While you have every right to handle your personal injury claim yourself, you will run into numerous, unnecessary obstacles this way. You will have to constantly work to learn what your rights are and how to protect them. You will have to handle complicated insurance and legal procedures for the first time and put up with insurance adjusters and attorneys who may try to push you around. No matter your education, experience, or background, a personal injury claim is something new. You have enough to worry about already and deserve to have someone to guide you through this process and fight for you.

To learn more about how the legal team of Kisling, Nestico & Redick can help you recover the highest possible compensation for your injuries, call us at (888) 992-0830.

The Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

There are a number of advantages to having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side when moving forward with an injury claim, including:


By hiring a personal injury lawyer, you avoid having to try and learn the law yourself. Get someone on your side who knows the ins and outs of personal injury law in your state through education, training, and firsthand experience. This saves you time and energy when you need to know about your rights as soon as possible after an accident.


When you have been hurt in an accident, the other side’s insurance company or lawyer will investigate what happened. You should not rely on their findings and conclusions. Instead, by hiring a personal injury attorney, you have someone who will conduct an independent investigation with your best interests in mind. This can help you find evidence of the other person’s negligence and help you support your claim for compensation.


Dealing with insurers is not always easy or straightforward. When you have filed a claim against another person’s insurance policy, that insurer is looking for ways to deny the claim or offer you as little money as possible. It is a business after all, and it is looking after its own bottom line. If you do not have previous insurance claim experience, it can be difficult to understand your rights, stand your ground, and negotiation a better outcome. A personal injury attorney, however, works with insurers all the time and knows how to handle their specific red tape, adjusters, and legal teams.


If your personal injury claim needs to move beyond an insurance claim and into a lawsuit, you need someone experienced with the legal process by your side. Filing a lawsuit in court and moving forward with a trial requires compliance with specific procedural rules. Not following these rules could tack on unnecessary delays to your case and cost you money. Additionally, by hiring a local personal injury attorney, you get someone who has been in and out of the courtroom before and knows what to expect.


After being injured by someone’s carelessness, recklessness, or intentional wrongful action, it is near impossible to remain objective. Depending on the day, you are probably angry, sad, or embarrassed. When you suffer serious or catastrophic injuries, you are forced to go through a grieving process that can lead to depression and anxiety. Having a personal injury attorney during this time is crucial to enable you to see the situation as objectively as possible and keep your expectations in line with what is possible.


One of the issues that can hold you back when you attempt to handle your own personal injury claim is that it is easy to become intimidated by aggressive and even rude attorneys. Lawyers for the insurance company or at-fault party are looking out for their client’s best interests, not yours. They may not play nice. By hiring your own attorney, you have someone who is ready to fight back and will not be intimidated by legal jargon, pushy tactics, or hostility.


The truth is that individuals who work with personal injury attorneys generally obtain a higher settlement or jury award than people who represent themselves after an accident. It is not a hard and fast rule, but attorneys know how to calculate your economic and non-economic damages, ensuring you do not miss your less obvious expenses. Personal injury attorneys are also experienced in negotiations, so they are prepared to not accept the first offer and fight for a higher insurance settlement. If you choose to move forward with a trial, then an attorney understands how to frame your injuries in court so that the judge and jury understand the accidents profound impact on your life and compensate you accordingly.

Contact Our Ohio Personal Injury Lawyers Today

Once you decide that you need a skilled personal injury attorney, next comes the process of finding the firm and lawyer who is right for you. This does not have to be a stressful process. At Kevin Ferry Law, we offer free initial consultations so that we can get to know each other, learn about your case, and answer your questions. During this first appointment, you will meet with a personal injury attorney and have the opportunity to learn about their background, experience, and fees.

We understand that an unexpected accident can alter the entire course of your life. We are ready to take on investigating your accident, handling the insurance claims process, and if necessary, represent you in court. Our objective will always be to gain you the most compensation possible for your injuries.

Choosing a family law attorney in Raleigh, NC can be a very difficult decision. The right lawyer can make a real difference both in the outcome of your divorce and how you make it through the very emotional process. You want a trusting relationship. You want a lawyer who is serious about your case and listens to your needs. You want a lawyer who moves your case forward to the conclusion. Here are some tips on choosing the right lawyer.

Our family law attorneys offer tips on how to pick the right family law attorney.

Whether you’re considering a divorce, attempting to work out custody and support issues, planning an adoption, or facing another family law issue, choosing the right family law attorney can ease your mind and produce better results. Your lawyer becomes your partner in the process, helping you achieve the outcome you want within the boundaries of the law.

Here are some tips to help you select an attorney whom you can trust, who listens to your needs, and who keeps your case moving forward until it is concluded.

Find an attorney you can work with.

Your lawyer will be your partner throughout your case. You may need to confide sensitive or embarrassing information to your attorney – things you would prefer not to tell anyone. You’ll be speaking to your attorney frequently, and you’ll need to be able to provide information and understand your lawyer’s explanations of certain steps in your case or how the law applies in your situation.

Consequently, choosing a lawyer you trust and can communicate with is crucial. While a law firm’s website and other materials provide a good start, don’t base your decision solely on the law firm. Instead, speak to each attorney you’re considering. Ask questions like: Does the attorney have experience with cases like mine? Do they explain things in a way that makes sense to me? Do they answer my questions? Do I feel like I can trust this person?

Interview prospective attorneys with your needs in mind.

Interview prospective attorneys with your needs in mind.

When you contact a law firm to speak to a prospective attorney, be as clear as you can about what you’re looking for. Many lawyers will agree to speak to you for no charge so that both of you can determine whether you’ll be a good “fit” for one another.

While speaking to a prospective attorney, keep the following issues in mind:

  • Does your personality mesh with the attorneys? No matter how experienced a lawyer is, if you do not get along, your case will be more difficult.
  • Communication and promptness. Ask each lawyer how you can contact him or her and how long it will take them to get back to you. Excessive delays or “radio silence” from your lawyer can cause unnecessary aggravation, so choose an attorney who is dedicated to regularly touching base.
  • Willingness to work within your budget. It’s important to talk about money so that you can get the results you need without draining your bank account. Most attorneys are accustomed to discussing fees and costs upfront and will appreciate meeting a prospective client who also understands the need to budget wisely.

Ask for advice, but make your own decision.

Asking friends, family members, and co-workers to recommend an attorney is one way to collect information about family law attorneys and law firms in your area. Attorney guides like Martindale-Hubbell or Avvo can also point you to local law firms, as can reading law firm websites and reviews.

No matter where you gather your initial information, however, speak to the lawyer before making your decision. Remember that every family, and every family law case, is unique. Your needs are different from the needs of friends or family members, even if they faced a similar problem. Also, remember to take online reviews with a grain of salt. It may be impossible to tell who posted them or what agenda the writer had when they made the post.

Get help from a family law attorney to get you through troubling times to a brighter future.

At the law firm of Charles R. Ullman & Associates, Raleigh family law attorneys Charles Ullman and Kelly K. Smith work together to help families move through troubling times to a brighter future. Contact us today to learn more about us and how we can help you.

Pick a lawyer, not a law firm.

The most important relationship is not between the law firm and the client, but between the law partner and a client. Seek out a relationship with an individual partner in a firm as your lawyer. Never have a relationship with a law firm — have a relationship with a lawyer. Make it that partner’s responsibility to manage your case. If your case is passed off to an associate, demand an explanation and demand to know the associate’s experience. If the law partner that drew you to the law firm wants to pass off your case to an associate, then you should be thinking about another firm. Ask the lawyer you meet this question: “Will you be handling my case?”

Ask yourself: “Do I like this lawyer?”

You must be able to get along with your lawyer. The initial interview is as much about deciding if you can have a working relationship with your attorney as it is finding out about how the law applies to your case. If the lawyer you are meeting with is abrasive, distracted, disorganized, or acts in any other way that does not give you confidence, consider how you will feel later on in the case if you chose this lawyer.

Demand expertise and experience.

It used to be common for North Carolina lawyers to handle all manner of cases from divorce to traffic to real estate. More and more lawyers are limiting their practice to specific fields, including family law. You would not go to a general practitioner for open-heart surgery, and you should be very hesitant about going to a lawyer who does not limit his or her practice to family law matters if you need a divorce.

Fees: Don’t give your lawyer a blank check.

You should be able to get a very good idea of the cost of your case from your Wake County lawyer. Ask if there is an option for a flat fee so you will know what the case will cost you. Unless a lawyer can offer you a flat fee option, you have no way of knowing how much legal representation will cost.

Settlement and litigation.

Settlement and litigation are two sides of the same coin. Most family law cases settle out of court. Some do not. You need a lawyer that is equally comfortable in settlement negotiations and the courtroom. Ask your lawyer what training and experience he or she has had in family law negotiations, mediation, and collaborative law. Ask your lawyer if he or she has the experience to handle your case in court should attempt at settlement fail.

Family law has always been among the most sensitive subjects of law because it involves loved ones. In many cases, having a family court case means directly fighting someone close. At this moment, you are highly likely to use whatever will negatively affect your partner to win the case. Unfortunately, this is not a wise way to solve your issues.

To manage your emotions and avoid a complicated legal process, hiring an experienced family law attorney will be an excellent idea. A family law attorney is a practitioner who specializes in cases such as divorce, child custody, spousal support, and child visitation. Here is how you can benefit from hiring one.

Family Law Knowledge

The most obvious reason for hiring family law attorneys is a better understanding of family law. An experienced attorney will always understand the loopholes, which can positively favor you to win the case. Additionally, they can also guide you or handle any technical legal aspects that may arise.

Keep in mind that without professional legal advice, you are highly likely to miss and misrepresent some facts. As a result, this can extensively damage your case.

Legal Proceedings Knowledge

Once you hire family attorney services, the lawyers tend to have a lot of knowledge on court proceedings. Remember that different states go through various procedures that relate to family matters. Therefore, if you do not belong to that state, there are higher chances that you have zero knowledge of the techniques involved.

Some laws even cover how you present your papers. In respect to that, only an experienced lawyer can help. The fact that judges are usually busy and do not like people who waste their time is another reason why a family law attorney is crucial.

An experienced divorce lawyer ensures that your papers are presented correctly in a way that abides by the law. Consequently, you will not have to sweat about your case being thrown out as early as possible.


About two-thirds of women file for divorce. Since divorce is one of the most painful processes that any woman or couple can go through, counseling is vital. Unfortunately, it is something that most people will face in life. Remember that 48 percent of marriages come to an end after 20 years. Even so, you should avoid making hasty long-term considerations such as finances, property, and parenting arrangements.

Sometimes you only need a third party perspective and critical evaluation of your situation. Therefore, a lawsuit may not always be necessary.

A divorce lawyer will make sure that the decision you make is not based on stress and flying emotions. He or she will continue to advise on the consequences of a particular family disputes proceedings.

So, hiring a divorce lawyer is essential as most of them are also excellent counselors. With this, you will handle your situation with less tension and even minimal emotional breakdown.

Quality Services at an Affordable Price

Hiring an experienced family law attorney ensures that you enjoy lots of services that are not only limited to legal issues. These professionals always work around the clock to make sure that the interest of your family is protected. Also, they see to it that everything is working as planned within the minimum time possible and with less spending.

Negotiation Skills

In most cases, negotiations are usually necessary when it comes to divorce cases. Without a divorce lawyer, negotiating vital points of your separation can turn out to be challenging. To ease your stress and ensure your needs are met, do not hesitate to our law office.

Final word

Being involved in a legal case is never easy or straightforward. Fortunately, family law attorneys will always be there to ease your burden. Do not forget that they have a lot of experience and are continuously updated about recent developments in their field.

At some point in your life, there may come a time when you face some kind of complicated family issue. It can be emotional, stressful, and embarrassing, but handling the situation on your own, might not be the best choice. Having a professional there to guide you can make things a lot easier.

If you are still not sure if hiring a family lawyer is right for you, keep on reading. We are going to take a look at some of the reasons why you should do it.

Let’s get started.

They cover many different areas

Most people assume that family lawyers handle divorce matters only, but that is actually far from the case. Their expertise cover many different areas, and they can also work alongside other legal professionals. Here are a few various examples of cases they may work:

They know the law

The law system can be extremely complicated to understand, and even if you do your research, it’s impossible to grasp it fully. Family lawyers are trained to know the ins and outs of all related matters and can help represent you in the best way possible. The last thing you want is to damage your case by misunderstanding the facts. Check out these Kevin Ferry Law Firm for more information.

They will help with the paperwork

Any legal situation requires a lot of paperwork, and it can be challenging to understand. Having a family lawyer there to help ensures that you can fill everything out with the correct and appropriate information. It is better to get it completed and right the first time than have 101 questions when something goes wrong.

They provide emotional support

Going through a divorce, settling child custody, or really any aspect of family law can be a very stressful and upsetting process. Having somewhere there to help is not only beneficial for the legal side but also the emotional one as well. These professionals are there to listen to your side of the story while offering support to assist you with this time. It’s much easier than having to handle things all on your own.

They will save you time and money

The entire legal process of going to court requires a lot of time and money, which you may want to avoid. By hiring legal help, you might be able to settle a dispute without going through such a complicated journey. Everything will be less painful, and you can move on with your life more quickly.

They will help prepare you for the future

Since family lawyers also assist with wills and pre/post-nuptial agreements, they can help prepare you for your future. You can rest assured knowing that your assets will be divided up safely and that your loved ones are taken care of. Whatever the future holds, they are always there to lend a helping hand. Even if that means pointing you in the direction of another legal professional.

By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 03, 2017, 6:00 AM

So you actually want to start a family law practice? And you did not come to this decision because a friend or family member asked you to help with a divorce? Do you actually want to spend your life in the most emotional battle zone in law?

Just checking, because, if you didn’t know it, there are good reasons why many lawyers run from practicing family law. It can be emotionally draining, financially challenging, and even dangerous to your health. Once you can accept that, it’s not that hard to start a family law practice.

Here are some tips, but first a story to double-check your commitment:

Gunshots Heard ‘Round the Courthouse

Years ago, I was practicing family law in a jurisdiction where a commissioner, two lawyers, and two litigants were shot and killed following bitter custody battles. A grandmother and grandchild were victims, too, in a murder-suicide with a lawyer.

That should be enough said, but here’s how it affected the practice in general. Lawyers were scared. The man who walked into the opposing counsel’s office and shot him dead probably did it for many attorneys. Or maybe it was the guy who followed the commissioner home and murdered him in his driveway.

Anyway, one day I stopped by another practitioner’s office to deliver some documents and to chat. She had installed bullet-proof glass in the reception area. Think about that.

Clients Will Come; Challenges Will Follow

If there is a bright side to these tales of woe, it is that there is no shortage of angry and disillusioned people who need legal help in family matters. Getting clients is not the real challenge to starting a family practice. Statistically, half your married friends will need your help with a divorce one day.

Being there for people who are emotionally broken is actually the “good” part of the practice. You can be a counselor in more than the legal sense, helping the wounded to heal emotionally and legally. Just do a good job and they will come.

The biggest challenge to “family practice” is that it is really more like “everything practice.” You may start by filing a petition for dissolution in family court and end up in probate court if somebody dies (naturally, hopefully; otherwise, it may be criminal court.) Domestic violence and juvenile proceedings may actually be in the same building because “family lawyers” easily get entangled in other practice areas.

New practitioners try to learn it all but they really should learn to refer cases to others for special handling. For example, new family attorneys should send out qualified domestic relations orders — which divide pensions and retirement plans — to other counsel who keep up with that part of the law. Basically, the learning curve is continuous and continuing education is mandatory.

Family Law Specialists

Certified by state bars in some jurisdictions, family law specialists usually have a leg up on the competition. Clients like to know that their lawyer knows more than their spouses’ lawyer.

In any case, you will get to know most of the attorneys in the family law community. There is certain collegiality, and it is a good thing in a difficult practice area and useful for referral work, especially for new practitioners. It is even appropriate to drop by and chat with opposing counsel — if you can get past the bullet-proof glass.

Family law is a legal practice area that focuses on issues involving family relationships such as marriage, adoption, divorce, and child custody, among others. Attorneys practicing family law can represent clients in family court proceedings or in related negotiations. They can also draft important legal documents such as court petitions or property agreements.

Some family law attorneys even specialize in adoption, paternity, emancipation, or other matters not usually related to divorce. The matter of family encompasses so many life aspects. Lawyers in the field, therefore, help all kinds of people facing all kinds of sensitive issues that many people wouldn’t immediately assume go under the family law umbrella.

The following is a primer on family law and what it entails.

Helpful Terms to Know

  • Emancipation: A court process through which a minor becomes self-supporting, assumes adult responsibility for their personal welfare, and is no longer under the care of their parents.
  • Marital Property: Property acquired by either spouse during the course of a marriage that is subject to division upon divorce.
  • Alimony: An allowance made to one spouse by the other for support during or after a legal separation or divorce.
  • Paternity: Origin or descent from a father (to establish paternity is to confirm the identity of a child’s biological father).
  • Prenuptial Agreement: An agreement made between a man and a woman before marrying in which they give up future rights to each other’s property in the event of a divorce or death.

Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney

Most family lawyers represent clients in divorce proceedings and other matters related to divorce. But family law is a relatively broad practice area, including such issues as foster care and reproductive rights. Since family law matters hit so close to home, having a trusted legal professional by your side can help you ensure your loved ones are properly represented and protected during any legal process.

The most common reasons to hire a family law attorney include:

  • Divorce: Each partner hires their own attorney, who will help devise a settlement plan in order to avoid a trial. Divorce attorneys typically are skilled at dividing marital property, calculating spousal support, and proposing a plan for child custody, visitation, and support (if applicable).
  • Child Custody / Child Support: Court orders and settlement agreements involving both custody and support usually are included in the larger divorce case, but may be revisited as conditions change. For instance, child support may be altered after the non-custodial parent’s financial situation changes.
  • Paternity: In most cases, paternity cases are filed by the mother in an effort to secure child support payments from an absent father. But sometimes biological fathers file for paternity in order to have a relationship with their child. Paternity typically is determined through DNA testing.
  • Adoption / Foster Care: Adoption is a complex process that differs according to the type of adoption, where the child is from, variances in state laws, and other factors. Therefore, it’s important to consult with a family law attorney. Foster parents sometimes adopt their foster children, but the foster process does not necessarily require legal representation.

Family law often intersects with a wide range of other legal practice areas. For example, instances of domestic violence and child abuse typically involve criminal investigations (and may result in arrests and charges). Along with that process, family courts are tasked with determining how to best protect the victims and ensure a relatively safe environment for those involved. Other related legal practice areas include the following:

Marriage and Divorce Laws Vary by State

States have the right to determine “reasonable formal requirements” for marriage, including age and legal capacity, as well as the rules and procedures for divorce and other family law matters.

The timeframe of the divorce process, for example, depends on location. Some states have divorce laws that require a waiting period. Same-sex marriage has historically been a state matter. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, some states restricted marriage (and divorce) to opposite-sex couples only.

Need Help With a Family Law Matter? Talk to a Professional

Whether you’re in the process of a divorce, need help with an adoption, or have questions about enforcing a child support order, it’s often in your best interests to work with an attorney. Get the help you need by contacting an experienced family law attorney near you.

specialized lawyers

When facing legal trouble, or pursuing legal action against another person, some people may be tempted to represent themselves in order to save costs. While you may want to avoid legal fees, the repercussions of not hiring legal representation can far outweigh saving a few dollars. Here is why you should always consult with a lawyer before any legal proceeding:

  1. Lawyers are professional negotiators
  2. Lawyers are subject matter experts
  3. Lawyers can present you case in an organized manner
  4. Lawyers know court etiquette 
  5. Law is extremely complex
  6. The other party will most likely have representation
  7. Lawyers are not emotionally involved

Lawyers are professional negotiators. Even if it seems like your case has no hope, and you think representing yourself without a good criminal defense lawyer won’t matter for the outcome of your case, you should still consider representation. Lawyers are great at negotiating sentences and can lower the amount of time you serve. In some circumstances, they can even get your case dismissed.

Lawyers are subject matter experts. When it comes to the finer details of your case, nobody has the knowledge and expertise quite like a lawyer. If you hire a good lawyer, they will do their homework on your particular area of legal emphasis and may have previous experience in dealing with it. These seemingly small details can have a major impact on the outcome of your case, so hiring a legal representative is imperative.

Lawyers can present your case in an organized manner. Court proceedings have an order to them, and unless you have studied law, you’re not going to be very well versed in the structure of your proceeding. Presenting your claims/evidence in the right structure can help simplify your case for a jury, and ultimately lead to a better outcome for your case.

Lawyers know courtroom etiquette. Motions, presenting witnesses, and submitting evidence (as well as many other actions in the courtroom) have to be done in a certain manner. The courtroom is not a free-for-all, and it takes a person with specific courtroom knowledge to jump through the legal hoops that will help strengthen your case.

Law is extremely complex. Legal jargon, and the ability to understand the law, are extremely difficult to navigate. This is why lawyers spend a significant amount of time in schooling and have exams they must pass in order to verify their knowledge. Legal representatives not only have a wealth of knowledge, but also a significant amount of relevant resources they can call upon to help them with your case.

The other party will most likely have representation. Nine times out of ten, the party pitted against you will have hired a lawyer to represent them. The last thing you want to do is put yourself up against someone who is trained in the law when you yourself are not. If your opposing party has hired a lawyer, it is best to follow suit for the sake of your case.

Lawyers are not emotionally involved. While this may seem like a negative aspect, this doesn’t mean the lawyer does not care about your case. Simply put, a lawyer is less likely to cause disruptions in the courtroom and will most likely have less clouded judgment when it comes to your case. Keeping a level-headed, fact-oriented mindset in the courtroom is extremely important when presenting your case.

Law firms come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from single-attorney law practices to multi-state, multi-staffed legal organizations. In addition, law firms in the U.S. are generally equipped to handle nearly every legal challenge facing individuals, small businesses, and large corporations.

Depending on your legal issue, there are a variety of law firms to choose from, generally broken down by size, type of practice, (for example, litigation, criminal defense, or transactional), location, or legal topic (like personal injury law, family law or tax law.) While there is no one-size-fits all solution to solving legal problems, choosing the right law firm can make the difference between a successful outcome and missed opportunity. Knowing which law firm to hire will depend on a number of factors – including your finances, geographical location, personal work preferences, and your specific legal challenge or need.

Below is a summary of the various types of law firms available in most areas.

Solo Law Firms

As the name suggests, solo law firms are run by a single lawyer. These “solo practitioners” typically handle general legal matters on a variety of topics — ranging from personal injury law to family law, but may also specialize in one particular area of law, like patent law. There are several benefits to working with a solo law firm, especially if you have a single legal issue to resolve or if you are looking at ways to reduce costs. Generally, solo law practices are less expensive than their larger legal counterparts, and they often have the flexibility to hire outside staff such as paralegals and legal experts – to help lower costs and/or assist with special tasks. They can also provide more one-on-one personal attention since the attorney would be working on your case usually single-handedly.

On the other hand, solo law firms may lack extensive experience or resources – especially if the attorney is a recent law graduated who recently decided to “hand up their shingle” or has limited access to fee based legal resources and data.

Small Law Firms

Small law firms, also referred to as “boutique” law firms, generally employ from two to ten attorneys — often allowing the lawyers an opportunity to collaborate with other lawyers on complicated or related legal matters. Because of the close-knit circle of lawyers in small law firms, these firms often have the “feel” of solo law firms – such as having close one-on-one attention – but may also allow for representation on a broader range of legal topics.

Large Law Firms

Large law firms, also known as “full-service” firms, can range in size from several dozens of lawyers and employees, to several thousands of employees including lawyers, paralegals, administrative staff, human resource specialists, librarians and other staff – and can exist in multiple cities, states, and even countries.
Large law firms specialize in all areas of the law and typically have big legal departments, such as corporate, employment, and real estate groups.

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Additionally, large law firms are able to handle most types of legal work, including business transactions (like mergers and acquisitions), large scale litigation, and criminal defense matters (especially “white-collar crimes”.) Moreover, the typical client of a large law firm is a company, organization, or other high-stake entity, but may also represent individuals with legal issues spanning multiple practice areas.

Litigation vs. Transactional Law Firms

Law firms are sometimes broken down by the type of legal services they offer. For example, a law firm might only focus on litigation, representing clients in court cases — or it can focus on transactional matters involving heavy paperwork relating to disputes over money, property, and insurance.

Lawyers typically do not cross over practice areas within a law firm, however. For instance, lawyers who are trained to represent clients in court hearing and at trials typically stay within this type of practice for the duration of their career. Similarly, transactional attorneys who handle corporate and other drafting-intense work may never see the inside of a courtroom.

Criminal Law Firms

Law firms specializing in criminal defense against crimes such as securities fraud, DUI and other crimes often focus on representing private clients who can afford their own criminal defense attorney (as opposed to being represented by a public defender.) A person facing criminal charges will often hire a criminal defense lawyer to assist them in all stages of the criminal process to help reduce the serious penalties often associated with criminal charges.

Moreover, because of the nature of what’s at stake in criminal proceedings, lawyers who work within criminal defense law firms are usually very skilled and knowledgeable about the laws and procedures, and often have relationships with local attorneys and judges. While the cost of hiring a criminal defense law firm will vary – based on the law firm’s experience, track record and location, for example – it is probably wise to speak with a variety of criminal lawyers in your area to represent you in any criminal proceedings.

Law Firms by Practice Area

In addition to size, location, and type of practice, law firms can be broken down by legal topic area. These “practice areas” refer to the types of legal issue you may be facing, or alternatively, the area of law an attorney’s practice lies. Click here for a full list of practice area definitions or search for a lawyer or law firm by practice area.

11 Legal Tips for Small Businesses.png

There are a number of legal issues that can trip up small businesses. Here are a few tips to make sure your company operates as smoothly as possible.

1. Form a Separate Entity

Determine the proper entity structure for your business. Your choice of entity influences how you borrow money, how you will be taxed and how you structure the sale of your business. Set up your business from the start in a separate entity so you protect your personal assets. Otherwise, you are personally responsible for the debts and obligations your business incurs.

Your company must have enough capital to pay the company’s foreseeable debts and expenses. Lenders realize that a newly formed business may not have the resources to repay a loan and frequently require the business owners to personally guarantee any loans. Many entrepreneurs fail to fully appreciate the impact of guaranteeing their company’s debts or personally guaranteeing other contractual obligations of the company, such as leases. Small business failures can cause financial hardship or bankruptcy for the individual owners.

2. Maintain Proper Records

Verify that the organizational documents are in place. Your business is required to create and maintain proper records including such items as adopting resolutions documenting business decisions, paying payroll and taxes, maintaining the company’s bookkeeping, complying with federal and state labor, safety and wage requirements, and acquiring and maintaining licenses or permits. Be sure to keep your business and personal finances separate.

You should have an agreement that covers items such as management, voting protocols, profit-sharing, restrictions on adding new owners and how the owners will solve disagreements. These items are typically included in an operating agreement, company agreement or stockholder agreement. Having a well-considered agreement can limit disputes and promote harmony among the owners.

3. Adopt a Buy-Sell Agreement

It is likely the ownership of your business will change over time. A buy-sell agreement provides for the orderly acquisition of an ownership interest in the event an owner leaves the business. Common trigger events include death, disability, termination of employment, divorce, retirement, bankruptcy or the owners no longer get along and want to split up. A buy-sell agreement addresses how the business will be valued when a trigger event occurs and describes how the payout to buy the departing owner’s interest will be structured.

4. Investors and Securities Laws

Many small businesses owners turn to outside investors to raise cash to operate their businesses. Frequently the owners and investors disagree on how the business should be run. Choose your investors carefully! Be sure to update your business’s governing documents to address the new ownership and management issues.

If people or companies are investing in your business, you must comply with the appropriate securities law disclosures. Otherwise, if the investors lose money, they can sue you for treble damages.

5. Insist on Written Contracts

Too often, entrepreneurs value speed over accuracy when it comes to detailing relationships with partners, vendors, customers and even employees. Verbal agreements are virtually impossible to enforce. Contracts must address each party’s obligations and explain how potential issues concerning your products or services will be resolved.

Be sure to document any modifications or extensions to your agreements in writing.

6. Require Employment and Independent Contractor Agreements

It is critical to hire good employees. But that is only the first step, businesses need to be aware that they must comply with various state and federal employment regulations.

Employee and independent contractor agreements are often vague or non-existent. Protect your business trade secrets, such as pricing, client lists, data, know-how, product specifications, business plans and marketing plans with agreements so employees and contractors cannot leave and start their own businesses competing against you.

A handbook is an essential tool for managing employment matters. It informs employees of the company’s policies and expectations. It can also provide the company with protection against potential employee lawsuits and other complaints.

7. Review Non-Compete Agreements

Non-compete agreements are enforceable in Texas if they are reasonable. Review all non-compete agreements your employees, independent contractors and you have signed and determine whether there are any restrictions that apply to your workers or you.

8. Protect Your Company’s Intellectual Property

Intellectual property includes any work that is the result of creativity, including inventions, discoveries, know-how, or processes. Require employees and independent contractors assign new technologies or processes they develop to your company. Properly register trademarks and license software to third parties.

Many times, the profitable verticals of a business evolve. Ownership of intellectual property in a relatively insignificant area may be critical for future success.

9. Use NDA’s

When exploring the possibility of working with other businesses or individuals, do not share your business’s confidential information, strategies, know-how trade secrets or proprietary information without first obtaining a non-disclosure agreement from the other party.

10. Take Steps to Avoid Litigation

Generally, litigation should be considered as a last resort. It is very expensive and distracting! In many cases, better solution is to negotiate disputed matters.

Litigation often results from poor planning, documentation and execution. Document all transactions with third parties and especially document any disputes. In many cases, litigation is the result of signing a bad contract or not fully understanding what you have signed.

Wrong decisions or inadequate legal documents can cost you! In an effort to save money, small business owners may try to draft documents themselves. Oftentimes, it is significantly more expensive for an attorney to go back and fix these documents than to simply have the attorney handle the matter from the outset.

Experienced counsel can help a small business spot and avoid legal issues before they become destructive to the company. Seek legal advice before making important business decisions.

The short and simple answer is that questions of law are for the judge to decide whereas questions of fact are for the jury to decide.  However, while technically correct, this short answer is incomplete.  Especially if you are charged with a crime like intoxicated driving.

One reason this explanation is incomplete is because it ignores the issue of jury nullification where judges are thought to be “judges of the law.” However this is a complicated and controversial topic, and beyond the scope of this article. To learn more about jury nullification, see; What is Jury Nullification and is it Lawful in Michigan?

What is a question of law and who decides these questions?

Questions of law relate to things such as what law applies to a particular case or controversy, how the law applies in a case, what evidence is and is not both relevant and/or admissible, and what instructions to give to a jury. In a criminal case involving chemical evidence, like a breath test in a drunk driving case, or ballistics evidence is a murder case, this evidence can be suppressed by the judge if an interpretation of existing law suggests that the evidence should not be admitted at trial. The validity of an arrest, and the admissibly of a confession, the admissibility of evidence, these are all legal questions. Traditionally, questions of law may only be resolved by a judge.

What is a question of fact, and who decides these questions?

A question of fact can only be resolved by a jury or by a judge on a bench trial, meaning a trial without a jury present. A typical question of law in a drunk driving case is whether the prosecutor has proved a person is intoxicated because the officer testifies that they failed one or more field sobriety tests, had slurred speech or bloodshot eyes. In a self-defense case where a murder has occurred a question of fact might be whether the accused had an honest and reasonable belief that there was imminent risk of death, serious bodily injury or sexual assault. To make either determination the jury are said to be “judges of the facts.”

Who decides if a jury will be empaneled to “decide fact questions?

As with any other crime in Michigan, if you are charged with intoxicated driving, then you have an absolute right to a jury trial.  You have this right regardless of whether the intoxication is allegedly caused by alcohol, marijuana, or some other drug. You have this right because both the Michigan and United States Constitutions indicate that a person accused of a crime has an absolute right to a trial by jury.

Because this right is yours and no one else’s, it will be up to you, not your lawyer, to decide if you want a trial in your case. However, in making this decision you will need to discuss your case with your lawyer, and then decide if you should plead guilty or whether a trial is in your best interest.  As part of this discussion, it may be helpful for you to understand the role a jury plays in a trial; and that role is to be the finders of fact. In a jury trial, this principle is set forth in standard Michigan Criminal Jury instruction 3.1 as follows:

Duties of Judge and Jury

(3) As jurors, you must decide what the facts of this case are. This is your job, and nobody else’s. You must think about all the evidence and then decide what each piece of evidence means and how important you think it is. This includes whether you believe what each of the witnesses said. What you decide about any fact in this case is final.

(4) It is my duty to instruct you on the law. You must take the law as I give it to you. If a lawyer says something different about the law, follow what I say. At various times, I have already given you some instructions about the law. You must take all my instructions together as the law you are to follow. You should not pay attention to some instructions and ignore others.

But what exactly is a “question of fact” and how does that differ from a question of law?  In a criminal case a question of fact might be “was a search warrant supported by probable cause” or, looking at the rules of evidence, “is the breath or blood test admissible?”  Another common legal issue might be “was the traffic stop lawful.”  These are all issues for a judge to decide prior to trial.  A jury does not have the authority or power to decide these legal issues, and therefore cannot, for example, dismiss a case because the police unlawfully stopped or arrested you.

However, in deciding these legal issues, judges often must make findings of fact, and this is because most issues are a combination of law and facts.  This is where things get more difficult to understand or explain. “[T]he appropriate methodology for distinguishing questions of fact from questions of law has been, to say the least, elusive.”[i]  Also, the Court has yet to arrive at “a rule or principle that will unerringly distinguish a factual finding from a legal conclusion.”[ii]

Therefore, certain legal issues, even once decided by a judge, can still be addressed with the jury.  For example, if prior to trial your lawyer argues that the breath test should be suppressed because the police didn’t observe you continuously for 15 minutes prior to the breath test, and the judge denies the motion, the judge is saying that your legal issue “goes to weight rather than admissibility.”  This means the judge has found that the breath test is admissible, but it’s up to the jury to decide what weight to give the test.  In this example, it means the jury must decide if the lack of 15-minute observation means the test is not reliable. Again, the Michigan Criminal Jury Instructions cover this issue in 15.5.

M Crim JI 15.5 Factors in Considering Operating While Intoxicated [OWI] and Operating While Visibly Impaired [OWVI]

As you consider the possible verdicts, you should think about the following:

(7) In considering the evidence and arriving at your verdict, you may give the test whatever weight you believe that it deserves. The results of a test are just one factor you may consider, along with all other evidence about the condition of the defendant at the time [he/she] was operating the motor vehicle.

Because it’s not always easy to understand the limits or extent of power of a jury in a criminal case it will be important for you to discuss any legal vs. factual issues that may exist in your case, the strengths and weaknesses of these issues, and how these issues may play out during a jury trial.  Armed with this information you will be able to make fully informed trial or no-trial decision.