Want to know how to respond to negative comments about your business on the internet?  Take a page from Kevin O’Keefe, CEO and Founder of LexBlog.  As you can tell from the title of this post, I had a beef with LexBlog recently (see my rant below).  Mr. O’Keefe took the initiative to contact me immediately by phone, email, and replying to my tweet on the subject.  He let me know what they are doing to fix the problem.  And he never once asked me to remove this post.

I thought about deleting it after talking to Kevin and being satisfied that they are working on a resolution, but then I thought the better idea would be to highlight it as a learning experience.  In todays connected world, there will be times in everyone’s business when customer complaints hit the social networks.  People get frustrated, they feel as though their problem is not addressed, so they turn to the only outlet left…complaining to social media.  It will happen to all of us.  The test then for every business is how you respond.  And Kevin O’Keefe responded directly and honestly.  In the end that is what we all want, to be heard.

We all understand that problems arise from time to time.  But we want to know people hear us and care about us enough to address the problem.  After all, we are in a service business, so serving must come first in everything we do.

Thank you LexBlog for hearing me.

 

My Original Rant:

This blog, which we post to weekly, is hosted and supported by a company called LexBlog.  I love LexBlog, they have been a great platform on which to spread education on the topics I love most: Trust and Will disputes.  I have been a valued LexBlog client for over four years, and yet at the moment I hate them.  Why?

I view my internet services, such as LexBlog, the same way you should view your lawyers: they just work.  Don’t explain the technical stuff to me, that’s your job.  Just let me do my thing and I will trust that you will (1) keep my best interests in mind, (2) don’t do anything to harm me, and (3) let me know when you need a decision or input from me.

So this past week LexBlog did a major update to their platform.  I have no idea why, and I don’t want to know why.  I just want this service to work.  It does not.  I went to the trouble of podcasting my blog posts so people would have a choice to either read my articles or listen to them (or both).  LexBlog told me to use Podbean to host by podcasts, I did so.  LexBlog told me I could embed by podcasts, I did so.  LexBlog does an update to its system and I can no longer (1) embed by podcasts, and (2) I am told not to use Podbean any more.  Grrrr.  Frustration at its finest.

So this makes me think of some of the horror stories I hear from people about their lawyers.  People look to lawyers for advice, they look to lawyers for directions, they look to lawyers for comfort, and then what you are told turns out to be false.  Or worse yet, your lawyer tells you not to do something you were previously told to do.  Grrr.  The frustration starts.

But all is not lost.  It starts with good communication.  If I am going to change course on a legal matter, which does have to happen at times based on what facts or evidence are discovered, then it is incumbent on me to communicate the problem and new direction to my client.  Just like changing a platform that makes it impossible to use Podbean should be communicated to me.  Preferably BEFORE the change occurs so I am prepared for the eventual outcome.

More importantly, if a change occurs on a client’s case, it is incumbent on me to provide whatever guidance and support for that change that I can.  It may be easy for me to see the solution to the change, but I have the benefit of understanding the technical side of the law–a perspective not shared by my client.  And clients should not be expected to know the technicalities.  Instead, it is my job to explain the way out.  It may not be an easy solution or welcome news, but it is still my job to explain it and implement it as quickly as I can.

So I now hate LexBlog just as many people end up hating their lawyers.  But that does not mean I can’t get over it.  With some support and guidance from either LexBlog or maybe a new company, I can get on my way and leave this frustration behind.  People do not intend to be frustrating after all, it is just a by product of trying to do something better and not thinking of the consequences of those decisions.  This is a good chance for me to remember how my clients may feel at times and be more conscientious about the turbulent train of litigation.  With understanding and support, we can get through touch changes.

Hey San Francisco Bay Area…here we come.  We are getting flowers in our hair and ready to fight hard for clients on Trust and Will litigation issues in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Here is the text of our recent news release announcing the opening of our newest office:

San Francisco SkylineWe are pleased to announce the grand opening of our new San Francisco Bay Area office, which is set to open October 1, 2014. “The opening of the Bay Area office expands both the physical and virtual reach in order to better serve California residents who have trust and estate litigation needs”, said founding partner Stewart R. Albertson.

The firm also created a Bay Area website,http://www.aldavlawbayarea.com, that provides visitors with a wealth of information about the firm, as well as a regularly-maintained blog intended to educate potential clients on matters related to Trust and Will Contests, Abused Trust Beneficiary litigation, and Financial Elder Abuse litigation. Additionally, having a Bay Area-focused website will allow the firm to better connect with its current and potential client base in the San Francisco market.

The new bricks-and-mortar office will be located at 555 Twin Dolphin Dr., Ste 130 in Redwood City,–right in the middle of Silicon Valley—providing current and potential clients with easy access from the Bayshore freeway. “The opening of the Bay Area office will give Albertson & Davidson a significantly expanded reach along the California coastline, as we already have offices in Carlsbad and Ontario, allowing us to serve the San Diego and Los Angeles communities”, said founding partner Keith A. Davidson. The firm’s expansion into the San Francisco Bay Area legal market will provide residents access to high quality legal counsel and representation in several areas related to Trust and Will contests, Abused Trust Beneficiary litigation, and Financial Elder Abuse litigation.

We are looking forward to serving the residents of the Bay Area!

After years of fighting the urge I purchased a BMW R1200GS. Since my purchase, I can’t stop riding my GS. I look for any excuse to go for a ride. Deposition in Los Angeles? No problem—I get to and from LA in just over an hour each way. Need Dog Food? No problem—I just strap the 50 pounds of dog food to the back of the GS. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I love everything about the GS except for the stock windscreen. At 90 mph—I mean 65 mph—the buffeting behind the stock windscreen gets old pretty quick. So I began a search for a better windscreen. I reviewed the AeroFlow Sport Half Fairing, the California Scientific windshield, Cee Bailey’s windshields, and the Touratech Windscreen Spoiler. Each had good points—but I remained undecided.

Several weeks later I had to service my GS at the BMW dealer in Riverside, California. I took my bike in early and had to wait for a few minutes. I saw a gentleman in the parking lot working on the windscreen of a BMW K1600GTL. We struck up a conversation about windscreens. I told him I had reviewed AeroFlow, CalSci, Cee Bailey’s, and even tried the Touratach Spoiler. He smiled and introduced himself as “Paige”. He then told me he was the president and founder of AeroFlow.

Paige invited me to visit him at AeroFlow headquarters in Anaheim. We set up a time to meet the following week. Upon arriving at Paige’s shop in Anaheim, he warmly greeted me along with Bonnie and Clyde—his guard dogs. Paige gave me a tour of his facility. He showed me how they heated and molded the windscreens. After that he showed me his new windscreen design for the BMW K1600GTL. Finally, Paige showed me the rest of his 3600 sq. ft. facility, and then we went to take a look at my GS.

Paige recommended the tall screen. Unfortunately, as we began taking off the stock screen, one of the attachments for holding the screen in place was broken. Paige suggested that I go to the BMW dealership in Orange to get a replacement part. I started to get my GS ready to ride without the windscreen, which we had already taken off. Paige said, “just take my car.” “Really?” I said. Paige insisted. So, I took his car and went to pick up the replacement part. After returning to Paige’s shop he had already mounted the upper brackets. We quickly mounted the tall screen and I was off to test it out. It was much improved, but I have a high riding position. So, Paige suggested we try the extra tall windscreen. The extra tall windscreen did the job. No more buffeting, and I could even hear my motorcycle on the freeway.

After saying thanks and goodbye I left Paige’s shop and got on the 91 Freeway East to drive to my office in Riverside. It was the best ride I’ve ever had on the Freeway. I’ve attached pictures of my experience with Paige and of my new AeroFlow Sport Half Fairing below.

GS 1 (EV)1.pngGS 3 (EV).png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GS 2 (EV).png                        

It’s not everyday that an attorney with over 35 years of experience shares his hard-earned wisdom with the rest of us.  We asked Michael Hackard, of Hackard Law in Sacramento, what tips he could give aspiring lawyers and he provided us with this guest post.  I find Mike Hackard’s wisdon truly inspirational, hope you enjoy it too.

Whether new to the law, an accomplished thirty-something professional or a grizzled veteran, we all like to hear stories. We often share experiences or pass on the advice of our mentors, knowing that their advice helped to mold our careers. I will share some of the advice of my mentors with the caveat that I have not always faithfully followed their advice. Many of my personal experiences exemplify the truth that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Those experiences have also taught me the oft-repeated observation that “good judgment comes from experience and experience from bad judgment.”

These tips, whether learned from the wisdom of mentors or gleaned from experience, can prove helpful along our legal careers.

1.  CALL THE BEST EXPERT. I worked for Senator Peter Behr in the California Legislature. He was a great Senator and a great man. He advised me to pick up the telephone and call the best expert in the country whenever I had a major issue and wanted to seek good counsel. Senator Behr shared his life experience with me and explained that experts are often complimented by the call and more often than not willing to help. I have taken his advice and applied it over the almost forty years since it was given. It works.

2.  THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO YOU OR I. Judge Robert Cole, an early career mentor of mine and that of many other Northern California lawyers and judges was a great character, a war hero and full of humor and insight. He commonly used to say “there but for the grace of God go you or I.” It was a saying born of his experience as a district attorney, public defender and judge. He often shared this statement with me when commenting on the particularly tragic circumstances of a defendant or the defendant’s victims. I haven’t forgotten it. It is a constant reminder to have empathy and to not forget that we are all fallible human beings. Judge Cole’s advice reflects the wisdom of Proverbs – “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Keep pride in check.

3.  DO THE VERY BEST THAT YOU CAN. Our commitment to do good, even amidst controversy, is essential. I often remind myself that praise has no meaning if I am wrong, and scorn no import if I am right. Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s greatest lawyers, said it best:

“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

4.  DON’T BE AFRAID OF CONTROVERSY. At the end of college, I had the opportunity to work for Governor Ronald Reagan. I was at the bottom of the bottom of the totem pole. That was a good position. I saw Reagan in action and spoke with him a few times. He was enthusiastic and optimistic in all that he did. He was not afraid of controversy as long as he felt well centered in his position. Advocacy at times involves controversy. This is not something to shrink from, if in Lincoln’s words, you do the very best that you can to do what is right.

5.  BE ACCESSIBLE. Be accessible to those who need your advice – whether paid or unpaid.  We must be “present” to those who seek our assistance. This is not always easy amidst the pressures of practice and the balancing of our family, faith and business lives. There have been many times when I would rather be at home than at my desk making follow-up calls.  Dean Gordon Schaber advised some two hundred aspiring lawyers on our first day of law school that “the law is a jealous mistress.” Dean Schaber’s observation has been proven to be true. In thirty-six years of law practice I have continually struggled to balance the demands of my professional life with other parts of my life. The balance has at times been quite uneven, but I continue to make a committed effort. The demands of the legal profession are a part of my life.

 

We are often too busy to even think about tips from others. These 5 tips don’t take long to read, but a lifetime to apply. I am still in that process and I hope that my colleagues can see the wisdom that others shared with me.

 © Copyright Michael A. Hackard, 2012. All rights reserved.  Hackard Law, 10630 Mather Boulevard, Mather, California 95655

After making the decision to take all of my cases to trial in 2011, here are the important lessons I learned as a plaintiff’s and estate trial attorney:

1.  Taking each of your cases to trial generally works in your client’s favor.

Defense attorneys (and their clients) will offer your clients pennies on the dollar for your clients’ harms and losses, until the defendant is fully convinced you will take a case to a jury of your clients’ peers. Even then, most defense attorneys (and their clients) require you to show up and begin trial (whether you get to voir dire, opening statement, or witness testimony) before offering a reasonable settlement amount. I think they do this because they know most attorneys are not willing to go to trial.

Even though I attempted to take every case to trial in 2011, only three cases actually went to trial, with one settling right before voir dire, and the other two going all the way to a verdict. All other cases I had in 2011 settled generally between 30 days out to the day before trial was to begin.

This is an important lesson I learned. It is very likely the only way you will obtain a fair settlement for your client is to be prepared to take your case to trial—and then do so if the defendant refuses to offer a reasonable settlement.

2.  Jury instructions and an elements outline are mandatory.

When I first became an attorney I remember hearing the better attorneys say you have to know the jury instructions and create an elements outline. I had no idea what they were talking about. I do now. Before taking a case, spend time looking over the jury instructions applicable to the case you’re considering taking on. What facts do you have that satisfy each of the jury instructions? Make an elements outline of each jury instruction, including a brief description of the facts you have (or need to have) to satisfy each instruction.

This takes some work early on, but it’s worth it. It helps you focus on what facts you have, and what facts you need to obtain in the discovery process. If you learn new and needed facts during discovery, be sure to update the elements outline.

3.  Hire experts early on.

Experts are expensive—but worth every penny. There were several cases we looked at taking in 2011, but had to decline after experts told us the potential case had no chance of winning. It’s always difficult to have a conversation with a potential client letting them know they don’t have a case, but better to do this early on before putting them through the hell of several years of litigation, and then having the same conversation.

 Experts are also great because they focus you in on the facts you need to obtain in the discovery process.

4.  Don’t be afraid of motions for summary judgment.

I used to be terrified of getting motions for summary judgment. I then changed the way I viewed these motions. First, I now expect that a motion for summary judgment will be filed in every case—and that takes the surprise and fear element out of the equation. Second, because I’ve done my homework with the jury instructions, created an elements outline, and hired experts early on, I am able to file an opposition that will likely be granted. It actually makes it fun (okay, not exactly fun) to put your opposition together.

Motions for summary judgment also alert you to the arguments and facts the defense attorney will use at trial. This gives you additional time to contemplate how you plan to respond to these arguments and facts at trial. We really should be welcoming motions for summary judgment. I’m not there yet—but hope to be sometime in 2012.

5.  Bring motions to compel during the discovery process.

Defense attorneys know that many (if not most) plaintiff’s attorneys will not take the substantial time required to bring motions to compel during the discovery process. Don’t make this mistake. In 2011 I brought motions to compel at the first opportunity. It not only let the defense attorney know I wasn’t going to allow him/her to play games, it made future responses from the defense attorney so much better.

6.  Spend less time objecting at deposition and more time on motions in limine.

I used to treat depositions as an “objection” exercise. Now I don’t do that (unless absolutely necessary). If the defense attorney is questioning my client and I’m uncomfortable with the questions, I simply mark these down in my notes and indicate in my notes that I need to bring a motion in limine to keep this evidence out at trial. In most cases, these uncomfortable questions are either (1) not relevant, (2) lack foundation, (3) are inadmissible hearsay, or (4) can be kept out as “unduly” prejudicial under California Evidence Code section 352.

When you don’t object, it’s amazing how much information a defense attorney is willing to provide in a deposition that you can identify for future motions in limine. Let the defense attorney “win” the deposition—You “win” when it matters at trial when the court grants your motion in limine and keeps the bad facts out.

Worst-case scenario—the Court denies your motion in limine. At least you have the first opportunity to address these bad facts in your opening statement, which will likely remove the sting the defense attorney is hoping for. 

7.  Practice, practice, practice for voir dire and opening statement.

My poor legal assistant. I make her listen to my voir dire questions and my opening statement, over and over again. I want her to poke holes in my questions and opening statement. I also ask anyone else who will listen about these issues. The more you practice the more comfortable you become. I don’t think many defense attorneys spend time doing this—and it shows.

8.  Send defense attorneys all trial documents 30 days out from trial.

Don’t worry about showing your hand too early. Defense attorneys are extremely busy with all the cases they’re required to handle, and likely won’t have time to spend much time with your trial documents in any event. Sending defense attorneys proposed joint exhibit lists, witness lists, a statement of the case, jury instructions, and your trial brief will surprise them. Most plaintiff’s attorneys don’t do it—you should.

9.  Don’t be nice to defense attorneys.

I’m tired of hearing that we need to be civil with the defense bar. I would agree with being nice if the defense bar felt the same way—but they don’t. It’s been my experience that defense attorneys will do anything required to make your client’s case go away. It still amazes me (although it shouldn’t) that defense attorneys are willing to demonize and attack individuals who have suffered substantial harms and losses due to the defendant’s actions. The purpose is to stress the plaintiff so he/she will take a small settlement or dismiss a case in its entirety.

In one of my recent cases, the defense attorney, in deposition, wanted to know how many times my client had sex with her husband in the year prior to his death, which was caused by the intoxicated defendant. Apparently this was to somehow show they did not have a good sex life, which leads to them somehow having a bad relationship, which in turn leads to somehow my client hating her husband and glad that he’s actually dead. I know it takes huge leaps of logic to get there, but defense attorneys don’t care about the logic, they care about stressing your client and making litigation more miserable than it already is.

In another case, a large defendant corporation that manufactures surgical mesh that destroyed my client’s vagina wanted to know in deposition if my client had attempted sexual intercourse after the mesh destroyed her vagina. My client answered “yes” she attempted to one time but could not due to the substantial pain she felt. The defense attorney then wanted to know whom she attempted to have sex with. I directed my client not to answer that question based on her right to privacy. The defense attorney threatened to bring a motion to compel. I told the defense attorney to bring the motion. I couldn’t wait for the court to hear this. Of course the defense attorney already heard two treating physicians of my client testify at deposition that it was very unlikely she would ever have pain-free intercourse for the rest of her life due to the substantial scarring. But that wasn’t enough, the defense attorney wanted to know whom she tried to have sex with. 

Finally, in a recent sexual harassment case, the defense attorney wanted to know how many sexual partners my client (a female) had during her lifetime. Then he wanted to know how many sexual partners in the past 10 years, then 5 years. I did not allow my client to answer these ridiculous, invasive, and despicable questions.

Am I still supposed to be nice to defense attorneys after this type of behavior? I say no. Let’s stop being nice to defense attorneys who choose to act inappropriately. 

10.  Never give up.

Never giving up may be the best trait of a trial attorney. No matter how bad things seem, don’t give up.  Everyone will tell you that your client won’t win or doesn’t have a case. You’ll hear this multiple times from the defense attorney; you’ll hear it from the mediator; you’ll hear it from a judge at the mandatory settlement conference; you’ll hear it from the doubt that creeps into your thought process when you’re attempting to fall asleep at night. Don’t give in to these doubts.

The good news is that most defense attorneys advise their clients to offer almost nothing before trial to settle the harms and losses they’ve created. These insignificant settlement amounts make it easy to go to trial—after all, you won’t do much worse if you get defensed at trial. That makes it easier for me to handle the doubt that I will inevitably feel going to trial. Chances are, if you don’t give up, the defendant will come up with a reasonable settlement amount a few weeks out from trial. But if they don’t, take them to trial. There’s no reason not to. 

We posted over 100 blog articles in 2011.  While we enjoy writing each of them, there are a few favorites we have over the course of the year.  Each of the posts that made our top 11 list was also very popular with readers based on comments and feedback we received.  Here is a list of our top 11 blog posts in 2011:

1.         Top 10 Books for Trial Attorneys.  We receive quite a bit of feedback from this post.  And it remains a very good list of great books to read—must reads really—for any trial attorney.

2.         Justice Isn’t Fair.  A little post on the difference between fighting for justice (which can be expensive and emotionally draining) versus obtaining a fair result from a financial perspective. 

3.         Legal Lingerie: Fighting Over Personal Property In California Trusts and Wills.  Having the word “lingerie” in a law blog title seems to get you noticed.  But still an interesting post on what happens to the tangible personal property in an estate. 

4.         Capacity Lite—How Undue Influence Can be Used To Overturn a California Will or Trust When Lack of Capacity Allegations Fall Short.  This is one of our favorite posts on how undue influence can be used to overturn Wills and Trusts—a very popular post. 

5.         Court Decision Causes Consternation for Arbitration Clauses in Trusts.  The growing use of arbitration clauses in things like insurance contracts can be a real problem for unsuspecting parties, but the use of arbitration clauses in Trusts hit a roadblock this year with the Court’s decision in Diaz v. Burkey.  This post is a quick recap of the Court’s interesting ruling.

6.         Which Will Wins the Race?  The Documents Required For a Proper Will Contest Lawsuit.  Few things are more confusing than properly filing a Will contest in California.  This post was a big hit with lawyers and laypeople alike. 

7.         Influencing the Court to Find for Undue Influence in California.  This is our second blog post of the subject of undue influence that made our top 11 list.  This is a more in-depth look at the subject of undue influence and how it can be proven in Court. 

8.         No-Contest Clauses Do Not Apply to Challenging a Trustee’s (or Executor’s) Actions.  No-Contest clauses are a very confusing area of Trust and Will litigation practice.  But one of the areas where they do NOT apply is in challenging the bad acts of a Trustee—yet so many people don’t realize their proper application.  We received a lot of feedback on this explanatory post.

9.         The Beneficiary’s Burden.  California Trust and Will lawsuits are hard on everyone, especially the beneficiaries.  While the beneficiaries don’t have any legal duties, they do have a burden in bringing the lawsuit all the same.

10.       The Settlor Made Me Do It.  The California Court of Appeals clarified in “Estate of Giraldin” when a beneficiary is entitled to an accounting and damages for breach of trust for actions taken while the trust creator is still living.  This was new law for California.  And it also prompted a call from one of the Giraldin children, which I very much enjoyed!

11.      Motions to Compel = A Necessary Evil.  When you hold the opposing party to the requirements of the Discovery Act, you’re going to have to file a few motions to compel.  Seems everyone (well not everyone, but many people) want to bend the rules of properly responding to discovery.  This is our take on filing motions to compel when necessary.

Honorable Mention.

We have just a few more favorites—it’s hard to narrow over 100 posts down to 11 (but “top 11 in 2011” is a better title than top 15 in 2011).  So here are a few extra posts that we call our “honorable mentions:”

12.       Our Video Series.  We were, and still are, very excited to post our first series of videos on our blog in 2011.  We received tremendous positive feedback on our videos (although we may look a little stiff).  This is just the beginning; we have a few video surprises in store for 2012.  Here are all of our 2011 video series.

13.       Becoming a Discovery Ninja.  Responding to discovery thoroughly and promptly is a goal of ours in every case.  Here are a few tips on how to make that happen on a regular basis.

13.       The Wayward Will of Irving Duke.  So you want to draft your own Will?  Take a lesson from Irving Duke, his use of the words “at the same moment” caused his two favored charities to lose $5 million—passing instead to his two nephews who are not even mentioned in the Will!  A lesson on the trickery of the English language.

14.       Will Capacity vs. Trust Capacity: The Mental Measuring Stick under California Law.  Well this post is not from 2011, it was posted in December 2010, but still a useful discussion on the different types of capacity.

15.       The Intentionalities and Formalities of California Will Creation.  This is also a 2010 post that gives a basic primer on the elements required to create a valid California Will.  This is the same format we use to teach law students in our class at Chapman Law School.

We hope you enjoy these posts, and many others we have provided in 2011.  We look forward to giving you even more useful information in 2012.  

Happy New Year!

In one of my recent blog posts “Become a Discovery Ninja” I set out my workflow for responding to discovery requests. The most important rule of my workflow is to respond to the discovery requests within 48 hours of receiving them. I’ve had several attorneys ask me how I can do this so quickly in light of most attorneys’ hectic schedules, including being in trial, responding to ex parte motions (or regular motions for that matter), responding to motions for summary judgment, morning appearances, etc. 

 

It is my belief that 95 percent of the time trial attorneys can meet (and likely exceed) the 48-hour response rule. Keep in mind I do not believe there are any shortcuts to learning the facts and law of a particular case. Of course as plaintiff attorneys we usually have plenty of time to research and evaluate a case before engaging with a client. The evaluation period is the perfect time to learn the facts, witnesses, and documents (or things) pertaining to your potential new case. Learning the facts, witnesses, and reviewing pertinent documents always takes time and effort—and then some more time and effort. But once you have the facts down, and understand the application of those facts to law, responding to discovery should be straightforward. Okay, now to an application that can help you quickly respond to discovery.

 

I use TextExpander for many things in my practice—including responding to discovery. (TextExpander can only be used with Macs, but there are other applications available for PC users such as Breevey or Snippet Bin that function similarly to TextExpander). 

 

ScreenShotTextExpander.png

 

For discovery responses I have two groups of “snippets”, namely Discovery Objections and Discovery Responses. As you can see in screen shot above there is a file for “Discovery Responses” and a file for “Discovery Objections”.  I’ve selected “Discovery Objections” for the screen shot to show a few of my objection snippets. 

 

I have over 60 objection “snippets”, including attorney-client privilege, work product doctrine, calls for expert’s opinion from a lay person, equally available to propounding party, etc. For each one of these objections I have a snippet that can be used to respond to Document Demands, Form and Special Interrogatories, and Requests for Admissions. 

 

For example, if the defense attorney requests that my client provide an expert opinion in special interrogatories I simply type “ROG ExpOp” into my word procesor for that special interrogatory response. TextExpander immediately inserts the objection. You can see the text that is inserted below in the screen shot.

 

ROG ExpertTextExpander.png

 

You can insert this objection  each time you come to a question asking your client to provide an expert opinion. I simply re-type “ROG ExpOp” and my snippet is immediately inserted each time. As you can see from the screen shot above I also have objections for work product, right to privacy of financial records, collateral source (not sure how good this objection is after Howell), asked and answered, etc. 

 

Before TextExpander I used to cut and paste from a template of objections. While this works, in my experience it takes much longer and it is easy to get lost in a large response file. 

 

As you can imagine, using TextExpander speeds the process up for responding to written discovery. Give it a try in your next discovery response. 

Responding to written discovery can be overwhelming. In most cases defense attorneys send the bulk of written discovery early on in a lawsuit. This discovery generally includes Form Interrogatories, Special Interrogatories, Requests for Admission, and Demands to Produce. Due to the size and expansive scope of this discovery one can become overwhelmed by it and tend to put it off until the last minute. Of course putting it off leads to stress, resulting in either poorly drafted last-minute responses (leading to defense motions to compel), or asking defense counsel for an extension of time to respond (which means asking for a favor.)

A better option is to establish a workflow for responding to discovery before it is ever received. Then, once your workflow is in place, it is triggered and implemented when discovery is received.

The essential components of an effective workflow for responding to discovery includes the following:

Form Interrogatories:

Obtaining completed answers to likely Form Interrogatories from your client before you receive Form Interrogatories. I usually go over the Form Interrogatories with my client before I file the lawsuit, or shortly thereafter. In any event, I do it well before a defense attorney sends discovery.

 Once I complete the likely responses I simply save them in my file to include in future formal responses I will need to provide once Form Interrogatories are actually received.

Documents:

Obtaining all documents (and things) in your client’s possession pertaining to the lawsuit before the lawsuit is filed (or shortly thereafter). This is important. Don’t think you can get all these documents once you receive the Document Demand from opposing counsel. Get every document from your client, including privileged documents, before the lawsuit is filed.

 Once I have these documents, I scan them into my case management system under a file named “Documents”. I then break these documents down into natural categories, i.e., Communications, Special Damages, Medical Records, Medical Billing, FDA, Bank Account Info, Attorney-Client Communications, Photographs, 911 Transcripts, 911 Phone Calls, etc.  

Contact information:

Obtaining the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all individuals and entities that have (or may have) documents pertaining to the lawsuit before it is filed (or shortly thereafter). This is important. If your client does not have actual possession of responsive documents after making a good-faith effort to find them, then the Discovery Act requires your client to identify any individuals or entities that may have these documents.

 I enter all names, addresses, and phone numbers of these individuals and entities into my case management system indicating that they may have documents pertaining to my client’s case. It always surprises me how long this list of names gets when you actually think about all individuals and entities that may have documents pertaining to your client’s case.

Objections:

A list of likely objections to improper discovery requests. I’ve built this list up over time and find it very useful to review as I respond to each discovery request. I keep theses objections in a handy application, which I use when responding to discovery.

Self-imposed deadline:

Simply stated, respond in 48 hours or less.

And that’s it! You now have a feasible workflow for responding to discovery. In my next blog post I will introduce an application that significantly reduces the time it takes to respond to discovery—thus ensuring you make your 48-hour deadline. 

This video post is our informal discussion of why we practice law.  It is important for us to know our purpose in practicing law.  In fact, we put our purpose on the first page of our website, and we talk about it constantly.  For those viewing this blog by email subscription, you can click on the title for a link to the video.