Letter to New Clients
1. For many years, we have been refining our process of representing clients.
2. Whether you are here for a family law matter, a serious injury claim, a dispute with family or neighbors, or mediation, we stick with fundamentals. We need your help in doing that.
3. When we build a sound foundation for your case, we increase the chances of success.
4. Here they are:
a. Tell Mr. Hunter the truth. Don’t leave out key facts, even false accusations against you, so Mr. Hunter can protect you. Even shading the truth slightly can cause Mr. Hunter to make a mistake in the pleadings (Papers alleging facts on your behalf.), his statements to the court, or his advice to you.
b. Telling Mr. Hunter the truth allows him to assess your strengths and weaknesses and help inoculate you from the other side’s tactics.
c. You have full access to Mr. Hunter’s writings at the blogs “Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer”, www.burtonhunteresq.blogspot.com , and “WV Lawyer, Tips and Techniques”. He will share articles, forms, and statutes that you need, but feel free to use the blogs’ “search feature” to look up subjects such as custody, alimony, insurance coverages, personal injury, damages, equitable distribution, adoption, and many more.
d. Mr. Hunter has proprietary forms for you to fill out in divorce and personal injury cases. They require you do some real work. Finding time to get the records, make the calls, and do the research will pay big dividends.
e. All family cases, divorces, modifications, custody, child support, and contempt usually require your last 3-5 years of tax returns and financial affidavits of your income, debts and property.
f. All cases require you to identify with precision the people, documents (paper and digital and video), events, places, and things that make up your case.
i. We will give you sets of three worksheets. I MUST figure out how to get clients to do a better job filling out our forms! If you have a problem with literacy, tell us! A family or friend will help, and our staff will go over them with you before you meet with me.
ii. The average person does a poor job realizing how many people have a connection with your case; grandparents, spouse, former spouse, significant other, lawyers, judges, teachers, youth coaches, neighbors, extended family, etc.
iii. “Documents” in this modern age include scanned documents, e-mails, texts, Face Book posts, accounts balances, smartphone screenshots, tax records, appraisals, tax tickets.
iv. Events, places, and physical objects may also be key, such as former residences, property of the marriage, injuries, medical records, threats, acts of abuse, collisions, prior injuries, or insurance coverages. Facts, facts, facts!
5. They say there are no “dumb questions”, but there are questions that wear me out:
a. “Whose side are you on anyway!?” I am on YOUR side, which is why you will see me being polite and as candid as is possible with our opponents. This may mean conceding the validity of their complaint against you, asking you about accusation, or asking you to collect information requested by the other side.
b. “Why do you bill me for time spent talking to my spouse?” The Rules of Professional Responsibility require me to deal with the our opponent. If they have no lawyer, I have to deal with them. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of times my putting up with rudeness and distrust has helped my client’s case. So, of course I will communicate with your spouse, angry neighbor, or crazy uncle, in an effort to protect your interests.
c. Accusatory #1: “That call didn’t take .1 hr. (six minutes).” I bill in increments of tenths of an hour. Some lawyers deal in quarter hour increments. I rely heavily on e-mail. I usually review my “in” e-mails, and assign .1 hr. to an e-mail and reply. Please realize that the e-mail usually gets me to do something, reply, forward, check my calendar, walk across the room. Those actions forward your case. I tend to copy several of my staff. The billing clerk does her thing, as does the paralegal, scheduling clerk, and receptionist. Like it or not, I find it a fair and reasonable method of “keeping score”.
d. Accusatory #2: “You just don’t understand.” With 40+ years’ experience and 5000 cases, 3000 of which were family law, I usually DO understand. I have gathered much more information than you realize, and assessed you and your problem, and know your “sly” spouse who can con anyone, but can’t con me.
e. If you have told me something 5-6 times, and I have assured you, I HEARD YOU! Don't expect me to have photographic memory. That's why I organize, organize. Don't be offended if I ask for a reminder. By sure, if it is important, it is on one of your lists!f. "Why do we have to follow the rules when 'they' won't?" I get this question often, especially during the "discovery" phase where other side has done everything it can to "hide the ball" with the help of their lawyer. We answer honestly and follow the rules because that is how I was raised and how you should have been raised. Lawyers are officers of the court who have taken an oath to follow the rules. Answering fully helps us to prepare our case. Answering truthfully helps when the Court has to determine the credibility of the parties and their witnesses. Lying or cheating because "they do" lowers you to their level. Why follow "their" example? And, I almost forgot, "You might get caught!"
g. The key is ANSWER the narrowly focused early questions I ask you, gather the information I ask for, and ORGANIZE your story into a concise set of “objects” and “lists” that I ask for. Then we create the “timeline” of events.
a. The preliminary telephone chat; first with my staff, and then with me, is critical. I can size up the situation in 15-20 minutes, answer your key questions and quote a fee. You have probably already passed that test, and we have passed yours.
b. We are getting more inquiries via our Findlaw website, www.hunterlawfirm.net . I will respond as quickly as I can, but sometimes you get stuck in my spam filter for a day or two, so remember the trusty telephone, 304 472-7477.
c. I have mentioned that we rely heavily on e-mail. If you have an e-mail account you check regularly, you are likely to have a case move more smoothly.
d. ONE RULE: call or write any time if it is urgent (my home number is 304 472-5644), but please try not to call me at home. My great strength is my happy life, which includes downtime for hobbies, interests, and family.
e. Please try NOT to hit “send” between 5:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. By 9:30 p.m., I will be ready and getting ready to snooze. Most days I will note your e-mail by the following 6:00 a.m., and be in the office by 7:00 p.m.
f. READ your fee agreement or engagement letter. Then reread it. Most contingency cases will not generate monthly billing statements, but I track even that time will promptly provide a statement if asked.
g. We bill regularly but not every month for every case. When in doubt, call and speak with Nancy, who will answer your questions or get answers from me.
h. TELL US if you are becoming inpatient or unhappy but please try to have reasonable expectations. I will answer all questions. If I have made a mistake, I will note it, apologize, and move on. If you make a mistake, I will try to minimize recrimination and move forward constructively. Neither of us should expect perfection from the other.
i. Attached to this form is a “legal checklist”; much of it may seem superfluous in light of a pending crisis, but put this away and review it for your long term legal health.
j. We will work hard to meet, and exceed, your expectations.
Thank you for retaining our services.
J. Burton Hunter III