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Economics of Hiring an Out of Town Attorney

Did you know your attorney can appear in most any courtoom in California while sitting at his or her desk? Just about every Court participates in CourtCall (a service connecting attorneys to courtrooms for a nominal fee) or allows attorneys to dial in to the Courthouse directly. Why does this matter to you? Generally speaking a probate court “appearance” is needed in most cases at some point.  Not all of course but in most. If your attorney’s office is in, or near, the city of the courthouse the Judge expects your attorney to show up in person. However, an out of town attorney is expected to appear by CourtCall.

With CourtCall the Judge and everybody else in the courtroom hears the phone call particpants over the speakers. This can make for an occasional embarrasement when a court call attorney forgets they are on speaker. Reminds me of that scene in one of the Leslie Nielsen Police Squad movies. Anyway, let’s go through the simple economics of this to YOU, the average client.

Let’s say Attorney 1 has his offices in Woodland Hills and your case is at the downtown Los Angeles Courthouse. Let’s say that attorney charges $300 per hour. Attorney 2 has his offices in Sacramento (and Roseville!) and charges $250 per hour.  For arguments sake assume both attorneys have been practicing law the same number of years and have the same exact credentials.  Let’s say your case has a 9:00 hearing. What time would attorney 1 need to leave his home or office in the valley to get to the 9:00 court hearing in downtown LA?  He has to drive, park his car, walk to the courthouse, up the elevator, etc….  He could leave the valley at 8:00 but no sure thing with LA traffic.  He could leave at 8:15 if he or she likes to cut it really close.  Attorney 2 can call up the courtroom at 8:58.  Hmmmmmm, what’s better economically for you the client?  Oh ya, and attorney 1 still has to drive back to their office after Court. On straight economics obviously it makes sense to hire an attorney, in another city, who is a certified specialist in estate planning, trust and proabte law.  They can appear by CourtCall, they charge a lower hourly rate since they are in a smaller city, and you the client come out way ahead!

Is CourtCall right for all cases?  No, of course not. If your case is likely to result in lengthy litigation then you should hire a local attorney or hire an out of town attorney with local contacts in the city of your case. In a litigated case you need local counsel in the courtroom arguing your case. However, few cases end up being litigated. In most probate cases it’s a matter of filing the right documents at the right times.  Thus an out of town attorney is right in most cases; particiularly for those cases in the big cities where traffic is horendous.

The point of this is to think about who you are hiring first and foremost. Do not worry as much about the geographics but rather think about the attorney, his credentials, his experience, his efficiency, his specialty, etc….

When I started writing this I did not intend for it be a sales pitch but it is now so let me tell you I am a certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law. I have been so certified by the State Bar of California board of legal specialization. I also have been rated “AV” by Martindale Hubbell which is their highest honor. I also have a great phone system so appearing by CourtCall is a breeze for me!

I also am highly efficient with email, phone, fax, FedEx and the US Mail. I have clients around the world. While there are some instances where a face to face meeting is nice there are plenty of others where the mediums of today work well which allow for more efficient representation. Evaluate all of your options before hiring your next attorney!

Oh wait, it’s 8:50 and I need to run to the rest room before I “appear” in Court in a far away county at 9:00!