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Maine, Blue Hill, Brown & Pols, P.a.

Maine, Blue Hill, Brown & Pols, P.a.

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FIRM PROFILE. We are a general practice of law with concentrations in the areas of Family Law, Criminal Law and Elder Law. We also represent clients in a wide variety of litigation, including probate matters, collections, construction disputes, landlord/tenant problems and tort claims. In addition, we handle a variety of non-litigation matters, such as real estate transactions, zoning and land-use, and school issues, including disciplinary proceedings. We have been located at 56 Maine Street in Brunswick since 1993. Sharon Greene serves as paralegal assistant, receptionist/secretary and anchor-to-windward. Rylie P. Dog and Tucker K. Dog are in charge of office security. THE FAMILY LAW CASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM. (and why you still need a lawyer). In July of 1997 Maine instituted a new system in the District Courts for handling any private case potentially involving child support. The Family Case Management System is designed to be of benefit for people without attorneys, and is also meant to keep family law cases on track and progressing towards a conclusion. The "new system" is only used in divorces where there are minor children. Thus, divorcing parties who do not have children will often find the process more confusing and prolonged than divorcing parties who do have children. The most significant aspect of the Family Law Case Management system is that family law litigants will meet with a Family Law Magistrate (and with their attorneys, if attorneys are involved) in the courtroom within a few weeks after the case is filed. This Case Management Conference is automatically scheduled by the Court. After a general introduction of the proceedings to the litigants, and after having received an overview of the case, the presiding Magistrate will enter an Order incorporating all of the agreements which the parties are able to reach at that time. In exigent circumstances, the Magistrate may decide to hear testimony and then enter interim Orders on some contested issues (such as child support and parental contact). The object of this initial Case Management Conference is to stabilize the situation and make sure that both parties' rights are respected during the rest of the proceedings. You should leave the Case Management Conference with your next court date in hand, and a detailed Case Management Order regarding how the case is to proceed. You may, following your initial Case Management Conference, elect to have a Judge (as opposed to a Magistrate) handle the rest of the proceedings, and there are some issues which only a Judge (and not a Magistrate) may decide. If you have a complex case (or a hotly contested one) you may have to return to Court several times before you can reach an agreement on all issues and/or have any contested issues decided by a Judge or Magistrate. If you reach an impasse to settlement, you will probably be required to attend mediation before the Court will agree to hear the contested issues and decide the case. (see "Mediation/Arbitration). You should still have an attorney if your case involves child custody issues or alimony, or disputes over business interests, real estate, pension or retirement benefits, or abuse. While this is not meant to be an exhaustive list and there may be many other "red flags" to indicate that you need a lawyer, it would be an unusual couple who could successfully negotiate the family law system without an attorney if any of these issues were involved. It must be remembered that the process is inherently adversarial and complicated, and that there is no substitute for experience. If both parties have good attorneys they should be able to find and implement solutions which are acceptable for all concerned. Only an experienced attorney is going to be able to help you to analyze how the different aspects of your case impact upon each other, and what your choices may be. MEDIATION/ARBITRATION. (and why you still need a lawyer). There are many so-called "alternate dispute resolution" mechanisms available in Maine. Mediation with a court mediator is required in any family law matter before the case may go to trial. That is, if the parties do not agree on all issues, they have to attend mediation in an attempt to resolve their dispute. In general, the requirement of mediation is helpful, because it forces the parties to actually talk to each other. The difference between mediation and arbitration is that, in mediation, the neutral third party (mediator) has no power to impose a decision on the parties. Arbitration is where the parties agree to let a privately hired third party actually decide their case. The perceived advantage of private arbitration over the Court system is that it can be more informal, speedy, and possibly less expensive. While the parties may agree to attend arbitration after any dispute arises, arbitration is often required by a prior contract between the parties (construction and employment contracts are typical examples). There are many private mediators (as opposed to the Court mediators) and many persons offering arbitration services in the state of Maine. These alternate dispute resolution mechanisms can work well where the parties still have some measure of trust and respect for each other, but it is almost always advisable for each party to have an attorney. Even though you may not want to have your attorneys present at the actual mediation or arbitration sessions (so as to avoid bluster, confrontation and defensiveness, stonewalling or "digging in of the heels") each party should have reviewed the case with an attorney of their own choosing so that they are aware of all of their possible options. In any negotiating session it is imperative to have some idea of what a Judge would decide, so that you know the strengths and weaknesses of your own case. Only an experienced attorney can provide this to you. You should feel free to ask your mediator or arbitrator to let you consult with your attorney at any stage of the proceedings, and you should always do so before making any agreements. HOW TO BE A GOOD CLIENT (and save on legal fees). Essentially, the best way to save on your legal expenses is to be a good client. While this is not intended to be a comprehensive list, and is not arranged in any particular order as to priority, a good client should;. *Follow "The Plan". If you and your attorney have agreed on a course of action, plan, or theory of the case, do not change direction, take any unilateral action, or simply fail to follow through without first discussing your change of heart with your attorney. Be a team player. *Read what is sent to you in the mail, and respond. This office routinely passes along copies of all documentation which is generated on the client's case. Typically, we will not write you a separate letter on what opposing counsel has sent to us. Rather, we expect you to read what the opposing attorney has sent and to get back to our office with any requests for information, replies to settlement proposals, etc. Don't make your lawyer track you down to follow up on these sorts of things. Take responsibility. *Deal with the office staff whenever possible. A law firm may bill for a paralegal assistant's time, but you will not be billed the same hourly rate charged by your attorney. Paralegal assistants have special training and, in many cases, a great deal of experience, and will often be able to help you without the lawyer getting involved. Of course, if you really need to speak with your attorney and he or she is not available, you should always leave a message. This office returns all of its calls as soon as possible, but it is helpful to know in advance why you called. *Insist on monthly, itemized bills. Review your bills when they come in and, if possible, pay them on time. If you are confused about a billing item or disagree with a particular bill, bring it to your attorney's attention promptly. The same rule applies if you are unable to pay your bill--don't ignore the situation--call the office and explain. In many states (and in Maine) you may compel your attorney to participate in fee arbitration when there is a dispute about what is owed. *Do not simply show up at your lawyer's office, expecting to see your lawyer, review your paperwork, or even pay your bill. Law offices are busy places, and they need to schedule client appointments to avoid haste on the part of the office staff, as well as delay and frustration for the client or visitor who "dropped in". Likewise, if you have made an appointment which you can no longer keep, you should let your attorney's office know as soon as possible. *If you are unhappy with the way your case is progressing, let your attorney know. Your lawyer has probably been involved with cases like yours on many occasions, and may no longer fully appreciate how frustrated and powerless the first-timer might feel. Sometimes it is helpful to get a second opinion from another attorney (many attorneys will grant an initial review at no charge), but it is always best to go straight to the horse's mouth. By the same token, if you feel good about your case, let your lawyer know. Lawyers are people too. A WORD ABOUT E-MAIL. E-mail is not private in spite of the best efforts of many users and internet service providers. While our files and notes of conversations are privileged and protected by the attorney-client privilege, your computer is not. In addition, e-mail of documents is not reliable; frequently attachments are removed or altered during a message's journey. E-mail is a fast and efficient way to exchange certain types of information. The speed with which communications can be exchanged by e-mail has altered people's expectations about when they should get a response. Experience has led us to conclude that fast and quick legal advice is often bad legal advice. We will not prejudice your case, and consequently our reputation, just to get an immediate answer to a client by e-mail. In addition, the abrupt and curtailed nature of e-mailed correspondence often leads to miscommunication and hard feelings; the nuance of personal conversation is sometimes necessary to communicate completely. As a result, we have a few ground rules about e-mail:. 1) You may use it to communicate short discreet pieces of information such as confirming appointments or court dates. 2) Do not use it for any substantive or private aspects of your case. 3) Do not expect a prompt response, e-mail is usually checked in the morning and at the end of the day, the rest of the day is devoted to court appearances, client meetings or active work on files. 4) Do not expect a response after business hours. 5) Do not expect a response on weekends or holidays. Obviously, if there is an emergency you should call the office. If the emergency happens during non-business hours feel free to try e-mailing but remember, just because you sent it does not mean we received it. Your e-mails should alway be followed up by some personal contact. WHAT IS A RETAINER?. A retainer is a sum of money given to a lawyer to secure his or her services. Traditionally, the purpose of the retainer was to "retain" the attorney for oneself, so that he or she would be prevented for acting on behalf of the adversary. Nowadays, however, most people do not hire an attorney until they need one. The retainer, therefore, has taken on a somewhat different meaning. These days, the sum of money called a retainer usually represents one of two possible things; it is either an advance against the fees and costs to be incurred in a particular case, or it is in the nature of a "flat fee" which the attorney has agreed to accept in return for handling a particular matter. The difference between these two concepts of a "retainer" should not be overlooked. The flat fee retainer is the amount of money that the client pays for all of the attorney's services to be incurred in connection with a particular matter. It does not, of course, guarantee a particular result; it means only that the client will not have to pay any more money, regardless of how much work is involved in a particular case. For the attorney, it represents a guaranteed fee, and it may work out to his or her advantage if the matter can be concluded quickly. On the other hand, it may work to the attorney's disadvantage, if the case proves to be long and difficult. The other type of retainer (which this office requests in all of its family law matters) is actually an advance against the fees and costs to be incurred in the case. The money goes into the lawyer's trust account, and the lawyer may not take it out of the trust account and keep it for himself until it is earned, or until it is otherwise spent on the client's behalf. That is, the retainer not only goes towards paying the lawyer, it may also be used to cover the lawyer's out-of-pocket expenses (such as service fees, filing fees, copies, telephone expenses, witness fees, etc.). This type of retainer shows the good faith of the client and assures the attorney that he or she will not be left "holding the bag" for all the time and money invested in the case, at least during its initial stages. Some fee agreements require that a retainer be "refreshed" from time to time, such that the attorney will always know that there is money available to cover his time and out-of-pocket expenses. Interest generated on uneared retainers kept in Lawyers' trust account is contributed to the State's IOLTA program, which is used to fund various programs providing legal services to the poor. Accordingly, even if there has been no activity on your case, you will never see your retainer increase in value. Once your case has concluded, and assuming that you did not pay a flat fee, any unearned portion of your retainer should be refunded promptly. FEE AND PAYMENT POLICIES. Attorney time is charged at $150 per hour. Contingent fees may be arranged in appropriate Plaintiff's cases. Clients are also responsible for out-of-pocket expenses. A retainer is required for all new cases. Mastercard and Visa cards are accepted. All fee arrangements are confirmed in writing. CONSULTATION FEE. No fee for initial consultation. Feel free to telephone, fax or e-mail.

56B Maine Street, Brunswick, ME 04011

Fax: (207) 721-0517

Telephone: (207) 721-1010

Maine, Blue Hill


Family Law50%, Estate Practice and Planning25%, Criminal Law25%, Elder Law, Probate, Real Estate and Construction Disputes, Landlord/Tenant Problems, Tort Claims, Real Estate Transactions, Zoning, Land Use, School Issues, Disciplinary Proceedings

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