The “Junkyard Lawyer” Myth

The Sound and the Fury

 Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Scene V

The potential new client says:   “I am looking for a junkyard lawyer, a bulldog lawyer!”

This statement from a potential client always causes me these disjunctive reactions:

  •  This person has never retained a lawyer before so is a “virgin” when it comes to working with a lawyer, or
  • This person must have a bottomless pit of money to throw down the drain thrashing through a legal dispute.

The last thing any rationaJunkyard lawyerl client wants, at least 99.9% of the time, is to become engaged in a long, interminable legal battle where predictably the only clear winners are the lawyers who are charging their clients by the hour.

Think of this ugly image: two bulldog lawyers scrabbling about in the junkyard, jaws locked in vice grips on each other’s shoulders, spinning round and round amid swirls of dust—“sound and fury signifying nothing!”

 What is the thinking of a potential client seeking a junkyard lawyer? [Read more…]

The Client Always Has Some Responsibility in Causing the Problem

Sharing Responsibility for Failures in Communications

This is a difficult one for a lot of people: helping the client to recognize that in some way, large or small, the client has had some responsibility in causing the problem. How so?

  Failures to communicate lead to problems:communicating with tin cans

Usually and most obvious, there has been a breakdown in communications between the client and the client’s antagonist or opponent that has caused the problem or at least exacerbated the problem.

Of course, as a matter of definition, communications are two-party endeavors.

It takes two to communicate effectively. And, for communications to breakdown and fail, usually there is some failure by both parties to the communication.

And, ironically, usually both parties cannot see that they both share in the failure to communicate effectively.

Each party just keeps on doing the same old ineffectual thing. Here is a case in point.

Being a movie fan, I like to use snippets of great movie dialogue to make a point. The first such snippet comes from a 1967 classic movie, Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman: [Read more…]

Easements in Nevada County California

 “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!”

First-time real estate buyers, especially buyers who are new to Nevada County, fresh up from the so-called “flatlands”, often ask themselves, “What is thEasement Photosis ‘easement’ listed in my preliminary title report?”

Good question!  A bad answer might be, “Oh, don’t worry about that.  We see that all the time on these rural properties.  You just live with that.”

The good answer is more complicated.  Let’s start with some basics.

An “easement” is the legal (and enforceable in Court) right of some person or entity other than the owner of real property to use that real property for some limited purpose.

And, critically, an easement usually “burdens” or “encumbers” a particular property and benefits a different property.  The former is called the “servient” property or tenement, the latter is called the “dominant” property or tenement. [Read more…]

California Small Business Owner Wake-Up Call: Comply or Risk Paying Big $$$$

By Janice Knight (SPHR)- Guest Blogger

A May 2013 California Labor Commissioner Report alerts California business owners to most significant increases in Wage and Hour violation awards and penalties in years.  A review of this report is eye opening.  DLSE_Report 2013

Wage Theft Enforcement Adds New Urgency

Several enforcement agencies in California are now collaborating and have stepped up their efforts to go after employers who they believe are guilty of “Wage Theft”.  Employers are guilty of wage theft for failing to comply with the many wage and hour laws on the books.  The term became more widely known with the passage in January of 2013 of the Wage Theft Protection Act of 2011, which gives greater protection to workers, and makes changes in the way workers are notified of basic employment information.

Knowledge is Power PhotoKnowledge is power, specifically when it applies to understanding and complying with California’s rather stringent and often confusing wage and hour laws.  Inaccurate information abounds on the internet, often causing confusion with both employees and employers.  Knowing where to go to find accurate information is crucial to employers avoiding expensive penalties, back wages and other adverse awards, not to mention minimizing the number of disgruntled employees.

Knowing what to do with this information is even more important and may require the help of an expert.  A human resources consultant might be useful for clarification, policies and practices, while an employment attorney might be necessary to correct unlawful practices, negotiate with enforcement agencies and minimize future legal risks.   Employers can reduce the cost of experts by doing their basic homework first. [Read more…]

Follow the Money


Deep Throat’s Advice in 1972 is Still Valid 40 Years Later:
Why Wall Street Fears the Ancient Law of Eminent Domain in 2012

moneyhandshakeWhat does eminent domain in 2012 have to do with Richard Nixon’s resignation?  Simple.  It’s almost always about the money.  Nothing has changed in 40 years.

If you are younger than 45, you will benefit from a refresher course in modern American history—Richard Nixon’s Watergate Scandal, the reason Nixon resigned his Presidency, the only U.S. President ever to resign.

Watch the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men”, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.  The anonymous informant, code named “Deep Throat”, who helped break Nixon’s Presidency, says:

Deep Throat: Follow the money.
Bob Woodward: What do you mean? Where?
Deep Throat: Oh, I can’t tell you that.
Bob Woodward: But you could tell me that.
Deep Throat: No, I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know, and I’ll confirm. I’ll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that’s all. Just… follow the money.

Flash forward to 2012. [Read more…]

Underwater Mortgage Loans and Eminent Domain—Odd Bedfellows But a Coupling Whose Time Perhaps Has Come

Leave it to the venture capitalists to create a way to make money and solve a real societal need.

This is an idea that from this perspective even staunch GOP capitalists can support—said with tongue firmly planted in cheek:

Use the power of eminent domain

  1. To seize overvalued (that is, underwater) real estate backed loans
  2. To pay the current owners (investors) of these loans the fair market value of the loans as is constitutionally required by the law of eminent domain,
  3. Then the new owners of the loans write down the principal of the loans to a reasonable value that approximates what was just paid to the original owners of the loans, and
  4. Presto the homeowners stay in their homes and their homes have some minimal positive equity—motivating them not to default and avoid foreclosure, and possibly even to spend, all to the good of the economic recovery.

Who pays the price of this process?

The current owners of the loans are compelled to “recognize” the loss in value of their investments in these loans.

One harsh example:  The owner of a second loan on a property where the first loan is underwater would be paid close to $0.00 for that second loan as economically the value of that loan is next to $0.00. [Read more…]