Monday, October 9, 2017

After the Flood - Legal Issues for Homeowners and Builders to Consider

In the days following Hurricane Harvey, news agencies reported only about 80 percent of homeowners in the affected areas were covered by flood insurance.[1] As a result, uninsured flooded homeowners have sought other options to repair and replace their damaged property. In an effort to find alternative forms of compensation, some homeowners have attempted to direct their complaints at their builders, subdivision developers, municipalities, and state and federal authorities. This articles summarizes the recent legal actions considered by flooded homeowners, and information that homeowners and their builders should consider going forward.

Suits against builders. If a homeowner pursues a torrential rain flooding case against a builder, the owner would need to show: (a) the builder directly warranted or guaranteed the house would not flood (this would be a difficult provision to find in any contract) -OR- (b) the builder gave an "implied warranty" the home was constructed in a workmanlike manner and is fit for habitation. Humber v. Morton, 426 S.W.2d 554, 555 (Tex. 1968); Gupta v. Ritter Homes, Inc., 646 S.W.2d 168, 169 (Tex. 1983). Except for very unusual situations, all home purchases carry an "implied warranty of habitability," which covers hidden defects not discoverable by a reasonably prudent inspection of the building at the time of sale. Humber, 426 S.W.2d at 552. The implied warranty of habitability does not include defects, even substantial ones, that are known by or expressly disclosed to the buyer. In the case of flooding during a torrential hurricane rainstorm, the homeowner would have to show that the builder knew, or should have known, that the property would flood and had a duty to disclose it to the homeowner. In the case of previously flooded homes, it would be possible to make a case for a breach of implied warranty if the flooding is not disclosed. However, for a home that has never flooded, it would be difficult and very expensive to make such a case.

Suits against subdivisions/developers. Residents in the Millwood Riverstone subdivision in Sugar Land, a five year old subdivision, are gearing up to sue the developer, neighborhood engineer, and possibly the homeowners' association because they allege their property was removed from the Brazos River flood plain before it was developed.[2] These lawsuits would have to be brought a group of homeowners due to the expense of hiring engineering and floodplain experts to prove the case against the developer. It is expected that several similar lawsuits will be filed in Houston over the next year. The legal claims will most likely be based upon misrepresentation of facts known by the developers or the homeowners' associations.

Suits against municipalities, and state and federal authorities. Claims against local and state agencies will be the topic of discussion over the next year in Houston as well. The San Jacinto River Authority released water from the Lake Conroe dam during Hurricane Harvey, which is largely believed to have caused major flooding around Lake Conroe, Spring, Humble, Kingwood, and Atascocita. Similarly, The Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency which deals with dams, canals and flood protection in the United States, released water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in west Harris County, which also resulted in flooded neighborhoods.[3] The claims against these agencies, if they are pursued, would be considered "takings" claims -- a plaintiff must allege: (1) an intentional governmental act; (2) that resulted in his property being taken; (3) for public use. Harris Cty. Flood Control Dist. v. Kerr, 499 S.W.3d 793, 799 (Tex. 2016); Gen. Servs. Comm'n, 39 S.W.3d at 598. If the government does not pay for the property and damaged or destroyed it, the takings claim is called "inverse condemnation." Kopplow Dev., Inc. v. City of San Antonio, 399 S.W.3d 532, 536 (Tex. 2013). The homeowners will need to show that governmental entity caused the harm.

What can builders do to make a difference? Although it would be difficult to find a builder directly responsible for a home flooding as a result of a hurricane or tropical storm, some in the building community are calling for more proactive approaches to residential development, particularly new construction, because flooding is so unpredictable. Armando Cobo, a builder interviewed in What's Wrong, and What's Right, With Residential Building in Texas, stated that builders, engineers and homeowners should consider raised elevations above and beyond the local code requirements for flooding. In addition, if a new home construction is near a creek, golf course, or other low-lying areas, to consider higher elevations - even when not required - and to use treated plywood for the first four feet of wall sheathing.[4]



This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney.

If you have a related legal matter, The Cromeens Law Firm, PLLC, is here to assist you. Contact Us today.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Business Debt Collections: How an Attorney Can Help You

Business Debt Collections: How an Attorney Can Help You
As a business owner, you have most likely encountered customers/clients who have failed to pay for products, labor and/or services that you provided for their benefit. You may have also experienced the difficulties involved in collecting those outstanding debts yourself. The insecurity caused by not knowing the collection measures you are legally allowed to utilize and the lack of responsive communications with these types of customers/clients often lead small business owners to give up collecting their past due accounts. Having an experienced, commercial debt collections attorney on retainer can be an extremely effective way to collect these past due accounts.

Advantages of Utilizing a Debt Collection Attorney
As an attorney who works in commercial collections, I believe every business should have an internal process for making initial attempts to collect outstanding accounts. A key element of those processes, however, is knowing when to hand over collection efforts to a collections attorney. Once the initial attempts prove to be ineffective with a particular debt, there are several reasons why it is a good idea to pursue professional, legal help.

First and foremost, there are Federal and state laws that provide protection to consumers by regulating the efforts that can be made in collecting debts. Attorneys are in the business of knowing the law and the consequences for violating it. It is far more efficient to rely on a professional who is familiar with the laws related to debt collection than to use time that should be spent focused on growing and bettering your business than figuring out which laws could affect your collection attempts. It will also give you peace of mind to know that you won't be unintentionally violating the law and opening yourself up to potential claims from debtors.

Additionally, experienced collections attorneys have knowledge and access to tools that the average small business owner does not possess. This knowledge allows them to evaluate each collections issue you have, determine the assets available to secure collection and develop a plan for the most effective options for recovery. For example, they know how to trace assets that the debtor may have hidden. A collections attorney will be able to communicate to a debtor all of the pre-suit and post-judgment options available to your business to secure payment from them, convincing the debtor that it is in their own best interest to pay their debt. In situations where the debtor is not convinced, the attorney will be able to follow-through with utilizing those options.

Finally, collection attorneys are usually able to get your money more quickly than when you use self-help methods. When a letter appears bearing the name of an attorney, most people become afraid that they will encounter legal action, and that fear leads to you getting payment more quickly.

Why an Attorney and Not a Collection Agency?
The foremost concern of most small business owners when considering ways to effectively collect their past-due accounts is cost. This is why so many attempt collections on their own. Most collection agencies work on a contingency basis, meaning they keep a portion of the debt they collect, regardless of the amount of time and effort they expend in collecting that debt. While this approach may seem appealing to business owners because of the lack of up-front investment, this model can cause businesses to unnecessarily give up a significant portion of the amounts they are attempting to collect. Collection agencies are limited in the options they have for collection: usually they will only send letters and make phone calls. If they are successful in collecting a debt, they receive the agreed percentage even if they put in minimal effort. Using an attorney, however gives the client has more control over the cost they are willing to expend to collect each specific debt they are owed. If the attorney is successful in collecting a debt with minimal effort, the business will retain more of the funds it is owed.

As mentioned above, collection agencies are very limited in the actions they can take on your behalf, which makes their collection efforts less effective. By the time you are seeking assistance to collect a debt, you have likely already sent several letters and made multiple telephone calls to the debtor. The likelihood that a collection agency will be more effective with letters and phone calls than you were, is not high. Additionally, the more ineffective attempts at collection are made, the longer the debtor has to potentially restructure or hide assets. Debtors tend to take communications from attorneys more seriously, because they come with the possibility of legal action and the ability to follow-through with bringing a suit if necessary.

In conclusion, it is critically important for small business owners to choose the right course of action for collecting each debt they are owed. Hiring an attorney that is knowledgeable and experienced in all facets of debt collection can prevent a business from making the wrong choices could lead to the unnecessary expenditure of resources, including valuable time that should be spend managing and growing their business.

If you have a related legal matter and would like to find out how The Cromeens Law Firm, PLLC, can assist you, contact us today.

This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Dealing With an EEOC Charge of Discrimination

If you have received a notice that an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) Charge of Discrimination has been filed against your company by either a current or former employee, the following are tips on dealing with a Charge of Discrimination.

1. Don't Panic. Although it's called a "Charge of Discrimination," the initial notification that a claim of discrimination has been made is just that - a claim by the employee. No investigation or finding of discrimination has yet been made by the EEOC. The "Charge" simply puts you on notice that an employee has filed a claim alleging discrimination and/or retaliation which the EEOC will investigate.
2. Don't Ignore the Charge. You should immediately and thoroughly review the Charge. It contains important information and instructions that you should carefully read and follow. Note any deadlines to file a response to the Charge or provide requested documentation. Your response to the Charge is called a "Position Statement." A Position Statement is your opportunity to tell your side of the story and correct any misstatements by the employee and defend the claims being asserted against your company.
3. Don't Ignore Additional Requests for Information. After receipt of your Position Statement, it is not uncommon for the EEOC to request additional information. You may be asked for your policy on discrimination, employee handbook, personnel information or even employee files. If you don't supply the information requested, the EEOC will issue an administrative subpoena for the documents.
4. Ask for Additional Time to Gather Any Documents Requested. If it appears complying with an EEOC request will be difficult or impossible, request additional time in writing. It is best to ask well before your deadline to respond.
5. The EEOC's Investigation. After receiving your Position Statement and relevant documents, the EEOC may conclude there was no finding of discrimination and close its file. However, If the EEOC determines that discrimination may have occurred, its investigation will continue. The EEOC may request an on-site visit, interview witnesses or ask for additional documentation.
6. Take Advantage of Mediation If It Is Offered. Some, but not all, Charges will be eligible for mediation. Take this opportunity to try to resolve the claim. If the case is voluntarily settled, the EEOC will close its file. However, the EEOC may place certain requirements of its own in the settlement such as employer training on discrimination and/or setting up anti-discrimination policies.
7. Propose A Settlement to The Charging Party. Even without mediation, you can propose and negotiate a settlement to the Charging Party at any time. The EEOC will take part in this settlement proceeding. Additional terms and conditions not required by EEOC may be set forth in a separate settlement agreement (which will not include the EEOC) if the Parties desire additional terms and conditions be included such as non-disparagement or other terms important to the Parties, but not necessarily important to the EEOC.
8. If You Can't Resolve the Issue. If you are unable to resolve the Charge issues, the EEOC will continue its investigation and either issue a finding of discrimination (a "for-cause" finding) or may find it is unable to determine if discrimination occurred.
9. Bringing Suit Against the Employer. If the EEOC is unable to determine that discrimination occurred, it will issue a Right to Sue letter which gives the employee the right to file a civil suit in federal court against the employer within 90 days. If the EEOC concludes there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination may have occurred the EEOC may file suit against the employer.
10. You Have the Right To Hire An Attorney. Retaining an experienced attorney WHEN YOU FIRST RECEIVE A CHARGE OF DISCRIMINATION can be your best decision in order to secure a positive outcome for your company when you are faced with a Charge of Discrimination.
If you have a related legal matter and would like to find out how The Cromeens Law Firm, PLLC, can assist you, contact us today.

This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Everything you need to know about 85(R) HB 3065

Construction industry professionals may or may not be aware that there is currently a bill pending in committee in the Texas House of Representatives that would completely overhaul the mechanic's and materialman's lien process in Texas. Those who are aware may be asking themselves and their colleagues whether they should give this bill their support. Read on for an in-depth summary of the most sweeping changes proposed by HB 3065 and how those changes could affect the lien process and rights of contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers.

HB 3065 primarily does two things: it provides clarification of various provisions of Chapter 53 of the Texas Property Code by cleaning up much of the confusing language currently found there and proposes amendments that will significantly change the lien process in Texas. The biggest, and perhaps best known change to the current lien process proposed by HB 3065 is the creation of a new website where owners, contractors, and subcontractors will be able to search for notices related to construction projects within the state and post notices to owners and original contractors. The current version of the bill requires that the website allow claimants to post notices free of charge and also that the website provide free forms to claimants to use for all notices required under Chapter 53. The only fees currently authorized by HB 3065 are those charged to owners when they file a notice of commencement for a project. The filing of a notice of commencement by owners would be mandatory, and so far, the requirement is not qualified as applying only to projects of a certain value, as is the case in some other states. Proposed amendments to Texas Property Code 53.003, would allow notices from subcontractors to be posted on the new lien website or sent to the owner by email to the email address provided, in addition to by certified mail. The effective date of a notice would be the date the notice is posted on the lien website or the date the email is sent.

While the lien website may be the biggest proposed change to current lien law in Texas, it is not the only significant change. As will be appreciated by lien claimants and their attorneys, the deadline for notices and liens would be extended to the next business day when the 15th of the month falls on a weekend or holiday. HB 3065 also proposes to simplify the notice requirements for a subcontractor's lien claim from requiring multiple notices to requiring only one notice, known as a notice of furnishing. The notice of furnishing would be posted on the lien website, emailed, or mailed to the owner. Under the proposed new rule, a subcontractor would want to file their notice of furnishing as soon as they are hired on a project, because there would be limitations on claims for work/material furnished prior to its filing. The notice of furnishing would preserve lien rights on work/material furnished no more than 45 days before the notice is posted/filed if an owner does not file a notice of commencement, but only 15 days before the notice of furnishing is posted/filed if the owner does file a notice of commencement for the project. Also, subcontractors working on the same project for more than one original contractor would need to file a notice of furnishing for each original contractor to whom it provided work.

HB 3065 additionally proposes to change the deadline for filing a lien with the county clerk to the 15thday of the 4th month after the work under the original contract is completed or terminated for commercial projects (and the third month for residential projects), instead of the current rule which is the 15th day of the 4th month after the work/material is furnished. Owners would be required to either post a notice of termination on the lien website, or to send a copy to every person who filed notice of furnishing. This amendment would eliminate the potential need for a subcontractor who is working on the same project for an extended period of time to file multiple liens on the same property. One proposed rule that could use some revision is that providing for a notice of completion to be posted and filed by the owner. As currently proposed, that rule states that owners "may" file a notice of completion with the county clerk and post it on the lien website if a notice of commencement was filed. It does not provide for the owner providing a notice of completion when it has failed to file a notice of commencement, and does not make the filing of the notice of completion mandatory. However, as you can see, this bill in its current form would provide the construction industry with much more simplified lien notice and filing requirements: each subcontractor would only be required to file one notice and one lien for each project to which they provide labor/materials.

Owners would be benefited by HB 3065's proposed opportunity for owners accelerate the filing of liens by claimants once a project is complete or an original contract is terminated. Since the time for filing a lien has been extended for subcontractors, HB 3065 offers owners the option of sending via certified/registered mail to all subcontractors who have filed a notice of furnishing, a notice of completion/termination providing the date of completion/termination and demand that any subcontractor who intends to file a lien on the project do so within 30 days. The 30-day deadline would begin on the date the notice was sent from the owner, and would only be effective as to those who have actually completed their work at the project. The downside to this rule for subcontractors, is that any subcontractor who didn't comply with the demand would waive any lien rights they have on the project.

One proposed change that is not as far-reaching as some of those discussed thus far, but is nonetheless beneficial to lien claimants, is the proposed extension of the deadline for sending a copy of a filed lien affidavit to the owner and original contractor from 5 days to 10 days.

When discussing HB 3065 with a material supplier recently, one of the concerns he expressed was that the proposed revisions would eliminate the trapping of funds by owners. However, just as the current law allows owners to withhold payment to an original contractor if that owner receives a notice or lien affidavit from a claimant in the amount necessary to pay that claim/lien, so does the proposed amendment to that rule. Although, as I am sure original contractors will be glad to hear, the proposed amendment would limit the owner's ability to withhold funds to only the amount necessary to pay claims. If the owner is already withholding payment from the original contractor for retainage at the time it receives notice of a claim/lien, then the owner would have to include the amount of retainage withheld in the overall amount withheld from the original contractor to pay the claims/liens. For example, if an owner has withheld $25,000 in retainage from an original contractor and receives a $12,000 lien claim, the owner would not be able to withhold any additional funds from the original contractor. It would only be after the claims/liens exceed the amount of retainage withheld that an owner would be authorized to withhold additional funds from the original contractor. The amount of time an owner could withhold funds from an original contractor to pay claims would be revised to be until payment is made, the claim is settled/discharged or determined to be invalid by final order of a court. The opportunity to release funds to the original contractor once lien deadlines have passed would no longer be available.
Another significant benefit to subcontractors proposed by HB 3065 is the expansion of owner liability. No longer would an owner's liability be limited to retainage; it would instead be limited to the full amount (including change orders) of the original contract. Payments by the owner to the original contractor would also not affect the owner's total liability to claimants. Furthermore, an owner's liability would no longer attach only to the property: the revisions proposed would hold an owner personally liable for a lien claim even after transfer or foreclosure of the owner's interest in the property.

The proposed revisions concerning the liability of purchasers of liened property is another change that could use some additional attention. Though this amendment provides that new purchasers of liened property cannot be held personally liable for the claims/liens on the property, it clarifies that they can be held liable for attorney's fees under Section 53.156. What is not clear, and what could in my opinion use further clarification, is whether the property at issue in these situations could be foreclosed on to pay the claims/liens asserted thereon. The current proposed language seems to imply that it could not, but there is enough ambiguity in the language used that litigation on the issue would be invited.
Though subcontractors seem to be the focus of HB 3065's overhaul of our lien statutes, there are also some benefits for original contractors being proposed. In additional to the above-discussed limitations of an owner to withhold funds from an original contractor for the payment of claims, HB 3065 proposes to eliminate an original contractor's statutory obligation to defend an owner against lien claims when the owner is in violation of its contract with the original contractor.

There are also a few proposed revisions that would more directly affect attorneys litigating in this area of construction law, the first of which is a revision of the deadline to bring suit to foreclose a lien. HB 3065, in its current state, reduces the two-year deadline to bring suit on liens filed on commercial projects to the same 1-year deadline for residential projects. An owner and claimant could extend either deadline to 2 years, but only by written agreement filed with the county clerk. There is also an amendment proposed which would affect the ability of attorneys to bring summary motions to remove liens. The current law allows for seven situations in which a summary motion may be used to remove a lien. HB 3065 proposes that two of those situations be eliminated: when the deadlines for perfecting a lien claim for retainage have expired and when the contested funds have been plead into the registry of the Court. It seems the intention here is to limit the availability of a summary motion to remove a lien to instances where the claimant has somehow failed to comply with the statutory requirements for perfecting its lien.

As we are all aware, sometimes bonds are filed on a project to protect the owner/property from lien claims and potential foreclosure based on those claims. HB 3065 proposes to revise a few of the rules related to the filing of bonds and bond claims. For example, the amount of a claim requiring a bond two times the claim amount has been raised from $40,000 to $60,000, meaning also that claims above $60,000 will require a bond in the amount of one and a half times the claim amount. The sponsors of HB 3065 are also seeking to simplify the notice requirements for bond claims. Bond claimants who contracted directly with the original contractor would not be required to provide any notice of their claim to the original contractor, and those who did not contract directly with the original contractor would only be required to give the original contractor a notice of furnishing. Effective notice to the surety would be achieved by a simple notice stating the amount and nature of the claim, and if required, a copy of the notice of furnishing provided to the original contractor.

In summary, the changes to current lien law proposed by HB 3065 seem to be very subcontractor focused, and have the potential to shift some of the risk and burden currently carried by subcontractors onto owners in a way that is more true to the intentions expressed both in the plethora of court opinions issued by Texas courts over the last century and in the legislative history of our current statutes governing this area of law.

This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

If you are owed money for work performed, below is a reminder on important lien deadlines:

Residential Projects - The Deadline is May 15th for Work Performed in March

• For Notice to Original Subcontractor or Derivative Claimant

Non-Residential Projects - The Deadline is May 15th for Work Performed in February and March

• For Notice to Original Contractor by a Subcontractor or Derivative Claimant (March)
• For Notice to Owner and Original Contractor by a Subcontractor or Derivative Claimant (February)

The Cromeens Law Firm, PLLC, specializes in construction law and will aggressively work to protect your rights. Contact us today to learn more.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Five Questions Contractors and Subcontractors Should Ask Before Entering Into a Construction Contract

1. What are the Terms of the Contract?

The answer to this question may seem as though it should be straightforward, but that is not always the case in construction contracts. Often time there are appendices or addendums to contracts that may not be transmitted to a contractor with the contract, or a contractor assumes that his bid on a project is taken into account or incorporated into a contract when it is not. Be sure that you are aware of what other documents are a part of the "contract documents" and that you know what your obligations are under them.
It is also becoming more common for subcontracts to incorporate the terms of an original contract by reference. If your contract does this, ask for a copy of the original contract so that you can be sure you are following all procedures necessary to get paid for your work and so that you are aware of all of the risk you may be taking on in accepting the contract.

2. Who are the Parties to the Original Contract?

It is important to know the parties to the original contract for any construction project. Not only will you be required to give notice of any lien you may have to file to the correct parties, but the property you are allowed to lien is directly affected by whether the original contract is with a property owner or a tenant of the owner. Often times this is not clear, even to the original contractor.
If the original contract on a construction project is with a tenant rather than an owner, the lien rights of the original contractor as well as any subcontractors and/or material suppliers are limited to the tenant's leasehold interest, which is much less valuable than a lien on a property owner's interest. This makes it more difficult for a contractor to recover funds it is not paid on a project. If the contractor is unaware that it is working for a tenant and files a lien on the owner's property interest, the contractor could face penalties for doing so. It is always best to know going in to a project who you are ultimately working for so that you can take into account the potential recoverability of any payments you don't receive prior to accepting a contract.

3. If the Contract is for a Residential Project, is the Property a Homestead?

If you are considering taking on a residential project, whether it is an original build or a remodel, you should know and take into account whether the residence you will be working on is a homestead. Some contractors mistakenly believe that an owner must designate a property as a homestead for tax purposes to have homestead protection, but this is not the case. Whether or not a property is or could be a homestead for lien purposes is dependent on 1) whether the person owns the property and 2) whether they live at the property and/or intend to live at the property after construction is completed.
The reason you want to establish whether a residential project is a homestead prior to entering into a contract is that there are specific requirements for construction contracts involving homesteads. A failure to comply with those requirements will prevent a contractor from being able to file a valid lien on the property, and may have financial consequences for the contractor if it does file a lien on the property without having followed the homestead requirements.

4. How and When Will You Be Paid?

There are multiple ways in which a contractor or subcontractor can agree to be paid on a project. The important thing is that be sure your contract is clear about when and how you will be paid for both the original scope of work and any change-orders or extras that come up. It is also important that you know and understand the process for submitting a change-order for approval and who has the authority to approve your change-orders. If you do not strictly comply with the process provided for in your contract, the owner and/or general contractor could deny your change-order request leaving you without compensation for work you may have already completed.
Additionally, if you are a subcontractor, your contract may include either a "pay when paid" clause or a "pay if paid" clause. It is important that you are aware of such clauses and that you take them into consideration prior to accepting a contract. These types of clauses are particularly burdensome on smaller subcontractors who may not be able to float the expense of a project in the event that that payment on that project does not happen timely. Texas law does provide some ways in which you may be able to get around these clauses and demand payment, but the process for doing so is complicated and will often involve a subcontractor incurring the expense of hiring an attorney to assist them in doing so.

5. How Will Contract Related Disputes Be Resolved?

Nearly all standard form construction contracts will provide direction on how any disputes related to the contract will be resolved. Many will contain a provision requiring disputes to be resolved with mediation and/or arbitration rather than through litigation in a court. If you are a subcontractor and there is no provision providing for how disputes will be handled, look for language that incorporates the original contract terms into your subcontract.
Whether or not the contract includes language awarding attorney's fees if you prevail in a contract dispute should also be considered. Litigation and/or arbitration can be very expensive and many smaller contractors and subcontractors cannot sustain the cost, especially if it is uncertain whether or not they can recover the costs of pursuing a claim. This can be particularly important if a contractor is out of time to file a lien and must pursue a contract claim against the general contractor to get paid money they are rightfully due for the labor and/or materials they supplied to a project.

This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Tips On Improving Your Attorney-Client Relationship

Tips On Improving Your Attorney-Client Relationship

As in most relationships, it's a two-way street. Without effective communication and mutual respect, most relationships will fail. The same is true when it comes to your relationship with your attorney. Your attorney-client relationship is an important partnership, which seeks to maximize the outcome in your favor.
Below are some helpful suggestions on how to best work with your attorney:
1. Be truthful when communicating with your attorney.
No attorney wants to hear the bad facts for the first time from the other side at trial. Tell your attorney the good, the bad and the ugly. With this knowledge, an attorney can more effectively deal with bad facts and be prepared to deal with them when they come up. There is one certainty - bad facts will be brought out by your opponent.
2. Be realistic in your expectations.
You most likely came to your attorney because of a dispute you could not resolve. That dispute existed before you contacted your attorney and that dispute will not simply disappear because you have hired an attorney. An attorney cannot force the other side magically go away or get you 100% of what you want. If it were that easy, you would not be contacting an attorney in the first place. Remember, there are always two sides to every story and you will likely be having a judge or jury hear two competing and very different versions about the same set of facts. Which side the judge or jury will believe is a true unknown.
3. Be responsive to your attorney's requests for information and records.
Without a client's active participation, an attorney cannot properly do his or her job. All of the facts and documents must come from you. There are strict timelines which must be met by the attorney and without your cooperation and input, your case will not be in its optimum position for a positive outcome in your favor.
4. Respect the information conveyed to you by your attorney.
Your attorney has more experience in the legal arena and that is why you sought out his or her services to begin with. Sometimes, you may not agree with the attorney's perspective or analysis of your case. An attorney comes into your case with a set of experiences and training that make him or her better qualified than your friends or family to assess your legal circumstances. Listening to family and friends is helpful for emotional support, but you should leave your legal analysis to your attorney.
5. Remember your attorney is on your side.
The old phrase "don't kill the messenger" also applies in an attorney-client relationship. There may be bad news that needs to be delivered to you, an unfortunate turn of events in your case, or even a less than successful outcome at trial. Your attorney believes in you and your case or he or she would not have accepted the challenge to represent you.
6. Attorneys can't predict the future outcome of your case.
Although what you might want as a client is to hear that "you've got a slam dunk case" or "there's no way you are going to lose," such predictions are reckless at best. No attorney can ever guarantee you a certain result and if they do, you may want to consider getting a second opinion.
At The Cromeens Law Firm, PLLC, we are always at your service. It is our mission is to truly understand each client's unique needs and go beyond expectations to exceed those needs. Contact us anytime for additional information on our legal services or request a free consultation. 
This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney.