(about the attorney-client relationship and the legal services offered by Olivier Denier Long)

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Importance of the Questionnaire Distinguishing Characteristics of Practice
Typical Retainer Agreement Communication With Counsel
Keeping Up With Developments Problem Solving
Billing Practice Fees
Pro Se Litigation Local Counsel
Office Logistics Technology
Questions We Missed

    • Importance of the Questionnaire

      • Why complete a questionnaire (downloadable without charge) concerning my problem area?
        • I will accept another attorney’s questionnaire in lieu of my own.  But it is difficult to reduce fees based on financial need and provide accurate legal advice if I do not have a complete set of facts.  Asking questions orally creates the risk that I will forget to ask important questions. In my 40 years of experience, “flying blind” for the first 30 minutes has not been effective.

    • Distinguishing Characteristics of Practice

      • What distinguishes the legal services of Olivier Denier Long?
        • Our office is distinguished by prompt, skilled service at a reasonable fee. Economies from computerization are passed along to the client. Those efficiencies result in faster production and higher quality of advocacy. For example, the entire Virginia Code and all Virginia cases for the past 50 years are in a searchable database on Mr. Long’s desk. All Virginia forms for support and division of property are computer generated, as well. We pride ourselves on the satisfaction of our clients. Not only is the quality of work high, but clients appreciate the speed with which we return calls, and the personal attention we provide. Contact our references; they will tell you what a difference it makes to have a professional who cares about them as an individual, obtains results, and charges a reasonable fee.
      • Why “Full Service”?
        • The same attorney handles your matter from start to finish, in all stages and all local jurisdictions, Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia.Full service means consulting, negotiating, drafting and litigating services are all available in three jurisdictions, with twenty years experience. You need not change counsel at the Woodrow Wilson bridge: For example, a judgment entered in Fairfax can be collected by garnishment or attachment in Upper Marlboro by the same attorney in the same retainer agreement.

    • Typical Retainer Agreement

      • What does a typical contract with an attorney include?
        • Any professional relationship with an attorney should have a written contract. The contract should contain a statement of the services being rendered, an hourly rate, and an explanation of possible costs. This document should be signed by both attorney and client. All our clients (except for some legal plan clients) are asked to sign retainer agreements.

    • Communication With Counsel

      • How do I reach my attorney?
        • Clients can reach Mr. Long by e-mail, fax, office telephone or home telephone. E-mail is checked twice a day. Communications are usually responded to the same day or the next business day.
      • Our detailed contact information can be found here.

    • Keeping Up With Developments

      • Do I know what is in my file?
        • Clients maintain a mirror image of their pleading and correspondence files. Every paper relating to a client is scanned and e-mailed to them or sent by first class mail.
      • Why do I need depositions? Why can’t people just be subpoenaed for trial?
        • Depositions are recorded testimony of parties and witnesses under oath, transcribed by a court reporter for use at trial. Depositions cost about $3.00 a page plus attorney time. They can be a critically important tool for preparing a case. They may be used:
          • a. To learn facts before trial to help you prepare. If you learn important facts at trial, it is often too late for them to be helpful (like the existence of documents or witnesses you would not otherwise have known about);
          • b. To lock in a version of testimony. Once someone is committed under oath to a particular statement, there is less risk of his or her testimony changing later (or of recollection fading with time); or
          • c. To protect the availability of testimony. Witnesses sometimes die or disappear before trial. If a witness is important to your case, you want to preserve their words. In Virginia, deposition testimony cannot be used to obtain summary judgment.
      • Why not just use interrogatories sent to each person and forget about depositions? Interrogatories are less costly.
        • Interrogatories are written questions one party sends the other to learn about the facts supporting the opponent. Interrogatories are indeed less costly than a deposition, but usually not as effective. Attorneys prepare interrogatory answers. They reflect hours of review and refinement. They do not trap people, or probe more deeply to ferret out nascent recollection. Depositions do. The usual approach is to use interrogatories first, and then follow up with a deposition.
      • For more information about common legal terms and procedures, go here.

    • Problem Solving

      • What happens if I am dissatisfied?
        • Dissatisfaction should be communicated immediately by e-mail or telephone. There is no charge for time spent discussing your statement. We want you to be completely satisfied. If it is not possible to remedy the situation, legal services may be terminated at any time, with a refund of the remaining cash balance subject to fees or costs due at that time.

    • Billing Practice

      • How does my attorney bill me?
        • Statements are mailed at the end of each month. They itemize work performed, the hourly rate, the total fees, and any costs. At the bottom of each statement is a reconciliation of the retainer balance, showing the subtraction of the statement balance and the remaining credit, which is money that still belongs to the client.Credit balances, called “retainers”, are maintained in a separate bank account containing only client funds. Interest on money in this account is used to fund legal services for the poor and is called Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA).The constitutionality of this interest allocation is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Clients participating in a legal plan have balances appearing on their bills for reference purposes only. Their bills are paid by their legal plan
          in almost all cases.

    • Fees

      • May I control how much my attorney bills me?
        • Yes. Your attorney works at your direction, as your agent. If you intend fees to be limited for a time period or project, let counsel know, and make sure the understanding is in your contract or communicated elsewhere in writing.
      • Why might counsel request fees in advance?
        • Advance fees are called a retainer or a funds advance. They go in a separate bank account containing exclusively money belonging to clients. If we request these fees, they must be paid before we begin work, and sometimes replenished from time to time as the case progresses. These fees are pre-paid partly to assure timely compensation for services rendered, but for other reasons, too. Retainers are a way of making sure all hourly and flat fee clients are treated fairly. It would not be fair, for example, for Client A to provide fees up front, and then have to wait in line while we handled the identical type of matter for Client B who might pay when she gets around to it, according to how much she likes the results, or not at all.If you only look at yourself, the problem seems small. If you look at our side of the problem: waiting for 20, 30 or even 50 people to send whatever amount they feel like might make it difficult for us to stay in business. We are not bankers or loan officers. Every minute of work that is not immediately paid represents a loan of our time. We don’t want to charge everyone interest while we wait to be paid, or prioritize clients with more cash over clients with less, or do better work for people with the most money. Treating each client as well as possible requires that for hourly or flat fee work, we start with a reasonable amount of money from you in advance, and make some effort for fees collected to keep up with time billed.
      • Why does a client owes fees absent from legal plan coverage?
        • A query from a client: You told me yesterday that my legal plan will pay for all the expenses and there won’t be any fees or charges incurred by me. … [Y]our proposed agreement is open-ended and it indicates that I may be opening a can of worms that has no end in [sic] site. I don’t feel comfortable signing it.
        • Dear Client:Not exactly. I said that for covered legal matters, your legal plan pays the attorney fees.For all matters, you are responsible for expenses, such as Court filing fees, messenger service if needed, process service if needed. Your plan does not cover these items and your plan does state that you are responsible for them.For matters not covered by your legal plan (because coverage lapsed, the legal service was not among services included in your plan, etc.), you are responsible for my fees. I and my staff attempt to confirm coverage before we begin service, but that is ultimately your responsibility, as are the fees incurred for services for which you are not covered. In other words, I do not personally guarantee that a particular legal matter is covered by your plan, or stays covered. If there is no coverage for whatever reason, I still expect to be paid for my time. Think of the alternative! Each month my staff would need to contact your legal plan to verify coverage was still in effect, not just for you but for every legal plan client! Doctors don’t guarantee a patient has continuing medical insurance. Likewise, I cannot guarantee that client remains covered by a legal plan. The administrative overhead would be enormous, to say nothing of lost revenue from clients who claimed to have plan coverage but didn’t for whatever reason.ODL
      • How do I know if my plan covers your services?
        • Generally, we prefer that clients take responsibility for their plan. We are happy to assist in confirming coverage at the outset of a new project, but our contract for legal services states that if coverage is absent at any time for whatever reason — fees are billed hourly.

    • Pro Se Litigation

      • Can I do it myself?
        • You might be able to do some things an attorney could do. But here’s the catch: if you have not graduated from law school, passed the bar examination and had courtroom experience, your efforts are likely to be time consuming, frustrating, and ultimately less successful. If you are concerned about fees, we can work with you. Perhaps you can do some of the work and allow us to supervise. Even if you help us, however, we still charge for reviewing what you did and putting it in proper form. And sometimes — like installing a closet full of telephone wires — it might take less time if we did the work from the outset ourselves.

    • Local Counsel

      • Are you an attorney from outside Maryland, DC or Virginia needing help from a member of the Maryland, DC or Virginia Bar for a particular case?
        • We offer preferential rates for out-of-state attorneys who seek local assistance in Washington Area jurisdictions. We can handle filing of all pleadings, or simply lend our name and presence to your litigation. We can also accompany you to motions and to trial, recommend local experts, and assist you in negotiating red tape.

    • Office Logistics

      • Conferences: Meetings may be scheduled at any of my Maryland, D.C. or Virginia locations. (Getting here.) These are not my offices, although they provide an office setting when I am present. They are places where — by appointment and on an as-needed basis — I meet with clients, opposing counsel, witnesses and experts; take depositions, and review documents.
      • Deliveries: Packages and envelopes are accepted during business hours at my mail drop on Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., in Washington, D.C. I am not physically present at that location, and it is not my office. It is my mailing address — a staffed location where items may be mailed to me, or left for my attention.

    • Technology

      • Our preferred software includes Adobe Acrobat®, Microsoft Word®, Time Matters®, and Billing Matters®. We also have Corel WordPerfect®.

  • Questions We Missed

    • Other questions we have not covered? Please ask.