Advantage Denton

November 8, 2010

Resenting Big Lawyer Bills

Filed under: Melissa Denton Posts — Tags: , , , , — Melissa Denton @ 4:00 pm

Melissa Denton

This weekend, I reviewed a bill for legal services provided by an out of state law firm for routine work performed on my friend’s deceased father’s estate. Like him, I was shocked at the bill for $21,000 for one month’s services. The issues being dealt with were worth less than this attorney’s bill.

It is really obvious to me why people resent lawyers so much. The bill was a mystery and included charges for services not requested, explained or understood. Apparently, no cost/benefit analysis was performed or discussed before spending vast numbers of hours on a very simple business formation with a minimal expected return.

This type of experience is why I created Advantage Denton. It is very distressing when good folk who are just trying to do things right are afraid to challenge the far away attorney who appears to be gouging them. They are very reluctant to send an email or call because they will get a huge charge every time they contact the lawyer. Then the huge expense happens because they did not keep the lawyer informed…

While we can not absolutely guarantee that each lawyer we find will be perfectly acceptable, Advantage Denton lawyer finders are trained to find you the type of attorney we would want to hire for ourselves or our family member, if they were in your situation. We find the right lawyer because we know where to find information on attorneys and we know how to interpret and apply that information to your needs.

As an attorney, I apologize for the lawyers who are charging outrageous amounts of money for little service with poor explanations. I recommend that clients not be afraid of their attorneys and that clients talk openly and respectfully with the lawyer about any charges they don’t understand. In my opinion, lawyers should not charge you for time discussing billing matters. You are the most important team member on your legal case. Do take your responsibility to participate seriously. If your lawyer is not treating you right, go get a better one. We will help you.

October 3, 2010

BigLaw Culture Clash

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa Denton @ 7:58 pm

Melissa Denton I recently talked on the phone with a couple of lawyers who work with a large, very well advertised family law firm in a big city. Both of them were quite cordial. They took my call because I am an attorney. I was trying to find the right lawyer for a client.
The first lawyer I spoke with was an attorney with seven years as a lawyer and a couple of years of intern work before that. She was my first choice for this client because of her level of experience, excellent academic credentials and the fact that she had mentors in her firm with great experience in the client’s legal issue. When the case is not all that sophisticated, I often seek a lawyer with fewer or medium years of experience because they are likely to still find the case interesting and challenging and may bring more energy and enthusiasm to the enterprise, thus serving the client better. Such a lawyer with great mentors is ideal, or so I thought.

It was a clash of cultures when the younger lawyer told me that she does not actually take clients of her own, that she works with senior lawyers who feel comfortable going into court. It may be that she has found a comfortable niche as a lawyer who fears going to court or it may actually be a legitimate career track in BigLaw to not have clients or court appearances after seven or nine years of family law practice. In the lawyer finding business is is very unusual to run across a lawyer who advertises that they take clients, but says on the phone that they don’t.

It was most kind of her to refer me to the senior associate in her firm who has very extensive practice in the field of law needed by the client. When I spoke with this lawyer, it was another bit of a culture shock. While very polite, this attorney made it clear that she had done thousands of cases in an area related to what my client needed but she did not want me to waste my time telling her what the client needed. She immediately asked me if I was looking for some type of referral fee. When I said no, but that I was asking for the lawyer to give a half hour of their consultation free to the client, she said she did not have authority to grant such a thing. She referred me to one of two staff members who do management in the firm.

From this second lawyer, I took away the impression that she was being very cautious that I was not some kind of scam artist trying to take advantage of her or her law firm. She was very pleasant, but considered it “not her job” to make a decision about whether to grant a half hour of interview in order to get a potentially lucrative client. I think that her BigLaw orientation dictated her response, which was to shove me off to staff. Most all other lawyers would be curious enough to listen to what the client needed, whether they had money to pay, and to find out that the client had paid $99 to have a lawyer found for them.

Even more than the BigLaw culture clash I experienced in these conversations, I took away the message that many people are very ready to distrust you. Even if you are a fellow attorney, you are a threat if you don’t come from a well established brand. In my other experiences with attorneys, they inquire enough to hear what is on the table and they take the entrepreneurial risk of giving a half hour interview to a client. In BigLaw, it appears that such decisions are beneath the interest or beyond  the pay grade of the attorneys.

Though I was honored to speak to two attorneys at the firm, the two possible support staff authorization agents were unavailable. I hope my voice mail will cause them to call me back and I hope that I can enlist the services of this well qualified law firm to help the client. If they don’t want business, though, they must not be the right lawyer for the client.

August 9, 2010

Breaking Up & Breaking Out Finances (etc)

Filed under: Melissa Denton Posts — Tags: , , , , , — Melissa Denton @ 11:15 pm

Melissa DentonI recently had it brought home to me in vivid color that not every lawyer gives some essential advice to new clients who are going through a break-up of their relationship. Suzie (not real name) has already spent six months of divorce proceedings as the client of another lawyer who had done some business transaction work for family members. Suzie has been very frustrated. She feels that her attorney allowed the other lawyer to waste a lot of time and money writing nasty letters to her attorney that hurt her feelings and accomplished nothing.

Suzie told me about the income that she and her husband have, about the property they have accumulated, and about the debts. It was surprising to me when she said that her husband had run up the debt a lot more on their credit cards after she left the home and family business.

As I told Suzie, when you have a marriage or partnership (personal or business) and that relationship is ending, it is time IMMEDIATELY to calmly and kindly arrange your business affairs so that the two former partners are no longer able to incur additional debt for which the other person will be liable. The relationships with external creditors which were formed when you were together are not suddenly or automatically altered because partners/spouses separated or filed legal papers to dissolve their relationship.

Sometimes, circumstances exist where it is appropriate to keep a credit card or line of credit open and available to the other person, but most of the time it is a very smart and appropriate idea to inform creditors – by certified mail, keep a copy – that the account must be split out into two names or closed as to all future extensions of credit. This goes for household bills, credit cards, cell phone bills, lines of credit and any other way that two former partners had authority to incur debt in the other person’s name. The former partner should always be informed in a timely way so that they can make arrangements to get credit or service in their name to avoid interruptions in service or embarrassment upon rejection of a credit card. This notification does not remove responsibility for past debt, but should halt future unauthorized debt being incurred.

In our state, divorce law will make Suzie’s husband responsible for the debt he ran up after separation. Suzie, however, is at risk of these creditors coming after her if he fails to pay. Her credit will be harmed if he pays late. It would have been much better if he had not had her name on the debts he has been incurring while divorce has been going on.

A couple of other things to be aware of when going through a separation are: 1. It is important to get the right lawyer for your needs. Advantage Denton searches for and finds the right lawyer for you. Have us find the right lawyer for you. and 2. Be sure that you change passwords to voice mail, email, and other bank/business/internet accounts so that each of the former partners has their privacy. If there are ill feelings and concerns about possible mischief, it does not hurt anything to put passwords on utility accounts and the like so that no one cuts off your electricity.

July 30, 2010

CHINA THINKING

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa Denton @ 7:33 pm
Melissa at the Great Wall

Melissa at the Great Wall

In June of this year (2010) I went to China to visit for the first time.  For context, I should mention that I am married to a man who was born and raised in Malaysia and we go back to visit family there every few years.  Simon is of Chinese ancestry and speaks lots of languages.

Having a Mandarin speaker was very useful when we were in Beijing.  I am sure our experience was much easier than it would have been without our family member speaking the lingo.  It was a fantastic experience in many ways and I am very glad we went.  My mom and our ten year old son were with us and we stayed in a lovely apartment-type hotel.

I want to tell you what intrigued me the most.  It was the bicycles.  Although Beijing is a huge city with fantastic modern infrastructure and constant construction, I was drawn to look at the bicycles.  Many more people than before are able to get cars and there was plenty of evidence of prosperity around us, but the bikes were everywhere.

You see cars plus a lot of small motorbikes in Malaysia cities and almost only new vehicles and great public transit in Singapore (which is a city).   Beijing had many people on bikes.  A lot of folks have their entire business on the back of their bicycle and large numbers of people use them as their mode of transportation.  Books I read about the days of old always talk about rickshaws.  We did ride around some oldest parts of the city (from Mongolian days) on bicycle rickshaws, but I did not see any walking running rickshaws (thank heavens – seems demeaning).

For some reason, those bicycles are symbolic to me of how Beijing and China has so very many people who have been jostling with each other for so very long.  Living in a place with so many to compete with and over the bones of thousands of years has weight.  Some people would think I am insulting or demeaning the modernization of China by focusing on the bicycles.  I am not.

The very modernity juxtaposed with the mass of humanity who struggle and strive where so many have before is fascinating.  Bicycles straddle time and circumstance and bring it all together for me.

Melissa on Rickshaw

Melissa on Rickshaw

July 19, 2010

Excuses, Excuses

Filed under: Melissa Denton Posts — Tags: , , , , , — Melissa Denton @ 9:10 am

Most disgracefully, I have failed to update this blog for almost two months. This is insufferable, intolerable, terrible, unforgivable and altogether inconceivable. How could any person commit an act so heinous, so vile, so beyond contempt? Well, it wasn’t easy.

The reason I have used such strong language is so that I can illustrate a point about self abnegation. This phenomenon of negating the self is something I see far too often. People involved in controversy find it hard to keep a balanced perspective. Much of their energy is spent on blaming themselves or, even less productively, on blaming others for the current set of circumstances.

While it is fun and funny to me to come up with a lot of words that I don’t mean about my blogging lapse, it is not funny to me when clients or other lawyers play the blame game and wound with words. Attorneys have a special duty to bring perspective to problems. We need to help clients move away from pain inducing practices. In my humble opinion, the lawyer who makes the client feel worse about him or her self is failing in the primary goal of litigation: coming out the other side with as much positive and as little damage as is possible.

Why did I fail to write in my blog for so long? Part of my reason is exotic — I was in China, Malaysia and Singapore for some weeks. I also bought and moved into new offices and found myself using my new iPad instead of the laptop I was used to blogging on. Now, the iPad has a blogging application and my excuses are over. I will write about China soon, but in the meantime I am going to continue to contemplate mean language and how to decrease the demeaning types of activities I see going on around me.

May 24, 2010

Face to Face Advice is Best

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa Denton @ 5:02 pm

Melissa DentonRecently, on Twitter, I saw a comment from a person in the field of psychology about whether therapy can be accomplished over the telephone. The implication was that such a thing might well be impossible.

In my work as a lawyer, I have had quite a few clients who lived far away and with whom I interacted only by phone and email. While we lawyers are called “Counselors at Law,” I don’t think that our work is impossible when we can’t meet face to face. It is harder, though.

As you are probably aware, the majority of communication is not the words we choose to say.  Quite often, a client will ask a question in an email that really can’t be answered without a phone or in person discussion to find out what it is they really want to know and to get enough facts to give a good answer.  Many times you need to think out loud together.

Communicating by telephone  is much better than just using written words. An in-person meeting to start off the relationship is most always very desirable if it is possible. On the telephone, at least you can hear the timbre of a voice, the hesitations, and the words stumbled over.  In person, you add even better perception of these things and extremely valuable body language for more effective communication.

When Advantage Denton lawyer finders seek out the right lawyer for you, this is one of the issues they most assuredly take into consideration. If it is possible for you to meet in person with the lawyer, we try to set that up because you get more valuable communication from it. We evaluate which lawyer is right for you from a lot of pieces of information, often including talking with the lawyer on the phone. Your free meeting with that lawyer should get you valuable advice and assurance that the lawyer will be the right person to help you. When you are deciding to get legal advice, I highly recommend that you make the effort to attend a personal interview. You will be glad you did.

May 6, 2010

Is Everyone Angry?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa Denton @ 10:01 pm

Melissa DentonAre you angry? It seems that the press is consistently telling us that everyone is angry right now. All of us are going to vote in an angry way against someone. We all are fearful, angry and ready to blame someone.

Perhaps this is true, but I suspect it is not. A lot of folks are too busy or too apathetic to focus on anger. That is why the few angry people who shout about it get so much attention. The people who are working hard to build something don’t seem so interesting to the press. Since the days of the saber toothed tiger, humans have paid attention to the noisy and dangerous more than to the placid or toiling. It may be natural to pay attention to angry people, but it is not productive.

Just as the constant alerts after 9/11 made us anxious and not any safer, the frequent references to tea party anger and to elections where people must have been very angry get very tiresome. While it is true that a lot of people are very stressed from our economic downturn, I don’t believe that most of us are scavenging around for someone to be angry at or blame. Many people are making the best of difficult circumstances and finding the good things they can make out of the bad parts.

The people who are so angry and the folks who insist on shoving those few immature actors into our faces need to learn a lesson in civility. Tough times call for improving your game, not wallowing in the mud. Finding systemic ways to prevent future abuses is far more productive than vilifying the people who made messes. Thoughtful discussion of how to make things better and showing compassion, even towards those who make mistakes, is a better path to follow. Focus on punishment is wasteful but prevention of further bad acts is very desirable.

In my humble opinion.

And now a word from our sponsor: Advantage Denton helps you find the right lawyer rather than leaving you at the mercy of the lawyer who is just most desperate and best at marketing to you. Have an expert lawyer finder help you find the right lawyer when you need to solve problems and create paths to success.

April 20, 2010

Earthquakes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa Denton @ 1:05 pm

Melissa DentonI am sure that you have noticed the large number of earthquakes occurring lately. These have been horrific events with terrible consequences for the folks affected. Are we going to get burned out with all of the news of disasters so that we don’t even help each other out anymore? I hope not.

With predictions (hopefully completely wrong) of a worse than usual hurricane season and oddities in weather, earth movements and volcanoes, we humans are sure being put in our place. What is our place? Should we be contemplating all of these things happening and trying to formulate a reason why or a generally appropriate reaction?

The global warming crisis is one way people are finding an explanation for weather extremes. Folks are coming up with some types of actions we can take to hopefully have an effect on our planet (in good ways rather than more damage and pollution).

Some people are turning to religious explanations, as they have since the dawn of humanity, when they can not control or understand nature. Fortunately, a lot of smart people are working proactively to be prepared for when the next crisis impacts our area – but a small portion of the world has and uses resources this way.

Most of us go through our daily life just trying to keep up and trying to cope with what we already have on our plates. It is a burden to add on disaster planning as a task and resource demand when life contains precious little leisure and comfort. It is much easier not to worry about big disasters when we are avoiding so many little ones every day.

I suggest that the “preventative law” “preventative medicine” and other preventative planning should be even higher in priority than usual when we have so much evidence of the earth’s unrest. We are here to help you with taking care of business on the legal front. Be sure to call on Advantage Denton to help you find the right lawyer to handle those legal issues that will be an even bigger mess if you leave them untended. As for all the other disaster planning, I am going to write lists and take action.

You?

April 12, 2010

Las Vegas, baby

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Melissa Denton @ 2:42 pm

Melissa DentonI just returned from the culture shock that is Las Vegas. This was our first time to visit that place and perhaps our last, though it was really interesting. Right before Las Vegas, we took a few days to visit Zion National Park and a lovely smaller state park called Snow Canyon in St. George, Utah.

The canyons and physical structures of nature were huge and awe inspiring. The casinos and physical structures in Las Vegas were huge and awe inspiring. Nature was majestic; casinos were less so. The air quality was sure better in nature. Since I don’t smoke, drink, gamble, stay up late, or participate in some of the other adventures available in Las Vegas, one could say it was wasted on me. I did like seeing the spectacles once as an education. My 10 year old boy also seemed to get an education, but it will be interesting to see what kind of education over the long run.

One thing I noticed in Las Vegas was the billboards advertising legal services. Several of them offered to go to traffic court for you or to help you if you had been in an accident. I have not researched those lawyers (if lawyers were really involved, since none were apparent). I am guessing that calling a number off of a billboard is one of the worst ways you could find an attorney.

If an attorney is good at what they do, they do not need to advertise on billboards. If they care about their professional reputation, they are unlikely to associate themselves with billboard advertising. If they don’t care about their reputation, why would they care about the needs of clients? It would be interesting to see a researched book or news article about the folks who put up the biggest and tackiest ads and the quality of work that they do.

Maybe my perception is wrong that they would not care about client needs and wants. I doubt it, though. Such lawyers have to funnel a really large number of cases or some really big dollar cases through just to pay for the ad. When you run a high volume mill, it seems to me that it is harder to provide personalized quality work for individual client needs.

If you need a lawyer, you would be much wiser to use a lawyer finder from Advantage Denton than you would be to hire a lawyer because they paid for a billboard or the biggest advertisement. Advantage Denton saves you money up front by getting that first half hour interview with the lawyer for free and we save you far more from anguish and overspending when we get the right lawyer for you.

March 8, 2010

Lawyer “Bedside Manner” Matters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa Denton @ 11:19 am
Melissa Denton

Melissa Denton

I sometimes have to apologize to clients for the lack of compassion exhibited by another lawyer.  “They didn’t teach us bedside manners in law school,” I say.  Since I practice law in the area of family law, the folks I work with are at a most vulnerable moment in their lives and lawyers deal with some of the most delicate parts of the person’s life.  Most clients are relieved to finally be dealing with painful issues that have been getting worse for too long, but they do have to contend with their deep emotions and the unkind things family and former family members do to each other at such transition times.

It is quite true that we lawyers did not have a class entitled “How to be Compassionate toward Clients”.  As I recall, doctors used to not have those classes, either, though I hope that has been remedied.  Many attorneys are very intellectual folk.  We live more in our heads than in our hearts.  Just like for anybody, it is a challenge for attorneys to really understand people who are seeing the world from a vastly different place than us.  Most lawyers feel a great deal of pressure to responsibly handle the legal issues in a client’s case because that is what we are trained for and what we are interested in.  Those messy emotions are often seen as an obstacle to efficiently completing the tasks at hand.  Those messy emotions are very frequently the overwhelmingly most important influence on the client’s satisfaction with the lawyer.

The best thing we lawyers provide is a sense of relief.  When you have hired a lawyer or learned crucial information from one, you have a great burden lifted from your shoulders.  You have access to reliable information, a guide through the scary court system and paperwork, and someone on your side who is responsible to tell you the truth. Progress is made on clearing up an awful mess.

The great relief you feel upon getting a lawyer’s help is seasoned by the large amount of money you pay to get that help and by how that help is rendered.  The relief is utterly spoiled if you come to believe that the lawyer is not performing competently or if the lawyer is actively unkind.  These two problems are found together far more often than you would think.

Lawyers who are insecure or who know that they have made a mistake are more likely to bluster and bully, just like other people do in those circumstances.  The client thought that they were getting real help when they hired a lawyer. Instead, the client finds that they have jumped from the frying pan into the fire with their original problem plus lawyer problems.  Original problems are made worse by committing a lot of money to pay for poor lawyer services.  The client is often vulnerable and the attorney’s power position and bullying prevents the client from self defense.

It is easy to say after the fact that the best way to not have a problem is to avoid it in the first place.  How many of my divorce clients would thank me for that advice? Not many.  With finding a lawyer, though, there are ways to avoid getting a poor quality attorney.  Other places on this web site and prior blog entries here give some information about how to find the right lawyer (and therefore how to avoid the wrong one).  While we try to provide a comprehensive education on this issue to our lawyer finders, it is not something that we could teach members of the general public.  It is also a darned silly skill set to try to learn right at the crisis time when you need to use a lawyer.  You also don’t embark on an extensive course in advanced plumbing while your basement is flooding.

Advantage Denton was created for this reason.  We are glad to help you by finding and evaluating the lawyers who would be right for your needs.  Because we evaluate the information available about the attorney and the needs you have, Advantage Denton lawyer finders do a great job finding the right lawyer.  While you might be lucky and stumble upon the right lawyer, this is too important a decision to leave to chance.

Information about your right attorney is handed to you with the appointment.  Our appointment email provides you with web site links giving information about the lawyer. If you ask your lawyer finder after the fact, they will tell you what the guiding focus was for their search for you, though this focus may have changed during the search depending on information you provide and data found about lawyers.  We can not evaluate “bedside manner” thoroughly, but you will find that the high quality lawyers found by Advantage Denton are far more likely to satisfy your needs than a lawyer selected by someone who is not a professional lawyer finder.

Best wishes to the attorneys who always need to work on having good “bedside manner” and work with messy emotion in clients.  Best wishes to those folks going through the stress of needing a lawyer.  I hope you let us reduce the stress of finding the right lawyer. Have us find the right lawyer for you.

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