During the course of a lawsuit, each party is entitled to discover documents and factual information that might be relevant to the lawsuit. There are different procedures used to get this information including requests for production (which ask for documents), interrogatories (which are literally just questions asking for specific information), requests for admission, and depositions. All these procedures and this process are known as “discovery.” The scope of discovery is very broad and includes not only documents and information directly relevant to the lawsuit, for example, emails talking about the contract you might be fighting over, but also anything that is “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” For example, actions that someone took after an accident to ensure that the same type of accident doesn’t happen again is usually not admissible in a negligence case because society has decided that businesses should not be penalized for fixing things that are broken. However, the memorandum sent out by corporate explaining how they are going to do things differently in the future might start off with “now, we know this problem has existed in our company for years.” That information would not only be admissible but would probably get your case settled.
A lot of cases are straightforward and don’t require expensive discovery. If someone owes you money and did not pay, not much discovery is needed to prove that they did not pay. On the other hand, if a former employee stole your patented software and used it to start up a competing company, you can imagine how hard that case might be to prove without extensive and expensive discovery. Regardless whether your case is straightforward or complex, the more information you can provide your lawyer upfront about your case – documents, emails, text messages, social media posts, list of witnesses, etc., the faster and more efficiently that lawyer can help solve whatever legal problem you are facing.
Unless you have a personal injury case, most law firms require a retainer upfront. A retainer is nothing more than the money paid in advance – before the lawyer starts working on your matter – and is intended solely to ensure the lawyer gets paid for his or her work. The retainer is your money, even after you hand it over, and lawyers are required by law to hold it in trust until work has been performed. Any part of the retainer that is not used, must be returned to you.
There are different types of retainers and the size of the retainer will depend on the size of your case, the size of the law firm, and, quite frankly in some cases, your payment history with the firm. At our firm, clients who have a track record of paying their legal bills on time and in full are not required to post retainers for new matters. New clients will almost always be required to post a retainer, which, again at our firm, can vary from $500 to $5,000 depending on the complexity of your case.
Some firms will charge a retainer in the approximate amount of what all the work will cost. Others require an “evergreen” retainer, which is a set amount of money that will be used to pay bills but must always be replenished to the original amount.
Very Important Tip: A retainer is NOT a flat fee. Think of it as a security deposit. You put money down to ensure your last month’s rent is covered when you move out, but you still have to pay your rent every month. Understanding this up front and having a frank conversation with your lawyer about any retainer they ask for, will save you a lot of heartburn when the legal bills start coming.
1. Do NOT ignore any invitation to court. This can result in a default judgment, which can be hard to set aside, last forever, and just might ruin your financial world. If you ignore a citation (state) or a summons (federal), the other side gets to tell the judge how much you owe!
2. CALL A LAWYER! You may ultimately decide not to hire one, but it is foolish not to at least consult one. Most lawyers spend four years in college and three years in law school learning the law and the rules of court, and, in Texas, must take a 3-day exam to get a law license. Very bad things happen to people who go into court without out least talking to a lawyer. Most lawyers (us, for example), do not charge for the initial consultation just to figure out your situation.
3. If your company was sued and not you individually, unless you are in JP court, you will have to hire a lawyer. Companies cannot represent themselves. A simple rule of thumb: if your company has any letters after its name other than d/b/a, for example, Inc., Corp., LLC, PC, GP, or LP, hire a lawyer.
4. Whether you talk to a lawyer or not, READ the citation or summons CAREFULLY because that is where you will find your deadline to respond. These deadlines vary from court to court and PLEASE do not rely on what some friend who watched a few episodes of Boston Legal or Law and Order told you.
5. Lastly and most importantly file a WRITTEN answer – before the deadline – denying the petition or complaint. Think of the written answer as your RSVP to the party. If you do not respond, the party will go on without you.
1. Determine your eligibility. You may apply for an EIN online if your principal business is in the United States or U.S. Territories.
The PERSON applying online must have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN, EIN).
You are limited to one EIN per responsible party per day. This is relevant if you are trying to set up multiple entities at once.
Understand the online application. You must complete this application in one session, as you will not be able to save and return at a later time. Your session will expire after 15 minutes of inactivity, and you will need to start over.
2. Submit your application. After all, validations are done you will get your EIN immediately upon completion. You can then download, save, and print your EIN confirmation notice.
3. The IRS does NOT charge to issue an EIN. There are, however, many services that do and their software just piggybacks off of the IRS form. Be very careful to log on to the IRS website above and not one of the private companies that you will find at the top of your web search.