Taking an active role may help your legal situation

Posted in Blog on August 21, 2017

When you need a lawyer, it’s probably because you are already in a stressful situation. You certainly don’t need your relationship with your attorney to add to that stress. An attorney is there to be your advisor and advocate, so it is important that you understand each other.

Whether you are facing criminal charges, going through a divorce or disputing a business contract, you want someone who will keep your best interests at the front of every decision. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and it can be frustrating to discover that your case may be floundering because of some action or inaction on your attorney’s part.

I hired a lawyer. Now what?

If you don’t deal with lawyers every day, you may not know what to expect or what your attorney expects from you. To facilitate your relationship with your lawyer, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you do not hinder your counselor in his or her duties.

Communication is key to the trust between an attorney and client. Sometimes you may have information about your situation that you may not think is relevant. However, that small detail may have legal consequences that your attorney will need to consider when building your case. Passing along as many details as you can, and keeping copies of any documents for your own records, will help your lawyer protect your rights. Other ways you can assist your attorney include:

  • Making sure your lawyer knows your schedule, especially if you will be out of town
  • Asking questions when you don’t understand the process or legal terminology
  • Telling the truth even if the details are embarrassing or seem irrelevant
  • Doing what your lawyer asks you to do, including obtaining documents, authorizing access to information and showing up for appointments

Your participation in your own case will help your attorney better prepare to represent you in court or during negotiations.

Can I sue if I lose my case?

Not everyone wins. There is certainly that possibility that your case was not strong enough or the evidence was overwhelmingly against you. Your attorney may have done his or her best with the information and circumstances, and the Arizona court still rendered a judgement against you. This does not necessarily mean your attorney was incompetent or negligent.

However, if you feel that your lawyer acted improperly, lied to you, breached the contract you made or failed to provide the highest quality representation, and the results cost you financially or in other ways, you may wish to investigate the possibility of professional malpractice. An attorney with experience in such matters can examine your case and guide you in the appropriate steps to take.

Easy Street is often paved with fraud

Posted in Blog on May 18, 2017

Many people hope for the windfall that will change the course of their lives. For some, purchasing lottery tickets or entering raffles brings them a small profit. However, you are likely looking for more than that, and so you look for ways to invest your money wisely.

If a recent investment promised you unimaginable returns, you may have jumped at the chance. Why not? Success with this venture may have provided the opportunity to pay for college for your child or grandchild, the retirement you always dreamed of or simply more money to save and invest. Unfortunately, when you realized the whole thing was a fraud, it was too late to change your mind.

The red flag of “get rich quick” schemes

Investment bankers report that a 7 percent return on a 10- to 15-year investment is typical and should serve as a benchmark for investments. The higher the return, the greater the risk. If someone promises to make you considerably more money than this for a relatively small risk, you should question the legitimacy of the investment. Some other warnings that an investment opportunity may be fraud include:

  • The investor needs an immediate commitment, preventing you from taking the time to properly research the investment.
  • The investor offers the opportunity only to you when it is likely that professional investors would have taken advantage of the idea if it were really legitimate.
  • Friends or acquaintances try to convince you to invest and may not realize someone has swindled them into a Ponzi scheme.
  • The investor is unable to provide you with documentation to prove the legality of the investment.

Fraudsters prey on people’s desire to make money fast and their willingness to trust. By allowing an attorney to examine the details of the investment opportunity someone offers you, you may avoid falling into the trap.

Reclaiming your losses

For many, the discovery that someone has duped them brings a sense of shame that makes them reluctant to seek help. However, this could mean the loss of money they may have taken from retirement or could invest in other, legitimate ventures.

If someone defrauded you, you have a right to pursue justice. However, in most cases, you must seek help quickly because recovery of lost money becomes more difficult as time passes. By contacting an attorney who has a history of success recovering losses for people who have been defrauded, you may be able to reclaim the funds that were taken from you by unethical means.

Ponzi schemes: What you need to know to protect your investments

Posted in Blog on March 7, 2017

Ponzi schemes are frequently in the news and for good reason. Ponzi schemes often result in significant investment fraud that impacts many people’s lives.

What is a Ponzi scheme? It is a type of investment fraud that involves current investors being paid returns with money obtained from new investors. These schemes often include promises of high returns from investing in a legitimate business. The reality of what is happening is very different. Instead of actually using the money from investors to invest in a company, those funds are used to pay other investors, creating the illusion that investors are getting a profit.

Know the warning signs

Ponzi schemes result in victims losing their investments because it was never actually invested in anything. What can you do to protect yourself? Educate yourself about your investments and look out for these Ponzi scheme warning signs:

  • Guaranteed investment returns
  • Very consistent returns, such as the same amount every time
  • Unlicensed sellers or firms
  • Unregistered investments
  • Secret investment strategies
  • Account statement errors or inconsistencies
  • Not receiving your payments

Many schemes fall apart when they are unable to keep a steady flow of money from new investors to pay their current investors. If you believe you have been the victim of a Ponzi scheme, report your concerns to the SEC. You should also contact an attorney to help you learn about your rights and to see what legal options are available to recover your financial losses.

Old tactics, new medium: how fraud can ruin a perfectly good day on social media

Posted in Blog,Fraud on November 28, 2016

The Internet is a great place to be, if you’re an investor. That is, until you’re on the receiving end of a fraud scheme.

Investors flock to the web for news, advice, information and research. Whether it’s looking up current strategies or individual stocks, checking out possible financial advisers and firms or posting comments on a favorite finance site-the web gives us endless possibilities to connect. But, there’s a downside. Unless you have a sign to warn off solicitors on your social media profiles as well as on the front door of your home, you’re going to be approached by some less-than-honest types now and then. Here are some telltale warning signs – and don’t be surprised if they seem familiar. 

Fraudulent schemes might use:

  • Logos and names that are close approximations of real investment firms, from social media avatars all the way to linked websites-before you do anything, visit the site they are attempting to duplicate and you’ll soon know which one is real.
  • A post, tweet or direct message from someone you don’t know, inviting you to connect over an investment opportunity, with a recommendation from or claiming to know a friend of yours.
  • Posts that attempt to entice you with words like “almost no risk” and “incredible gains guaranteed” and “once-in-a-lifetime.” It’s the same language of other scams, just tailored for social media.
  • Posts that hype a particular stock or investment and immediately seem to have others agreeing and commenting positively (because they’re all part of the same team).
  • A social media account that has not been used for anything else. If it has no history, it may be because a fraudster created it solely for the purpose of this one scam. (That helps them stay anonymous.)

Social media is not the issue. Fraud just has a new place to operate.

Think of an overpromising post as an unsolicited phone call, a spam email or someone standing at your front door with a great offer for you-if only you give them money right now. Would you hand it over, no questions asked? Probably not. So, just as you’ve learned to say, “No thank you, I’m not interested,” in those situations, you now have to train yourself to act the same way in this medium.

If you’ve been burned by investment fraud, don’t expect to recover your losses without the help of an attorney, and make sure you report the activity to the Securities & Exchange Commission.

How to say no when investment fraud comes calling

Posted in Blog,Fraud on November 21, 2016

If you’ve already fallen prey to an investment fraud scheme, an experienced attorney can help you recover your losses. But how do you avoid being caught in the first place? The next time somebody approaches you with a deal that is too good to be true, you need to be ready.

Scammers who operate in the world of investments aren’t dumb. They wisely target the wealthy, and especially those who are close to retirement age or already retired. They prey on the fact that you’re an accomplished person who knows how to handle money and is confident acting on his or her own. How do they pick you out of the crowd? Sadly, it’s fairly easy with the amount of information available through paper and online trails. They know (or pretend to know) more about you than you’d like. Then, they use high-pressure tactics that have been around for years and have drawn all kinds of smart, well-educated investors into trouble.

If you hear any of these tactics when you’re called by someone who claims to be an investment advisor, be wary:

  • Guarantees of future wealth that could be the answer to all your financial needs, such as a certain (very large) amount per month back on your investment
  • Claims that this is a rare inside tip and you’re getting preferential treatment because you’re a special kind of person (and other flattery)
  • Statements like “Everyone I know is doing this” that imply you’re part of a select club
  • Pressure to act immediately such as “If you do this today, you’ll save,” or “If you don’t do this today, you’ll lose out.”

Arm yourself with responses so you’re not drawn into a conversation that could lead you to doing something you never meant to do. Practice how to respond, knowing that it may feel rude at first but will get easier each time. Sometimes it helps to leave a note by (or on) your phone or a Post-it on the fridge with your scripted answer-after all, if they’re working from a script, shouldn’t you be entitled to as well? To end the call, try these:

  • “Thank you, but I’m not interested. No.”
  • “I need time to think about this.” (If the response to this is yet more pressure, then this is definitely not a legitimate investment offer.)
  • “I don’t make important decisions over the phone. Can you send me literature about this?” (Again, if they say there’s no time to do this, then it’s not a legitimate firm or professional on the other end of the call.)
  • “This isn’t a good time. Goodbye.”

This might seem obvious, but remember, investment scams happen every day to someone. That’s because the scammers are very good at what they do. Their tactics are still around because they work.

Don’t let yourself be caught up in one of these calls. But if it does happen, contact a lawyer who can help you. It’s not fair to be swindled out of your hard-earned money.

My lawyer wasn’t prepared to represent me – do I have a case against him?

Posted in Blog,Legal Malpractice on October 26, 2016

Many people are aware of medical malpractice, but did you know that there’s also something called legal malpractice? If you were represented by a lawyer whom you think made one or more crucial mistakes handling your case, you may be feeling angry and upset. You counted on your lawyer to represent you in the way he or she promised.

Unfortunately, legal malpractice occurs in many areas of the law. It can affect everything from a bankruptcy hearing to a personal injury lawsuit to a criminal case, and from a large case to a small one.

How does this happen?

Sometimes lawyers list legal services that aren’t “in their wheelhouse.” They may have represented a few clients in that practice area, but they’re not as knowledgeable as they claim to be, nor do they have the necessary experience to adequately represent you. They might be trying to grow their business and expand their practice by taking on new types of cases, which is great for them-but terrible for you.

We’re not talking about simply being unhappy with the result you received: a good lawyer can do everything right but still not get you the desired outcome of your case. We’re talking about poor representation and specific actions, such as:

  • Negligence
  • Breach of contract
  • Promising results or actions in a signed contract that do not come to pass
  • Not acting in the client’s financial interests but rather in the lawyer’s own
  • Missing a deadline to file an important motion; or missing a court hearing
  • Conflict of interest

You might look at this list and wonder how it applies to your case. Sometimes it helps to think of it this way: if only your lawyer hadn’t ______, you would have received what you were due. Some legal experts make the statement by using the phrase “but for,” as in, “but for the attorney’s mistake(s), we would have won.”

Legal malpractice exists to protect you and your family from incompetence. Like many areas of the law, it’s complicated. Talk to an attorney who specializes in legal malpractice if the above situation sounds all too familiar. You don’t have to accept what happened.