Tag: Lawyer

Take my word for it…Or don’t.

It sounds like the beginning of a joke:  One lawyer says to the opposing lawyer, “take my word for it…” But it’s actually the beginning of an unenforceable agreement.  And not because lawyers are untrustworthy!

To be enforceable, any agreement about any matter in a pending lawsuit must (generally) be in (1) in writing, (2) signed, and (3) filed with the court.  An agreement meeting those three requirements is referred to by lawyers as a “Rule 11” or a “Rule 11 Agreement” after Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 11.  The text of the rule reads:

Unless otherwise provided in these rules, no agreement between attorneys or parties touching any suit pending will be enforced unless it be in writing, signed and filed with the papers as part of the record, or unless it be made in open court and entered of record.

Above I wrote that it generally has to be in writing.  But from the text you can see that an agreement made in open court and entered of record is also enforceable as a Rule 11 Agreement.  What’s even more useful is that some courts will enforce agreements made on the record at a deposition, and later filed with the court!  So if you can get the other party to agree to terms of a settlement—or even agree to provide you with additional documents—on the record during a deposition, that may be enforceable as a Rule 11.

And here’s another wrinkle:  let’s say you sign what you believe to be a Rule 11 Agreement, but it’s about a suit that you haven’t filed yet.  That means it’s not really a Rule 11, because the suit isn’t pending.  Remember, the text of the rule only relates to pending suits—what then?  Even if you don’t have a valid Rule 11, you may still have a valid contract.  Of course, contracts are also enforceable by a court, but you’ll probably have to file a lawsuit, first.

So moral of the story?  Put everything in writing!  It may not seem important, but you never know when someone will conveniently forget what they’ve agreed to do.

New Appellate Admissions

As of this summer Alexis Steinberg  and Nicholas Mosser are admitted to practice before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ms. Steinberg’s appellate practice has previously included appearing before the Texas Supreme Court, and the needs of her clients now demand she be prepared to travel to New Orleans.  Ms. Steinberg drafted the briefs in Mosser Law’s case on homestead liens created in violation of the Texas Constitution, which is currently pending before the 5th Circuit.



Do I really need a lawyer?

The only way to know for sure is to talk to one. Unfortunately each legal problem brings with it a unique set of facts and complications.

Without speaking to a lawyer about your circumstances, it’s impossible to know for sure if retaining a lawyer is the best and most cost-effective way of maintaining your rights. Also, while you may be thinking of representing yourself, known as “pro se” in legalese, you may want to carefully weigh the benefits. Lawyers have access to more than just courtroom experience. We subscribe to electronic services which help us keep up to date on the most cutting edge laws, and we’re familiar with the sometimes complicated rules of procedure and evidence. There’s also a saying in the profession, “the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” We wouldn’t appear pro se, and we suggest you don’t either.

On Long Lost Lawyers

Being a lawyer at a cocktail party is a little bit like being a doctor at a cocktail party: everyone wants you to diagnose their legal problems. That can be very challenging what with the liability issues involved, and problems with stepping on another lawyer’s toes. But the most disconcerting question lawyers get asked is “Why won’t my lawyer return my calls?

This is a really great question.  You pay your lawyer a lot of money, shouldn’t you expect him to call you back when you want him to?  As with all questions to lawyers, the answer is invariably “That depends.”

There are two main reasons a good lawyer isn’t calling you back.

1. NOTHING IS HAPPENING Oh, this can be very frustrating, but very true. There’s a lot of waiting in litigation. Waiting for discovery, waiting for a trial setting, waiting until it’s time for a deposition. If your lawyer called you just to let you know that it’s time for more waiting, your legal bills would be astronomical, and you’d be livid!

So how do you know, without calling, if nothing is happening or if your lawyer is slacking off?  Your lawyer ought to be sending you copies of any court filings, notices of court dates, and even some correspondence.  This way you can be “in the loop” without wasting your precious legal fund calling and checking in every other week.  If you’re not getting these documents automatically, call and ask your lawyer’s paralegal or secretary to forward them to you.

2. SOMEONE ELSE IS IN JAIL/BANKRUPTCY/DIRE NEED Believe it or not, this isn’t just a lame excuse. We spend a lot of time putting out our clients’ fires. Whether that’s jail, bankruptcy, injunctions, or just threatening letters, it’s important that we’re available in an emergency. So if your call isn’t returned the same day, it’s not because your litigation isn’t important, it’s just not as immediate.

This goes back to number 1, above. There’s a lot of waiting in litigation, so lawyers will put off till tomorrow returning your call, in favor of bailing someone else out of jail.   Think of this as a good thing.  After all, if you get thrown in jail, you’ll want us to be there as quickly as possible, right?

Other Tips:

You should be getting itemized bills so that you can keep track of the funds you pay to your attorney, and how he’s spending his time.

And any complaints that you make about poor communication, shoddy workmanship, etc. should be in writing.  You always want a record of your interactions, even with “your” lawyer.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!