No Lawyer Required – Small Claims Court

Your best friend, or someone you thought of as a friend, asked you for a loan of $2,500.00. You had the money, and you liked the guy, so you said okay. Two months have passed, and he bought a new house. You know he’s not hurting. You called him after you heard about the house and asked when he was going to pay you back. He said he had huge expenses now because of the new house. He said soon. Two weeks later you called again. Again he said soon. You just put the phone down. You’re tired of calling. He said soon again. What to do next?

This situation sounds like a case for small claims court. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Letter

Write your friend a letter. Tell him that he has two weeks to pay you back. Tell him you want to resolve his payment to you in a friendly manner, but if you do not receive a check within two weeks, you will see him in small claims court.

We’re hoping that the letter resolves the non-payment problem. If it does not, you’ll have to continue to step two.

2. File a claim

Go to your local small claims court and complete the forms. You can probably download the forms from your county’s small claims website. Submit the forms to the small claims court. The court will schedule a hearing.

3. Service of process

Your friend has become the defendant. He must be served at least 15 days before the hearing date if the defendant lives in San Francisco county. If the defendant does not live in the county, s/he must be served at least 20 days before the hearing date. A capable adult must serve a true copy of the claim. You cannot serve the defendant.

4. Evidence

You next gather all evidence to submit at the hearing. Evidence would include a copy of the cancelled check that you gave your friend and dates and notes of all phone calls that you made to him. You may want to take a photo of his new house.

5. At the hearing

Small claims courts are generally much more informal that other courts. The judge will ask you questions, and then s/he’ll ask your friend, the defendant, questions.

If you have presented the situation with evidence, the judge will probably rule in your favor.

You’ve won your case, and your friend is now going to pay you back, but suppose he doesn’t. Suppose he is a real jerk and has decided that he wants you to have to work just a little harder to get your money back.

6. Collecting a judgment

You have to collect the judgment. The defendant may pay the amount directly to the court. If the defendant does not have the money, the defendant may have to pay installments.

If your friend refuses to pay, you can complete an Application and Order for Appearance and Examination which would require your friend to appear in small claims court to have his income and resources examined.

You could also consider wage garnishment by completing a Writ of Execution. This writ could also levy your friend’s checking or other bank account.

If your friend has a business with a cash register, a sheriff can go to the business for a till tap. The sheriff can take enough money from the cash register to pay the judgment debt. The typical sheriff’s fee for a till tap is $85.00. We hope your friend doesn’t put you in this situation, but if you are ever in this situation, the purpose of small claims courts is to resolve small problems without the expense of an attorney. This is the do it yourself legal remedy.

Disclaimer: This article is not to be considered legal advice. If you need legal advice, seek out a licensed attorney. Remember that small claims courts do not require an attorney. If, however, the losing defendant appeals the small claims court’s decision, the new venue is a superior court. In a superior court, you will need an attorney.

Internet Marketing for Lawyers – Advice That Counts

Lawyers face the same challenges any business does. In order to get new business they must market their services, i.e., advertise. And lawyers deal with the same marketing and advertising challenge every business does – how to beat the competition. Plus lawyers have to assume that any Internet or non-Internet marketing or advertising they do may well produce little or no results for the amount of time and money they spend — regardless of what an outside marketing or advertising advisor may say to the contrary.

Prior to the Internet the main non-Internet marketing option or advertising choice for any lawyer was to advertise in the yellow pages. To this day the print yellow pages contain plenty of colorful, one page display ads that feature lawyers offering their services, and lawyers pay a lot for these ads. How effective these ads are is anyone’s guess — it’s hard for your colored, one page display ad to stand out when you have 20 other lawyers doing the exact same thing! The yellow pages companies, however, continue to promote their marketing and advertising philosophy that “bigger is always better” and “everything we sell is an opportunity,” so they often present a lawyer with a non-Internet marketing and advertising solution that costs plenty but often produces little.

This line of thinking, along with the use of print yellow pages in general, has gone the way of the dinosaur at a very accelerated pace. The yellow pages in print form had their heyday for many decades, but the population now goes to the Internet for the information they seek, so most print directories are collecting dust. A lawyer who advertises in the print yellow pages may well get calls, but they’ll most likely be from vendors using the yellow pages as a cheap source of leads.

The major paid search providers (pay per click search engines) tend to offer lawyers Internet marketing and advertising solutions in a manner similar to the way the yellow pages do with their print directories. “Bigger is always better,” so rather than realistically discuss with a lawyer a pay per click Internet marketing and advertising campaign that makes financial sense and produces a decent ROI, the pay per click providers will tell the lawyer to go for as many top listing keywords (the most expensive) as their budget will permit and bid as high as they can. The lawyer may go broke in the process, but at least they’ll get exposure! Many lawyers get into pay per click as a quick way to get leads but quickly exit a month later after spending lots of money for Internet marketing and advertising results that produce nothing but expense.

While pay per click Internet marketing and advertising is the running favorite of Internet marketing advertisers worldwide, pay per click advertising for a lawyer is usually an extremely expensive proposition for what they get. How much a lawyer is willing to “pay for a lead” takes on a whole new meaning with pay per click. The cost per click for many lawyer related keywords, e.g., “personal injury lawyer,” “criminal defense lawyer,” can range from $5.00 to $70.00 per click depending on the market, and when the typical lawyer’s conversion rate (the number of clicks it takes to generate a lead) of one to two percent is factored in, the lawyer can find themselves paying upwards of $500.00 to $7,000.00 per lead, and a lead is not a client.

Part of the problem lawyers face when they work with pay per click (and this translates directly into poor conversion rates) is that (1) they spend little time creating their pay per click ads and (2) the ads direct traffic to the lawyer’s website. Any Internet marketing professional who knows something about pay per click knows you never send pay per click traffic to a website. Instead you create special pages, i.e., “landing pages” for pay per click traffic to be directed to. The landing pages perform the job of convincing traffic to do what the lawyer requires, which is normally to contact the lawyer via e-mail or by phone.

Legal Internet directories and portals offer the lawyer a potential Internet marketing and advertising option because of their popularity and enhanced Internet visibility. How effective a listing in a legal Internet directory or portal can be for a lawyer in terms of marketing, advertising and Internet exposure will depend upon the particular attributes of the legal Internet directory or portal in question. All things being equal, legal Internet directories or portals that charge a fee to be listed in them make more sense as an Internet marketing and advertising choice than similar sites that offer listings for free. The lawyer has to be particularly careful, however, when they consider advertising in legal Internet directories and portals that “look” like they offer a lot — and a price to go with it — but for whatever reasons simply do not produce enough leads for the amount of Internet marketing and advertising money the lawyer must spend.

Many legal Internet directories and portals exist that have a very strong Internet presence, and they are excellent resource centers for lawyers, but this does not automatically make them good places to advertise. With Internet legal portals especially it’s not how many lawyers the portal attracts but how many people the Internet legal portal attracts who are searching for legal services. People have paid thousands of dollars for advertising in Internet legal portals that have produced nothing in the way of Internet marketing and advertising results. A very wise idea for any lawyer who considers advertising in an Internet legal portal is to get some very accurate user demographics on what kind of specific traffic the Internet legal portal is actually attracting.

What is a lawyer supposed to do? Everywhere the lawyer looks, whether the marketing and advertising media is Internet or non-Internet, considerable financial risk is involved, and a guarantee that the lawyer will get good, solid results for the amount of money they spend is often hard to achieve.

Ultimately the best way for a lawyer to go with Internet marketing and advertising – the way that will ultimately get them the best long term results for the money they spend — is to focus on getting their website to rank high in organic search results. When all things are considered, people on the Internet who search for goods and services mainly search for websites to find their answers. They may look to legal Internet directories and portals, and if they don’t find what they want they may turn to pay per click listings as a last resort (only about 30% to 40% of users bother with pay per click) but ultimately people who search the Internet are looking for websites that provide them with the answers they seek.

If a lawyer is looking for an Internet marketing and advertising solution that doesn’t require being part of the pay per click crowd, the lawyer may want to look into pay per phone call programs. Pay per phone call is like pay per click, but the lawyer does not pay for a call unless they receive one. And the costs for pay per phone call are normally substantially less that what the lawyer will pay for a click in many cases. A smart lawyer may even want to consider getting involved with several pay per phone call providers with the idea that between the providers the lawyer will receive enough leads in the aggregate to make involvement with these programs worth it.

Many of the Internet marketing and advertising solutions that a lawyer chooses to look into must be tried on a case by case basis. Absolutely nothing can be assumed. A pay per click advertising campaign that works extremely well for the lawyer with one search provider might fail miserably with another.

One last thing that a lawyer should be aware of when it comes to the Internet and a website presence is that appearances really do count. Many people have been on the Internet for 10 years and have correspondingly seen websites of all types and styles. People are used to seeing professionally designed websites. The lawyer’s website should be too.