Tips & Traps
Managing Receivables. There
are three kinds of clients who don’t pay your bills: those who can’t pay,
those who don’t pay, and those who won’t pay.
Those who can’t pay were poor
clients to take on in the first place.
Although the spirit was willing, the bank account was weak. If you can’t provide your services to such a client on a pro
bono basis, the sooner the attorney-client relationship is severed,
the better for you both.
Those who don’t pay have the
money to pay the bill, but among their creditors, “the squeaky wheel
gets the grease.” Be light
but firm, and always follow up. If
you can’t or won’t look after your own affairs, clients may question
how zealous you are about their affairs.
Those who won’t pay have something
they want to talk about and
they are waiting for your call. If
you don’t follow up promptly with “won’t pay” clients, you’ll never
get paid. Furthermore, if you
delay, it will be even more difficult.
The best person to follow
up an unpaid legal fee bill is you.
You are the one that the client hired, and you are the one
that will have to cut loose the “can’t pay,” guilt the “don’t pay”
into paying, and respond to the unhappy “won’t pay.”
Michael J. Ford
Unemployment Compensation. Unemployment
compensation proceedings often are treated cavalierly or with indifference
by both employers and employees. The
stakes, however, can be sufficient to justify more thorough attention.
An employee who prevails may realize in excess of $10,000,
depending upon level of pay and duration of unemployment, while an
employer who loses may incur higher unemployment insurance costs.
But strategic considerations
may be more significant. Under Minn. Stat. §268.105,
subd. 5(c), testimony offered in an unemployment compensation
proceeding, as well as the result of the case, is not admissible in
any other civil proceedings. Further, under Minn. Stat. §268.105, subd.
5a, the outcome of an employment case is not collateral estoppel
and may not be used “in any separate or subsequent action [or] in
any other forum.” Despite this
statutory prohibition, both the proceeding and the outcome can be
important in parallel or subsequent wrongful termination disputes.
Both sides may use subpoenas in unemployment proceedings, which
may give them an opportunity to engage in what effectively amounts
to prelitigation discovery for a subsequent wrongful termination
Marshall H. Tanick
Mansfield, Tanick & Cohen, PA
Pro Bono Calls. Time being precious, it is especially disheartening
to watch the clock tick away as you patiently answer yet another telephone
inquiry from a troubled consumer, with no expectation of remuneration.
Take heart! The Minnesota
Attorney General’s Office has prepared a wonderful series of consumer
publications, covering everything from used cars to landlord-tenant
issues to home buying or selling, senior’s legal rights, pyramid schemes,
credit use and many others. The guides contain common sense advice,
brief dissertations on Minnesota law (with statutory cites), and third-party contact
information. You can obtain
these guides free of charge at http://www.ag.state.mn.us/
(click on “Publications”) or by calling the Attorney General’s Consumer
Protection line at (651) 296-3353 or (800) 657-3787. I keep a current selection of these guides in
my desk. By simply opening a guide during a phone call, I become an
instant expert and give the client the info they need.
Dolan & Besser
Small Business Incorporation. A client calls and says he has a friend who needs an
attorney to set up a small corporation.
He wants a cheap corporation; he doesn’t have much money. What do you recommend?
Here’s the problem: 1). If he has no money to set up a corporation,
he certainly has no money to bring a product or idea to fruition;
2) The question suggests that he has no business plan; maybe it’s
not time for a corporation just yet, but how could he know with no
business plan? 3) When the idea fails, as it usually does, you become
the reason for its failure. Respectfully decline to help or encourage
Russell H. Jensen
Attorney at Law
Homesteads & Estates. The debtor-creditor definition of “homestead” controls
for purposes of intestate succession, not the Minnesota property tax definition. The Minnesota Probate Code does not define homestead
so other authority is needed. Two sources are Minnesota’s property tax law and Minnesota’s debtor-creditor law. Minnesota’s property tax definition of homestead is broader than
the debtor-creditor definition. The
property tax definition allows homestead classification even though
the property is only occupied by a relative of the owner.
Minn. Stat. §273.124, subd.
Minnesota’s debtor-creditor statute, however, has a narrower definition.
It states that property can only be classified as a homestead
if the property is “owned and occupied by a debtor as the debtor’s
dwelling place.” Minn. Stat. §510.01. This latter definition
was found controlling for purposes of intestate succession. So was the ruling In re the Estate of Norma Jean Bonde, Decedent,
A04-784 (Minn. App. 2005).
Kaplan Rosberg & Gotlieb