Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More about life in Albany

So now my allergies seem to be kicking into gear. Some sneezing fits, taking over the counter allergy medicine (chlorpheniramine maleate (spelling?) seems to work for me).

Meanwhile, I'm running around to area courts, taking care of various traffic tickets and other problems. Still enjoying work and family.

Ah, life as a lawyer in Albany, New York.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Enjoying life

Perhaps the most important thing to remember in living life as a lawyer, is to enjoy life while you're doing it.

So I'm going to sneak out shortly for 9 holes of golf. :-)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Speeding ticket lessons

Tough night. I had two clients (sisters) who had been driving together and got pulled over for a fairly high speed on the Taconic in a town in Columbia County. Showed up in Court and the Trooper gave me a harder time than usual. Don't get me wrong. The Trooper was a decent guy. But the facts turned out to be worse than usual.

Their speed was high, more than 30 mph over the limit. Then the Trooper told me that they had kids in car seats in their cars. In my experience, this really bothers police. And then he mentioned that they had a sob story, about their brother having been in an accident. The Trooper also didn't like that my clients weren't there tonight, which is unusual in my experience. Only once before has a Trooper cared about that.

And it turns out that judges in Columbia County are tougher on speeding than what I see from judges in other counties. Normally I would expect to get this 8-point speed reduced to a 3-point non-speed, especially since both clients had pretty clean records. Maybe I've just been lucky so far. The best he would do for me was a 4-point speed. He wrote it up as 13 mph over the limit, saying that since it was less than 15 over, it would have less impact on their insurance. I'm going to have to look that one up.

Anyway, it was better than what could have been. By keeping the points below 6, it saves the clients from the new assessment from DMV, which would have cost them $300 each. And hopefully their insurance rates either won't go up, or it won't be too bad.

Lesson #1: Don't speed in Columbia County (which includes Hudson, NY and Chatham, NY, and a fairly long stretch of the Taconic).

Lesson #2: If you're going to speed in Columbia County, don't go more than 25 mph over the limit. The Trooper indicated that judges in the County won't agree to a non-speed if you're over that number. By the way, the 25 mph rule is a pretty good rule anywhere. I advise clients to aim for no more than 8 mph over the limit, as it is rare to see a ticket for less than 10 over. Of course, I do have one pending now for 9 mph over the limit, so there's no perfect answer. Go slower than the limit and they might decide that's suspicious and pull you over.

Lesson #3: Don't blab your sob story to the cop. They just don't want to hear it. I've got one client who was on her way to a hospital to "harvest" tissue from a dying patient for an eye transplant. The cop still wrote her a ticket. Be respectful to the cop (it isn't that great of a job, some of the things they do is pretty important, and they're mostly good people). There are all sorts of ways you can piss off a cop. Being polite and respectful, even apologetic, is much safer.

Oh, and lesson #4: Don't drive too fast with kids in your car. They really hate that.

Now, for the second part of our story. A friend of mine got a ticket a while ago. Turns out it was in the same court. I had referred my friend to a young lawyer (I forget why - either I couldn't be there the night it was originally scheduled, or I thought the Court was too far). So I get there and I see my young lawyer friend and my buddy together. Of course I didn't remember making the referral so I was trying to figure out why they were there together. :-)

So anyway, turns out my friend had several other tickets on his record already. He pled guilty to a few of them without hiring a lawyer. So they show up in this court in Columbia County needing a no-pointer to save his license. No dice.

The lessons here?

A: Never, never, never plead guilty to a traffic ticket that has points. You can almost always get a reduction (especially if you didn't piss off the cop - see #3 above). Not getting the reduction now can hurt you later, as my friend just learned. Yes, a speeding ticket lawyer is expensive. Personally, I think what I do is worth the money I'm paid.

B: If you've gotten 2 or 3 tickets within a few months, it's time to wake up. You need to slow down. You are in danger of losing your license. That might be a problem if you have a job and you need to drive as part of that job, or if you drive to work.

Interesting article on speeding tickets

Saw this site - "Ticket Killer". They sell themselves with AdWords (Google Sponsored Links). They have an interesting page where they compare themselves with other options, including lawyers.

Their page is: ticketkiller.com/ticket-beater-comparison.html

Here's what they say, with my criticism:

>In most traffic matters, attorneys are not a practical choice, since they often cost more than the fine and offer you no guarantee of beating your ticket.<

It's true that I offer no guarantee. However, in my opinion, their guarantee is worthless. I do cost more than the fine, but I save you money on your insurance rates and protect your license. I also handle it so you won't have to go to Court (usually).

>The less time an attorney spends preparing your case, the more money he or she makes per hour, whether you win or lose (most traffic attorneys take cases on a set fee, not hourly). Therefore, attorneys are in a sense motivated to spend the least amount of time possible on fighting your ticket.<

I guess this is true, but I never thought of it this way. I don't think about my hourly rate for my work on this. And I don't really "fight" tickets. I negotiate a reduction for my clients. I can fight them when appropriate, but most of the time that's a bad decision for the client. If you fight your ticket you will probably lose, whether or not you have a lawyer. It usually only makes sense to fight a ticket when the best deal offered means you will still lose your license. So far, my success rate in negotiating tickets for my clients is 100%, often saving them substantial amounts on their car insurance.

>To have a successful practice an attorney has to have dozens of ticket clients pending at all times. For the most part they count on general tactics and not a defense specific to your circumstances. Do you believe that your attorney spends hours preparing your case, researching and preparing case law etc. when you are not around?<

To be really successful, an attorney has to have other work besides speeding tickets. I actually do have dozens of tickets pending, but that's not enough to sustain my business. And I do use the same general tactics - because they work. I negotiate with the prosecutor and get reductions for my clients.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cool blog

Just saw this blog. Love it. Check it out.

Albany Lawyer Directory

Attempting to branch out a bit from my law practice, I've now created a directory of lawyers for Albany, New York. The directory is now live at www.albany-lawyer.com.

For now the site covers a few practice areas. For practice areas I handle there is a description of my firm with links, and I invite other lawyers to contact me about getting a listing. For practice areas I don't handle, there are AdSense ads and again, other lawyers can contact me about getting listed in the directory. We'll see if this is a worthwhile endeavor.

Friday, August 19, 2005

New blog -- Albany Injury Lawyer blog

I decided to try out typepad and created a new blog there. We'll see if I like that better. I'll try to focus the injury posts on that blog.

Albany Injury Lawyer

My practice is a bit diverse, with a heavy volume of relatively low revenue speeding tickets, some moderately higher revenue dwi and criminal defense cases.

The biggest revenue opportunity for someone in my type of practice is personal injury cases. This includes car accidents and a variety of other accidents. Because there is so much revenue potential, there is a lot of competition as many lawyers want to do this kind of work and get in on the revenue stream. A simple car accident case with relatively minor injuries (like a rib fracture) can generate a fee of $5000 or more. Compare that with $250-400 for a traffic ticket or $1000 for a DWI. A good case can lead to fees of $25K and up. And the best cases, which are quite rare, lead to fees in excess of $100K. If you just get one of those cases a year, you'll do pretty well.

As an injury lawyer in Albany, NY, I see competition from big TV advertisers and a variety of lawyers advertising in the Yellow Pages. Different firms have different approaches to how they handle things.

The largest TV advertiser is really four actors (they are lawyers) and a staff of retired insurance claims people. The staff process the cases and try to turn them into money. The lawyers rarely go to Court.

Some of the Yellow Pages advertisers really aren't injury lawyers. They get cases in and then refer them to a real Albany injury lawyer. The referrer gets a share of the fee, usually one third of the total fee.

There are some very good injury lawyers in the Albany, New York area. They have great experience and frequently take cases to trial. One of the best was Dick Aulisi. He's now a judge. But there are several others that do a really good job.

There are good lawyers and there are good marketers. I like to think I'm both, though I'm probably a better lawyer than I am a marketer. I haven't gotten many personal injury cases through advertising, though I do get a few through the web. It's another part of the learning process.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Airline frequent flyer miles

My family has been planning a trip to LA. I've got over 225,000 frequent flyer miles with Northwest Airlines, so I wanted to book 5 first-class tickets for our trip.

After numerous attempts to arrange such travel, I've given up on Northwest. Using my awesome power as a lawyer (as if), I'm filing a small claims action for $5000 against them tomorrow in Albany City Court. $5000 is the limit in City Court small claims. The limit is $3000 in town and village courts.

According to the airline's regular website, there are first-class seats available on many of its flights to LA, all with reasonable hours and flight plans. Such tickets are worth about $1200 each.

We'll see how they respond to this. Maybe I should make this a side-practice, representing frustrated frequent flyer customers in small claims actions against the airlines. :-)

One legal issue that concerned me was preemption. Fortunately, it turns out that the Supreme Court has held that breach of contract claims against airlines are not preempted.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Lucky Day

I had a couple speeding ticket cases this morning in Albany City Court. Each was with a different State Trooper. Neither showed up, and the cases were dismissed.

In my experience it is very rare for a Trooper not to show. Happens maybe 5% of the time, maybe less. So that makes the odds of this day being 1 in 400. On the other hand, I suppose I can expect this to happen about every 400 times I go to Court with two cases.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Coming soon

Coming soon: Our new website, at 3 urls:


The new approach will have a new graphic design, along with a dynamic approach to generating pages using php. This should make it easier for people to find us if they're searching for a good lawyer on the web, by making it more relevant to their location in the Albany area and the keywords they're looking for.

The old website will remain as is for now, though we will probably upgrade it to the new graphic design.

The blog will stay right here.