Where and How to Find a Good Business Lawyer

Many people feel like they do not need a business lawyer, at least until they are in trouble. That is when it is already too late. Every business, whether they’re small or big, needs legal expertise at different stages of work and while dealing with clients. Hiring a business lawyer can help you work efficiently and without any legal hassles while saving you a great deal of money that could go into fighting long legal battles, which is something that can be avoided easily with the right preparation.

A good business lawyer advises you on everything from obtaining business licences and permits to contract agreements or customer complaints. He/she is, in fact, of great benefit to startups or emerging businesses that cannot afford to lose money because of legal implications.

What Is a Business Lawyer?

Business law is also called mercantile law. It refers to the laws that govern dealings between people and business matters. A business lawyer ensures that no laws are violated during these dealings. Wrong decisions, unhappy clients, intellectual property theft, hiring the wrong employees, hurriedly drawn drafts and agreements, or non-compliance with state and federal laws can cause great damage to your businesses. They can spoil your reputation and bring big financial losses. A legal expert can help you prevent or mitigate such problems before they occur.

Why You May Need a Business Lawyer

Formative Aspect

When your business is new, or even if the doors are not even open yet, there are a lot of legal procedures that need to be sorted out before your business can get off the ground. These procedures can seem quite baffling, and any errors may cost you dearly in the future. Startups, especially, do not have a lot of money to spare for such unforeseen or unnecessary circumstances. A business lawyer can guide you every step of the way and ensure that your business has all the legal backing it needs to avoid getting sued by anyone.

Buying a Business

If this situation is where you are starting off, you know that there are many steps involved. A legal expert can help you with the evaluation of the business, make the purchase and acquisition agreements, and ensure the smooth transfer of permits and licenses.

Structural Decisions

As a new businessman, you would like to be in charge of the entire decision-making process. However, it is not easy for one person to understand liabilities, asset values, tax obligations, comply with local rules and regulations, or study the laws that govern employer-employee relationships. A business lawyer has expertise in more than one area and can take some of this burden off your shoulders. This allows you to focus on what you opened the business to do.

Filing Patents

Filing a patent for a new product or service is a complicated and time-consuming process. Hiring a legal expert can expedite the process for you and get it done without any errors on your part.

Preventive Aspect

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It is way more cost effective and prudent to prevent lawsuits or complaints from clients or employees rather than dealing with them after the damage has been done. It is the work of a business lawyer to go through all the regulations that are put in place for smooth business operations and oversee your business decisions to avoid any future complications.

Compliance with State and Federal Laws

Understanding and complying with local business regulations is crucial, and because there are so many, it may be quite difficult for new business owners to research and adhere to all the rules. Whether your business dealings are interstate or outside the borders of the country, you’re purchasing or selling property outside the state, or you’re paying taxes, you need to be careful and ensure that you are not breaking the law in any region. Along with his/her legal expertise, a business lawyer can do the research for you, save you a lot of time, warn you if there are any discrepancies, and save you numerous financial hassles.

Businesses also require expertise and talent from other countries. In such cases, business and immigration laws go hand in hand. Understanding immigration laws allow businesses to hire people overseas as well as have employees visit various branches to contribute to particular projects. A legal expert will know how to best go about this without breaking any federal laws or overstepping any boundaries. Such a professional also ensures the safety of your employees, who trust you as a business owner, in order to keep them away from legal harm.

Drafting of Contracts

Businesses require contracts at every stage of functioning. It is wise to not do any work without a formal contract between the two parties, be it clients, employees, or business associates. Legal experts have a sound knowledge of all that must be included in contract drafts and negotiations. They often have templates that can be used, as well. However, these obviously need to be edited to suit the requirements of one particular business. It is best to leave the nitty-gritty to a business lawyer and focus on areas that need your attention.

Employee Issues

a female business lawyer explaining the labor code to the companies human resource department

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Whether it is the hiring process, rules of payment, employee compensation, or the process of letting people go, a legal expert can prevent issues with employees by laying down all the required rules and regulations for a smooth hiring and firing process and keep you safe from expensive lawsuits.

In the case of manufacturing and sale of consumer goods, labor laws come into play, as well. Hiring a business lawyer will simplify the regulations for you so that you are able to put into place all the necessary hiring processes, comply with working conditions, distribution requirements and price control, or deal with compensations in case of accidents, whether they are natural or man-made.

Protection of Intellectual Property

For any business to thrive, it is required that their ideas, information about new products and services, marketing campaigns, and advertising campaigns remain confidential. Businesses must have the rights to own and use their ideas and property to profit them. A business lawyer will help your company register and enforce copyrights as well as prevent or deal with intellectual property theft.

How to Find a Good Business Lawyer

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When you are setting up a new business, most of the people you are looking to work with are found through your personal contacts or references. While this is not a bad way to find business associates or potential employees, it is not completely safe. There are a few things to keep in mind that will help you find the right person for your commercial requirements.

Sift Through Personal Contacts

This is what most people do, and there is no harm in it. We prefer finding somebody that you personally know or a lawyer recommended by friends and family rather than calling up a total stranger. This is fine as long as you have them vetted out and check if they are able to deliver exactly the kind of work that you require

Use Online Legal Directories

In many states, the lawyer bar associations maintain an updated list of all the licensed legal practitioners in states, along with their area(s) of expertise. Legal help sites can come to your aid, but they are more generic in nature, and it is better to retain a lawyer you can approach all the time, as well as one who knows about your business, specifically. Additionally, one cannot trust all the reviews posted on these sites.

Know What You Want

You need to find a business lawyer that understands exactly what your business needs and how to go about getting it. It is better to seek out professional help based on an area of expertise, such as intellectual property, share trading, and labor laws. Determine why you need a legal expert and what his/her tasks will be for you. Once you shortlist a few lawyers, ask them the right questions to understand whether they are the right person for your business.

Interact and Enquire


Just reading and knowing the qualifications and area of a business lawyer’s expertise is not enough. It is important to interact with the lawyer you plan to hire. Ask him/her about their work experience, especially in your field of business, and for clients similar to you. Inquire why he/she is working in that domain, specifically, how they would go about working for you, how many people would be involved, how they charge, their mode of communication, possible conflicts of interest with your business, and if they can provide client references.

Conclusion

a business lawyer shaking the hands of an entrepreneur after their meeting with their other companions

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All businesses require legal expertise, but there are certain tasks, such as obtaining a business licence, applying for a loan or filing tax returns, that you can handle yourself. As a result, one need not spend money on these moves. However, the objective of hiring a good business lawyer is to save you time and money. Thus, it is necessary to consult with multiple lawyers before you choose the one that is right for you so that your choice works out in your budget, has the right approach, and one is available for you when you need advice. Having a business lawyer makes every task easy for you and ensures peace of mind.

Rental Agreement Signing: 15 Things You Should Know About

Renting a new apartment can be an exciting time. It can also be a stressful one so it is important to make sure that you have done your due diligence when it comes time to sign your rental agreement. The rental agreement is a contract between you and the landlord, the person renting the property to you, and it is meant to cover all the physical items, rights, policies, or expectations that are associated with renting that property.

Since many people do not spend as much time reading this contract as they should, or do not know what to look for, we have reviewed here some major things to pay attention to before signing this important document.

What To Do before Signing Your Rental Agreement

searching for rental spaces

There are a number of things a future renter should do before signing their rental agreement, not least of which is physically examining the property. This may seem fairly obvious, but examining the property together with the landlord is the first step to handling any problems with the property, possible renovations, areas that are not clear, or specific issues like common areas or outdoor spaces. Physically reviewing the property allows you to request that certain issues like renovations are resolved before you rent the property or, at the very least, that language pertaining to these issues is included in the rental agreement.

The period before signing your rental agreement is also a time to make sure that you are fully prepared to enter into a binding contract and that you are able to fulfill your end of the bargain. Contracts of this nature nearly always include a duration of the lease, 12 months, for example, so you need to make sure that you are ready to commit to a 12-month lease, and that you can afford it. Any doubts you have about the property should be resolved before you sign your rental agreement. This is also a good time to meet the neighbors and establish a positive rapport with your landlord or their representative.

Questions To Ask A Potential Landlord

rental agreement between two persons

A smart thing to do before you sign your rental agreement is to come up with a list of question to ask the landlord or their representative. These questions will vary based on your specific situation and the specifics of the property.

If the landlord mentions in passing that pets are allowed, what kind of pets? He or she may allow dogs, but are we talking about a lapdog or a Great Dane? This is a good chance to ask about any weight or breed specifications in the lease.

You notice that there is a dent in the wall of the apartment. Is the landlord going to fix that before you move in? At the very least, the presence of any defects in the property should be noted before you sign the agreement.

In reality, the questions that might be asked by a prospective renter are too numerous to list. These questions depend on your specific situation. Some common questions that renters commonly ask before they sign a rental agreement include:

  • When is the rent due and what are acceptable forms of payment?
  • In what situations would a security deposit be withheld?
  • Am I allowed to have roommates or to sublet?
  • Am I required to maintain (i.e. clean or mow) common areas or outdoor areas?
  • What happens when my lease is up—is there a chance that my rent will magically increase?
  • What is included in the monthly rent?

This is merely a short list of some important questions that renters should consider asking before they sign their agreement. We all understand that sometimes you’re in a rush to sign an agreement and move in. Maybe the place is great and you don’t want someone else to swoop in and nab it, but you need to protect yourself. Asking the right questions before you sign an agreement is the first step to doing that.

15 Things To Look For Before Signing A Rental Agreement

searching for rental homes

Some things you should look for in your rental agreement will be covered in the questions you have asked your future landlord (or should have asked). This is not a case of being redundant, but of making sure that critical aspects of renting a property have actually been stated in the agreement. This is not only to make sure that you and the landlord are on the same page but to protect you should any disagreement arise or if you decide to move.

When you surveyed the property, you should have noted any issues. These are important to keep in mind when going over the agreement. What follows is a list of 15 things you should look for before signing a rental agreement.

Read The Contract In Its Entirety

This may sound like a no-brainer, but many renters make the mistake of assuming that things they discussed with the landlord will be in the agreement, or that they understand the terms of the agreement without actually having read the document. To protect yourself and spare yourself any potential headaches in the future make sure you read the rental agreement in its entirety, and we don’t mean speed read it in two minutes either.

Understanding The Rent

This was mentioned in the questions you should ask the landlord. It is important that you and the landlord are on the same page in terms of how much the rent is, when it is due, and how you are expected to pay it (check, online, cash, etc.). All of this should be clearly stated in the agreement.

What Is Included In The Rent

Some rental properties may include some amenities in the rent, like cable, access to a common area, like a roof deck or a park and the like. Make sure all of that is mentioned in the agreement.

Utilities

Utilities are a biggie. Many of you may have lived in cities where the utilities may cost nearly as much monthly as the rent. Make sure that you understand what is covered by rent and what is not, also whether the utilities are already set up by the landlord or if you are required to get things turned on. Are you paying the water bill or is he or she?

Rental Property Policies

The landlord may have said that your komodo dragon is okay to stay in the apartment, but does it actually say that in the rental agreement? Make sure that any policies of the property are clearly stated in the agreement and match what the landlord may have told you.

Pets

Pets are another big issue. Many renters have them and properties vary in their policy on pets. The agreement should clearly state what breed or species of pet is allowed, whether there are any weight requirements, how much extra a pet deposit or monthly pet fee will be, etc. In reality, if you have a pet or are planning on getting one, you should read this area thoroughly.

Renewal Process

Many leases have a 12-month period of the lease. Although the period may vary depending on the property, it is important that you understand what will happen at the end of that period. Can you renew? Will it renew automatically? Is there a chance that your rent might go up? Also, make sure to ask if your lease will be shortened if you choose to not renew.

Renter's Insurance

Renter's insurance is always a good idea. Is this included in the rent or do you have to pay for it? Renter's insurance doesn't only cover your own belongings. Many times it can help cover the costs that a landlord might pass onto you if you are found responsible for something such as fire damage to the unit.

Security Deposits

Security deposits are important because most people want these back when they move, especially if they took good care of the property. Make sure any policies regarding security deposits are clearly stated in the agreement.

It can be particularly useful to look for reviews of the potential landlord. Some less reputable landlords claim to give back security deposits in the contracts, but never return the deposits in practice. These unscrupulous landlords will claim normal wear and tear as excessive damage to avoid returning the deposit.

Heating And Air Conditioning Units

AC units may not be important if your apartment already has one, or if you are renting an entire property, like a house, but if you live in a high-rise, these may be an issue. Some properties prohibit items jutting outside of windows so make sure you read and understand this part of the agreement.  

Additionally, if you rent an older single-family home, the heating unit could pose problems.  If your new rental has oil heat, and you turn on the heat without knowing that no oil is left, you run the risk of potential damage to the heater. Check to see if you would be on the hook for replacing appliances in situations like these.  You will also want to estimate costs for heating the home in winter prior to signing the lease to be sure that it will fit within your budget.

Roommates

It is common to have roommates. It is even common to sublet properties. Although you may have discussed this with the landlord, make sure any policies in these regards are clearly stated in the agreement before planning for these types of arrangements.

Common Areas And Outdoor Spaces

Some properties may come with common areas, like gardens or pools, or outdoor spaces like yards and terraces. Make sure that any expectations regarding these areas are clear in the agreement. If there is a yard that you will be expected to maintain, find out if a lawnmower and weed whacker will be provided or if you will be expected to buy your own. If you are expected to buy your own lawnmower, is there a shed or storage area that you will be able to store your mower away from the elements?

Renovations

Maybe during your walk-through of the property, you notice that a new paint job is needed, or the landlord promised to bring in a new fridge. Make sure that if the landlord has not already addressed these promises that they are mentioned in the agreement.

Apartments That Are Furnished

Some apartments are furnished. If the one that is, make sure that any furnishings there at the time you rent are clearly listed and described. This will save you any headaches later when (or if) you decide to move. After moving in, it can be helpful to take detailed pictures of any damage present on the furniture for your records.  You don't want to be held financially responsible for items that were damaged prior to you moving in.

Ask Questions

Yes, we talked about this one, but it is important that all issues are perfectly clear before you sign that rental agreement. Make sure anything you have discussed with the landlord is in the rental agreement. This is your last chance!

Conclusion

family

Renting a new place does not have to be a hassle. This is an opportunity to turn your life in a positive direction by getting a fresh start somewhere else. You are turning a new leaf, but you want to make sure you’re not turning to the wrong page. Making sure you have asked questions and carefully read the rental agreement will ensure that you are taking a step in the right direction with your new home.  

If the rental agreement seems to not match what the landlord claims and the landlord resists changing the agreement to match their promises, it might be best to pass on the property and find a different option. It can be frustrating to pass on what seems like the perfect apartment, but the last thing you want is to be stuck renting from an untrustworthy landlord for the next year. Do yourself a favor, make sure it's in writing. Walk away if it's not.

Breach Of Contract: Different Types Of Work That You Should Know About

No one wants to be a party to a breach of contract. Small businesses are especially vulnerable when a violation occurs.  Consider the costs and repercussions if someone sues you or even if you are the aggrieved party—all parties usually lose more than they gain when faced with legal disputes. You can only have a breach of contract on a valid contract. While it is optimal to have a lawyer review your contracts, it is not always possible nor is it a requirement by law. The courts have measures to assess whether there is a breach of contract. Not all contract violations invalidate a contract. 

What Is A Breach Of Contract?


A breach of contract is a violation of a legally binding agreement where at least one party fails to perform one or more contractual obligations. If you are considering suing someone, a court will first evaluate your contract to see if it meets the criteria for a breach of contract case.

First, you must prove your contract is legally valid. You must then demonstrate you fulfilled your part of the contract. If you could not perform all of your contractual obligations, you must prove that the breach hindered your performance. Furthermore, you have to show you suffered damages because of the breach.

WHAT CONSTITUTES A CONTRACT?

You do not need a lawyer to construct a legal contract. The contract can be a verbal agreement, something written on a dinner napkin, or it can be a 50-page agreement written in a lawyer’s office. Even if you have a formal agreement drawn up with lawyers present, it still needs to pass the validity test. Your contract is only valid if the following criteria are met:

  • An offer is made
  • The offer is accepted
  • Consideration exists
  • There is a legal intent
  • Both parties are competent
  • The contract is fair to both parties

The party making the offer must clearly communicate the proposition. All parties in the contract must agree on its terms. The offer details should be easy to understand, and both parties must interpret the conditions the same way.

The contract must also have consideration, which means it should be mutually beneficial. For instance, if you want a web design company to create your company website for a fee, then the contract has consideration for both parties.

Another critical element to a valid contract is the legal intent. For instance, if you pay someone to rob a bank and the party takes your money but does not go through with the robbery, you can’t sue the breaching party because robbing a bank is illegal.

The parties signing the agreement must have the mental capacity to understand what they are signing. You can’t enter into an agreement with someone who cannot understand the agreement (including minors). All parties to a contract must be of clear and of sound mind. You cannot enter an agreement while under the influence of any mind-altering agent like drugs or alcohol.

Finally, a contract is not valid if it is not fair. Going back to the website design firm example, assume the design firm owner is a college student who needs money to pay college expenses. You take advantage of his situation and pay him $500 per month for a year to complete and maintain the website. However, the student works 40 hours a week. Your contract is invalid because it is not fair to both parties

Types Of Contract Breaches


breach of contract agreement paper and a pen

Once you determine you are dealing with a breach of contract, you still have to determine the kind of breach that occurred. There are four contract breaches:

  • Material
  • Fundamental
  • Anticipatory
  • Minor

What Is a Material Breach?

A material breach is the most severe type of contract breach and deems a contract “irreparably broken.”  A contract breach is a material breach if one or more parties in the contract failed to perform their duties as outlined in the contract. Proving a material breach is difficult. The court determines the answer to the following questions before declaring a material breach:

  • Is the aggrieved party deprived of the “heart” of the deal?
  • Would compensation take care of the aggrieved party’s loss?
  • What will the breaching party lose?
  • What are the chances that the breaching party can and will fix things?
  • Was the breach willful or in bad faith?
  • Is the aggrieved party “ready, willing, and able” to perform?
  • Does the contract include a clause to deal with a material breach?

A contract breach would deprive the aggrieved party of the “heart” of the deal if the party did not enjoy the core agreement. For example, you paid the web design company $20,000 for your website. They completed all the site's core functionality and design, but the content contained obvious grammar errors and some broken links. The courts would consider the errors a material breach since you received all the required features. That would not deprive you of your part of the core deal. You still can pursue corrective measures, however, it does not qualify for material breach.

If the breaching party can compensate the aggrieved party for the breach, then the courts would enforce the contract. The court also considers what the breaching party would lose if the contract were void. You paid the web design company $10,000 dollars to start the website. A week before the project is complete, you tell them you are not happy with the product and decide you will not pay the final $10,000. The courts would not consider a contract breach since they completed most of the work.

If possible, the courts will try to uphold the contract, so unless the breaching party does not have the capability of taking corrective actions or acted unethically, you cannot cancel the contract. The last thing the courts will test is the contract itself. If there are provisions in the contract for handling breaches, the courts will enforce the contract.

What Is a Fundamental Breach?

A fundamental breach is one where the breaching party failed to complete a task so essential to the contract it hindered the aggrieved party from fulfilling their part of the agreement. If you are having a website built, but you do not give the contracted party access to your web servers, then they cannot deploy your site.

What Is an Anticipatory Breach?

You hired a web design team to launch your website by December 1st. It takes about three months to complete the site. It is now November 3rd, the team has not worked on the project and you no longer trust the project will make the launch date. You can sue before any violation occurs. An anticipatory breach is a breach that has not yet occurred, but it is clear the offending party will not perform their duties.

What Is a Minor Breach?

A minor breach, also known as a partial breach, is when there are minor contract violations. In the example where the web design company finished most of your website but the content contained errors, it would be a minor contract breach.

What Happens In A Breach Of Contract?


signing

The journey is not over once you have determined you have a compelling breach of contract case. Not all contract breaches are treated the same. The courts consider an array of remediation tactics. You may get monetary remediation or contract remediation.

Common Remedies for Breach of Contract

The legal remedies depend on factors such as the breach, its severity, and how much work both parties completed. Compensatory damages allow you to recover the money you are owed while punitive damages penalize the breaching party their wrongdoing.

People use incidental and consequential damages interchangeably, however; they have two distinct meanings. Incidental damages are the expenses the non-breaching party incurred while trying to avoid further losses. Consequential damages are expenses that would have been avoided if the breach did not occur.

Liquidated damages are damages the parties outlined in the contract should a breach occur. Contracts usually use liquidated damages when the losses are hard to prove (like intellectual property). Some contracts include a clause that forces the breaching party to pay attorney fees. You cannot recover attorney fees unless the contract permits it.

Other Remedies for Breach of Contract

Along with monetary damages, there are other options available to remedy a breach of contract. The court can force both parties to fulfill their obligations under the original agreement.

It is possible that a judge would rescind the contract. This means the contract is treated as if it never existed and all monies are returned to the rightful party. Contract rescission can occur in the following situations:

  • Both parties agree to it
  • The contract is illegal
  • It is evident that one party has no intention of fulfilling their contractual duties

Contract reformation is a viable option if both parties agree a contract rewrite to match the original intent.

Conclusion


corporate man reading

Legal contract disputes can get complicated. Make sure your agreements are legally binding and try to settle disputes before going to court.  

How To Get A Restraining Order: FAQS, Process And Its Different Types

If you are the victim of abuse in a relationship or have experienced sudden violence or threats outside a relationship, you might feel very isolated and alone. It’s important to tell someone you trust so you build the momentum to help you take action to leave or protect yourself. One very important way you can protect yourself is by making the police and courts aware of your situation and filing for a restraining order. We’re here to help you understand how to get a restraining order.

What Is A Restraining Order?


A court issues a restraining order to prevent one person from contacting or being within a certain distance of another person. This order prevents contact of any kind and often will have distance restrictions included in the text. It is intended as a legal process for eliminating the harassment and intimidation of the abused or threatened person. It’s important for someone in an abusive relationship to know how to get a restraining order, but there are other situations that warrant a protective order.

There Are Four Types Of Restraining Orders

  • Emergency—the police can issue these if you are in immediate danger and can’t get to a courthouse right away (expires after a few days)
  • Temporary—issued by a judge for coverage before a case goes to court (typically last 14 days)
  • No-contact order—if the abuser is convicted of a crime, the court will include this long- or short-term order as part of the punishment
  • Domestic violence restraining order—issued by a judge as part of a hearing and can last up to a few years

Reasons To File A Restraining Order


man writing a document

While you know restraining orders exist, you may not know if they apply to you or your situation. You must first understand the circumstances that warrant seeking an order to know how to get a restraining order. While we won't list every situation under which a restraining order can be filed, these are the most common. Note: there are always dangerous situations that might warrant this kind of protection outside these listed categories.

Psychological Abuse

Abuse doesn't always have to be physical to be considered dangerous enough to get a restraining order. Those who work with domestic violence victims recognize that psychological abuse is usually the most destructive aspect of domestic violence, and the most difficult abuse to heal from. Psychological abuse can involve:

  • Degrading behavior
  • Threats of violence
  • Unreasonable attempts to control another’s behavior
  • Threats against your children or loved ones
  • Behavior that interferes with daily life
  • Behavior that affects your ability to do your job
  • Destroying property and displaying weapons as intimidation
  • Stalking
  • Threatening to divulge sensitive information about you
  • Threatening to take your children or have them taken away

It’s important to keep a journal of all incidents of psychological abuse along with how each incident affected you. If acts of psychological abuse happen via text, email or social media, print out each occurrence for evidence to present to a judge. Be sure to list the date and time of each interaction and any potential witnesses.

Since this will be considered a legal document, it's important to present the facts of the interaction as objectively as possible. Play-by-play descriptions can be useful. The journal and printed materials are a vital step when you need to focus on how to get a restraining order for psychological abuse.

Physical Violence

The most important thing to do when faced with physical violence is to make a plan and get out. Physical violence ends in tragedy far too often. Many survivors believe the violence will decrease if they can do what it takes to meet the demands of their abuser.  The sad truth is that it usually escalates regardless of what the victim says and does to try to stop the abuser's attacks. No matter how many times a person tells you they’re sorry and that they will change—they rarely do. In many cases, abusers can only make real changes after they seek intensive therapeutic services while staying far from abused loved ones.

Abusers will often make the victim of their abuse feel like they’re overreacting and what they’re experiencing isn’t abuse. This is referred to as gaslighting and recognizing it when it happens is important to recovery. Signs you’re in a physically abusive relationship include when your abuser:

  • Physically hits, punches, pushes, shoves, grabs or kicks you
  • Uses a weapon of any kind to hurt you
  • Blames you for the physical abuse
  • Destroys your things
  • Hurts your pets
  • Hurts your children or other loved ones
  • Threatens to hurt him or herself if you leave

If there is an immediate threat to your well-being, call 911. The police will provide you with a police report. They will also often provide advice on how to get a restraining order and may connect you with domestic violence services in your area.

Please be aware, all of this advice applies regardless of gender. Many people think of abusers as men and the abused as women, but the reality is more complex than that. Law enforcement officials and those working at domestic violence shelters and hotlines are familiar with working with victims of every orientation and gender. There has been a growing awareness of these realities in the United States. No survivor of abuse should ever fear ridicule or disrespect for doing what they need to do to be safe. No matter who you are, you will be respected and helped when you reach out for assistance.

Financial Abuse

This often goes unaddressed because it can appear there isn’t help for those being financially taken advantage of. There is. Studies have shown that financial abuse happens just as often as physical and emotional abuse and 99% of physically abusive relationships also involve this kind of cruelty. Financial abuse can look like:

  • Restriction of the victim’s ability to use and gain money or financial tools
  • The abuser not allowing the victim to work
  • Having to account for every penny spent
  • Abuser using the victim’s credit without permission or repayment
  • Abuser feels entitled to the victim’s money
  • Being told where you can and can’t work
  • Pressuring you to quit your job
  • Harassing you at work

When this kind of abuse occurs, it makes it nearly impossible to create an escape plan because there’s no money to payroll such a plan. In the long-term, it can prevent the victim from getting housing, credit, and a job. It’s hard to get any of these things without a positive credit history, access to money for deposits or a tangible employment history.

This type of abuse also takes place in other familial and caretaker relationships outside of romantic ones. If you or someone you know is elderly and experiencing financial abuse, you can contact your local Agency on Aging or Adult Protective Services for specialized assistance in stopping and preventing the financial abuse.

Trademark Infringement

This is an uncommon situation, but may still be covered by a restraining order. If you’re in the process or trademarking or getting a patent for something you invented, and another party is using or selling that product or logo, you may file for a restraining order. This will prevent the other party from selling and using your invention until the lawsuit is settled.

How To Get A Restraining Order


Your state and local governments may have specific and special steps for how to get a restraining order in your area, but these are good guidelines to follow. Most importantly, don’t wait to file. Most courts require a person to file within 30 days of a violent incident.

Learn The Process

You should visit your county clerk’s office for instructions and forms to file. They will tell you how to get a restraining order in your county. The process may take a few hours of waiting but is fairly easy.

Domestic violence help centers will show you, step by step, how to get a restraining order and give you advice, making it as easy as possible. Some may have lawyers that work or volunteer for them to offer legal advice. They can point you toward a lawyer if they or you think you may need one. This could be costly, but you can seek lawyers who specialize in domestic violence.

Present Evidence

You want to walk into court prepared. Things to keep and bring with you:

  • Printed texts, emails and recorded voicemails—never delete these
  • Printed social media posts
  • Copies of police reports
  • 911 transcripts
  • Signed and dated witness reports
  • Medical reports and dated photos of injuries
  • Dated pictures of damage to property
  • Dated pictures and descriptions of weapons
  • Your journals and written accounts of dates and types of violence

If possible, bring any witnesses with you to court.

Practice

Practice what you want to say when you get to court. Remember to keep your focus on the subject of your restraining order. Don’t talk about why what the abuser is doing is wrong, talk about the abuse. Cheating, drinking, and cursing won’t help your case. Focus on what scares you, how you feel threatened and the facts of the abuse.

A big part of how to get a restraining order is staying as calm as necessary to present all your evidence. The person you’re getting a restraining order against may be in court with you, so preparing will help keep you composed.

Frequently Asked Questions


meeting

How Old Do I Have To Be To Get A Restraining Order?

Most states require you to be at least 14 years old.

How Much Will It Cost?

In most cases, it costs nothing to file with the court.

Does the Order Only Protect Me?

No. You can include children, roommates or other loved ones.

How Long Does An Order Last?

That depends. It can last weeks, years and, sometimes, a lifetime depending on the facts of your case.

What If The Order Is Violated?

Call the police. They will arrest the violator. If it’s a repeat offense, or the offense was severe, they could charge him with a felony.

If I Move Will I Be Protected?

Yes. All states recognize protection orders from other states.

Conclusion


people discussing in the court

Knowing how to get a restraining order is the first step to getting out. There’s nothing more important than ensuring your and your children’s physical safety. The law is on your side and a restraining order is one layer of defense against abuse. If they have isolated you, reach out to friends and family for help and community. Each connection will make you feel stronger.

The first sign of violence or abuse is the best time to leave. The longer a relationship lasts, the harder it may be to leave. If you’re wondering how to get a restraining order—you should start now. Starting on a plan to get out and to safety should be your number one priority.

If you are or suspect you are in an abusive relationship, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-HELP (7233). They offer free, anonymous help 24/7. They offer advice in several languages and can help you figure out how to get a restraining order in your particular situation. If you are in immediate danger, always call 911. There is help and you are not alone.

What Is The Purpose Of A Durable Power Of Attorney?

Power of attorney gives a trusted individual the right to make decisions and take actions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney is most often used by seniors to give another person the authority to act in their name in medical and legal matters, including those about property, taxes, business deals and real estate. It is also known as a continuing power of attorney because it will continue even if the principal; the person granting the authority, becomes mentally incapacitated or incompetent.

The documents drawing up a power of attorney (POA) can be particularly about the purposes and duration for which it is conferred. The agent is usually a trusted friend or close relative who can be relied upon to make decisions in the best interest of the principal when he or she can no longer do so. For seniors and their families, it’s best to plan and set up a durable power of attorney, especially for medical matters, well before it will be needed.

What Is a Durable Power of Attorney?

discussion of what is written in the document

A durable power of attorney is also known as a continuing power of attorney and remains in effect even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated and incapable of taking or communicating decisions. Different states have their power of attorney forms which state the conditions and duration of the POA,as well as the start date. These forms must be filled out completely and correctly for the POA to become effective.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

Power of Attorney gives a trusted individual the authority to act on your behalf. It can pertain to legal or medical matters or just be limited to a single task. The scope and duration of the POA can be specified in the document. The person delegating the authority is called the principal, and the individual who is given the authority is called the agent or attorney-in-fact.

Types of POA

There are two types of POA: medical and general. General Power of Attorney gives the agent the authority to act for the principal in financial and legal matters like property and real estate, business, taxes, lawsuits and in dealings with the government agencies such as applying for benefits.

Medical Power of Attorney typically gives the agent the authority to make decisions regarding medical matters and healthcare. It is sometimes named differently in different states and may be known as Health Care Proxy, Designation of Health Advocate, Designation of Healthcare Surrogate, etc.

Both types of POA can continue even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated if the word “Durable” is added.

Defining the Scope of Power of Attorney

shaking hands of approval

The scope of POA can be defined so that it is limited to a specified matter or duration. The limits are clearly specified in the document. A durable power of attorney remains effective even if the principal becomes mentally incompetent. The state of being mentally incompetent is defined as the inability of the principal to make an informed decision or of communicating such decisions. In fact, this is why seniors and their families should plan and set up durable POA well in advance of it becoming necessary.

Mental incapacitation can result from mental illness or physical injury which affects the functioning of the brain. This includes strokes, coma, paralysis, etc. For seniors, it may stem from the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. In general, certification from a medical doctor is required for a POA that springs from mental incompetency.

How Long Does Durable Power of Attorney Last?

The durable power of attorney comes into effect when the form is properly completed unless specified otherwise. Alternatively, a “springing” durable power of attorney springs from an event such as the mental incapacitation of the principal, which is specified in the document. Durable POA typically ends with the death of the principal unless an ending date is specified.

When Is a Durable Power of Attorney Used?

A durable power of attorney is typically used when seniors need someone else to make decisions and take actions on their behalf in medical and legal matters. This may be done in the event of a sickness or injury or just because the principal needs help with managing affairs such as medical care, bills, and legal matters. It continues if a senior cannot make informed decisions about these and other matters. For seniors and their families, it is usually best to plan and establish a durable POA well before it will be needed.

Durable POA may also be needed if an injury or illness makes it impossible for the senior to communicate such decisions. For example, a disease such as a stroke may make it physically impossible to speak or communicate by any other means, even if mental functions are unimpaired. Many seniors may just choose to delegate durable POA to a trusted individual because they need someone to act on their behalf in making decisions regarding medical care, managing social security, applying for benefits, paying bills, etc.

Planning Ahead

Seniors and their families should plan and prepare for a durable power of attorney, especially for medical matters. In case of an accident or injury, or the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia, it will save time, money and trouble if a trusted family member or friend can step in and take over the decision about medical care and treatment. It’s best to be proactive rather than wait too long and risk a situation where the principal is no longer capable of making a decision about choosing an agent.

If a senior does become mentally incompetent due to injury or illness without establishing a durable POA, relatives will have to go to the courts to make decisions about their medical care and treatment. This can be expensive and time-consuming and distract their efforts at a time when the medical care of the individual should be the highest priority.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Durable Power of Attorney?

Durable POA is a relatively easy way for seniors to get help in managing their affairs without the intervention of a court. Even if there is no serious medical condition or emergency, it can be helpful to have someone who can manage financial and legal matters for them. It’s important to have someone who can make decisions about medical treatment and long-term care if and when the need should arise.

On the other hand, there is great potential for fraud and abuse in this position of trust, and unfortunately, this does happen very frequently. One way to prevent against fraud and embezzlement is to specify the limits of the durable POA.

Benefits

Durable POA allows your agent to help you make decisions about medical care and deal with financial matters like bank accounts, taxes, social security, insurance, property, etc. Your agent can deal with third parties like banks, credit card companies, and government agencies and programs like Medicare and social security on your behalf. They will have to provide a letter of attorney to establish this authority.

A durable power of attorney is a relatively easy way for seniors to manage their affairs without the intervention of a court. The terms and limits can be specified. Durable POA ends with the death of the principal, which means that the agent does not have any control over the estate unless that is specified elsewhere.

Disadvantages

While there are many benefits for seniors in giving durable POA to someone they trust, there is always the risk that this trust may be abused. Fraud does happen, and it can be a way for an agent to embezzle funds and transfer property to themselves or others. They can even change the names of beneficiaries on life insurance policies and annuities to benefit themselves.

In some cases, an agent may not be acting from malicious intentions but still fail to carry out the wishes of the principal. As in all matters, mistakes can be made. If fraud is detected, by the principal or the heirs, the agent may be sued for the return of assets as well as damages.

Can Durable Power of Attorney Be Revoked?

A durable power of attorney can be revoked at any time by the principal provided he or she is of sound mind. A properly-drafted statement of revocation will have to be given to the agent as well as to any third parties with whom the agent has had dealings in that capacity. If the agent is a spouse, the durable POA is automatically revoked in case of divorce.

Durable POA is automatically revoked on the death of the principal, and the agent has no control over the estate unless specified elsewhere.

Conclusion

A durable power of attorney helps seniors by giving a trusted individual the authority to act on their behalf in medical and legal matters. It can be important in situations where the principal becomes mentally incompetent to make informed decisions due to injury or illness. Durable POA is a way for seniors and their families to manage their medical and legal affairs without the intervention of the courts.

How To Apply For Disability And When To Seek Legal Assistance

If you have become disabled and unable to work, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration understands that the disabled person may not be able to come in for their own appointments and also lets a loved one apply on his or her behalf. Disability benefits come in the form of monthly support that helps with living expenses, medical expenses, and bills. Disability benefits may be short-term or long-term, depending on the situation. There are also disability attorneys and non-legal representatives out there who can advise you on how to apply for disability.

We will talk about the different types of disability, how to apply for disability, and when it might be helpful to seek legal help. Read below for more on how to apply for disability.

What Is Disability?

There are two types of disability, or disability insurance. Both types are obtained through the Social Security Administration. The first benefit is Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. The second benefit is Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

Disability

The difference between the two is that Social Security Disability Insurance is an insurance program more geared towards people who had been working regularly before their disability. Supplemental Security Income is specifically for disabled persons who have a demonstrated financial need.

To qualify for SSDI, you must have total disability. This means you are completely unable to perform your last job or any other job you have ever performed before. Total disability also means you must be incapable of adapting to a different job suitable for your level of ability, skill and education.

The criteria for SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is demonstrated financial need and a disability that keeps you from holding gainful employment. People over 65 years may not need to show total disability to be eligible for SSI, per the SSA’s rules. To qualify for SSI, you must show both that you are completely disabled and that you do not have adequate means of supporting yourself. Completely disabled means showing you cannot perform any work, either work for which you have previously trained or work you could be trained for.

Applicants for Supplemental Security Income cannot own more than $2,000 in countable assets outside of the home in which they live and one vehicle.

Is There a Need to Apply for Disability?

If you became disabled, cannot work, and cannot meet your living expenses, you may apply for disability. It is also possible to apply on behalf of a disabled family member. If you find out you have a serious illness that is expected to be terminal you should apply for disability immediately. At least you will have peace of mind knowing you will have some support in meeting your living and medical expenses.

In all cases you should begin your application as soon as you expect to be disabled more than a year, as the disability application process can be lengthy. Children with certain medical conditions also meet the qualifications for receiving SSI benefits. Check with the SSA for more information on accepted medical conditions and for how to apply for disability for a child.

The process is mostly straightforward but requires you to be tenacious in pursuing your or a family member’s claim. It is important to remember that SSA denies many claims at first but that does not mean that you should give up if you are experiencing a total disability. SSI or SSDI can be a lifesaver if you or a family member experiences such a hardship. The application process should be taken seriously and not abused if you are not truly disabled. If you are truly disabled, do not be dissuaded as you go through the filing process for either SSI or SSDI. Many denied cases are appealed in the Appeals Court and won.

You may be eligible for SSI or SSDI or both. You can receive both SSI and SSDI at the same time. Even if you haven’t worked in a while and aren’t eligible for SSDI, you may be eligible for SSI if you have a demonstrated financial need.

How to Apply for Disability

There is a lot of help available regarding how to apply for disability. You can apply online for either SSI or SSDI using the Social Security Disability Insurance online application. The SSA will accept any documents submitted online through the SSDI online application and will follow up with you for any additional documents needed. If a friend or family member applies for disability on your behalf, the SSA will be in touch with you to have you sign the documents.

person holding tab with social security form

You can go to your local SSA field office to meet with an SSA representative who helps you prepare your SSI or SSDI claims. You can make an appointment by calling 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment or just stop by your local field office. Friends or family members can also be present with you during your phone or in-person interview with the SSA.

You should stay in close contact with your primary doctor as you navigate how to apply for disability.  You should notify your doctor immediately if you plan to file for disability. Your doctor can help you fill out forms. The SSA will probably be in touch with your doctor for more information on your condition.

When to Seek Legal Help

Before seeking legal help on how to apply for disability, consider the pros and cons. The costs of hiring a disability attorney are thankfully clear and unambiguous. Disability attorneys’ fees are regulated by federal law. Usually the cost is the lesser of 25 percent of your disability back-pay or $6,000, whichever is lower. Disability attorneys only get paid if you win your case.

social security law printed papers

It can be beneficial to seek legal advice during the initial filing process on how to apply for disability. Since the Social Security Administration denies many initial applications, it is common for applicants not to seek outside legal help until the appeals process on how to file for disability.

Filing Your Initial Application

There are a few things to consider in your initial application. Disability attorneys can consult with you best on how to file for disability. First, disability attorneys advise you on your “alleged onset date”, or AOD, for Social Security Disability Insurance. Supplemental Security Income pay starts when you first apply.

For SSDI, AOD determines the date at which you were first eligible for disability and decides how far in the past your back-pay will reach. If you became disabled on a date before your filing, you can get pay as far back as 12 months before your filing date. However, there is also a 5-month waiting period after you first apply during which you are neither owed nor given any benefits. So you would have to have become disabled 17 months before the date on which you applied to get the full 12 months of back-pay. The SSA makes the final decision on the date on which your disability first started. This date set by the SSA is called the EOD, or Established Onset Date.

After that, often lawyers or non-attorney representatives do not get directly involved until the appeals process. If your initial disability application is denied, remember you have 60 days to file an appeal. You also must notify the Social Security Administration if you plan to hire a legal representative using the SSA’s Appointment of Representative https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-1696.pdf form.There are multiple levels of the appeals process. Appeals are often denied at the reconsideration level. At the second appeals level, you will get a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ. A lawyer or non-legal representative will help you prepare your answers for the hearing. They will also help you best represent your condition and with cross-examination by the vocational expert during your hearing.

Do I Need to Hire a Disability Attorney?

While it’s possible to get your case approved by the Social Security Administration without legal representation, everything else being equal, Social Security is more likely to approve applicants who are represented by legal counsel. Disability attorneys are the experts on how to apply for disability. If your initial application was denied, in that case you may hire either a disability attorney or a non-legal representative.

Non-Lawyer Representatives

Non-lawyer representatives are also experts on how to apply for disability. A non-lawyer representative is paid the same as a lawyer – both are paid an established sum percentage out of your Social Security benefits and only get paid if you win – but a non-lawyer representative often only handles disability cases and may have more time for your case, while a lawyer could have multiple specialties and less time for your case. Non-lawyer representatives are also more willing to take on long-shot cases while lawyers are more interested in taking cases that will probably win.

Conclusion

Filing for disability does not have to be complicated with the wealth of resources and help at your disposal who can help you on how to apply for disability. Remember that you may not need legal representation for your initial application but as you enter the appeals process, enlisting the help of either a disability attorney, non-legal representative, or social worker or case manager may be beneficial. They can best understand how to portray your application in the best light to the Social Security Administration. With the help of these representatives, your chance of a successful SSI or SSDI application is greatly increased.

How To Sue Someone: 5 Ways To Determine If You Have A Case

Arbitration, the use of law to resolve conflicts between two or more parties, has existed for centuries. Many jurisdictions, including the US, have embraced courtrooms with outstanding enthusiasm. This is why you should know how to sue someone when you are in a dispute or conflict instead of taking matters into your own hands. If you try to resolve matters on your own, you could get sued instead, especially if you injure the person or damage their property.

courtroom

Civil litigation is common these days. In fact, a lawsuit is filed every two seconds in the US, with millions of others waiting to be resolved. Suing has become a growth industry. According to the American Bar Association, there were over one million attorneys practicing today, and law schools continue churning out new lawyers each year. If there is someone you have an unresolved dispute with, this content is for you. The article highlights how to sue someone, reasons you might want to do so, considerations for filing a suit, and how to determine whether you have a good case.

court hammer and law books

Reasons You Might Need to Learn How to Sue Someone

There is a myriad of reasons should learn how to sue someone. The following are a few of them:

woman writing on a notebook with some people

Recovering Damages

Enforcing a Contract

Protecting Your Property

Dissolving a Marriage or a Partnership

Replacing a Fiduciary

5 Ways to Determine if You Have a Good Case

Any lawsuit can be broken down into specific components that are legally required for the case to be a “good” case. As the plaintiff, a lawyer provides a checklist of elements and makes sure you can satisfy each with evidence. The cause of action depends on your lawsuit, but you need to consider whether your case meets the required elements.

Determine a case

If it is a breach of contract, such as when you have hired a contractor for home renovations and doesn’t meet their end of the deal as established in the contract, you must prove the following elements:

  1. Whether there was a valid contract in place. As the plaintiff, you need to show that a valid contract existed between you and the second party. If it is a written contract, it should be signed by both parties.
  2. Evidence of breach of contract. Here, you prove that the other party breached the contract by not doing what you had agreed on or had promised to do. For example, in our home renovation example, you must show that the contractor did not make the renovations you had agreed on.
  3. Performance. For a successful breach of contract action, show that you held up your end of the contract terms, such as the provision of capital for the contractor to fulfill the obligation.
  4. Damages. You must prove that the breach of the contract led to economic damages. For example, if the home renovations were meant to facilitate a certain business, you should include the profits you would have otherwise made.
An Attorney

For negligence, you must prove the following 5 elements:

  1. Duty. The defendant should have owed a duty to the plaintiff. The duty arises in several forms.  For example, drivers have a duty to all other drivers on the road by driving safely.
  2. Breach of duty. Here, it should be established that the defendant breached the duty with respect to the plaintiff. Here, it should be established that the defendant failed to act reasonably to fulfill his or her duty to the plaintiff.
  3. Cause in fact. Here, it should be established that if not for the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff would have suffered no injuries.
  4. Proximate cause. This is related to the proximity of the actions of the defendant to the harms that were caused. For instance, if a pedestrian is hit by a motorist they might call their mother from the hospital. The mother might then suffer a heart attack instantly. It should be established whether it is fair to attribute the heart attack to the actions of the defender.
  5. Damages. You must prove damages were incurred, such as medical bills, or pain and suffering caused by the injury.

Considerations before Filing Suit

shaking hands after filing a lawsuit

The following are the considerations before suing someone:

  1. Whether you have a good case. The elements of a good case must be met.
  2. Whether you have tried settling the dispute by compromise. The other party may have a valid argument or a potential claim against you. In that case, adjust your position accordingly. The court may look unfavorably on your suit if you did not seek to resolve the dispute outside of court despite the other party’s willingness to do so.
  3. Whether you have made a final demand in connection with the dispute. The defendant will want to settle the dispute and resolve it instead of sorting it out in a court of law.
  4. Whether you’ll win the dispute. You need to be reasonably certain that the judgment will be in your favor before spending a lot of money on the case.
  5. Whether you have the time and resources to devote to the lawsuit. Lawsuits drain a lot of energy and time. If you don’t have enough time for it due to work, social life, or family, it may not be worth it.
  6. Whether you can pay your lawyer. Lawsuits are typically expensive and you should have the money to cover the legal fees. A few lawyers will agree to only charge fees from the defendant after winning the case in your favor. You will want to check beforehand if your lawyer is willing to agree to this arrangement.
  7. Where you’ll be able to sue. If a person is from another jurisdiction or state, you may not have the power or jurisdiction to bring a suit against the person. Therefore, seek services in his or her location.
  8. Whether you’re within the applicable “statute of limitations.” Here, check with your lawyer to ensure that the time limits of the lawsuit have not run out.
  9. Is it a small claim and can you represent yourself? If it is a small claim, use a “conciliation” or “small claims” court. Here, you might want to represent yourself as you’ll save attorney’s fees.

Conclusion

gavel

Civil suit court cases are fairly common these days. For you to protect your rights and interests you should know how to sue someone. This helps you get compensated for injuries and also ensure that you protect your property. In most instances, you’ll sue someone to enforce a contract, recover damages, dissolve a marriage or a partnership, protect your property, or replace a fiduciary.

For the lawsuit to be a good case, it must meet the elements discussed in the article. Look into the considerations highlighted for you to sue. We hope this article has adequately addressed how to sue someone, reasons you might want to do so, considerations of filing a suit, and ways of determining whether you have a good case.


Tips On How To Choose A Good Immigration Lawyer

Are you hunting for the right immigration lawyer to help you with your case? Have you been surveying your options, but are not sure where to even start?

Finding the right immigration lawyer for your particular legal situation is crucial to ensuring that your case receives the attention it deserves. If you are filing a petition for a green card or visa, working to stop your deportation, or are dealing with a similar immigration matter, you need to know what to look for in an immigration lawyer so you can choose one with your best interests in mind.

What Is Immigration Law?

In laymen’s terms, immigration law is the body of laws, statutes, and other regulatory measures determining who can and cannot enter and reside in the country. Immigration is not to be confused with naturalization. Immigration determines who can enter and leave a country while naturalization governs who can become a citizen. The two areas are connected to be sure, with most attorneys specializing in immigration law also handling cases related to naturalization.

Origin of Immigration Law

In the U.S., for instance, immigration policies and laws are governed by the President and interpreted by the Federal Court System. International treatises also govern immigration procedures, such as those put forth by the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This body of laws has existed since 1976, allowing individuals who are citizens and live legally in a country to travel abroad without incident. This means they can travel and live outside of their home country if desired, and their country of origination must take these citizens back upon their return.

What Immigration Law Encompasses

Court gavel use in a judicial court

Lawyers practicing immigration law are experts on which rules individuals are required to follow if they want to enter and exit the U.S. legally. Immigration law covers customs inspections at points of entry like border security and airports. Immigration laws also dictate what documentation is needed to enter and exit the country, such as visas and passports.

This body of laws gives customs officials the authority to check any possessions you bring into the country. Customs officials even retain the right to hold you for questioning if they deem it necessary upon your arrival into the U.S. Choosing an immigration lawyer is of the utmost importance if you are trying to navigate these laws for your green card, visa, or any other immigration matter.

In fact, around 19 percent of immigrants in the entire world reside in the U.S. That is a staggering figure, particularly when you consider that the nearly 50 million immigrants who live in the country make up about 14 percent of the entire population of the U.S. in total. The country’s immigration laws are constantly developing and changing, so hiring a lawyer who is an expert in these areas is key to ensuring your case is handled appropriately.

Immigration Options

If you are looking to immigrate to the U.S., there are a few different routes available to you. To be in the country legally, you need to receive official sanction to enter the U.S. The document that provides you official sanction is known as a visa. There are different visas based on the duration and purpose of your stay. Depending on your country of origin, if you are coming for a short visit unrelated to business, you may not require a visa at all. If you need a visa, the most common options to choose from are family and employment visas.

With a family visa, a U.S. citizen may submit a petition to allow other family members to immigrate to the country. There are some strict parameters, but a citizen can usually request to bring in their parents, siblings, spouse, and children. A permanent resident living in the U.S. legally may also petition for their spouse and children to come into the country.

There are many forms required to submit a petition for a family visa, which is why it is so important to make sure you receive guidance from a licensed immigration attorney. Employment visas can be divided into different subcategories, including those for skilled workers, priority workers, and investors. Again, navigating this complex maze of documentation and requirements is best done with legal counsel.

The Role of an Immigration Lawyer

woman is having a meeting with her immigration officers

An immigration lawyer aids clients in pinpointing the right visa for their situation that will allow them to enter the U.S. legally. Lawyers practicing in this area of law may also aid and advise regarding deportation proceedings, helping to make or break the client's case.

An immigration lawyer may work for private firms, in public interest settings, or on behalf of the government. For attorneys who work for private law firms, you must pay a fee for representation. There are non-profit organizations that assist individuals with immigration matters. Non-profits typically hire lawyers to assist clients with navigating the complex paperwork and process of immigration. Lawyers who practice immigration law for the government enforce these laws, such as analyzing applications, litigating in court, or helping to create new immigration statutes and procedures.

Role Analysis

woman shaking hands for a successful meeting

If a client can potentially apply for different visas, it is the job of the immigration lawyer to help them select the best option. Some immigration attorneys work with employers who are trying to bring one of their foreign employees into the U.S.

After aiding their client in choosing the right visa, the lawyer will help the individual to process their visa application and give them insight into any factors that could cause their denial. If you are applying for a visa, the attorney may work with you to make sure you are adequately prepared for your visa interview and help you gather the documentation required to attest to your character and fitness recommendations.

If you are facing deportation, an immigration lawyer can serve as your defense and speak on your behalf in court to the immigration law judge presiding over the proceeding. Your entire case can depend upon you having a skilled, knowledgeable lawyer at your side adept at offering sound advice and engaging in litigation.

5 Tips to Hire a Good Immigration Lawyer

1.  Consider the Costs

Our first tip for you to consider when hiring a good immigration lawyer is the costs involved. You should be ready to pay a considerable fee for quality legal services, but they should still come within the realm of reason. Attorneys spend a long time in school and training for the profession, so their knowledge and expertise comes at a cost. They will work very hard on your behalf and have every right to charge associated fees.

In fact, if their fees are too low you should question the credentials of the immigration lawyer you are considering. Lower than average attorney’s fees could be a sign of inexperience or under-qualification. Alternatively, if the attorney’s fees are above the realm of normal fees, you might need to examine what the lawyer’s motives are.

You should plan on paying around $100 to $350 per hour for the services of an immigration attorney. Sometimes, you might get your first consultation free or have it discounted on your bill down the line. If you seek free legal representation through a non-profit organization, you will get qualified representation but the wait might be too long for your case.

2. Be Sure to Ask Questions

It is perfectly acceptable to ask plenty of questions when hiring an immigration lawyer. There are key questions you should always get answered before making your final decision. Ask how long they have been a licensed attorney practicing law, what their experience is with immigration law, and if they are licensed to practice in your particular state.

You should also inquire whether they are members and associated with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, what the case will involve, and the potential outcomes expected. Find out what will be required on your end throughout the duration of the case, who will handle your case, and the means of communication that will be used. Definitely ask about the projected total costs and how much you will need to pay throughout the case. Prior to signing an attorney-client agreement, see if you can get references from past clients. This should never be an issue as a lawyer with a successful case history will have plenty of pleased clients.

3. Verify Credentials

Just to be safe, always take the time to verify the credentials of any immigration lawyer before you hire them. Once they give you the information requested, go on the bar website for their state or region and make sure everything is in order.

Call the references the immigration lawyer provided you with so you can get a clear idea of the process their cases followed, how their cases were managed, and if they were pleased with the outcome.

4. Avoid Unsavory Characters

While this may seem like an obvious tip for choosing an immigration lawyer, avoid unsavory characters. There are many qualified and reputable legal professionals in the field, but some unethical types worm their way in.

For instance, if you speak with an immigration lawyer who advises you to do something wrong or illegal like put inaccurate information on an application, bend the truth with an immigration official, pay money for a bribe, or anything else ethically questionable, run far and fast. If you want your case to go smoothly, the last thing you need is to get in trouble with the law.

Make sure you only hire a licensed, practicing immigration lawyer. No matter what you hear, a notary or other legal professional cannot handle the case for you. There are plenty of legal professionals who are not actual practicing lawyers, purporting to have the prowess to navigate and advise on immigration matters. Not only is this not the case, but you could end up losing money, having your forms filled out incorrectly, or running into legal trouble down the line.

5. Weigh Your Options

Our final tip for choosing a top-notch immigration lawyer is to weigh your options. After doing a careful review with the tips noted above, look over your shortlist of attorneys to see which one fits best with your situation.

By talking with different attorneys and getting an idea of how they approach and handle cases, you can see whether you will work well together. You can also determine which are more qualified to handle your case than others.

Conclusion

Choosing an immigration lawyer who is qualified and knowledge to help you reach a successful conclusion to your case is a process. It takes time and careful consideration regarding your options.

Make sure you consider the costs involved, pose plenty of questions to any lawyers you meet with, verify their credentials, and stay away from anyone that shows a hint of unethical behavior. Finally, weigh your options and decide which immigration lawyer is the right fit for your case.

Useful Tips On Why And How To Patent An Idea

Have an innovative mind that has come up with some decent business ideas? Perhaps you have already even developed a useful product that shows great potential for success. Whatever the reason you are here now reading this article, know that we have some useful knowledge on why and how to patent an idea that will hopefully get you closer to knowing if this is the right choice for you.

The Purpose of a Patent

The patent system was designed to promote the creation and innovation of ideas by allowing inventors ownership for their work and granting them an “exclusionary right.” The exact basis for the patent system can be found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution. It is stated that this article grants Congress the power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

This gives inventors the legal right to prevent any other from using, making, selling or importing their invention. By definition, this specification is what determines the patent as a “negative right” as opposed to a “positive right”. A positive right would allow one to make, use, sell or offer something for sale This is also known as monopolistic right. A negative right, on the other hand, is a right that puts restrictions on using something in a type of way. Technical terminology aside, a patent protects future revenue stream, but this is only for a limited time.

Patent Expiration

You might be curious as to why a grant is only protected for a limited time. Due to the patent expiration process, this process was designed to allow the public access and information for using the once-patented product. After the time of patent expiration, the public will then be able to take advantage of this opportunity, essentially allowing them the potential to innovate a once-patented invention further.  By having the system setup this way, it sets the stage and encourages progress towards technological advances. This makes sense to do for positive intentions; many minds are greater than one, typically.

Patent Types

So, you're wondering how to patent an idea? Let's find out about the kinds of patents. There are 3 different types of patents that exist, as of now:  utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Utility patents give any individual the right to a patent that invents or discovers any useful, new process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter. Utility patents can also be given to those that discover any new or useful improvement to those categories of creations just mentioned. Design patents have the ability to grant anyone who specifically invents an original ornamental design for an article of manufacture. And lastly, plant patents are allowed to those who discover or invent a plant that asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of species.

Should You Patent Your Idea?

If you are undecided about getting a patent for your idea, here are some things to consider before committing. Understand that while there are many benefits to having a patent for a product, it isn’t the only way to find success in using your creation. Patents aren’t the cheapest of things to apply for especially if you are filing for a patent that is for a mechanical or electrical device. This could cost up to $2,500 to $3,000.

Also, not to bring down your hopes or discourage you in any way---only two to three percent of all patented products get approved for the market. Once again, we're not telling you that you should not try to patent your product. We’re just suggesting it doesn't have to be your first step or even a required one.

First Step

You may also be asking yourself in regards to how to patent an idea, what is the first step in obtaining a patent? We suggest an overall assessment and evaluation of your product. That includes understanding how viable your business opportunity is. To do so, really try to understand your product. Determine what its potential target market would be, and get a good idea for your competition. The last thing you would want to do is spend all of that time, energy and money on a product that doesn't have a strong potential foothold in today's marketplace. We will discuss in greater detail what we think you should research further to avoid situations like this.

Patent Research

man doing his research in the library

How to patent an idea? The process involves research. As we mentioned previously, it's a really good idea to know your product before applying for a patent. This includes also knowing if your product may be infringing on someone else's product that is already patented. You can go about this in different ways. But to know for sure, you'll need to conduct a "preliminary patent search." To do so, you can either hire an expert to help you or do it yourself.

Product Prototype

Before filing for a patent, it's important to have your product's materials or mechanics in official order should you happen to develop a product that you would consider to be anywhere shy of your ideal final product. It may prove to be a difficult process in dealing with the patent modification system. It is best to build your prototype first. That way you know if you like it, you know it's ready to be patented.

Manufacturing Cost

Not to assume you don't understand your product or product-to-be, but it's also important to determine how much it's going to cost you to make your creation. Say it costs more to make than the market is willing to give for it. (We figured we'd mention a quick product cost tip, just in case.)

Benefits of a Patent

chart showing the benefits of patent

After taking all of the above mentioned information into consideration when assessing how to patent an idea, you can now decide whether you need the patent. For those who will later learn that their product is not able to be patented, don't panic. Thousands of products that exist on today's market are not patented. And it's not just because they aren't able to be patented. Like we said, you can find success without a patent.

LICENSING RIGHTS

sample patent license agreement

In discovering how to patent an idea, you must know about licensing rights. In gaining a patent for your product, you also gain the right to license your product to a company or multiple companies, depending on the terms of your licensing agreement. And not only that, patented products are a lot more desirable for companies as well. This gives them the confidence that they won't be infringing on the rights of another patent. And actually, some companies may only agree to product licensing if a product is patented or patent-pending.

How to Patent an Idea

At this point in finding out how to patent an idea, you may still see value in getting a patent for your product. If this is the case, then we are going to provide you with some steps which hopefully make this a smoother process for you.

Proof of Invention

First, understand that it is not completely necessary to hire a lawyer for this process. Just to be clear. There will be no court, judge or  legal "research phase in this process. In fact, the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), which is the department in charge of approving and issuing patents, has rules anyone can follow just fine without a lawyer.

With that in mind, you may still want to take legal precautions while filing for your patent. If you haven't already, a good start would be to develop some sort of record for your invention. This could be a developmental, step-by-step process giving insight on the evolution of your product or even just having descriptions or diagrams that denotes key aspects of your invention. As long as there is some sort of documentation of your invention, you should have what you need. Also, we suggest signing and dating each entry and have two reliable witnesses sign off on this as well. (It is better to be safe than sorry.)

Prepare Then File with the USPTO

In the patent filing process, these are the steps:

  • Making sure your invention qualifies for patent protection
  • Assessing the costs and having the funds
  • Doing a thorough patent search

After checking these steps off of the list, you can then begin the next step which is filling out a Provisional patent application (PPA). This isn't an actual application for the patent itself. Filing a PPA only allows you to claim a patent-pending status. It is a sort of pre-phase process, if you will. It can cost anywhere from $65-$250, depending on the company. And it requires a detailed description of the product, including an informal drawing.

If you decide to file electronically instead, understand that it might be faster to do so by mail, especially if you are only filing one application. But filing online has its advantages too. You get to avoid the mailing system, and you also have the advantage of obtaining instant confirmation of the PTO's receipt of documents.

Conclusion

All in all, there's much to consider when deciding whether o file a patent for your product. Realistically, it depends on exactly what type of product you have created and whether you think a patent is worth it. If money isn't an issue and you don't mind putting in the time and effort, file away; apply for a patent.

Best Law Schools | Top 10 In The U.S.

So you’ve completed your undergraduate degree, or are in the midst of it at a 3/3 program, and law school is on your horizon. A 3/3 program is one offered by some schools which allows students to overlap their first year of law school with their senior year of undergrad, finished undergrad and being awarded their degree at the same time as finishing their first year in law school. Whether you are entering as a 3/3 or a first-year applicant, the best law schools are good to keep your sights on. In this article, we’ll explore a list of 10 of the best law schools in the United States.

 Law School FAQ

Stack of law books

Following is a presentation of commonly asked questions pertaining to law school. We’ll explore what law school it, what opportunities it brings, and also the importance of keeping in mind the cost of law school and the prospect of making money upon finishing it. As we’ll see, the best law schools and the worst law schools alike can cost quite a bit of money–generally over $50,000 annually for three years–so choosing the right institution for you is essential to support your successful law school career.

What Is Law School?

In law school, the student pursues the achievement of a juris doctorate, a JD, meaning they will become a doctor of the law. Law schools come in all shapes and sizes, although generally law schools are broken into two primary categories: ABA-accredited law school, and non-accredited law schools.

It is of course preferable to attend an ABA-accredited law school, as many states require a degree from an ABA-accredited law school for the person to sit for the bar exam: an essential prerequisite to legal practice. Law school is the institution in which all the essential classes are taken to understand how to practice the law.

What Is Studied in Law School?

The law is complex both in the United States and abroad, and in law school the intricacies of the law, whether national, regional, metropolitan, or otherwise, are quite expansive. In the United States, law students focus upon core classes in addition to electives. To quality for ABA-accreditation, schools must require that particular classes be taken by all law students. These include two levels of constitutional law, contracts, torts, and civil procedure, in addition to courses in criminal procedure, legal writing and theory, and legal ethics.

Ethics are particularly important to the legal profession given the power that can be exercised by lawyers. Alongside the ethics course, most states require the prospective lawyer to pass the MPRE, or Multi-state Professional Responsibility Examination. Passage of the exam is generally a pre-requisite to practice in a state, as it shows that the hopeful attorney knows and understands the ethical guidelines that govern the profession.

What Can You Do with a Law Degree?

A JD degree gives you the potential to practice as a lawyer, depending upon the licensing requirements of the state where you wish to work. Some states require you to pass a localized bar exam, while many states require you to pass the UBE, the Uniform Bar Exam, which has been adopted by many states across the nation.

Upon achieving the JD, you can also begin teaching law at certain institutions of higher learning. Undergraduate pre-law classes are often taught by persons with JDs, and sometimes by working lawyers. Having a JD does not by default make one able to practice the law and be a lawyer.

If an individual possesses a JD but has not passed a state bar exam or been licensed to practice law, they can teach law or can practice as in-house counsel. This means that persons with JDs may be hired into corporations to provide advice on legal issues, and since they are working within a company doing this, a license to practice law is not required. A law degree, whether from the best law schools, the mid-tier, or the low-tier law schools, gives one the essential knowledge to pass the bar exam, which is what one must do if they really want to practice law in the courts.

How Do I Become a Lawyer?

Becoming a lawyer is not as simple as achieving a JD from one of the best law schools. The JD must be passed with a sufficiently high grade to sit for the bar exam. The bar exam may be the UBE mentioned above, a state bar exam, or some combination of the two. For example, in Massachusetts a hopeful lawyer must have a JD from an ABA-accredited law school, have taken and passed the MPRE, have letters of recommendation, and also take a Massachusetts bar component exam which consists of 50 state-specific questions.

How Important Is Going to the Best Law Schools?

The importance of attending one of the best law schools depends entirely upon your goals. If you would like to work in a major city with a large corporate law firm, going to a prestigious law school with a strong name will help you gain the position you desire. At a top corporate law firm in Boston, a graduate of Harvard University is more likely to gain access to an entry-level position than would someone who attended a state university’s law school anywhere in the United States. Consider what kinds of clients you’d prefer to serve, and if the answer is global corporations, then choosing the best law schools will help.

Going to the best law schools for the self-employed is far less important. To open a law firm, one need only have a license to practice law in the state they intend upon opening a firm. Given that bar exams all test the same content, passing the bar exam is the same achievement regardless of what law school the student attended. If smaller legal practice outside the corporate world is your desired area of practice, the best law schools will add to the prestige of the degree on your wall but won’t necessarily add more to your wallet.

How We Reviewed

people studying in the library

In the review of the best law schools in the United States, we have focused upon the curriculum and quality, the pros and cons of each university, and the cost of a law degree. As noted below, the cost of a law degree from the best law schools can vary widely. It is important to remember that our review of a law school will be objective, but your decision is entirely subjective. Choosing the best law school for you will be a decision made through a combination of considering the school’s curriculum, as well as the culture, location, and staff; so make sure to take your time and check out schools before deciding.

Overall Price Range of the Best Law Schools

open doors along the corridor of a school

The overall price range of a law degree from the best law schools will generally be somewhere around $50,000 annually for academics, in addition to the cost of living. This is given that no scholarships or grants are received. Scholarships may be awarded to persons based upon membership or demographics, application to particular programs, or achieving victory in particular competitions.

What We Reviewed

School

University of California — Berkeley
University of Virginia
University of Michigan — Ann Arbor
University of Pennsylvania
New York University
Columbia University (NY)
University of Chicago (IL)
Harvard University (MA)
Stanford University (CA)
Yale University (CT)

University of California — Berkeley

Curriculum

A pristine Northern California campus with the traditional law school curriculum.

Pros 

 Cons

  • Very low acceptance rate of 23%
  • Bar passage rate of 83.1%
Tuition

Just over $19,000 for in-state residents, and a little over $32,000 for non-residents. Note that here and for all other schools explored, the cost of living is not included, and this can be substantial depending upon the locale.

University of Virginia

Curriculum

A traditional curriculum that achieves an 87.9 percent employment rate at graduation, with a professional assessment of 4.4.

Pros

  • Excellent employment rate at graduation
  • 90.3% employed 10 months after graduation
  • 93.2% bar passage rate

Cons

  • Virginia is not California
Tuition

About $47,900 for in-state and $52,900 for out-of-state students.

University of Michigan — Ann Arbor

Curriculum

In the aquatic Ann Arbor region, this school has a 7.3/1 student-to-faculty ration for the traditional law school curriculum.

Pros

  • 97.9% bar passage rate

Cons

  • Somewhat high student-to-faculty ratio compared to the competition
Tuition

Around $57,000 for in-state and $60,500 for out-of-state students.

University of Pennsylvania

Curriculum

The traditional law school curriculum with an overall score of 89/100 by CNBC.

Pros

  • 97.6% bar passage rate
  • 94.5% employed at graduation rate

 Cons

  • Low acceptance rate of 18%
Tuition

The tuition here is around $47,600 for everyone.

New York University

Curriculum

A strong traditional legal curriculum with an entering undergraduate body with average 3.66+ GPAs.

Pros 

  • 97.3% bar passage rate
  • 27% acceptance rate

 Cons

  • Lower employment rates at graduation than some competitors
Tuition

Tuition at this institution is about $64,000, making it one of the most expensive we’ve explored.

Columbia University (NY)

Curriculum

Columbia offers a classic legal curriculum in a historic setting that supports learning.

Pros 

  • A bargain for the level of prestige
  • 96.1% bar passage rate

 Cons

  • No in-state discount
Tuition

The tuition at Columbia is about $56,000.

University​ of Chicago (IL)

Curriculum

The windy city’s premiere legal curriculum with strong corporate opportunities.

Pros 

  • 97.7% bar passage rate
  • 95.3% employed at graduation

 Cons

  • Very high average entering GPA of 3.73-3.95
Tuition

In Chicago at this institution you’ll pay around $62,000 each year.

Harvard University (MA)

Curriculum

Harvard is the most classic of legal curriculums available in the United States at the historic campus in Cambridge.

Pros 

  • Beautiful campus and surrounding environment
  • The nation’s most prestigious law school

 Cons

  • 91.6% employed at graduation
Tuition

The cost at Harvard is about $64,000 for each of the three years of law school.

Stanford University (CA)

Curriculum

Stanford provides a nationally respected traditional legal curriculum sufficient to sit for the UBE.

Pros 

  • 4/1 student-to-faculty ratio
  • 91.3% employed at graduation
  • Low cost of tuition

 Cons

  • Lower bar passage rate than the competition at 91%
Tuition

At just about $47,500, Stanford is one of the cheapest private best law schools.

Yale University (CT)

Curriculum

Of the best law schools, Yale’s traditional curriculum is ranked at the top of the nation.

Pros 

  • 99% bar passage rate
  • 4.2/1 student-to-faculty ratio

 Cons

  • Low employment at graduation rate of 83.3%
  • Low employment at 10 months after graduation rate of 83.3%
Tuition

Students pay around $62,000 a year for law school at Yale.

The Verdict

Of the law schools reviewed, the costs vary substantially, while the curriculums are largely the same. The decision to attend one of the best law schools is something that is entirely personal and something you decide upon after considering your goals with your law degree. Stanford was the best combination of pricing, prestige, and ranking, at around $47,000 and ranked at number 2 in our list of the top 10 best law schools. Harvard may have the highest prestige, yet is ranked in at #3, and while Yale is ranked at #1, it has one of the worst employment at graduation rates of the schools reviewed.

Spending over $250,000 to acquire a JD if you intend upon practicing in a small town with a limited number of clients can be a financially ruinous decision. Spending $250,000 to acquire a JD if you will work for a corporation earning $300,000 annually is an investment that is entirely worthwhile. Consider what works for you, and be prepared to study.

For more information on lawyers, law school, and other related matters, check back to Lawyer Search for ongoing updates and articles.