Common Calls for Attorneys

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Lawyers obviously work on a wide variety of cases and handle an array of legal issues for their clients. However, we wonder which types of cases they deal with most frequently? We have a hunch that they receive calls for basic legal advice more often than complicated, high-profile cases.

Those of us outside of the legal profession have little idea what lawyers spend the majority of their day doing. We look forward to learning from our attorneys what their clients most commonly call on them for. We also wonder which legal issues force other professionals to refer their clients to attorneys.

We look to our legal resource network to learn more:

What do you get the most calls about?

What are the most common legal issues you help your clients with?

Other professionals: at what point do you refer your clients to an attorney?

We look forward to learning more about the legal profession this week.

Please post your answers in the comment field below!

20 COMMENTS

  1. This is a personal injury law firm and most of our inquiries revolve around injuries. The most often asked question is “How do I get my medical bills paid?”
    We find that most of our clients don’t have health insurance and have limited assets. They don’t understand why the hospital or the doctor won’t simply bill the insurance company for the person who caused the accident. If life were only that simple!
    We are finding more and more that people are carrying low insurance limits on their cars probably to save money in this sluggish economy. Often the insurance available is not enough to pay the medical bills.
    We then look to underinsured coverage and medical payment coverage on our own client’s policy and when that is not enough we NEGOTIATE.
    Our goal is always to get the bills paid and get our clients money to get back on their feet. More and more this is requiring a creative approach. Times have changed. The message is: INSURE YOURSELF FIRST. DON’T DEPEND ON THE OTHER GUY TO HAVE ENOUGH! Get health insurance, buy underinsured and medical payments coverage on your car policy. When disaster strikes, you will be glad you did.

  2. Our firm specializes in intellectual property — patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets — so the calls I field relate to one of those areas of law. As far as cold calls, I tend to get calls from individuals rather than companies, which is great because people often do not realize that it is always in their best interests to protect their intellectual property. And the most common questions relate to seeking patent or trademark protection, and I am always happy to discuss the process involved with preparing patent and trademark applications, or the costs and timing for a patent, trademark, copyright, or trade secrets lawsuit. Because of the potential costs involved with intellectual property matters, I provide the initial consultation free of charge as a courtesy to potential clients.

    For existing clients, most of my time on calls is spent advising them on existing matters, recommending whether to pursue additional patents, trademarks, or copyrights, and, for corporate clients, advising them on how to best implement intellectual property protection policies within the company.

  3. At Jane Doe Advocacy Center, we do legal services for cases that involve some kind of sexual violence or public health issue. As far as new clients go, we get the most calls from people with questions about issues that impact their families – child custody, child support, visitation schedules, and orders of protection (commonly called restraining orders). As far as current clients go, I most commonly get calls asking for an updates on specific cases, especially when children and/or money are involved.

  4. We are a Glendale Arizona family law firm. The majority of the questions I receive are regarding parenting time. The most important concern for parents is how much time they will get to spend with their children. When they are used to seeing them every day prior to a divorce, it is very difficult to imagine having to spend days without them. A common question is whether there is a presumption of equal parenting time. The short answer to this question is no. The court has to look at the specific circumstances of each family and determine what is in the best interests of the children. All things being equal, the court will often order equal parenting time in cases where an equal schedule is feasible and appropriate. Oftentimes one party seeks to limit the parenting time that the other party will have. In these circumstances, the court looks to the reasons behind the request to limit the other parent’s time. In the end, the court will always do what is in the best interests of the children.

  5. I practice in two ares: personal injury and estate planning. Most of the questions I field relate to those two areas of law. Callers seeking information about injury cases typically want to know whether they have a claim and what their rights are. Estate planning clients often start with questions about whether they need a will, what the cost is and how long the process takes. Generally I will offer a free consultation to discuss any questions the callers have and to determine whether I can assist them.

  6. As a criminal defense firm we do a lot of “hand-holding” with our clients- due to the nature of criminal cases, clients are often concerned about the status of their case and are anxious to discuss possible outcomes and upcoming court appearances. The most common legal cases that we deal with are sex crimes and driver’s license restoration (helping people get their license back after it is suspended due to drunk driving.

  7. The law has become more and more specialized. So the calls attorneys
    receive are basically driven by the areas of law that they say they
    specialize in.

    I am a tax, business and estate planning attorney. I don’t get many
    litigation questions, divorce questions or collection cases. Any questions
    that I receive outside my area of expertise, I refer to other boutique firms
    that specialize in those areas. Even within my area of specialization I stay
    out of certain areas: for example, I don’t prepare income tax returns, or
    help people fighting the IRS or provide specific advice on qualified
    retirement plans.

    It is impossible for any “General Practice” attorney to be competent in all
    areas of law – for example, I spend at least an hour each workday just
    studying what is going on in tax, business and estate planning. Multiply
    that by all areas of the law and you would just spend your entire day
    studying what’s new – or you would be quickly out of date.

    Within my area of expertise, here are probably the most common questions:

    1) How do I develop an estate plan?

    2) What do I need to do to create a new business and what business
    entity should I choose?

    3) My family member is dying or deceased – what do I do now?

    4) I am selling or buying a piece of real estate or a business, what do
    I need to know and do? How do I minimize my risks and taxes?

    5) Can you review a contract that was given to me – employment,
    business, etc.

  8. For certain specialized areas of the law such as criminal defense, immigration, and personal injury, potential clients typically seek out a specific attorney or firm that specializes in that practice area. Most potential clients do some due diligence before contacting an attorney, just as one would when seeking out a doctor ­ one would not go to a gastroenterologist for a broken leg, rather he/she should seek out an orthopedist! Some attorneys may spend their time selecting a jury and running a trial, and others may sit behind a computer most of the day drafting documents.

    My firm, Gabay-Rafiy & Bowler LLP, is a general boutique practice that handles about fifty percent transactional work and fifty percent litigation.
    For transactional work, clients, many of whom are business owners, typically ask for an agreement to be drafted or reviewed and for intellectual property
    rights (trademarks, copyrights) to be obtained or enforced. For litigation, clients typically want us to sue an individual or company based an alleged
    failure to pay money or perform services pursuant to a written or oral agreement. Sometimes a client wants to pay an attorney to draft an agreement and do it right, and other times a client proceeds without an attorney and then needs one to dig them out of an “understanding” gone sour. There are so many facets of the law, and many attorneys spend their days very differently.

  9. The question I get by far the most often is from Americans who ask me if they are allowed to travel to Canada with a DUI or other minor conviction on their record. The answer is no, but there is an application/paperwork they can prepare to be allowed to travel, that is the service I most often provide to my clients. I even put up a website solely about this issue: http://www.duicanadaentry.com .

  10. Which types of cases do attorneys deal with most frequently*?

    In my area of expertise, business law, I deal with a wide range of
    inquiries from how to start and manage a corporation or LLC to negotiating
    commercial leases, to structuring the sale of business. I also get a fair
    number of inquiries on business disputes, such as when contracts are broken
    or someone is copying a business’ website content.

    While my clients tend to be small to medium-sized businesses, there is not
    really one “most frequent” type of call, which is what makes my practice
    interesting.

    And while there are many relatively “simple” cases out there, people will
    often not call their attorney when they believe a case is simple. They may
    handle it themselves, take it to small claims court, or just decide that
    it’s not worth the time, effort, and cost to fight. While these can be
    sound strategies, if things don’t work out we will often see what could
    have been a simple case that’s now become a more complex case. To help
    prevent that problem, some attorneys will offer no-cost initial phone
    consultations and a few have even stopped charging clients for phone calls
    altogether. We’ve taken that approach to try to prevent those small issues.
    from turning into larger issues because a client was afraid to give us a
    call.

  11. What do you get the most calls about?
    -Most of the calls I get are solicitations from salespeople wanting to sell me everything from SEO/SEM services to alarm systems. In other words, we’re not that different from any other business!
    -Most of the calls I get from potential clients in my personal injury practice are from people who suffer superficial injuries after tripping over a stair/threshold, or who got bad service at a restaurant/mechanic/retail store and want to sue to “send a message” so that this will never happen again.. Then they get mad at ME when I tell them they have no case, or that the value of their case is vastly exceeded by the costs of bringing their claim to court.

    What are the most common legal issues you help your clients with?
    -Traffic tickets (since that’s a big part of my practice), but also I frequently get requests for assistance with divorce issues (pro bono, of course since lawyers are EXPENSIVE): whether it’s how to divorce a spouse and prevent them from getting my hard earned money; how to modify a marital settlement agreement; or how to reduce paying child support or alimony, now that the former spouse is shacking up with a wealthy doctor/investment banker/real estate agent and they can afford to fund the ex’s lifestyle.

  12. My work is insurance defense litigation and sports law. My calls are mostly from adjusters, requesting status of cases, assigning new cases or asking my opinion on an issue. I don’t get many calls from my actual insured clients. Most of my communication is by e-mail these days. My phone doesn’t ring at all some days since e-mail is a quicker way to communicate.

  13. The vast majority of calls come from regular people who need some counseling on a mundane, ordinary issue. Obviously the high profile cases that make the news are few and far between. Most calls are simple disputes, contract review, or other general advice.

    What do you get the most calls about?

    The type of calls an attorney will get usually will depend on the law that they specialize in or market themselves for. For example, I have focused my practice on helping people injured by negligent acts by another party. A vast majority of the calls I receive are regarding car or truck accident claims, bicycle accident claims, premises liability claims, and other injury claims. That being said, I do receive calls looking for assistance in other matters like family law issues, real estate issues, and contract issues from time to time. Many of the calls that I receive outside of the focus of my practice are from previous clients and their friends and family. Generally, they want to speak with a lawyer they can trust even if I may have to eventually refer their matter to a lawyer with more specialized skills to successfully pursue their claim.

    What are the most common legal issues you help your clients with?

    I focus my practice on personal injury claims, so most of the legal issues I help my clients with are regarding their injuries, medical bills, and future damages. There are so many intricacies and details that have to be handled correctly to maximize a plaintiff’s claim and protect their rights that if an attorney doesn’t limit their practice and specialize, they will not be able to give the client the representation they deserve. Lawyers have had to evolve with the changing times to keep up in an ever-changing environment. The laws and strategies in the personal injury field have become so complex that if a lawyer doesn’t focus their practice in this field, they will be left behind – ultimately to the detriment of the client.

  14. I am an attorney who spends the majority of my time dealing with entertainment and contract issues. I do undertake some general practice matters, as well. I have been practicing law for over 21 years, and prior to that I worked in several entertainment or music-related jobs. Since passing the bar I have worked in-house at two recording/publishing companies, and been general counsel to two music-related trade associations. I also am a university adjunct instructor and speak regularly at music conferences and seminars.

    The most common types of questions fall into some predictable categories:

    1. Will you represent me for a percentage?

    2. I started working with someone (a “manager,” a “producer,” etc.) and now they say I owe them money and they won’t give me my recordings, or that they own part of my copyrights (songs and/or recordings of songs). What can I do?

    3. My bandmate, co-writer, etc., and I want to make sure that our verbal agreement will hold up. What can we do to make sure that we are “legal?”

    4. How do I get a (recording, publishing, management, booking agent) “deal?”

    5. Will you pitch my stuff (to record companies, publishers, managers, booking agents)?

    6. Someone wants to “invest” in me. Can you write up an agreement?

    7. Will you “copyright” my music?

    The most common type of instruction I am given by far is: “I want you to write a contract using plain English, not ‘legalese.'”

  15. What do you get the most calls about?

    A majority of my calls involve an employee who needs to be let go for whatever reason. The employer is always concerned about the repercussions and wants to make sure it does everything possible to avoid a lawsuit.

    What are the most common legal issues you help your clients with?

    I help clients avoid employment law litigation. Common legal issues are wrongful termination concerns and proper payment of wages.

  16. As an Estate Planning and Business Succession Planning attorney, a common question that I receive is: “How can I be sure that my children will get along after I am gone?” My advice to them is to be as clear and precise as possible, so that the area for disagreement is very small. Even then, if the kids do not get along, I can’t force them to.

    Another common question comes from the children: “How can I get health care for my parents, and not have to spend their money (my inheritance). I advise that there are ways to qualify for Medi-Cal (Medicaid), but the children should look at the type of care facility that will be available on Medi-Cal benefits before making that decision.

  17. As a business and real estate attorney, I field calls in these two areas
    from existing and new clients on a daily basis.

    1. The recent economic dip has made this an ideal time to acquire
    smaller businesses and competitors. As a result, I am engaged in a number
    of transactions involving the purchase and sale of corporate assets and
    related matters.

    2. Given that this is also an excellent environment for
    companies with extra liquidity to purchase commercial real estate at a
    discount, I have had a significant number of real estate deals in the past
    couple of years.

    Finally, as talented individuals have become downsized, there
    has been an increase in entrepreneurship and greater interest in employees
    controlling their own destinies. Consequently, I have been retained by
    countless start-ups as they prepare to bring new ideas and products to the
    marketplace.

  18. I have a General Practice in NYC. Most of my clients are small business that have questions about the various NYC Government Agencies and how to handle the various government requests, permits and fines/penalties. Besides the government questions, I get many of the everyday small business questions, like how to deal with various contracts and lawsuits.

  19. I am a California attorney with 15 years experience. You are correct in
    your hunch that most calls are for common, everyday issues.
    The calls an attorney gets will greatly vary from practice to practice. I
    do mostly bankruptcy and civil litigation, so I get a lot of what’s
    involved in bankruptcy questions, or questions on civil procedure – who do
    I sue, how long do I have, how do I do X, that kind of thing.

    My help is mostly keeping clients out of prospective trouble by guiding to
    or away from specific activities, or minimizing cost and exposure if
    something has gone wrong.

    The big surprise for most lay people is not all wrongs, real or perceived,
    are a legal issue. You need to have both a breach of a duty or contract and
    have been damaged in order to have a case. You also cannot have waited too
    long as there are time limits on how long you can wait to file your legal
    action. For every case I take, I probably reject 7 or 8 for various
    reasons; the most common is that there are no damages.

    Most common issues I see:

    1. My creditors are calling me all the time. How can I stop that.
    2. What happens if I don’t make next month’s credit card payment. Can they
    seize my bank account?
    3. Can I keep my stuff in a bankruptcy?
    4. How long do I have to sue for fraud in a real estate deal I was
    involved in?
    5. I am having trouble making my house payments. What are my choices.
    6. My credit sucks. What can you do about it.

  20. I’m a California lawyer practicing entertainment law, corporate and business law with experience working both in a law firm and as in-house counsel. The most common question from all of my clients is “How do we make this contract shorter?” Unfortunately, my response is there is only so short you can make a contract. There is “boiler-plate” language that every contract requires.

    The next most common question from my business clients is “Do I form an entity or not” also “Do I need to trademark the name of my company?” It all depends on how much business you are doing and whether you have liability that concerns you. In California, there is a minimum annual tax that you have to pay no matter how much money you make in addition to the fees you have to pay to the Secretary of State and your attorney for forming the entity. So it becomes a cost-benefit analysis. As far as trademarking the name of your company, again it depends on how much business you have. There are transaction costs involved with trademarking. Also, it depends on whether you plan to be in more than one state? If yes, then it may be something that you may want to consider.

    My clients who are in the entertainment business, if they are a production company, they ask if they need to copyright the screenplay they have acquired or hired someone to write for them in addition to registering it with the W.G.A. My response is yes. There are protections that are conferred to you only if you register the work with the copyright office.

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