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Special Prog -Ask the Lawyer-Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo

October 14, 2011 @ 12:00 am EDT


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"Ask the Lawyer" – October 14, 2011 


Gary Wirth, partner in the law firm of Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo LLP, brought to us a program this morning called "Ask the Lawyer." Gary began with pointing out the difference of approach of who pays legal fees. He compared the English system where the losing side pays the fees of both sides, and the American system where each side pays his own fees. This feature of the legal system never occurred to me. According to Mr. Wirth that system can be adopted by a letter of agreement between the involved parties. It would have to be negotiated before any legal work has begun. The question to Wirth was; "Why put yourself in the position of paying all the legal fees if you lose?" Wirth’s replied that both sides think they are going to win at inception and may therefore make that bet. The concept has the added value of encouraging settlement. I learned something new today.


We discussed the value of arbitration and mediation. Most of us didn’t know there was a difference, but according to Gary, arbitration is binding and mediation is not. With mediation you may end up in the same place you started except now you had legal fees to pay and no resolution, and those legal fees can be substantial.


We discussed fees too. It is not cut and dried as many of us thought. We may think in terms of hourly rates, or contingency fees, but there are variations on those fee structures too. First of all the stated hourly rate can be negotiated. There also can be a fee at inception that will continue as an hourly fee. Or, there can be a flat case fee. As far as the contingency fee is concerned, the percentage can be negotiated. A fairly straight forward case of liability, where the plaintiff is expected to win may be attractive to the counsel if he believes there is a very large settlement expected, and the time requirement are expected to be reasonable. That was the second lesson of the day.


Small Claims Court; Not all legal matters require a lawyer. In Small Claims Court (recent limit is $5,000) A complaint may be filed for money damages only. While Judges are very precise on the law in a court with a lawyer representing a client, a plaintiff that is representing himself is offered guidance by the court. For many cases Small Claims Court is appropriate.


Mr. Wirth touched upon other topics and then handled question.


This informative format was sponsored by the speaker’s law firm Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo, Woodbury NY. LIMBA thanks you.


Ernie Fazio