Policies and Procedures

 

The following provisions set forth the regular operating procedures a client should expect from The Law Office of Jeffrey F. Hutchins.  These are not material elements of the agreement for legal services, but rather they are guidelines for us to follow in order to have the best possible attorney-client relationship.  As a client, you are welcome to suggest changes or additional terms to meet your needs.

Forming an Attorney-Client Relationship

  • New clients will not be accepted over the phone, by e-mail, or by any means other than an in-person consultation. This consultation is necessary to evaluate your case fully, gather information for a conflict of interest check, verify your personal information, to help you understand the legal process, and to create a solid plan for you.

  • If it is agreed at an in-person consultation that it would be appropriate to represent you, you will be required to sign an Agreement for Legal Services, which is a contract between you and this firm.  The Agreement will specify the matter for which my services are being retained, the fees, and other essential aspects of the relationship. If no contract is signed, this firm will not represent you as your attorney.

 

Communications

  • Every effort will be made to include you in the decision-making about your case.  You will have the final choice for all decisions regarding bringing suit or settling cases.  An involved and educated client can be an asset to their case; therefore, I am happy to educate you about the procedural options we face, to discuss the substantive law that applies to the case, and to hear your perspective on the legal strategy.

  • Generally, consultations are scheduled in the afternoon due to court typically being held in the morinings. This often times takes up entire mornings, afternoons, or entire days. Moreover, unscheduled phone calls and visits tend to disrupt other planned activities. An open door policy is maintained and calls are returned as promptly as possible. The better practice is to book a time to meet or talk over the phone in advance. This practice allows the focus of working for you uninterrupted, which allows our firm to meet deadlines and high quality legal representation.  If you wish to book a time to speak, please email or call the office to schedule an appointment.  If you have an epiphany or emergency, please indicate the details clearly in your email or voicemail so that it can be prioritize appropriately.

  • EMERGENCIES: If your have an emergency, call immediately. If you reach the voice mail, please leave a specific message advising that you have an emergency.  If you have access to text messaging or email, you should also send me a message indicating that there’s an emergency, and your call will be returned as soon as possible.

Service of Documents

  • Once our firm has been retained to represent you in a matter, you should ensure that all correspondence from the other party, or their attorney, is directed to us.  Should you receive any documents after that point, please immediately fax or scan and e-mail it to us, call us to arrange to drop it off, or call us, explain the contents, and ask whether it is OK to send it by regular mail. Also any and all documentation pertaining to the case should be provided promplty. Our firm embraces the use of the cloud so feel free to use any software or online document sharing decive if it is a secure and safe system

Information Security

  • Please do not use your workplace email account or any other means of communication that a third party could access, as that could destroy the legal privileges normally enjoyed by the attorney-client communication.

  • You should do a complete information security assessment at the beginning of any litigation, to make sure you are not broadcasting damaging information to the world, and that all of your accounts are secure so that nobody can obtain sensitive information. The use of mobile devices, unsecured wireless networks, or synchronization among devices, is highly discouraged.

  • You may wish to create a new e-mail address just for legal correspondence, with as many security features as possible, to reduce the likelihood that anyone will be able to access our communications.

  • With the growth of the internet, techolnolgy and the like, not all data you send us will be copied, downloaded, or backed-up. Generally professional judgment is exercised about the number and type of copies made, and whether they are backed-up. If there is something you DO NOT wish us to back up, please let us know. Similarly, if there is something that you believe to be important, additional hard copies and e-copies for redundancy can be stored.

  • More specifically, only some e-mails are printed, and very few are downloaded to the computer and backed-up. There is only one copy of those e-mails, and they could be lost relatively easily. However, this also allows us to read and evaluate your message effectively, without maintaining an archive of every single e-mail received. However, almost all incoming mail is routinely scanned and backed-up. Therefore, if there is a particularly important note that you want to be part of your file, you are encouraged to either mail it, or scan it and send it as an attachment.

  • A variety of data systems are used to create both local copies of data and copies hosted on the Internet (aka "Cloud computing"). Feel free to speak with us about the security issues involved, as well as the risk of data loss under some circumstances.

Billing

  • For cases that are billed hourly, we use time-tracking software or a stopwatch to track billable time, thus allowing accurate and prompt billing.

Law Clerks and Paralegals

  • Under certain circumstances, certain parts of your case to be worked on by a law clerk or paralegal. Be ensured that they are properly supervised, and that their work meets the same high quality standards. If you are being billed hourly, you will also enjoy a cost savings, as their time will be billed at a lower rate.

 

Document/Object Retention

  • Hard copies will be prepared for all significant documents pertaining to your case that are receive during the course of your representation.  Should you misplace anything, copies can be provided of the file.

  • Client files and all its contents will be maintained digitally for 7 years, with no fees during that time.  At the end our represenation we return all original documents after they have been scanned. The entire file is scanned and then shredded.

  • A file can be transferred to a subsequent attorney at your request. However, in any event, you must make arrangements for storage of your file after the 7th year, or it will be perminetly deleted.

 

 

 

Determining Filing Fees and Court Costs; Such Costs May Change

  • A current schedule of fees for uniform statewide court costs, which is published by the NC Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), can be found by clicking here. The Federal Court (Middle District) fees for General Civil and Criminal matters can be found by clicking here and Bankruptcy fees are here. You may also check the current costs for filing any Corporations/UCC/advanced-directive documents with the Secretary of State by surfing the website. Each County's register of deeds may post their schedule of fees for recording documents, with Forsyth County's fee schedule being available here. Please be aware that costs may change after the beginning of your case.  The amount charged to clients is the amount actually billed by the Court or Government Agency.

 

Applicable Professional Rules

  • Almost all aspects of the Attorney-Client relationship are governed by the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, promulgated by the North Carolina State Bar.  Be aware that certain actions will not be available to you, due to our obligations under these Rules.  If you have concerns about how any attorney is behaving, you can explore the information available on the State Bar’s website or to report serious matters of attorney misconduct, you should call at (919) 828-4620.

  • Our firm is dedicated to providing the highest quality legal services for a reasonable fee.  However, if you genuinely believe that the fees you have been charged are unreasonable, the State Bar has a fee dispute mediation program, with information available at here or by calling at (919) 828-4620.

 

​No Representation of Results

  • Because every legal matter is different, and since chance and many ever-changing human factors are involved, the results of your case cannot and will not be warranted.  Any predictions I may give have been just that - best guesses at the most likely outcome.

Honesty toward the Courts

  • No matter what your personal feelings may be toward the opposing party in your case, the integrity of the Judicial System must be upheld.  We will not knowingly allow you to lie in any documents or oral testimony submitted to the Courts.  Many times, it is possible to overcome unfavorable facts by putting on a stronger case in other areas, and many times it is possible to say and do nothing instead of telling a lie.  However, if you insist on dishonesty as a course of action, the ethics of this profession and the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct may require us to withdraw from representing you.

Relationship of Attorney and Client

  • Loyalty: My clients have my undivided loyalty in their case. The opposing party is not our client, even if they are your spouse or business partner, and they will not be assisted by any other person in your case unless you instruct us to do so.

  • Please do not mistake professional civility toward other lawyers with any loyalty to another attorney’s client.  As part of our services, we will endeavor to maintain good working relationships with other legal professionals so that we may be credible and persuasive with them. Good lawyers can and will zealously represent their client in court or in negotiations with opposing counsel, but at all other times strive to maintain a perfectly cordial or friendly demeanor.

  • Confidentiality: All communications between you and your attorney are confidential and privileged against disclosure in court.  Do not disclose your communications to anyone else. Showing your correspondence to others or discussing your case with family and friends destroys the privilege and may waive all confidentiality.  During the course of your litigation, do not show anything to anyone that you would not want the other party to see, unless and until you consult with your Attorney.

Current Personal Information

  • Keep your attorney informed at all times of your most current mailing and physical address(es), phone number(s), and E-mail address(es).  Failure to do so may result in serious consequences to your Attorney’s ability to handle your case, and may require the Attorney to withdraw from your case.

Contact with Opposing Party, Opposing Counsel, and Others

  • Unless your attorney specifically instructs you otherwise, do not communicate with the opposing party. Once you are represented by an Attorney, under no circumstances should you communicate with opposing counsel, the Judge, or any other court personnel, except as may be required at a hearing. Under certain circumstances, you may be requested to copy an attorney on certain correspondence, but you should always discuss the matter with your attorney before including them on any electronic communications. If you feel that settlement is best for you, or that you wish to undertake settlement discussions on your own, please advise your Attorney immediately. Not only must we always work as a team, but reconciliation and settlement have significant legal consequences about which you should be advised.