Q?How do I know if I need a lawyer?

If you answer yes to any of the following you should consult with an attorney:

  • Are you involved in a legal matter that is important to you like starting a business, creating an estate plan, probating an estate, or signing a contract?
  • Have you tried to resolve your disputed legal matter on your own with the other side and failed?
  • Are you being threatened with legal action?
  • Do you need someone knowledgeable to champion your cause or speak on your behalf?
  • Have you been served with legal papers?
  • Is the outcome worth the cost of hiring a lawyer?
Q?What information is needed for an intake with your firm?

All potential clients must give us a name, address and telephone number. If another party is involved we must know his or her name and address to ensure there is no conflict of interest in accepting representation. Of course, we will need to know the basic facts concerning your legal needs. You may be asked to provide certain paperwork. In many situations you will be asked to fill out a confidential worksheet before you come in or one will be completed with the attorney during your initial consultation so we can identify all aspects of your problem, consider the options and help you frame your goals.

Q?How much will I be charged?

We offer some services on a flat fee basis – like deeds, health care power of attorneys and simple wills. SS/SSI appeals are handled on a contingency basis such that while you remain liable for all costs, no legal fees are owed unless we win the case for you. Most legal services are charged by the hour with higher rates for the managing attorney and lower rates for associate attorneys and paralegals. We try to perform services in the most economical way for the client. Retainers are based on our past experience with the amount of time it took for the kind of the work requested and the time frame you give us to work in. A portion of a retainer may be refundable. You will receive a written fee contract explaining the scope of work you have requested, billable time and the charges you can expect. Unlike a doctor or dentist, much of an attorney’s work is done when the client is not present.

Q?Are payment schedules ever available?

Yes, in certain circumstances we will consider fee payments. Most family law cases require a large retainer up front with monthly fee payments.

Q?What should I expect at the first meeting?

Be prepared to answer the lawyer’s questions. Provide accurate and complete information in writing such as names, addresses, and dates. Gather written materials such as prior wills, financial records, and a Summons and Complaint. Discuss your matter honestly, not just those parts that make you look good. Without the whole picture the lawyer cannot properly represent you.

Q?What is the best way to communicate with my attorney?

Show up for your appointments. Jot down and then ask questions when you don’t understand something. Have a realistic view of the progress and outcome of your legal matter. While lawyers try to return phone calls promptly, they have many client appointments, have work to be prepared under deadlines and hearings to attend throughout the day. The best way to reach your attorney is to leave a phone number and time you can be reached and wait for a return call. If you can’t wait you can leave a detailed message with staff, not on the answering machine as there is no way to respond to your questions over the weekend or in the evening. Staff will get the message to the attorney and possibly be able to get you an answer right away even though the attorney cannot take a lengthy call at the moment. Your attorney will provide you with an e-mail address, but a paralegal may still contact you to answer your questions. You are charged for the time we spend talking on the phone and answering e-mails so try to consolidate your questions. But it’s okay to ask questions and to call if you have an emergency. Our clients matter.

Q?How long will this take?

This is a good question to ask at your consultation. Legal matters have different average times to complete, for example the preparation of deed could be a few days, while the probate of an estate can take a year or longer, and a Social Security appeal averages two years.

Q?What if there is a mistake or misunderstanding between me and my attorney?

Mistakes and crossed signals happen. We work really hard and try to be efficient, but we are human and make mistakes. Let us know in a kind way and we’ll be happy to fix a clerical error we made. Attorneys are very busy people who rely on their staff to help with a lot of the details. It is never appropriate to yell at or hang up on our staff.

Q?What is a guardianship?

In South Carolina a guardianship is a legal proceeding in the probate court to determine if a person lacks the capacity to care for him or herself or make decisions concerning his or her health care. A guardianship is most often sought when an elderly person has dementia or a disabled person has reached the adulthood, the age of 18, and cannot assume adult responsibilities for his or herself. Estate planning through a health care power of attorney often avoids this costly litigation.

Q?What is a conservatorship?

In South Carolina a conservatorship is a legal proceeding in the probate court to determine if a person lacks the mental capacity to make his or her own decisions concerning his or her money or assets. A guardianship may also be sought at the same time, but sometimes the only income a disabled or elderly person has is from Social Security, which has its own payee system. Conservatorships are also sought for children that receive an inheritance outside a trust or a large personal injury settlement. Estate planning through a financial power of attorney can often avoid the need for a more costly conservatorship action.

Q?What is an estate?

Every adult has an estate. An estate consists of everything you own – real estate, a home, furniture, personal items, digital assets like a Facebook account, vehicles, bank accounts, life insurance and retirement plans, and potential settlements related to injury. Planning with a will, perhaps a trust, and other estate documents allow you to control who will make decisions for you in the event of incapacity and how your belongings will be distributed upon your death.