November 2011 Holiday Hours

The holidays are here again.  How did that happen?  Every year I am befuddled by the notion that the holidays re-appear like clockwork.

Since time marches on regardless of whether or not I catch up, the following is my scheduled office closure for November 2011:

Friday, Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2011

Wednesday, November 23 through Friday, November 26, 2011.

I typically take time off in December each year, however, those dates are currently unsettled.  Stay tuned…

Office Closed Thursday 11/1/10

My office will be closed on Veteran’s Day.  I will be working, however, the wonderful staff who answer my phones and accept deliveries are getting a well-deserved holiday.

I will try and use some of that time on Thursday to continue my “Stuff I Use” series.  There have been some interesting changes/upgrades on that front since my last post.

Vacation in July

I am taking a vacation from the afternoon of July 1 through July 9th.  I’ll be returning to the office on July 12th.  While I’m out, I may be checking my e-mail sporadically to avoid it stacking up (but I’m not making any rash promises).  Between my visiting family and family visiting me, things are going to be quite hectic – but fun.

Spokane Local Family Law Rule – Parenting Seminar

In Spokane County Superior Court, parents involved in litigation pertaining to their children (dissolution of marriage and paternity/parentage actions) are required to attend a parenting seminar.

The seminar costs about $20 and is offered by more than one agency with hours to accommodate working parents.  The length of the seminar is approximately three hours.

After attending the seminar, the agency will forward certification to the court file.  Before signing final orders, the Commissioners and Judges routinely check the court file to make sure both parties attended the seminar.

Please feel free to download the flier distributed by the Spokane County Family Law Coordinator which lists the provider agencies with contact information.

Sharing the Children Seminar

Stuff I Use – Gmail

As a sole practitioner who pretty much wears all the hats in my practice, I rely heavily on technology.  I lean towards SaaS or “cloud computing” whenever possible because SaaS is usually the least costly and more frequently updated technology.  Of course, data security is the primary item I research, followed closely by longevity of the company offering the service.

I also run quite a few of  the tried-and-true desktop applications.  In my unending quest to find something to write about on this blog, I’ve decided that droning on about the technology I use could take up quite a few blog posts.  I’ll start with the application I probably use the most all day, everyday – Gmail.

I was one of the lucky geeks who received one of the initial invites to Gmail.  As a result, I snagged first pick for my Gmail address and have used it ever since.  I could invent an email address (or more than one) on my web host, but there are too many things I love above Gmail that I can’t imagine living without:

  1. Accessibility: I can access my Gmail through my Blackberry, Microsoft Outlook, or on the web and any actions I take through any of those methods automatically apply across the board since I access via IMAP.  For instance, once I read an email, it’s shows up as “read” across all of the methods I use to look at my inbox.  The same applies if I choose to mark the email as “unread” so that I can deal with it later.
  2. Search and Retrieve: The searching ability is astoundingly fast.  I can search by subject, sender, date, etc. and the results show up practically in seconds – no matter how far back the email was sent.  I archive everything client and practice management-related so that I can retrieve it later.  I do print out some of my more comprehensive email strings, but a lot of them are simply archived on Google’s server.
  3. Storage:  And on the subject of archiving – I don’t have to worry about server space because that’s Google’s job.  Someday I anticipate I’ll have to buy more space from Google, but for now, I’m riding on their storage dime.
  4. Junk:  The spam control is satisfactory and Google politely retains my spam for 30 days which enables me to scan it quickly to make sure nothing gets mistakenly categorized as spam.  Happily mis-categorization is a rare occurrence.
  5. Organization:  Labeling is another way of making folders.  In the web application I have my labels color-coded so that everything to do with clients is one color, routine practice administration emails are another color and emails requiring follow up are bright red.
  6. Containment:  I have more than one email account.  I have my business account, a personal account, my old law school account and list-serve related accounts.  I run all of them through my main Gmail account so that I don’t have to check more than one spot.

The only real complaint I have about Gmail is their Contact List which is clunky and doesn’t play well with Outlook unless I use a third-party application.  I eagerly await the day Google overhauls their contact manager, but until that time, I will impatiently get by with the third-party solutions.

New Street Address

First, the important point of this post, my new street address which is: 1312 North Monroe Street, Spokane, Washington 99201.  My phone, fax and e-mail address remain the same.

I tried to find a clever, sage quote referencing going back to the beginning or returning to all where it all started, but a fast (and lazy) Google search was unsatisfactory.  For those who go back with me a couple of years, this new address will look a little familiar.  I am returning to my old stomping grounds where it all started in Pat Fannin’s gorgeous historic building outfitted for Spokane Virtual Offices.

I had a couple of motivating forces going on behind this decision.  First and foremost is quality of service at this location.  The reception is staffed full time and the conferences rooms are grand.  Secondly, I tend to telecommute whenever possible and I never gave up the exceptional phone service offered by Spokane Virtual Offices – even when I physically moved myself to a different location for a little over a year.

It’s a lot of fun being back “home” and I look forward to seeing all of my clients at the new/old digs.

Uncontested Divorce and Flat Rate Plans

I offer flat “fixed” rate plans for uncontested marital dissolutions as an economical alternative to paying an hourly rate.  If the case qualifies, the flat rate plan fixes the legal fees at a predetermined rate.  The advantage to the client is predictability and cost control.  The advantage to me is  reduced administration time and frankly, gives me a break from acrimonious litigation.  The flat rate plans are broken down by legal fees and costs here.

The Uncontested Case: The truly uncontested case is one where both spouses agree to everything – nothing needs to be negotiated or litigated.

Representation of One Party Only: I will not meet with both spouses.  I only represent one spouse and one spouse only.   The spouse that I do not represent is always advised to seek his/her own attorney to review the paperwork and provide legal advice.  If the other spouse chooses not to seek independent legal advice, then I require him/her to sign a waiver to that effect.

Hiring an Attorney versus a Paralegal: There are a number of paralegal services who provide a typing service to put together your documents.  I have nothing against paralegals making a living – I was once a paralegal myself!  However, paralegals cannot give legal advice and they cannot give an individual an opinion one way or the other as to whether or not the decisions being made are the right decisions.  An attorney who practices family law has extensive knowledge of the statutes pertinent to family law as well as the case law interpreting those statues.

If the Case Becomes Contested: If either party files a motion, if the other spouse refuses to sign the documents, or if either spouse backs out of their agreement prior to signing the documents, then the case is contested.  At that point the client may take the option of re-hiring me on an hourly basis.  If the client does not wish to hire me on an hourly basis, then I will withdraw from the case.

If the Client Terminates My Services Prior to Completing the Work: The flat fee payment constituting the “legal fees” immediately becomes my property and is not placed in my trust account.  However, the fact that the flat fee is paid in advance does not affect the client’s right to terminate my services.  In the event my services are terminated before the agreed upon services are completed, the client may or may not have the right to a refund to a portion of the fee.

Reduced Hours This Week

In observance of the New Year Holiday my office will be closed December 31, 2009 and January 1, 2010.  I will re-open on Monday, January 4th.

Everyone have a great and safe holiday weekend, and for those who indulge in a fun annual Spokane event, enjoy First Night!

Family Law in Pop Culture – 12/28/09

Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins Split up.

This is more appropriately current news as opposed to “pop culture”:  David Goldman recovers custody of his son, Sean, in Brazil.

Charlie Sheen arrested for domestic violence.

Obligatory Disclaimer (because I’m a lawyer and I have an obsessive need to do this):  These links are collected from gossip sites and “news” (quote/unquote) sites and actual news sites – in other words, read these links with a grain of salt.