Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Be Wary of Websites Claiming to Offer Lawyer Information and Ratings

Posted By: Monica A. Plake

Finding the right lawyer or law firm for your specific legal need can be tough.  Some lawyers and firms take pretty much any kind of legal matter and others focus only on specific areas of law or types of cases.  Some lawyers are friendly and easy to work with, others not so much.  Costs for legal services can vary dramatically from one firm to another, or even between lawyers within the same firm.   Where should a person go to find reliable information? 

As with many other things these days, most people start with an internet search to get information about lawyers in their area. This is not a bad place to start, but consumers should be careful about the various lawyer-review websites that are out there.   Some provide reliable, verified, and up-to-date information about lawyers.  Others not so much.   Some sites simply troll other sites and post a mish-mash of collected information about a lawyer that is unverified, frequently outdated, and often inaccurate.

Pay attention to who sponsors or publishes the site.  Sites associated with Martindale Hubbell, such as Martindale.com (Lawyer Locator) and Lawyers.com, are long-standing reputable sites that work with attorneys and law firms to provide accurate information to the public.  They also periodically seek input from other attorneys (and sometimes clients) about an individual attorney’s experience, skills, and ethics, which may result in a rating being assigned to that attorney based on these factors.  Attorneys can pay for an upgraded listing on these sites, but they cannot pay for a rating.  The rating is based on feedback from those who have experience working with that lawyer.  Also be aware that some (but not all) “Top Lawyers” type sites associated with perfectly legitimate sources are actually paid advertising by the lawyer, and are not based on any sort of specialty peer review.

Other sites, such as Avvo.com, LawyerRatingz.com, Lawyerreviews.com, and Lawyer.com (which should not be confused with Lawyers.com mentioned above) often publish lawyer profiles without the lawyer’s knowledge or input.  Many of these profiles contain old, inaccurate, incomplete, and unverified information.  You will often see disclaimers to this effect in their fine print.  They also offer no information about the basis for any “rating” they have assigned. For example, with Avvo, a lawyer’s rating is based largely on whether the lawyer has “claimed” his or her profile and how completely the lawyer filled in the profile (as well as whether they paid Avvo for an upgraded listing).  

Even less reliable for helpful information about lawyers and law firms are general consumer rating/review sites such as Yelp, Yahoo, etc. that are more often used for restaurant and retail reviews.  As we have all experienced by now, many people post scathing (and often untrue) reviews about any business with which they are angry at that moment.  And there is no way to verify who was really the party at fault in the situation.  While general review sites such as these can provide information that might prompt you to be more cautious and seek additional information about a lawyer or law firm, they should not be relied upon for accuracy about a lawyer’s professional abilities.  People dealing with legal matters are often very emotional (understandably so) and have unrealistic expectations about a lawyer’s ability to make a bad case produce a good outcome.  Even the best lawyer can only work with the facts and law at hand.  So be careful about relying on one unhappy client’s review.  And make sure the site you use is one that provides verified information.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Survey Finds Only Half of American Parents Have an Estate Plan

Posted By: Christopher M. Unger
Practice Area: Estate Planning

According to a new survey out yesterday from Caring.com, only half of all American parents have an Estate plan or a Will. The survey further revealed that of those who do have a Will or other Estate planning document, only 40 percent of those people had updated their Will in the last five years.

The survey also asked adult children if they knew if their parents had an Estate plan, where the Will was kept, and if the children know the contents of the Will. The survey found that more than half of the children surveyed did not know where the Will was or what it said.

As Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com, pointed out, this is a very difficult discussion for families to have, but nonetheless it is an important discussion. Taking the time to create an effective Estate plan now can save time and money, and can adequately address difficult questions before they arise.

While this new survey underscores the importance of having a Will or Estate plan it also highlights some issues for individuals who may already have an Estate plan. It is important that an individual’s Estate plan be kept up to date. As one’s life grows and evolves, these changes can have an impact on the Estes plan. Common life occurrences, such as marriage, divorce, change in jobs, large purchases (like a house or a car), birth of a child or grandchild, or moving from one state to another, can effect an Estate plan. An Estate plan must be updated to reflect these changes in circumstances.

The survey also shows the importance of fighting through the awkwardness and discomfort and having the hard conversation. It is important to discuss Estate planning with your family and loved ones. Adult children should know if their parents have a Will and where the Will is located. Knowing where the Will is can eliminate the time and expense spent searching for the Will in the difficult days after a loved one passes.

An attorney can help to facilitate the difficult conversation and ask questions to facilitate this process. The attorneys at Mountain West Business Law, P.C. can help draft and set up an effective Estate plan, keep the Estate plan up to date, or review and update existing Estate plans.

Check Out the Survey Results from Caring.com: https://www.caring.com/research/wills-data-2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New Colorado Law Requires Licensing for Homeowner Association Managers

Posted By: Christopher M. Unger
Practice Area: Homeowners Associations

On March 4, 2015 the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (“DORA”) created new laws regarding Colorado Community Association managers. These new laws go into effect on April 1, 2015. The new laws relate directly to the licensing requirements for community managers.

Under the new law, anyone who serves as community manager for a Community Association must be licensed with DORA. This includes individuals who serve in this capacity, as well as corporations, partnerships, firms, or associations who serve as a community manager.

The new law defines who is considered to be a community manager. A community manager is someone who is hired by the community to oversee operations of the community. Some of the duties of a community manager might include day-to-day operations of the community, conducting investigations of community rule violations, accounting of the funds of the community, et cetera.

There are some exceptions to these licensing requirements. They include:

  • Any person or company who is not compensated for their service as community manager,
  •  Any public official,
  • Any receiver, trustee, administrator, or conservator acting under proper authority, or
  • Any attorney in connection with their representation of the Community Association.

This is only a sampling of the more common exemptions. The law does make exemptions for other, less common situations.

Anyone required to be licensed must be fully licensed by July 1, 2015. To become licensed you must comply with the following requirements. You must meet the required education requirements or complete 24 hours of alternative course work. You must pass the state examination given at various testing centers. You must submit to a Colorado Bureau of Investigation background check. Finally, you must complete all required forms and applications.

This new law will have far reaching implications across the state of Colorado. As such, it is important for Community Associations and association managers to be well versed in the new law and its requirements. The team at Mountain West Business Law, P.C. routinely assists Community Associations with their legal compliance and understanding changes in the law.

For more information, visit: Department of Regulatory Agencies - Division of Real Estate, Community Association Manager Licensing Rules