** The following information is not legal advice nor is it intended to be legal advice. These are generalized answers in response to common questions and may vary in your individual situation. The information on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. **
The California Bar describes a number of considerations for choosing a lawyer (http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Pamphlets/HiringaLawyer.aspx).
Some important factors to consider are whether you think you can have a good working relationship with the lawyer, how experienced the lawyer is dealing with issues similar to yours, and whether the fee arrangement the lawyer is able to offer you is feasible for you.
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The specific process of considering whether to take on clients differs for each lawyer, but generally lawyers consider whether the facts you describe present a clear legal issue or claim, the likelihood of winning on that issue or claim, and how much risk taking your case presents versus the possibility of success. Lawyers may also consider whether the potential client and lawyer seem likely to be able to work well together, and whether the client appears to be honest and forthright about the facts and circumstances involved. Sometimes considerations that have nothing to do with the merits of the client’s claim may be factors, such as whether a lawyer has time to take on the specific issue in light of the lawyer’s other cases and deadlines.
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There is a form you can submit on the "Contact" page of this website that includes your contact information and a description of the issue with which you need assistance. You can also write a letter, email RLO, or call. If we need additional information to evaluate your request for assistance, we will contact you to set up a 30-minute initial consultation.
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We do not charge for an initial consultation to get more information and evaluate a potential client’s case (generally limited to 30 minutes). However, we do charge for one-time visits for legal advice, document preparation or document review.
Past the initial consultation, lawyers can be paid under various fee arrangements, depending on considerations such as the types and complexity of claims being brought, what expenses must be paid upfront to commence your case, and how many hours of work are anticipated to resolve your matter. Rifkin Law Office represents some clients on an hourly basis, meaning fees are based on an hourly rate for services provided, and some clients on a flat fee basis, meaning RLO and the client agree on a total amount to be paid for the legal work. When hourly services are provided, this means that RLO charges for time spent working on your case, including, for example: phone calls, emails, and meetings with the client and potential witnesses; legal and factual research; document review; drafting letters and court documents; preparing for trial; and court appearances.
RLO also represents clients on a contingency fee basis, which means clients do not pay attorney fees unless they successfully recover a monetary amount. Not all cases are eligible for a contingency fee arrangement, but many civil rights cases are. We will always discuss the specifics of your situation before we charge you for any work.
RLO will often require an initial retainer or pre-payment to begin work on your case, which is basically a deposit towards some of the legal fees for your case. The retainer amount will vary depending on the case and the issues involved, and sometimes there is no retainer required.
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In addition to legal fees, there are various expenses that must be paid to others in order to prepare your legal matter. For example, payments must be made to obtain necessary reports or copies of necessary documents, to employ court reporters to take depositions, to obtain licenses or permits from governmental authorities, to file suits in courts of law, in addition to other outside entities that are necessary to help your cause. Generally, the amounts of these charges will be in direct proportion to the complexity of the matter involved. The easier your matter is to solve, the less these costs will ordinarily be.
At the start of your legal matter, Rifkin Law Office will discuss the types of out-of-pocket expenses which may be incurred on your behalf. We will discuss with you whether or when you will be required to pay for or reimburse us for these expenditures which are made on your behalf to assist in litigating and working to resolve your case.
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The following description provides a general overview of the process of filing a lawsuit. The actual steps and timelines may vary depending on the specific types of legal claims and proceedings involved.
Sometimes it is possible to resolve your issue without filing a formal lawsuit in state or federal court. This is generally done by negotiating directly with the other party, through a demand letter, informal settlement discussions, or other cooperative process.
In situations where matters cannot be resolved directly with the other party, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit in state or federal court. The first step in filing a lawsuit is generally to file a “complaint.” This document describes the facts and legal claims relevant to the dispute from the plaintiff’s point of view, and asks the court to order that the plaintiff be awarded a remedy for legal injuries and violations. After a complaint is filed, defendants will file an “answer” to the complaint, which responds the facts and legal claims in the complaint from the defendant’s point of view.
In response to a complaint, a defendant can also filed a document called a “motion to dismiss.” This is a document in which the defendant asks the court to rule that, even if the factual allegations the plaintiff has described are true, the plaintiff cannot establish a violation of law for which the plaintiff is entitled to a relief or remedy from the court.
After a defendant files an answer, or if a defendant files a motion to dismiss and the court does not dismiss the case, then the parties have an opportunity to conduct “discovery.” Discovery is a process where each party gets to ask the other party for information related to the issues in dispute, including requests for the other side to produce documents, answer questions, and make various witnesses available for “depositions,” which are essentially formal interviews under oath.
Sometimes in the time period between filing a complaint and when the case is set for trial, one or both parties will file what is called a “motion for summary judgment.” This is a document where the party argues that the main facts of the case are not in dispute and the outcome of the case can be decided by a judge based only on legal considerations, and without a trial.
If the outcome of the case is not decided in response to a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment, and the parties do not reach a settlement (an agreement to resolve the case), then the case will go to trial. A trial may be conducted either in front of a jury and a judge or only a judge without a jury, depending on the laws and circumstances involved in the specific case.
The whole process, from filing a complaint through to the end of trial, may take a number of years to complete. This is often why clients prefer to try to come to a mutual agreement with the other parties to resolve a case before trial. Generally, any time from the beginning of a case until the end of the trial, the parties are free to negotiate and enter into a “settlement,” or agreement between the parties to resolve a case without going through a trial.
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