course, not punishing tenants when they complain will also prevent liability.

If you are a small landlord and need assistance on understanding the new law, call me for an appointment. (770)367-1234.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Dispossessory Trial Days

Although many dispossessory hearingd take about 15  minutes once a case is called by the judge, what needs to be done to get to the podium to defend a tenant case takes hours.

Night before - copies and file organization

9:00 trial times normally means an 8:00 arrival time. 

8:00 - review file again

8:30 - discuss matter with clients, assuming they show up on time

9:00 - calendar call and case announcement

9:45 -wait for mediation or discuss the matter with landlord's counsel

10:00 - discuss reasonable terms with the tenant/client that she can comply with during the remainder of the tenancy

10:30 - if the case settles, draft an agreement and present it to the judge

10:30 - if the case doesn't settle, wait for a hearing.

11:00 - hearing. 
(some dockets are so large, they go into the 1:00 session).

12:00 - off to the 1:00pm dispossessory calendar, to start the entire process over again.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Additional Requirements on Attorneys Mean Additional Fees to Client

For new cases, additional time in the courthouse or time to scan, prepare or copy orders means additional fees charged by the Firm.

The fees are as follows:
1. Preparing a final order $300/hr
2. Scanning the order in court because of mandatory filing requirements $100.
3. Copy and certified fees will be charged to clients with admin fees of 10%.

The Firm tries to be mindful of budgets.  However, additional time and costs have to be passed to clients.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Great Start to the Week

I successfully defended a $24,000 damages case filed against a tenant and helped her receive a nearly $2,000 judgment. 

Great result.

Of course, not all cases end this well, but having an experienced attorney may help you navigate court evidence and procedures. Representing yourself in court is not as easy as tv arbitration shows like Judge Judy and Judge Mathis portray.

Court rules and procedures trip up attorneys from time to time. This is especially true in State and Superior Court.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Help in Drafting Lawsuits

The Firm no longer files lawsuits.  However, it will assist the client in drafting the lawsuit.  Once the client files and serves the lawsuit, he or she can hire the Firm for discovery, hearings, trials, and appeals.

This will cut down on the backlog.  Once the Firm is retained, if an amendment is needed to supplement or correct your original complaint/statement of claim, we can do that at that time.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Unique Business Models & Regulators

Business innovation and unique business models benefit other businesses and consumers. Nevertheless, there are those who hate new ideas.

Although I personally despise Facebook, nobody can dispute the business has reunited friends who would not have remained in touch but for the company, helped solve crimes, and opened up communication to third world countries. 

Yes, regulators needed to step in to protect certain aspects of users' privacy.  Nevertheless, as always, government folks can't help themselves. I see overstepping and overregulation that will do more harm than good for that company and it's satisfied users.

The victims of bad laws to come will be  Amazon and Uber. These companies are relatively young services that have changed the face of this country. I don't know anyone who hasn't used these services.  But for the innovation of the founders of these companies, we would all be worse off in one way or another. They deserve the billions they have made.

Yet, the government is hell-bent on clamping down on these businesses.
First, a few folks in Queens who have probably never come up with an original business thought in their lives decided to quash a deal after it had been awarded.  What business person in his right mind would ever want to do business in Queens as long as that crew is anywhere in that borough?

Now, the government has set its sights on Uber.  NYC is taking sides between Uber and the taxi services.  As someone who had been passed by taxis in several cities, have suffered through loud phone conversations between drivers and God know who, and smelly cabs, I'm delighted those folks have gotten their walking papers.  Government shouldn't step in to protect them by excessive regulation or by imposing high taxes on Uber riders. The cab business model is antiquated and deserves to be downsized until they change and become more consumer friendly.

I believe my business model is somewhat unique just because a significant number of cases I handle are Landlord-Tenant cases.  This Firm represents small landlords and all tenants.  These cases are 65%-85% of the Firm's business. The high call numbers have increased with Atlanta's increasing population.  My theory is to try to assist as many as possible and expect a 90%-95% appreciation rate through repeat business, referrals, and/or good ratings.  The 5-10% disgruntled class is the cost of doing business and having the unique business model I have.

Indeed, people are willing to wait for me because there aren't too many experienced landlord tenant attorneys who offer low reasonable rates. Additionally, I've been told callers do not get the comfort level they expected when they called other firms or they don't get a return call at all from other lawyers.

My business model was reaffirmed recently when someone called me for a case after a client had "gushed" about me to her on a MARTA ride. 

No, I don't have paralegals or legal assistants. This helps me to know my clients, know their stories, and establish a comfort level and relationship with them.  As a result, a scheduled one hour meeting may turn into a 1-1/2 or 2 hour meeting.

For those who want the plain vanilla attorney, don't call, write, or stop by here.  This Firm has a different business model. If you hire me and don't like it, ask for your money back and leave. There are too many clients who understand what's going on here to change voluntarily.  After 17 years of being in solo practice, I must be doing something right.  As long as allowed by regulators and the government, this model of service will continue.

I had thought about changing the model, but I talk to callers who haven't received any assistance in their plight and I change my mind. These people make too much money for legal aid, but don't make enough to pay a large retainer. These "donut hole" folks who would receive zero assistance, but for me, keep my business model alive and thriving.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Small Businesses Must Challenge Fake and Negative Reviews

I wrote about a similar topic 3-1/2 years ago on this site on September 25, 2015 - Reviewers and Readers Should be Careful.
It discussed a case that occurred as a result of a bad review and the lack of credibility some of the reviewers have when they post.

Now, this is directed toward the targets of those bad reviews.  There are ways to fight against the complainers.

Complain to the Website, but Don't Wait

If you operate a small business, and you become the victim of a fake review, complain to the website but don't wait to take action.  Google and other services  take a long time to respond.
As I have heard other attorneys state, the cures for a fake or bad review are two or more good reviews.  It pushes the bad or fake review down the timeline and decreases the star effect.

Check the History of the Reviewer

You may want to check the history of the reviewer.  Some people love to complain.  They are the perpetually offended types who are never happy.  Readers should also check the history of reviews to see if they give all 5s or all 1s, both are worthless.

Comments in the Industry for the Experience Level of that Company or Individual

Check if similar comments are made in businesses in your industry.  The second step is consistent with the motto, misery loves company.  Indeed, for my area of practice, I receive calls from potential landlord or tenant clients who complain that their current attorney is taking too much time in sending out demand letters or filing their cases.  It is no use for me to represent those callers.  So, I explain, much to the dismay of my pocketbook, that  there is a dearth of experienced tenant lawyers.  Therefore, it is unlikely the timeline will change if they retain me.  Younger, less experienced lawyers may not have that problem.  That explanation normally ends the conversation. 

Respond to the Review.

Also don't forget to respond to the review.  Point out logical inconsistencies and falsehoods.  Be factual, but firm.  If there was a shortfall, admit and move on to what you will do in the future
In addition, if it is a disgruntled or unreasonable  client or customer, avoid that type in the future.  I have an internal "no" list based on my experience with problem clients.  It's not worth the risk dealing with similar types.  Also, for certain industries, raising the rates and refusing to give breaks on pricing and payment schedules may resolve the problem in the future.  I am never shocked when the person who wanted to negotiate fees is the one that causes the most problems during the representation.

Read Good and Bad Reviews with a Grain of Salt. 
Finally, discernible people understand that there are some people who can't be satisfied. For restaurants and other retailers, it is the scam artist who says give me free food or merchandise or I will give you a bad review.  The best way to handle those people is to stand your ground.
Pretty soon, all reviews will be questionable.  One caller reminded me of that a few weeks ago. She was an older woman who said, I can't believe those things because I don't know who writes them. Although her assessment is probably true, businesses should still try to keep their star ratings up within reason.
However, I know of great attorneys who have two or three stars. I know two firms with extremely successful landlord tenant practices in Atlanta with a 1 star.   Indeed, complaints of delays in filing, delays in meetings, other delays, communication deficiencies, and the like are in the negative comments. I guess their opponents love those, but the consumer gets hurt because they are chased away from the best attorneys by  sophomoric people who many wouldn't buy a used car or a piece of candy from on a good day.  However, those are the perpetually offended who must write bad or fake reviews.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Amended Spring & Summer Hours

Spring & Summer Hours

Monday - 1:00pm - 6:00pm

Tuesday - 10:00am - 6:00pm

Wednesday - 10:00am - 6:00pm

Thursday - 10:00am - 6:00pm

Friday - 9:00am - 1:00pm

Saturday & Sunday - Closed

Holidays & Vacation - Closed

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Be Careful of Presidents' Day Deadlines

Many courts in Georgia are not closed for Presidents' Day (Monday, February 18th).  If you have a filing deadline that falls on Monday, call the court to see if it will br opened.

Extreme caution should be exercised for dispossessory answers that are due this Monday. Unlike regular court actions, opening a default in an dispossessory action is nearly impossible.  As a result, a landlord may apply for a writ on Tuesday if an answer isn't filed timely.  Once the judge grants the writ, it's only a matter of time before the Sheriff/Marshal comes to supervise the eviction.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Posted Rates for Tenants in Georgia

The fees below are subject to change without notice.  Also, the Firm offers lower hour rates for established clients.

Effective September 30, 2019, the Firm will no longer represent residential tenants.

Initial Consultation (first office visit only) - Residential - $170/hour

Initial Consultation (first office visit only) - Commercial - $350/hour

Review leases - $250/hour

Draft a demand for repairs  $450 + postage
Increased effective 4/1 to $600.00

Draft answer and counterclaim for tenant to file - $150/hr.
Effective 4/1 -
Dispossessory answer - $250.00
Magistrate statement of claim answer - $350.00
Draft counterclaim - $350.00

Represent tenant with counterclaim - 25% of what is recovered in Magistrate Court
35% of what is recovered in State/Superior Court without jury
45% of what is recovered in State/Superior with jury

Preparation for case in magistrate court - $200 for one hour and $250/hour for each hour thereafter

Copies, parking, transportation are charge to the courthouse and meeting

Trial date residential -  $600 first two hours and $275/hour for each hour thereafter

Trial date commercial - $350/hour

Tenant is responsible for all expenses in the case.
Phone calls, e-mails, texts - $250/hr.
Any activity not listed above $300/hr.

APPEALS (STATE OR SUPERIOR)

$250/hr. with a $2,500 initial retainer
Plus expenses

REMOVALS TO FEDERAL COURT

$300/hr with a $3,000 initial retainer
Plus expenses

The Firm does not handle cases that are in bankruptcy.

APPEALS (APPELLATE OR SUPREME)
$300/hour plus copies and posta

Posted Rates for Landlords in Georgia

The fees below are subject to change without notice.  Also, the Firm offers lower hour rates for established clients.

Initial Consultation (first office visit only) - Residential - $170/hour

Initial Consultation (first office visit only) - Commercial - $350/hour

Review leases - $350/hour

Draft a pay or quit notice (each notice) - $200 + postage

Draft dispossessory affidavit for failure to pay rent - $200 + filing fees and service

Draft dispossessory affidavit on hold over - $175/hour + filing fees and service

Draft dispossessory affidavit on tenant at sufferance - $300/hour + filing fees and service

Preparation for case - $350 for one hour and $300/hour for each hour thereafter

Copies, parking, transportation are charge to the courthouse and meeting

Trial date residential -  $600 first two hours and $275/hour for each hour thereafter

Trial date commercial - $350/hour

Obtain writ - $175 plus court and sheriff/marshal fee (transportation fee may apply)

Appear on day of eviction - $280/hour

Landlord is responsible for all expenses in the case.
Phone calls, e-mails, texts - $300/hr.
Any activity not listed above $350/hr.

APPEALS (STATE OR SUPERIOR)

$350/hr. with a $3,500 retainer
Plus expenses

REMOVALS TO FEDERAL COURT

$300/hr with a $3,000 initial retainer
Plus expenses

The Firm does not handle cases that are in bankruptcy.

APPEALS (APPELLATE OR SUPREME)
$350/hour plus copies and postage




Security Deposit Disputes -- Narrow Representation

Effective February 15, 2019, the Firm will represent all landlords in defense of withholding tenants' security deposits.  However, for tenants, unless there is another issue relating to wrongful eviction, conversion, or failure to repair, the Firm will no longer handle security deposit issues for tenants.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Why Give a 5 Minute Free Screening Consultation?

The Firm gives  free 5 minute screening consultations for several reasons:
(1) the schedule limitations of the attorney and the potential clients prevent emergency meetings;
(2) a brief explanation of the matter by the caller can often tell us if the Firm cannot assist;
(3) 50% of callers' questions can be answered in 5 minutes;
(4) a brief conversation can often  tell both parties if their personalities can mesh to form a long-term attorney-client relationship; and
(5) nobody wants to waste time, travel,  PTO, and $85.00/30 minutes to be told within 5 minutes of the office consultation that the Firm cannot help.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Saturday Hours for January - March

For the first three months in 2019, the Firm will have Saturday hours from Noon to 4:00pm in its Marietta and Norcross offices.  The meetings are by appointment only.