Unlimited Legal Access

I'm trying something new here in Sebastopol. For a small monthly fee tailored to your family's circumstances, you can have access to an attorney who knows you well. You'll have quick and inexpensive advice from someone who already knows you and your family, and the way your life works. I will understand the context, not just the specifics of whatever urgent issue has come up. I will respond to your immediate legal concerns by telephone, email, or meetings, at my office or at your home or office.

How It Works.

First, for a flat fee of $275 I will meet with you and your family, either at my office or your home, for a wide-ranging conversation about your circumstances, including a legal checkup using a checklist I've developed just for this work. After that initial meeting, I will send you a synopsis and a proposed agreement between us that will give you unlimited access to quick legal advice on issues such as:

  • Forming, changing or ending businesses and professional practices
  • Risks and benefits of any business decision
  • Contract negotiations, drafting, review, interpretation, claims and resolutions
  • Real estate matters
  • Personnel policies, including hiring and firing of people who provide services to your family
  • Zoning, water, permit, or environmental issues
  • Renting out a room in your house

Your monthly fee will be calibrated to be affordable given the complexity of your family's situation and the size of your "estate." Here are some examples:

The Young Working Family.

Sean and Rachel are in their late 20s early 30s. They've been married for three years. They rent a house near Fiesta Market and are planning to start a family soon. Sean is an electrician making $65,000 per year and Rachel is a medical assistant making $32,000. They have health insurance through work, have saved up almost enough to make a down payment on a house and are hoping to buy one in the next six months.

TYPICAL SERVICES INCLUDED:

  • Review a listing agreement a realtor offers
  • Answer questions about how buying a house works
  • Review the offer that the realtor drafts for them
  • Advice about getting life insurance, powers of attorney and a trust

INCOME AND NET WORTH

  • About $6,500 per month after-tax income. Rent is $2,250. Car payments $385
  • Net worth: (total savings, cash on hand and value of all other assets combined) $92,000

Monthly fee $50.00

Additional legal expenses? Sean and Rachel decide to buy a great place, with Dan and Katrina, together as tenants in common. They need a formal agreement. My usual hourly rate for that work is $375. But for, Sean and Rachel, it's $250, because I am their family lawyer.

The maturing family.

Ty and Kendra have a 6 year old, an 8 year old, a dog, some cats and even some chickens in the yard in their house out on Cherry Ridge Road. Ty's a network administrator for a big company in Santa Rosa and Kendra is a graphic designer and marketing pro with a local clientele. They have a mortgage, have saved some for college for the kids. Ty will get a raise soon and the house is in need of some upgrades. The old '70s era kitchen is tired, the roof should be replaced and there's an idea about a pool.

TYPICAL SERVICES INCLUDED:

  • A little education about construction contracts and review of the bid document
  • A review of the new contract being offered to Ty
  • A checkup on insurance, powers of attorney and an estate plan to cover things for the kids' education

INCOME AND NET WORTH

  • About $11,000 per month post tax income. House payment is $3,600. Car payments $580
  • Net worth: (total savings and investments, equity in house, cash on hand and value of all other assets combined) $545,000

Monthly fee $100.00

Additional legal expenses? Ty's employer decides he wants Ty to work on a contract basis and not as an employee. He wants Ty to start a new tech business. Looks like he might have a partner interested in starting a network shop especially with this great client already in hand. What kind of business? LLC? Partnership? Looks like a partnership agreement might be just enough. My usual hourly rate for that work is $375. But for, Ty and Kendra, it's $250.00.

The sandwich family.

Sam and Julia are 58 and 54. Sam is close to retiring from his job as an orthopedist at Kaiser and Julia's psychotherapy practice is full; she cannot possibly fit in another patent. The kids are off in New York and Wisconsin at school. There are student loans, but the money put aside is covering much of the cost. Can't retire yet!

They've put together a great place out on Fiori Lane with a small vineyard, a guest house and a recording studio for the band Sam and Julia have been in together for so long. They've also got a condo up at Heavenly.

Julia's dad is just over 80 and has just been diagnosed as in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Her step mom is 76 and, so far, they seem able to manage at home together in Oakmont. Julia's siblings are in Atlanta (brother in finance) and LA (sister still an aspiring actress with some "issues.") Sam's parents are older and live in Chicago. They're in assisted living and, because dad had a very successful career as a radiologist, they can afford to pay for it without depleting their estate.

EXPECTED SERVICES INCLUDED:

  • Consultations about elder care: are mom and dad's papers in order? Sam and Julia's?
  • A checkup on insurance, powers of attorney and an estate plan
  • Issues about county hotel tax and the Airbnb thing with the guest house
  • How do we find a lawyer in Chicago who can help with mom and dad and be sure that their estate plan is well structured?
  • What about the sister in LA? She's been making noises about going to live with and take care of dad but we're not sure that's a great idea. What do we do?
  • The grape contract is coming up for renewal now and we are thinking of going with another buyer. He sent along a draft.

INCOME AND NET WORTH

  • About $14,000 per month post-tax income from work plus a few thousand per month rental on the ski place. House paid off.
  • Net worth: (total savings, investments, equity, cash on hand and value of all other assets combined) $1,450,000

Monthly fee $200.

Additional legal expenses: Julia's stepmom is injured and cannot take care of dad. The sister goes to live with them. She takes over the finances. But she won't talk about it with Sam and Julia. Then dad's neighbor tells Sam that people come over to dad's house at odd hours and the property is not being kept up. We need to determine if legal action must be taken to protect dad and, after an investigation, it seems the sister is abusing them financially and even emotionally. We need to go to court to have a conservator appointed to protect dad from elder abuse. My usual hourly rate for that work is $425. But for, Sam and Julia, it's $250.

You Have Many Choices

Very wealthy families have experienced lawyers at law firms, charging $600 per hour or more, and they just call whenever they need help. Companies have full-time in-house counsel on salary, ready to work on whatever comes up.

Prepaid legal plans are offered through the workplace or advertised online. These plans deliver legal services as a commodity, much the same as nuts and berries. A relatively low yearly fee purports to cover several lawyerly tasks. But these plans usually provide limited access, and usually to mostly inexperienced lawyers, often in some other community, state or, possibly even outsourced to India and other countries with the English legal system. Those practitioners don't know their clients and may not be familiar with the law in the state.

Form sales companies sell form wills, trusts, real estate contracts, that can sort of work for generic situations, though not necessarily for your situation. Some lawyers love it when their clients have used these, because there are often so many things that can go wrong.

I am starting something new, designed for West Sonoma County, and how our lives and financial situations actually work now.