LDS
Copyright 2008
Steven R. Pogue.
All rights reserved.
 
ANSWERS TO
COMMON QUESTIONS -
A CLIENT'S GUIDE

-Or-

"Everything You Always Wanted to Know About This Lawyer But Were Afraid to Ask."



A NOTE TO ALL CLIENTS AND PROSPECTIVE CLIENTS

Perhaps you have been to an attorney before and are very familiar with the process. Maybe this is the first time you have ever needed to deal with legal matters, and it is all very intimidating. Whatever the case, it is important that you know some things about your attorney.

I will tell you a little about the way I practice law and how I handle my relationship with clients, the courts, and opposing parties.

1. DECISIONS. I believe that, while I can handle the legal matters regarding your case, the ultimate decision about important things in your case should always be yours. However, you need the entire picture, not to just have the decision dumped in your lap without advice. You are paying me to give you advice, not simply to fill out papers, write letters or stand in front of the judge. I will advise you as to the ramifications of any important decision, so that you may make the best decision possible. I will even go so far as to tell you what I think would be the wisest course to follow. But I will not decide for you.

2. REALITY. I am not a TV lawyer. On TV or in the movies, the hotshot lawyers can fool the judge, block up the system, put one over on the opponent and make the other lawyer look like a fool. In real life, all that accomplishes is to make people (especially judges) angry.

The standards of our profession include some practices that make dealing with the system much easier for everyone. Let us look at some of them.

  • The courts expect cooperation with reasonable requests by the other side for continuances, extensions, schedule changes, etc. Sometimes, I need to make those requests. Sometimes the other side does. It is not a sign of weakness or lack of commitment to agree to reasonable requests from the other side. If they become excessive or unduly delay the process, that is something else. But the court would grant the request if it is reasonable, and it is foolish and wasteful to make the other side go to the judge to get it done.
  • Information about the case is almost always freely exchanged between the parties. The old idea about holding back "surprises" and keeping things hidden is today viewed as bad faith at best and contempt of court at worst.
  • Absolute courtesy to the court, opposing parties and opposing counsel is the watchword. It is not helpful to be belligerent. It is not a showing of strength. Being decent to everyone involved, even if they are not nice, even if they do not deserve it, is the way I work. It doesn't mean I am not going to fight hard for your side. It only means that I will do it on the hilltop, not in the gutter.

3. SETTLEMENT. The courts encourage the parties to find some way to settle matters. Often it is possible to do so. When it can be done, it is almost always better to do so. Certainly one should never settle if it means injustice would be done, if the only offer is unreasonable. But exploring the possibilities of resolving a matter short of trial is always a good idea, and can make the entire process far less expensive and distressing. Generally, the result of a settlement will be better for the parties than a trial would have been.


4. HONESTY. Absolute, total honesty is the only standard I understand. If something is dishonest, I won't do it or say it or help anyone else to accomplish it. That doesn't mean we have to spill the beans about everything anyone wants to know, or to betray confidential information. It means we don't lie or try to fool anyone.

5. FEES. I will never bill you for things I have not done. I will not bill you for time I may spend fixing my own mistakes (and occasionally I make mistakes.) I do have to bill for phone conversations and office visits. I try to be generous about it, and I do not bill for every little question. But we have to understand that an hour I spend talking on the phone about your case is an hour I cannot spend doing something else. As Lincoln said, a lawyer's time and his advice are his stock in trade. I will be glad to spend all day every day with your matter, if that is your desire. Most people would prefer to not spend every cent on legal fees, and I try the best I can to keep your costs down.

For more information regarding costs, .

6. OTHER CLIENTS. Yes, I do have them. I try my best to make you feel like you are my only client. Your case is important to me, and I will give it all the attention necessary to do the work correctly. But I may not be able to get to something you want to have taken care of "right this very day" unless it is a true emergency, and maybe not then. I do things as I get them, and I have to be fair to every client with the way I allocate my time and my attention.

This may mean that something that you really feel needs to be done right away may take longer than you like. I would love to have everyone's priority all done before they even want it. But I cannot, so I do the best I can.

7. PROBLEM SOLVING. I try to look at each situation as unique, and see what I can do to resolve the problems in any case as quickly, easily and inexpensively as possible. I try to focus on two things in that effort: first, what do you really want to accomplish?, and second, how can we get there?


A SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FAMILY LAW CASES

1. Good-faith attempts at settlement are even more important here. A trial (quite rare in this county) will only mean a result that will most likely please neither one of you and ensure that the lawyers get a great portion of anything you have acquired. Sometimes a trial is necessary. But the best plan is to think, "How can we resolve this fairly, with the least grief possible, and get on with our lives?" If someone is going to insist on being unreasonable, we must do our best to ensure it is the other side.

2. Some things that seem to matter a great deal on a personal and emotional level do not matter at all to the law. The law does not care that your spouse is a jerk, or that you are an angel, or the other way around. Property will be divided according to the law. Child support will be ordered according to an established formula that the judge cannot change. Child custody will be determined according to the best interests of the children, not the rights of the parents. Restraining orders will be issued if necessary to protect one party or both. But broken hearts, while they are very real, are of no importance to the law. The saint and the sinner are alike in most ways in Family Court.

3. On child custody and visitation, the law and the courts have a firm policy of maintaining as much contact as possible between the children and both parents. That can mean anything from no visitation to full joint custody, 50/50. It depends on the best interests of the child.

The court will not restrict visitation or custody simply because the parents are getting divorced. That fact that Daddy is a jerk or Mommy is a loser may not mean much. Many jerk Daddies and loser Mommies stay married and have time with their children. The children have the parents they were born with, and unless there is some necessity to protect the child from one or both parents, the court does not "cut off" a parent.

There is a process called Mediation, where the parents get together with a court Mediator, and try to come to some agreement as to custody and visitation. It works more often than not. But it requires an open mind and a realization that this custody and visitation business will be more complex than you think, and will last until the child is grown. It will require flexibility.

4. There are limitations on what can be accomplished in any case. If your spouse is an immature, vindictive, foolish, selfish, dishonest, perverted creep, or any combination of those things, neither I nor the judge nor any restraining order will change that. We can simply make it so you don't have to deal with him or her any more than can be avoided.


STEVEN R. POGUE
ATTORNEY AT LAW
2150 Trade Zone Blvd., Suite 102
San Jose, CA 95131
(408) 258-3250
email

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Located in San Jose, California, the Law Offices of Steven R. Pogue represent clients in the communities of Alameda, Belmont, Burlingame,
Campbell, Cupertino, Dublin, Fremont, Gilroy, Hayward, Livermore, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Menlo Park, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Pacifica,
Palo Alto, Pleasanton, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Saratoga,
as well as Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.