Business Services

Lawyers Who Help Small Business Owners

Lawyers Who Help Small Business Owners

The lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. provide legal representation and services to new and developing small business owners. Our experience with consumer litigation lawsuits give us a unique position to advise small business owners. We understand the difficulties of running a business and drafting contracts, hiring employees, and operations. Small business lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. can represent small business owners in civil lawsuits and help prevent future lawsuits with our contract drafting and negotiation services.

Doucet & Associates offers a free video seminar about drafting contracts for small business owners on our website. Click here to view the free video seminar. Our lawyers not only help develop contracts and offer legal advice but also help small business owners settle contract disputes. Using an objective based approach to help our clients, we review all the facts and help them evaluate their best options.

Small business attorneys are usually much more affordable than the gigantic law firms that serve large corporations.  We have less overhead and are more responsive to our clients' changing needs.  Hiring a small business attorney can help with organizing a business at an affordable cost, as well with litigating out claims.  Our litigation attorneys can even help at a flat monthly payment against our hourly rate.  Contact us for more information!

Aside from contracts and negotiations, our lawyers can also assist small business owners in a variety of other legal matters. Our lawyers have experience fighting federal and complex litigation lawsuits, commercial foreclosure, tortious interference, scams, and fraudulent misrepresentation. The lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. have great experience handling appeal cases at the Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals and have successfully shaped national mortgage law with a verdict from one of our appeals. Call Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. today at (614)944-5219 to set up a consultation with a small business attorney.

 

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Are you a business owner? Make sure you don't violate these contract provisions

Are you a business owner? Make sure you don't violate these contract provisions

Drafting contracts can be a tedious and difficult process for experienced and new small business owners...

How to Make Use of Small Claims Court

How to Make Use of Small Claims Court

What Is Small Claims Court?

Small Claims Court handles the filing of cases that conform with the standards enacted by the Ohio General Assembly in Chapter 1925 of the Ohio Revised Code. This Ohio law requires that each county and municipal court establish a special division for lower money damage cases, generally referred to as “small claims court.” Small Claims is a division of a municipal or county court designed to provide easy court access to non-lawyers, and the cases are heard by a magistrate. The parties involved in the dispute are allowed to object to the magistrate’s decision and appeal to municipal or county court. Small Claims Court is designed to allow parties to more quickly have their day in court, without necessarily retaining an attorney.

Although the rules are more relaxed than in other court settings, small claims trials generally follow the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. In addition, each court has its own local rules which you will need to follow. Check with the Clerk of Courts.

What kinds of complaints are heard in small claims?

Small Claims Court in Ohio can only hear cases seeking to recover money owed. The most you can ask for is $3,000. A counterclaim (a claim filed by the opposing party against you) also cannot exceed $3,000. The court cannot hear cases for slander, libel, replevin (action for the return of specific personal property), malicious prosecution, abuse of process actions, punitive damages or other cases where more than money is pursued. Small claims court also cannot resolve claims against the agencies of the State of Ohio or against the United States government and its agencies.

Therefore, if you have a dispute involving $3,000 or less before considering interest or court costs the proper forum for the dispute is Small Claims Court. Just remember the Small Claims Court can order a judgment for money only. It cannot require a person or business to do something or to stop from doing something (i.e. it cannot issue an injunction).

Cases that initially fit the small claims criteria may be transferred out of small claims court:

  • If a case starts with a claim for $3,000 or less but then comes to include claims that exceed $3,000, the case will be transferred to the civil division of municipal or county court.
  • If one of the parties to a case requests it, a case may be transferred to the civil division of the municipal or county court.

 

Who may file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court?

Any individual 18 years of age or older or a corporate entity (such as a corporation, partnership, etc.) doing business in Ohio can sue or be sued in Small Claims Court. Each party may be represented by an attorney or may appear pro se.

If you are an officer or an employee of such an organization and are involved in a small claims court case on your organization’s behalf, you should seek the advice of an attorney before you file any document with the court. You may present evidence concerning your side in a dispute, but you may not engage in advocacy, such as questioning of witnesses in court or the presentation of arguments.

If you advocate in court on behalf of your organization, you may violate rules about the unauthorized practice of law-even if all you do is fill out forms and file papers. To avoid such a violation, contact an attorney to find out what you may and may not do on your organization’s behalf.

What is “Pro Se”

“Pro se” means “for himself” and a “pro se litigant” is an individual who appears for himself in court. When a small claims complaint is filed by an individual who represents himself, he is appearing “pro se.”  The individual who files the complaint is the “plaintiff” and the individual being sued is the “defendant.”  If an individual defends himself in a small claims action, he is also appearing “pro se.”

Do I need an attorney to file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court?

By law, the appearance of an attorney on behalf of any party is permitted, but not required. In fact, the goal of the small claims division is to make the court accessible to non-lawyers. Persons 18 or older may represent themselves in Small Claims Court. Keep in mind persons younger than 18 must still be represented by an attorney.

Because the amounts at stake are often less than the costs of retaining an attorney and the procedures may be less formal than in other courts, many parties elect to represent themselves. However, parties may retain attorneys to appear on their behalf and if the opposing party is represented by an attorney, it may improve your chances of winning to retain one.

What is the cost to file and where do I file?

The best strategy is to ask your local Clerk for the cost in your county. File your complaint at the Municipal or County Clerk of Court Office in the county where the defendant (the person you are suing) lives. Ask your local Clerk for the cost in your county or check the Clerk of Court website for that jurisdiction.

How do I file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court?

A small claims action is commenced by paying the clerk of the court a filing fee and filing a “summons” and “complaint.” The web site for the Clerk of Courts for the jurisdiction in which you are filing usually provides forms of complaints and summonses that can be filled out and filed. For example, in Franklin County, the Clerk has Small Claims forms at http://smallclaims.fcmcclerk.com/home/court-forms. Be sure to make enough copies of the summons and complaint to file an original, serve one on each defendant, and maintain extras for your files.

The complaint must include (1) your name, address and telephone number; (2) the name and address of the person or entity you are suing (the “defendant”); (3) the nature of your claim against the defendant, including dates and other relevant information; and (4) the amount of money damages you are claiming.

Persons filing small claims lawsuits (“plaintiffs”) should be sure to use the correct legal name of the persons or entities being sued (“defendants”). Correct entity names may be available from the Secretary of State’s Office. Similarly, if you are suing the owner of an unincorporated business operating under an assumed name such as a sole proprietorship, general partnership, or professional services corporation you can find out the name of the owner by checking the assumed name registrations. Note that the defendant’s address may be his/her place of residence, or place of business or regular employment.

If the small claim arises out of a contract or another type of document, copies of the contract or document must be attached to the original and all copies of the complaint unless the plaintiff attaches an affidavit stating that it is unavailable. Copies of other important documents, such as bills or receipts also may be attached.

Pay special attention to several points:

  • When you state the amount of your claim, consider whether you want interest on any judgment and reimbursement for all court costs. If you do, be sure your complaint asks for damages, interest on your damages, and reimbursement of all court costs, including those incurred in enforcing a judgment (i.e., in getting payment from the other party). Note that Ohio law does not permit you to recover wages for time lost for preparing or filing your case or for appearing in court.
  • Find out whether the defendant is on active military duty: federal law provides protection for those who are on active duty, and the court will ask about the defendant’s military status.
  • The court must officially notify the defendant that he or she is being sued, and it is your responsibility to provide an address where the defendant can be reached (see below).

How much does it cost?

Each court has established a filing fee. Call the court and ask what the fee is. If you plan to subpoena a witness, ask for information about the costs required.

If you cannot afford these fees, you may file an affidavit of indigency with the court and ask that your fees be waived. Court staff can provide you with instructions for how to file such an affidavit. The court will let you know whether your affidavit was accepted. If the court is satisfied that you cannot afford these fees, you may file without fees. But if the court is not satisfied, you will need to pay the fees.

Generally, you may be able to recover all of your out-of-pocket court fees, together with interest, if you win your case. Be sure to ask for reimbursement of your court costs along with your demand for recovery of your damages and interest

How is the defendant given notice of the small claims lawsuit?

The filing fee and complaint must be accompanied by a summons. The summons must require each defendant to file in court an “appearance” on a day specified in the summons. At the time the summons and complaint are filed, you may pay the clerk a fee per defendant served plus the cost of mailing and furnish the clerk an original and one copy of the summons containing an affidavit stating the defendant’s last known mailing address, and one copy and an original of the complaint. The clerk will then mail the forms, certified mail, return receipt requested. The return receipt when delivered back to the clerk, if it shows that the summons and complaint were delivered according to state and local rules prior to the date the defendant is ordered in the summons to file an appearance in court, constitutes proof of service.

How must a defendant respond when served with a summons and complaint in a small claims lawsuit?

If you are served with a small claims complaint and you neither deny the claims nor the amount of damages the plaintiff seeks, you should contact the plaintiff and attempt to resolve the matter out of court. Otherwise, you can simply admit the claims and have a judgment entered against you. The former course is generally seen as preferable, to avoid the public record of a judgment against you.

If you dispute the claim or the amount of damages requested, you must respond to the complaint by filing an “Appearance.” The Summons will specify a “return date” and the defendant must on that day file the written Appearance and pay an appearance fee with the Clerk of Court at the address checked on the Summons. Appearance forms are generally available either at the clerk’s office or, as with complaints, online at the Clerk of Courts website.

The case will not be heard in court on the return date. When the defendant files the Appearance and pays the fee, the clerk will give notice of the first court date. It is on that day that the defendant must appear in court.

If the defendant fails to file an appearance and pay the required fee on the return date, a judgment by default may be entered for the relief requested in the complaint.

Can a defendant assert a claim against the plaintiff or anyone else?

If you are sued in small claims court and you claim that the plaintiff owes you money as a result of the same transaction or events that are raised in the complaint, you may file a “counterclaim” against the plaintiff. This is done by filing a small claims complaint and delivering it, along with the filing fee, to the clerk. A summons is not necessary for a counterclaim, but a copy must be served on the plaintiff, either by mail or by hand, with proof of service. The plaintiff’s complaint and defendant’s counterclaim will be heard at the same hearing.

If you have been sued and you believe that a third party bears some or all of the liability claimed by plaintiff, you may also file a “third party claim” against that party. This requires a small claims summons and complaint filed in the manner set forth above. You should use the same caption and case number as in the complaint against you, and simply add to the caption the fact that you are a “third party plaintiff” and that the person or entity you are suing is a “third party defendant.” The clerk should be able to assist you and answer any questions.

How will I know if the Complaint has been served on the defendant and if the defendant has appeared?

Once the defendant files the Appearance form, the defendant must send a copy to all parties named in the case (or their attorneys) either by regular mail, fax, or personal delivery. If you are a plaintiff and have not received a copy of a defendant’s Appearance form within a few days of the return date, and in no event more than a day or two before the scheduled court date, call the clerk of the court to determine whether an Appearance has been filed. Even if the defendant has missed the deadline, you should still be prepared to present your case at the date set for a court appearance in order to obtain a default judgment.

How should the parties prepare for a small claims court hearing?

In preparing your case, you should keep in mind that the goal is to present proof that is more convincing than your opposition’s. We recommend the following preparatory steps:

  • Make a detailed list of what happened so the facts are clear in your mind.
  • Gather all documents, notes, receipts, pictures, or other physical evidence that you need to prove your claim.
  • Determine if any witnesses will be helpful to your case and, if so, ask them to appear at your trial. If they will not voluntarily appear, you may choose to “subpoena” their attendance at the trial. Subpoena forms are available either at the clerk’s office or at the Clerk’s website. Note that written statements from witnesses may not be admitted at trial. If a witness is crucial to your case, that witness must be in court.
  • If you are suing on the basis of defective merchandise or faulty services, it may be helpful to have an expert witness testify on your behalf at trial. In a case where an expert might be useful, you should have the expert evaluate the facts of your case before trial, and if the expert agrees with your position, make sure he or she is available on the date of the trial.

In addition, since your court appearance will involve an oral presentation of your story, it is helpful to go through your presentation several times in advance, until you feel comfortable. It also may be useful to have someone not familiar with the facts of the dispute listen, ask questions, and then critique your presentation. This person can tell you if your explanations are sufficiently clear, forceful and convincing, and can help prepare you for difficult questions that the judge or your adversary may ask.

If you have never appeared in small claims court, you may benefit from attending court hearings in other cases as part of your preparation, just to get a sense of how the trials are conducted. The clerk’s office should be able to tell you when trials are scheduled.

Note that the usual forms of “discovery” in civil lawsuits such as depositions, written interrogatories, or requests for the production of documents are not available in small claims actions without first obtaining a court order permitting them. You should gather the necessary materials yourself, and should not expect that you will be able to obtain them from your adversary.

What is mediation?

In nearly all of the larger courts, and in many of the small courts as well, the court will make available a mediator to assist you and the other party to try to work out a settlement. The mediator is not a judge and will not decide your case or give you legal advice.

A mediation hearing is a court-supervised conference where the plaintiff and defendant are given an opportunity to discuss all aspects of their dispute and to settle it without having a formal court hearing about the legal claim. Mediation hearings are confidential. If the mediation fails and the case proceeds to a formal court hearing, the information revealed in the mediation may not be used in court.

Take full advantage of the opportunity to participate in a mediation hearing. Mediation hearings are less formal than court hearings and can consider a broader range of issues surrounding the legal claim: it may be the only chance you have to air all of your concerns, to hear the concerns of the other party, and to come to an agreement that concerns issues other than the money one party may owe another.

Through mediation, you may arrive at a solution that better suits your needs than a court-imposed judgment.

Mediation is generally available at several stages of the case: you may be able to have a court mediation hearing before you file the case, and you may be able to schedule a mediation up to and including the day of the court hearing. Some courts require you to appear at a mediation hearing. Check the local rules of your court, and ask if you are uncertain.

What if the claim is settled before the hearing?

If you have filed a small claim, and the defendant pays you an agreed upon amount to settle your claim, you should notify the court in writing. Be sure to ask the court whether you need to fill out a specific form or can write your own statement noting that your claim has been settled. Your written notice of settlement will be made part of the record and your case will then be dismissed.

Note that the court will not return any fees or other court costs that you have paid. Any settlement you agree to with the defendant should be made with consideration given to these fees.

If you have been sued, and you have made an agreement with the plaintiff that you believe settles the entire claim, ask for written confirmation from the plaintiff and for a copy of the notice of settlement as filed with the court. If you have not received a notice from the court that your case has been dismissed before the scheduled hearing date of your case, contact the court to make sure that your case has indeed been completely settled and dismissed.

What happens when the parties appear in court?

Be sure to arrive at the courthouse sufficiently early to find the correct courtroom and organize your materials. The court may have other matters scheduled at the same time, in which case you may have to sit through other proceedings waiting for your case to be called. Take this time to observe courtroom procedures and etiquette.

When your case is called, the judge will typically ask the plaintiff briefly to summarize the nature of the lawsuit and then ask the defendant if they admit or deny the allegations made and/or the amount of damages that the plaintiff is seeking. If the defendant admits liability and agrees to a damages amount, judgment will be entered for the plaintiff.

If the defendant denies the claim or disagrees with the amount of damages that the plaintiff claims to be entitled to, then the court will set the case for trial. The trial may occur immediately, or be set for later in the day or on some future date. Both parties should prepare for this initial hearing as though the trial will occur on that day. That means bringing any evidence or witnesses to the hearing and being prepared to argue your case. While the court may grant a party’s request for “continuance” to another date if that party is not ready to proceed on the hearing date, the court has the discretion to deny such a request.

One thing is clear. If you fail to attend on the date of the hearing, the court may dismiss your case (if you are the plaintiff), or enter a judgment against you (if you are the defendant). This is not something you can miss with impunity.

What happens at the trial?

The plaintiff is given the first chance to present his or her case. This means telling in an orderly fashion the plaintiff’s side of the story, including presenting any evidence and/or witnesses. When the plaintiff has finished, the defendant will then have the opportunity to present his or her side of the story, including evidence and witnesses.

The judge may choose to relax some of the formality typically associated with trials, and may ask questions of the parties or witnesses. After both sides have presented their cases, a decision will be rendered. If either party has demanded a jury (and paid the proper fee), jurors will make the decision. Otherwise, the judge will decide.

What happens if I win?

If you are the plaintiff and win the lawsuit, a “judgment” will be entered in your favor and against the defendant in the amount awarded by the judge or jury. A judgment is a document signed by the judge and given an official court stamp that states the amount you are owed. Your opponent is not obligated to pay you immediately. However, interest begins to accrue immediately at an annual rate set by statute.

Obtaining a judgment in your favor and actually collecting the amount owed from the defendant are two separate things. If after 30 days you have not been paid and the defendant has not filed a post-judgment motion or appeal (see below), you may bring what are known as “collection proceedings.” Since this area of the law is complex, you may want to retain an attorney to assist you.

If you are the defendant and you win, judgment will be entered in your favor indicating the dismissal of the claim against you. You also may seek from the court your “costs,” such as filing fees. In certain situations, attorneys’ fees are also recoverable.

What happens if I lose?

If you are the plaintiff and you lose the lawsuit, your complaint will be dismissed and you will not recover any damages. The court may also order you to pay the costs or attorney fees incurred by your adversary. If you lost because your evidence was not sufficiently convincing, then it is unlikely you will be able to raise the matter again in court. On the other hand, if you lost due to a “procedural” mistake (for example you did not properly serve the defendant), it may be possible to correct the error and seek another hearing.

If you are the defendant and you lose, a “judgment” will be entered against you in the amount awarded by the judge or jury. A judgment is a document signed by the judge and given an official court stamp that states the amount you owe the plaintiff. While you are not obligated to pay on the spot, interest begins to accrue immediately at an annual rate set by statute.

The judge may ask you to agree to a payment plan or schedule. You should be careful about this. If such a schedule is entered in a court order, then any violation of the schedule would be a violation of a court order, meaning you could be held in contempt of court.

If your financial situation makes it impossible to satisfy the judgment, you should let the judge and the plaintiff know and seek an accommodation. If you are ordered to make payments notwithstanding any hardship, you should be aware of “exemption rights,” which exclude certain property and income from judgment for persons below a certain income level. The nature of exemption rights is complex; you should seek information from consumer or legal aid organizations.

What can I do if I think the decision was wrong?

If the magistrate rules against you and you want to challenge the magistrate’s decision, you will need to do the following:

  1. Immediately, while standing in front of the magistrate, ask him or her to prepare a report on the decision.
  2. Check with the Court Clerk to find out when the report has been completed and filed.
  3. Within 14 days of the filing of the report, you must file an objection with the court detailing why you believe the magistrate was wrong.
  4. Mail a copy of your objections to the other party in the case.
  5. If you disagree with the magistrate’s determination as to what the facts are in your case, you must file a transcript of the proceedings with your objections. However, a transcript can be costly.
  6. Once filed, a municipal or county court judge will review the case along with your objections and make a ruling.

At the hearing on the motion, you should be prepared to explain why the prior decision was wrong. If the judge grants your motion, the matter may be set for another trial. If the judge denies your motion, then you may file an appeal.

If you choose to file an appeal, either directly after the trial or after an intervening motion to reconsider has been denied, you must file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the decision you are appealing from. If you filed a motion to reconsider and lost that motion, you have 30 days from the date of that decision. You may want to consult an attorney about whether to appeal and, if you choose to do so, to assist in the appeal.

 

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Attorneys for Small Business Legal Assistance

Attorneys for Small Business Legal Assistance

We take our consumer law practice very seriously at Doucet & Associates, but we also take pride in the assistance we offer to small businesses. The small business attorneys at our firm are proud to offer quality representation and legal services to small business owners throughout the State of Ohio, whether you are starting a new small business, or taking the next crucial steps in expanding or selling your small business. We offer legal services to a wide variety of small businesses in Ohio, but always maintain our law focus of assisting hard working individuals and businesses that need legal assistance to ensure they are working towards the right direction.

If you are looking to acquire or sell a small business in Ohio, Doucet & Associates can help you by drafting security agreements, purchase agreements, and U.C.C. Article 9s, as well as reviewing any existing legal contracts that you may have yet to sign. Our trained lawyers can help identify pitfalls in purchase agreements that can leave a small business owner’s personal property vulnerable, or effectively take away their right to legal action. Many small business owners worked hard to build a business they can be proud of. However, if it comes time to sell a small business, you need to be assured that you are getting a fair deal for the client base you spent years building and the assets that you spent hard earned money to acquire.

If you are looking to acquire a small business, Doucet & Associates is also happy to help. We file Article 9s to ensure that businesses get what they pay for when they agree to purchase a business, and are well versed in a variety of purchase agreements including cognovit notes , security agreements, and the previously mentioned Article 9 filings. These tools are designed to prevent bad business deals when purchasing a small business and we use them to ensure our clients get the best deal they can for what they worked so hard to build.

If you are looking to sell or acquire a small business, or need help starting a new one, Doucet & Associates is proud to have access to excellent attorneys that can assist you. Call us at (614) 944-5219 if you need assistance in drafting or reviewing a purchase agreement, or even what type of business would be best for you.

 

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How to Interview for a Job at a Law Firm

How to Interview for a Job at a Law Firm

Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. employs multiple attorneys who work in the areas of foreclosure defense, consumer litigation, and small business litigation. This post will provide you some idea of how help ensure your job search leads to a position you love, plus how your interview with our firm can be successful. Whether you are looking to work for my firm or another law firm, here is my suggestion on how to effectively interview at a litigation-based law firm:

1. Have a sense of your interests. One of the major reasons that our associates have given for leaving the firm is that they determine that our primary area or type of law does not match up with their interests. They may have thought consumer law is what they wanted to do, but soon realized their passion really lies in domestic work, criminal defense, intellectual property, or that litigation is not really what they want to do. They determine after litigating for months about two words in a complex consumer statute that consumer litigation really is not where their passion lies.

To ensure you are interviewing at the right firm and that will lead to long-term success at that firm, have an idea of what you enjoyed learning about in law school and during internships, and look for a firm that pairs with those interests. Know what aspects of your educational and work background fit with our primary areas of law. While you may not have a tremendous sense of what you want to do right out of school, I am going to try to avoid hiring candidates that want to “test” out our practice area to see if they like it. I will also want to avoid hiring an attorney who spent their entire 3L year and summers studying IP law. This is not because IP law is not an admirable area to study, but because I would be concerned the candidate will be looking for an IP job as soon as they begin working for my firm (or my firm is just a place to pay bills while looking for that job they really want). Training lawyers is time intense and expensive, so I am going to be focused on those candidates whose interest lies in our practice area.

Enjoying the kind of work you are doing is very important to long-term happiness in the legal profession. While some candidates tell me their most important search attribute is finding a firm where they like the people they will work with, once you begin at a firm, you will find that a great atmosphere is only a part of the eeueation. You absolutely must enjoy the area of practice in addition to the people, and I’m going to be first focused on candidates who sense their interests match with my needs.

Let me be even more specific about our practice area. Litigation experience or course work is a great start. However, I am going to be most drawn to someone who has read the FDCPA (short statute) or has skimmed Ohio’s CSPA in preparation for our interview. A really impressive candidate will have a question or two about a complex area of these particular Acts during our interview. Asking an intelligent question about how one of these laws applies to a hypothetical during our interview yields further brownie points. This shows me you learned something about the laws we work with, and that you are probably interested in our work.

I want to stress that you may be an expert in the ECOA, FCRA, or some other technical consumer statute after a year at my firm, and the question is whether you want to be. If yes, then your interests may match our work.

2. Be able to articulate your long term goals. Hiring and training lawyers is expensive. Beyond basic training, new lawyers’ work needs reviewed closely for months, their work needs molded to our methods, and the time it takes them to learn is time lost on other matters. A good deal of our time is spent during the first six months on training new attorneys (even if most of the training is learning by doing), which means I want to hire lawyers that will want to stick around for more than six months. I am looking for lawyers who want to develop an expertise in consumer litigation and hopefully are looking to add value to the firm as they become more experienced (but I do not expect associates to source business). I am also looking for lawyers who will want to be on a shareholder track, and will be taking their position seriously.

For you, this means that you should think about where you want to be in 5 years or 10 years. If your goals are to try a few different jobs over the next five years to see what you like, that is great for expanding your life’s experience. A general practice firm may be more appropriate than one focused on one or two areas of law. Unfortunately, it is not cost effective for me to hire you. This is not to say things will not work out even if you get the job. But as an employer, I am going to want to limit my exposure to turn-over by seeking candidates who have a mature outlook on their professional legal career, and who can articulate where they see themselves longer-term, especially if their goals consistent with a firm like mine.

3. Be efficient during our interview. I want our time together to be as helpful and productive as possible for both of our sakes. I want to learn about you, and you want to learn about the law firm, the position, and my expectations. Let’s make the most of the first 15-45 minute meeting we have. Think about the areas indicated in this post, and also think seriously about your strengths and weaknesses before our interview. While it is cliché to ask a candidate about their strengths and weaknesses, I sometimes will ask about both to see whether you are prepared, introspective, and polished.

Think about what you want out of the job before our interview. Look at our website, search some court filings, and get a sense of whether you think our firm will be a match for you. While the job market is tough, you will enjoy life so much more if you are practicing in an area of law that fits with your outlook on life.

Depending on what kind of client matters I have on the calendar that day, I may need to limit our first meeting. This may not mean that I am not interested in you, but rather that other pressing matters require my immediate attention. Because of this, please watch for my cues that indicate I need to wrap things up. Also, please keep your answers to a few thoughts (avoid three minute answers), and do not cut me off while I am asking you a question. I understand most people are nervous during interviews, but if you are consistently interrupting me during an interview to share your thoughts, I will be wondering whether you will be able to listen to directions once you start work.

Show me you respect the small amount of time we have together by planning for it and being efficient during our meeting. Everything else being equal, your chances of securing the job will increase dramatically with some good preparation.

4. Project a professional appearance. Our clients trust us with some of the most important and pressing issues in their lives. They may also pay us a decent amount of money to handle those issues, and will expect that we portray professionalism in working with them. Thus, your presentation is important, and our meeting is the first and most important opportunity for you to make a powerful presentation to me.

This may sound ridiculous to some, but shower the day of your interview and make sure your clothes are clean and pressed. I have interviewed otherwise brilliant candidates who have neither showered nor ensured their clothes were clean. They were not hired. Further, I am very sensitive to smells, and do not hire people whose cologne or perfume is too strong. Some people who use the same cologne every day become desensitized to it and think they need 2-4 spritzes for it to work. Please do not spritz 2-4 times before our interview. If you feel the need, a half-spritz is the most you should wear early in the morning while you are getting ready the day of your interview. However, if I have to air out my office after you leave, you are certainly not going to be offered a position.

Further, please do not play with the soles of your shoes during the interview. This actually happens frequently, and causes me to wonder what you stepped in on your way to my office, and what I now have all over my hand from shaking yours. Sit up straight, speak clearly, and make eye contact so I know you are interested and engaged in our conversation. Also, I am not your drinking buddy. If you cannot maintain a level of professional communication with me during our brief interview, I am not going to feel confident that you will be able to maintain professional relationships with the firm’s clients.

I am not trying to scare you away from an interview, so this section is about common sense. Use common sense, and treat our interview as you would for any attorney position. Even though our firm has a business casual dress code during the week (unless meeting with a client or court), you should wear a suit and men should wear a tie. I want to meet you the same way that you will be meeting our clients or a judge. I do not need candidates to be perfect, but rather that they project a professional image because they are professionals now.

5. Be positive and enthusiastic. We help people who are going through difficult times in their lives, and sometimes we are the source of stability and hope that they may otherwise not have. You have a tremendous ability to be a source of good in your clients’ lives, and your positive yet realistic attitude will help shape the way they respond to their legal issue. Because of this, someone who is positive about their past experiences and enthusiastic about our work will have a leg up in our interview.

If our firm is exactly what you are looking for, I am going to get a sense of that by how you approach your cover letter and our interview. If you are thrilled about the opportunity to work here, do not be afraid to professionally convey that. However, there is no need to go overboard here – just focus on the good gained from tough situations. If you were in my shoes, you would want someone who knows what your firm does and is excited to get started immediately, versus someone who is not sure about the practice area but is willing to “give it a shot.” Also, speak positively about your past positions and show me you have a can-do attitude. I would love to end our interview with a feeling that you view each hurdle in life as an opportunity!

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Here is a final thought. I spend a good deal of thought on what I can do to make my employees’ experience positive. I routinely ask if there is anything I can do to make my staff members’ lives easier, and have a number of benefits to make working with our firm a great experience. I’ve also worked hard to design the firm so lawyers can have work/life balance, meaning most days you only need to be at work from 9-5.

In exchange, I am most serious about producing high quality work that is persuasive, honest, and covers most contingencies. Despite not requiring attorneys to work 60 hours a week, you can expect to work very hard while at the office, be challenged daily, and spend most of your time integrating new concepts and legal theories into well-written documents. I am looking for professional attorneys with the capacity to produce high quality work and who have an interest in developing the law. The person I hire will be a professional with a can-do attitude and long-term outlook that will help me build a better law firm focused on helping people.

I hope this post has been beneficial and I look forward to your interview! Good luck!

 

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