A potentially dangerous time on the roads

By now most of us in Maryland and the surrounding areas have “dug out” of the recent blizzard that hit us late last week. While our roadways are seemingly cleared of ice and snow, that doesn’t necessarily mean the dangers that come from such a storm are gone.

While the roadways are mostly cleared, there still remain large piles of shoveled and plowed snow throughout areas along the side of roadways. Medians that were never touched, as there was to be no traffic there, and other adjacent areas that have remaining snow and ice will now begin to melt as the weather heats up a bit.

This can create unrealized dangers on the roadway, and extra care and caution should be used to avoid accidents!

Much like the time directly following the start of a rain storm can be a dangerous time to be on the road, the times of the day where the ice and snow begin to melt and run onto the roadways can be equally dangerous. The same aspect of water mixing with the oils on the roadway will happen whether that water is new rain, or run off of newly melted snow and ice.

Also, the evening hours as the temperature drops can be even more treacherous, as that water on the roadways can freeze, causing ice incidents.

Take extra care in these days and weeks following the blizzard, or any blizzard for that matter. Give yourself extra commute time, and extra follow distance between you and the vehicle in front, just in case a quick stop is required. The last thing you’ll want is to have your brakes lock up, tires skid across the recently melted water, and cause an avoidable accident!

As always, should the other drivers on the roadway not see this, not heed this advice, and put you in a situation where you’re the victim of such an accident, do not hesitate to contact our office as soon as possible at 410-885-6200. We can help navigate the insurance company nightmare, make sure you’re paid fairly for your injures, and in many cases recover for the diminished re-sale value of your damaged and repaired vehicle.

Valuable Tips Series: Buying a used car in Elkton, MD

Many of our Elkton, Maryland auto accident clients come to us with many concerns, one of the first ones being what to do about their vehicle. Since opening my office in Elkton, Maryland in 2014, I have noticed a higher percentage of vehicle accidents being more severe, and causing most of the vehicles to be a total loss. This means needing to replace the vehicle, and needing to do so with a limited amount of time, as most insurance companies will only pay for rental coverage for a few days, or up to a week following the payout on a total loss.

As an attorney who aims to be a broad resource for my clients, not only providing legal services, but providing trusted insight on businesses in the Elkton area that I have knowledge or experience dealing with. Among them, is Premier Auto Exchange on Rt 40 in Elkton. You may know their location as the site of the old KFC. Premier auto exchange began as a generational auto repair business, with 3 locations in Elkton and Newark, DE, and took that care for quality cars to the sales level, largely based on demand from their customers for repair work. This ongoing video/informational series will encompass a series of interviews and tips from the owner, and sales manager on important factors to consider when purchasing a used car, whether as a replacement for yourself or when buying as a first car for a new driver.

For your very first car, here are some key considerations from Premier Auto Exchange:

At Premier, we advise all car buyers to purchase a car that you can afford to pay off in 48 months. You don’t want to spend the next 6 years paying off a car. We suggest that you also put down 20% on the car to keep from getting upside down, where you owe more on the car than it is worth. You never want to be in the position of owing more than your car is worth. If you determine that you can afford a car, then make sure you enter the dealership prepared with “The Folder” of competitive car price quotes, or you’ll overpay by thousands.

The most important things to consider with your first car is safety and dependability. If you are going to buy a used car, be sure to do your research on the track record of the vehicles you are interested in. You should also consider purchasing a warranty on the vehicle for the term of the loan. The last thing you want is an expensive repair while still making payments.  At Premier Auto Exchange we have a wide variety of warranties to choose from.

Please share this article, and book mark or subscribe to the page so you are alerted to upcoming editions of this series. For more information on our office, visit our website or facebook page. You can find Premier Auto on facebook, too. If you’re injured in an accident, call our office immediately at (410) 885-6200 before speaking to anyone else, especially the insurance companies!

 

Are you ready for 2015?

We’re approaching the time of year here very shortly where many of us will begin to talk of new year’s resolutions. Some of those resolutions will involve some sort of a gym membership that will likely be unused by spring, or just an overall goal of losing weight, eating better, or perhaps some other more tangible goal.

Within my office, one of the many things that I will do to prepare for the turning of the calendar year is to

a: buy a new calendar for 2015!

b: set goals for my office, largely based on performance and helping out clients

c: archive files and “close out” the 2014 year

On a personal level, however, I find it important to spend the early weeks of a new year analyzing my personal automobile insurance policies. If I can make any general suggestions above and beyond what you may already have on your list, it would be to review and adjust your insurance policy for the new year. The laws about insurance change regularly, and with them the premiums may also change. Getting re-quoted may not save you money, but it’s worth doing because if you cannot get a better deal, you can stick with what you’ve already got!

A few quick tips on your Maryland Insurance Policy will be to make sure your liability and uninsured motorist coverage are representative of your income and your assets, maximize your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits, and verify that any other insurance coverages that you have like homeowners or renter’s insurance are “bundled” together if they are written by the same company. This bundling alone may save you as much as 15% on your policy, which can be a big savings.

I am always happy to talk to clients and potential clients about their insurance policies. I offer a free in-office insurance evaluation to anyone who calls (410) 885-6200 and requests one. The best part is, I’m not an insurance agent and I CAN NOT sell you insurance. This means I won’t even TRY to sell you insurance, but I can give you some pointers on what might be beneficial for you to update, should you potentially be in an auto accident. Give me a call, let’s sit down and make sure you’re protected and in a position to maximize your recovery, should you get in an accident in 2015.

Also, be on the lookout to the soon to be published new edition of my book regarding explanations and tips on buying Auto Insurance in Maryland, due out in January 2015!

If you want better, do better.

I’m back working with my former employer on a very part-time basis. It’s allowed me to get back into the game and working with clients again, which is one of the parts of the business that I missed the most in my brief hiatus. It’s reminded me mainly of how poor at customer service and client service that most practitioners are. I was discussing the status of ongoing physical therapy treatment today with one of my boss’ clients who was injured about a month or so ago in an automobile accident. He was first of all shocked that he was receiving a call from the lawyers office, as opposed to making several calls unanswered to the lawyer’s office. Next, the fact that there was a level of concern with his physical wellbeing, and the status of his treatment plan was nothing he had ever experienced.

I had to be honest with him, and tell him straight up that we do right by our clients because we want them to stay our clients, not just be “cases” on a one shot basis. We would never wish the need for our brand of legal representation (auto accident victim or criminal defendant) onto them or a family member in the future, but we also want them to know that we’ll take care of anyone they refer to us, including them if they return.

Overall, the strategy is clearly designed to develop a long term business model that will have repeat business and referral business more than most other law practices, or other businesses for that matter. Most importantly, it requires us to develop a level of care and concern with our clients, and really check in to see how their side of the case is progressing. Far too often do we get caught up in the day to day of moving files, filing motions, breaking down discovery, etc. I’ve seen a lot of practitioners lose sight of the fact that through all of the paperwork there is a flesh and blood client, one who unlike you, has only one case right now. That case, to them, is the most important case in your entire office. Our clients deserve to be treated as their case is as important to us as it is to them.

And now we hurry up…and wait

It’s been some time since I’ve updated this thing, and for some good reason. The main reason for any delays here has been the bar exam, obviously. Lots of preparation, of course, and then some recovery time over the past month or so just trying to get my head straight after shifting gears from school(pseudo practical) to bar prep(almost impractical) to being finished.

The bar was actually fun, at least the Maryland essay day was. I found it to be somewhat straightforward, and I feel like I did quite well on most of it.

The MBE, however, another story. I do not feel like my bar prep course (which cost nearly $4,000) prepared adequately for the MBE. It was until I was feeling frustrated 3-4 weeks before the exam that I picked up another 3rd party study guide that I really began to learn how to “take the test.”

Now we wait…until October 31, 2014, around 4:30PM.

Then, assuming that Character&Fitness has given the green light (I have no reason to believe they wouldn’t) and that I pass(I also feel confident about this) then it is wait some more until early-mid December 2014 for the Maryland Professionalism course and the official swearing in ceremony. Then, and only then will I be a lawyer.

In the mean time, I’ve been doing some planning for opening a law practice in downtown Elkton, MD.

My goal is to keep the practice small, and be able to provide a more personal service to my clients. I’ve spoken to a number of practitioners in Elkton about subletting office space, keeping costs low, and building a practice that is client-centered, and where I can spend significant attention to each and every case.

I’ve always done whatever I can to promote as involved a relationship with clients as possible, so that they know that they’re a person, not just another file in a drawer. This isn’t easy to do in high volume practices, and I think that a lot is lost with the potential to keep open long term relationships where the clients think of  you as “their lawyer” and know that they can trust you to advocate for them whenever, and that you’ll do the same for their family and friends.

I’ll talk more about my thoughts on opening a small solo practice in another post, and my time is somewhat more freed up to be writing more–so you can expect it.

Scams: Protect yourself and your family

This morning I was sitting in my remedies class, and my phone blows up first with a text message from my brother who I rarely speak to, and then a phone call from the area code and prefix of my home town. Normally I would ignore these types of calls/texts until after class, but considering the amount and frequency of communication I have with my brother, and then the call from the area I knew him to be in, I thought something was up.

The texts went like this:

Him: Yo

Me: Yo?

Him: You good?

Me: ?

Him: someone tried to scam grandma and said you were in jail

At which point I had to step out of class and call him and really get the low down on this situation. I am not in jail. I haven’t been to jail since probably November or December, and that was to visit clients. I will do my best to describe my understanding of the situation based first on my conversation with my brother, later I will fill in the gaps and clarify what actually happened. Apparently my grandmother(Who will turn 87 this July) received a call from someone she thought was me, stating that I was involved in a drunk driving hit and run accident. My best friend was in the hospital in a coma, I was in jail and needed money for bail. My friend’s father was a lawyer and would call her to arrange the details for bail. Apparently right after this she got a call from someone claiming to be the lawyer, walking her through how to get the bail money to him. My concern at this point was that my identity was being stolen. The message I got from my brother, which was second hand from my grandmother’s telling him, was that this person seemed to know enough about me to convince my grandmother that he was in fact me.

The call that I received from the local area code and prefix was from the PNC bank in the town, trying to get in touch with me. As it turns out, she went to the bank to withdraw $5,000 in $100 bills, to then go to CVS and purchase blue dot or green dot vouchers. Not sure exactly what these are, but I think they are pre-paid credit or debit cards. She was then to call back the “lawyer” at a phone number that isn’t a local number. The so-called lawyer called himself Dennis Murphy and provided a return number is (438) 939-6320. I had just read a few articles and had been alerted by my wife of these missed call scams from numbers like that. Calling those numbers back is something like a 900 number where you are charged per minute or what not, and the caller gets some if not all of that money you are charged. In any event, this behavior appropriately raised a red flag to the teller, and then the manager at the PNC bank. I commend them on their head’s up on this and thwarting the scheme at that point.

Later on in the afternoon, I was able to actually get ahold of my grandmother. Being the almost lawyer that I am, my line of questioning quickly got me to the bottom of what was really happening. I asked her to walk me though the phone call, as best as she could remember and exactly what was said. She told me that the phone rang from a private or blocked number, and it went something like this:

Caller: Grandma?

Her: Yes

Caller: You know who this is, right?

Her: Yes

Caller: I’m sorry if I sound strange, I’ve got a bit of a cold. I was in a car accident last night, and now I’m in jail. I need your help getting bail money.

At this point I cut in and asked her if that in fact was how the conversation went, she confirmed.

I then proceeded to ask her “did he ever mention that he was me using my actual name” to which she was fairly certain that he did not. At this time I was fairly certain  that my grandmother was the primary victim in this situation, and that I wasn’t even a factor in this. Originally I thought that I was the primary victim, and that she was the secondary victim in the situation. I then explained to her what I believed to have transpired.

This is clearly a scam. Whether these people are calling everyone at random, or have some sort of list or system of determining who they are calling they are calling and saying “grandma” or “grandpa” or possibly “mom/dad” if they feel that the voice sounds younger. They are playing the law of averages, knowing that they may get hung up on 100 times before anyone talks to them, and 100 more before anyone falls for their ruse.

My grandmother is aware of the fact that I am in my last semester of law school. She knows it is important to me to not miss class, and told me explicitly that all she wanted was to make sure that I was bailed out of jail and could go back to class so I could finish my law degree. While it is great to know that she supports me like this, it is also a little scary.

These scammers are clearly out there calling as many possible people that they can. They know that if they succeed in this scam one time every month that they’ve made $60,000 in the year. If they succeed once per week, it’s a quarter of a million dollars.

 

Be on alert for this, or anything that sounds like this. Do your due diligence and advise your friends and family members of the same. If someone calls your claiming to be in jail and needing help and pretending to be someone you know, get off the phone and call the person back that they claim to be on their number. If you don’t get them, maybe it really was them (i.e if I were actually in jail I wouldn’t have been able to answer).

You should be doubly alerted if the phone numbers they call from are blocked, and if the numbers you’re supposed to call back are not in the area code–especially if you’re supposed to be calling a lawyer to help someone bail out of jail.

I don’t have intimate knowledge of my grandmother’s financial situation, but I’m certain that being scammed for $5,000 would have been a pretty big hit. It would have been for me and I don’t know too many people that would be OK with throwing away that kind of money. Be aware, be alert, and double check everything that claims to be something it might not be.

Spread the word.

 

I’m not the biggest fan of snow days

I’m different.

I’m really wired differently than most other people that I’ve met in this world. I’m not certain that I was always like this, but at some point in my past something happened to me to make me different. Or maybe I always was this way.

I usually am good at seeing opportunity where others see conflict or trouble. I usually am the type of person to seize the opportunity that most will leave laying, or never realize was close to being within their grasp. I recall a time a few years ago while I was working for a Baltimore Lawyer handling criminal defense cases and auto accident cases.
It was mid december, maybe the saturday or sunday before Christmas. I was at my mother’s house with my wife and kids. Maybe it was just one at the time…time flies so I’m not certain. Anyway, we were there to celebrate christmas with my family, because we alternate the holidays each year and where we spend them. One year we will have thanksgiving with my family in Maryland, and Christmas with my wife’s family in New Hampshire. The next year we will swap the locations for the holidays. Therefore, this was “Christmas” for me with my family.

Back to the lawyer I was working for….I was working for a guy who at the time, and perhaps still, didn’t really “get it.” So much so that I offered myself to be the person who would have the office’s phone forwarded to my personal cell phone on evenings and weekends. Again, I’m different. I don’t fault him or anyone else for not getting it. In fact, this story will detail quite nicely how many others just don’t “get it” and how I will ultimately be able to take advantage of this in my career. I find it important to answer the phone. First and foremost, customer service and client attention is the key to continued business, referral business, and not getting bar complaints! Secondly, when the phone rings, before answering it, it’s really tough to tell what kind of person or call is on the other end. If there was any way to establish this type of foresight I’d be in a more lucrative line of work. The phone rings with the same tone when it is a drunk looking for a ride home from the bar or a multi-million dollar accident/injury client looking for competent counsel. Clearly I have drawn comparisons among some great extremes here.

We are putting the food on the table. It is almost time to eat. Ring. Ring. I look at the phone, and for a second I actually think about not answering it. Not my style.

Me: “Good afternoon, law office” (I don’t really get personal phone calls from numbers not stored in my phone)
Caller: “Oh hello (Startled) is this someone actually working in a law office?”
Me: “Well, I’m not physically in the office, but I work there during normal business hours–I’m a real person, though, can I help you?”
Caller: “Oh thank you so much. I’ve called 5 or 6 other lawyers and no one is answering their phone or has a real person on the line”
Me: “Well here we are. What can I help you with?”
Caller: “I was picked up on a violation of probation, and I have a court hearing coming up, can you help?”
Me: “I’m not the lawyer, but this is the type stuff he does. Do you want to come in to meet us first thing monday?”
Caller: “Seriously? Yes, thank you so much”

We continue to set up the appointment. I believe that I then called my boss and got him to call the potential client directly after my call with her. I like to under-promise and over deliver. I like to surprise the clients that I work with in a good way. My boss was actually pretty decent at making the follow up calls, at least initially, when I would have occasion to set something up like this.

This case turned into a paid fee of $2,500.00 if I remember correctly. Within a week of this, the client called frantic late in the evening. She had just been in an automobile accident with her sister and her young son. I have no precise recall of the fees in those cases, but I know it to have been roughly $15,000-$20,000 aggregate between the 3 claims.
But wait, there’s more….same client, while the office is representing her for the auto accident case(s) calls because her boyfriend is picked up on some criminal charges. I don’t recall the specifics, but I know the attorney gave him a discount for being a close connection to a current client. I believe that was another $1,500 or $2,000 fee.

My point here, if I trust my client’s assessment of how many lawyers she attempted to call that morning before getting me on the phone–5 or 6 lawyers passed on no less than $19,000 in fees. As a non-lawyer, I didn’t really see a dime of that money–but that’s not the point. The mentality is the key there, and I did something for my firm that a lot of other lawyers wouldn’t do for themselves. Hell, my boss wasn’t and probably isn’t even doing this for himself.

I guess on days like today, specifically in my non-lawyer, unemployed position, I feel stuck, stifled, and as if it is more difficult for me to take advantage of the opportunity that most others are likely squandering. I have spent some quality time with my kids…sort of. If my 6 year old watching cartoons on the iPad while I clean up puzzles and other blocks my 2 year old dumped everywhere as quality time. I guess I’ve spent some quality time with the 2 year old, and I’m at least “around” for the 6 year old in a way that kids these days are growing to expect as the norm of “parenting.”

I am concerned, however, as to how I have gotten here in the house today. Essentially stuck. Will I be stuck in this manor in my professional career? Next year when I am a lawyer, and quite possibly running my own practice–will I have the freedom to answer the phone? My hope is yes. My hope is that I will have the ability to do the work that others don’t care to take the time to do. It’s this work, this concern, this differentness that I feel will make me successful in ways that others cannot imagine. It is how I will begin to forge long term relationships with clients, where they truly are thinking of no other lawyer when they, their friend or a family member is involved in a situation that would benefit from legal guidance.

I just want to continue being different. Being better.

and in just the blink of an eye….

The last time that I blogged was a week into the semester. I had begun my clinical course, and was thrown into the fire when an attorney called in sick. Time has flown by, and we are just a few weeks until the end of the semester. This semester has blown by. It literally seems like only yesterday that I handled my first case on the record, and now I’ve handled over a hundred.

No trials yet, which is somewhat disappointing, but somewhat expected given the court that i’m working in and the lack of “volume” of cases. A lot of counties in Maryland have courts with 30 or 40 cases on the morning or afternoon docket for each of 4 or 5 or sometimes more courtrooms. Baltimore City has 3 separate district court houses for criminal matters, and a completely separate 4th court for civil matters in the district court. In Cecil County the morning docket is about 20-30 cases total (for the state) in each of 2 courtrooms. This is a mix of criminal and serious traffic matters. In the afternoon, many times there is only one courtroom handling serious traffic and criminal, the other is either closed or handling speeding tickets and other payable traffic matters.

I have had a great experience, working with clients and preparing cases for the potential of trial. In doing so, I have learned that almost any case that is worth putting on trial for the defense, isn’t particularly good for the State. What I have learned without doubt, is that preparation on the defense side often pushes these cases into “worth dropping charges” as far as the State is concerned.

I have realized that the most important asset that a good attorney often has is preparation. Not that it took any time or effort to come to this conclusion, but seeing this in action is huge. Unlike the State’s Attorney, you actually have access to your client. You can meet with them, get at least their side of the story, and pick it apart from there. Often times the ASA only has a police report, limited access to the officer who filed the report (but didn’t witness the offense) and if there is any level of innocence on the part of your client, you have the advantage and ability to find it.

The semester has so far proven to be a great learning experience as far as client advocacy is concerned, and really gaining a comfort level in the courtroom.

I am not looking forward to it ending. While it’ll be another chapter closed, and another step closer to graduation and admission to the bar, it’ll be the bench mark to what should be one full calendar year of me not being in the courtroom on the record. This will be the sad part of the story.

UNSTOPPABLE REBEL FORCE

It’s on.

Tomorrow I will start taking on some cases. While I will start with some soft-balls, stets and noelle prosqui, it’s time to start getting the feet wet. The goal is to become an all-out litigation machine by the end of this semester. I am already enrolled in trial boot-camp, so to speak. Trial advocacy class kicks into high gear next week when we have direct and cross examinations to prepare and to be critiqued upon. This will continue all semester, polishing the basic skills of setting a theme, getting the story to the jury, and challenging witnesses and their testimony.

Brilliant.

The clinic, while I will be taking on baby cases in the beginning, will have similar training in the classroom component. I am also learning the “rules” aspect of both criminal and civil cases in Maryland in my other 2 classes.

Let’s win.

Yeah, the trial team I was on last year now has 2 full teams from our school, and the gloves come off around September 9th when the competition problem is released.

It’s time to crush it and become a complete machine by November 16th competition date, and beyond.

It is time to bring back the tag I put on the Ravens Superbowl run last season: Unstoppable Rebel Force.

 

My Car Experience(s)

Car buying seems to be something that most people dread. Personally, I negotiate for a living, and also essentially work in customer service. I enjoy the experience, and I appreciate when sales people are good at customer service, and I also notice when they are not.

In 2009 I decided that it was time to purchase a new vehicle. Typically I buy cars cash, and don’t carry any sort of payments. At this time, I was driving an old car that didn’t get particularly good gas mileage, but a family member had “looked the car up” and determined that it was not eligible for the “cash for clunkers” program that the federal government was offering at the time. Therefore, I was just out to buy a more fuel efficient car to help with my 50+ mile each way commute to work.

Through the process I had gone to 6 or 7 different dealerships, across a variety of brands, honda, toyota, volkswagen, nissan, and the first question, relevant at the time, was always “is your car a clunker” to which I would respond “no, my is 1MPG too good to qualify.”

It was at about my 7th or 8th dealership, and second or third Honda dealership (I had test driven cars at most other dealerships) that Dave Eno at Martin Honda responded to my answer “well, go get your registration, lets see if you’re right.”  So he gets the registration, asks me a few other qualifying question, and sure enough…my car IS a clunker. Dave Eno just sold himself a car. At this precise moment my car buying decision, at least pertaining to brand and dealership, had been made. The cash for clunkers program was a $4,500 rebate incentive deal where the federal government was basically buying cars with poor gas mileage if you bought one that was at least 15 or 20 mpg more efficient.

Moral of the story, do your job–do the whole job, and get rewarded.

To further the good customer service, I have recently purchased another car. Recalling this experience, plus the fact that I get an e-mail or other correspondence each year on my birthday from Dave Eno, I didn’t shop. I decided what car I wanted, I returned to Martin Honda, and bought a car from Dave. Simple.

If you win a customer’s business, and really win it, you’ve likely earned a customer for life.

In a future post I will discuss how horrible my experience was with the Martin Honda service department back in 2009, and how they’ve apparently made a complete 180 since, as they recently won back my business.