Skip to main content
Matthew Scott Berkus

Matthew Berkus’s Answers

6,944 total

  • What is the appropriate charge an attorney charges per

    email sent to them? What if they don't respond to you regarding the current matter at hand will these emails hold up in having to pay?

    Matthew’s Answer

    ANYTHING that occupies the attorney's time is billed. So, things like reading emails, responding to emails, phone calls, reading letters, writing letters, reviewing a phone message from a is ALL billable. Especially if the contact is initiated by the client. Here is what actually happens.
    1. Client sends email to attorney.
    2. Attorney reads the email.
    3. The attorney opens the file to review the situation.
    4. The attorney decides what action, if any is needed
    5. If the email can be responded to quickly, the attorney will probably respond. (I use the 5 sentence rule, if I can respond in 5 sentences or less, I will do so).
    6. If the email cannot be responded to quickly or would require a phone call to resolve, the attorney schedules time to address the issue.
    7. The attorney "should" acknowledge receipt of the email if he/she will respond later.
    8. Then the attorney bills for the above time.
    9. When the attorney does respond to the email or take the necessary action, that time will be billed including file review, research, and anything else that is needed to adequately respond.

    Typically, attorneys will bill on 0.1 hour increments (translation, 6 minute increments). Beyond that, what and how an attorney charges for emails is not standardized. I personally think that charging a minimum of 0.25 hours for any email is excessive. For me, if the client email is routine and and I can respond in 5 sentences or less with minimal file review, I charge 0.1. Beyond that, I will charge either 0.2 or 0.3 for email exchanges with clients. If I would bill 0.4 or more for an email, I will route that to a phone call because if I will need to spend that amount of time, 24 minutes or more, writing a response, it will be easier to explain and address ALL questions

    See question 
  • Help.. Creditor in violation of discharge injunction!!! Bankruptcy discharged in 2013..BK discharge listed creditor notified!!

    I filed pro se' Chapter 7 -discharged. 12/2014..Creditor notified via Bk court via first class mail 12/2013.. (Showing listed on BK they were notified) I moved to charlotte from VA in 2012..Been employed at NC company since 2012 where my wages ar...

    Matthew’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    You will need to contact a local bankruptcy attorney who can review the specifics of the situation and your case. At the very least, it would help us to know the nature of the debt. The 2 most likely possibilities are either (1) the creditor is violating the discharge or (2) the debt was a non-dischargeable debt.

    Use the "find a lawyer" section of this website and start calling local bankruptcy attorneys.

    See question 
  • Is my attorney required to provide copies of emails sent to opposing counsel?

    My attorney sent me an itemized bill recently inlcuding charges for emails and phone calls. When I asked her what they were in reference to, she sent the langauge that was supposedly in the body of the email, but did not forward the actual email....

    Matthew’s Answer

    Do you ask your dentist to show you the receipt for what the dentist paid for the material that goes into your cavity filling?

    An attorney would get into a lot of trouble if they billed you for things that didn't happen. So, it is very unlikely you are being billed for emails that didn't get sent because it is not worth it to the attorney (to any attorney) to do over the the $60 to $120 that is billed for emails.

    As Anthony points out, I am sure your are a nice enough person and if you need an attorney that means you are going through a difficult and stressful time. I appreciate the uncertainty that you are feeling. Understand, you pay for the attorney's time. If you want the attorney to spend time giving you recaps and editing emails to send to you, you are going to pay for that time as well (that will double your cost), assuming you can find an attorney that will even entertain providing that level of service. If your hesitating on paying for the regular work the attorney does, why would the attorney continue to dump time in a case and spend unnecessary time. If you keep on this tack, you are going to find yourself without an attorney and no other attorney will take the case or if they do, they likewise will bow out once you start making these demands.

    What many lay people don't understand is that they are not in control of the case or their attorney. One way to think about it is that the client controls the "macro" level, but the attorney controls the micro level. The attorney handles the day to day and the tactics. The client, essentially, only outlines the goals. The client has virtually no say in the micro management of the case, how the case gets done. The attorney simply keeps the client informed along the way and certain decisions must be made by the client (e.g. settlement).

    Have a discussion with your attorney about the bill and try to come to some common ground as to expectations on keeping you up to date.

    See question 
  • Rental lease contract, can the landlord change the price after you have signed it?

    It was time to renew my lease the new draft was given to me I signed it and when I went to turn it in the landlord said the price was a mistake and they raised the rent. Do I have any recourse?

    Matthew’s Answer

    Since they told you about the mistake at the time you turned it in, that is going to hold up. I doubt you have any recourse.

    See question 
  • How to get a lawyer vonvicted for.collusion?

    An attorney committed collusion with the presiding judge. How can I get him convicted so I can collect treble damages and he can face criminal penalties and disbarment? And how will this affect him when we return to court?

    Matthew’s Answer

    Only the police and district attorney can charge and prosecute criminal allegations. So, if you think a crime has been committed, you report it to the police and/or district attorney. Since you don't provide any details as to what you are alleging occurred, no way to say whether a crime was actually committed, whether you have a civil claim, nor whether an ethics violation occurred. So, I suppose your starting point will be the District Attorney.

    See question 
  • Is there a legal way to protect a future inheritance from student loan debt?

    I am in my late 50s and have substantial student loan debt and no assets. I am not in default, however, it is unlikely that I'll be able to pay off this debt in my lifetime. (The original loan amounts have tripled due to continuing interest and fe...

    Matthew’s Answer

    Student loan servicers generally don't seize assets or property, so you may be overestimating the risk. As to your question, yes, there are mechanism to accomplish what you want, you and your mother need to sit down with an estate planning attorney. A trust is the most likely vehicle for what you need to accomplish. However, the better approach would be to get on a path so that your student loans are not in default status.

    See question 
  • I got this info on a website. Is this a legitimate procedure? It gave these steps. .Send your creditors a letter stating that

    I agree to pay any financial obligation which I might lawfully owe". Then request your creditor to provide 3 items. 1. validation of debt -an actual account of what they believe is owed to them. 2 Verification of their claim against you- a signed ...

    Matthew’s Answer

    Not entirely true. Actually, most of that is not true. You can request that they "validate" the debt. However, all that is required to validate a debt is for the collection agency to send you letter identifying the name and address of the original creditor and the balance owed. As for "verification," you typically need to "dispute" the debt (in some specific manner) and then the collection agency is obligated to provide information "relevant" to what you dispute (to verify the disputed item). However, the law does not specify what the collector must provide, it only says that the verification must be responsive to the debtor's disputed items. Also, you don't get to dictate how they send it and the law does not specify, so regular postage is fine.

    Prior to a lawsuit, there is no "get of debt" because the collector cannot document certain things. The law does not require that they "prove" the debt to you. The law only requires that the provide you enough information so that a reasonable person can determine if they owe the debt. Once (if) you are sued, then documentation of the debt becomes important, but outside of a lawsuit, not so much. I wouldn't be surprised if that website has another section that says income tax is not constitutional ;)

    The law in question is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

    See question 
  • Do I have a strong criminal or civil case? or any case?

    My landlord had a "handy man" enter my residence to do repairs, (on two separate occasions) without my knowledge, consent, or a good faith attempt to notify me. After the first incidence I was apologized to an promised that it won't happen again. ...

    Matthew’s Answer

    Probably no criminal, but as Daniel points out, that is for the police to determine (but the police are likely to say that the issue is a civil issue between you and the landlord), and I would tend to agree with the police assessment because a landlord's right of entry into a leased premises is first and foremost controlled by the lease agreement (a civil contract between you and the landlord) As for civil remedies. an attorney would have to review the lease agreement. But, the damages are relatively minor (unless the damage things were extremely costly), but if you weren't home when the repairman was there, you didn't suffer any "actual" interference with your quiet enjoyment of the property.

    As far as general rules with regard to entry for repair, a landlord can enter the leased premise WITHOUT prior notice for emergencies. If you are home and the repairman knocks on your door and you let them in, you have consented at that point, no need for notice. For most other types of repair or maintance (when the tenant is not present), the landlord must give "reasonable" notice before entering. Note, unless the lease says that they "must" get your consent (which I doubt the lease says that), the landlord does NOT need your consent, they only need to give you reasonable notice. Your question comes off as a bit coy because you used jargon ("without my knowledge, consent, or a good faith attempt to notify me"). You didn't say that they DID NOT NOTIFY you. Most people would have said, my landlord never notified me that they would be going into my apartment (or something more direct). So, what is the story...what actually happened? It seems like you are saying that the landlord did give notice, but you are disputing the adequacy of that notice. When asking questions on this forum, you will get better answer if you convey the facts of what happened and not your legal conclusions.

    In any event, 24 hours notice will generally be considered reasonable and the repairs should be taking place during normal business hours (8:00 am to 5:30pm is a typical window). As for"how" to provide notice, that again will be dictated by the lease agreement or what is reasonable. If they notified you by an email address on file, or left a message on the voicemail of the phone number on file, a note on the door; all those types of notice are likely to be considered reasonable attempts.

    If you want to take the situation to the next step, schedule a consultation with a tenants rights attorney to review the lease agreement and discuss the situation. You may not need to hire the attorney for the case (assuming there is one), but at least sit down with an attorney to determine your options.

    See question 
  • What are the costs to file for bankruptcy?

    My husband wants to file for bankruptcy. When the housing market crashed in 2008, he had to return his house (that used to cost $500k back then), because he couldn't afford making mortgage payments anymore. Because of that, he also stop paying his...

    Matthew’s Answer

    More than you "want" to pay, less than you "should" pay. Hiring an attorney is still a custom service. Reason being, you are hiring that person's time. The only way to answer how much a case will cost is to interview the client, understand the potential issues so the attorney can assess how much time the case will take. Not to be too coy, but you might as well have asked, what is the average cost to paint a house. Answer: There is no average, are we talking about a 10,000 sqft house or a 2000 sqft house, what sort of paint do you want, what is the surface to be painted, what sort of prep work is needed for the surface...etc etc. Legal services are the same.

    Just schedule consultations with local bankruptcy attorneys. The consultations are typically free and one the primary purposes of a consultation is to assess the situation and quote a fee to handle your bankruptcy.

    See question 
  • When a Tow Away sign is not visible, can the ticket/tow be justified based off of other signs on different parts of the street?

    A Tow Away sign in Hollywood is mostly hidden by dense branches. Only the 8AM-8PM parking sign is clear. I parked directly next to it and have photos showing that the Tow Away sign is fully obscured from the driver's side (in or out of the car) & ...

    Matthew’s Answer

    You are not going to win that one (if you do, come back and let us know). The fact that sign was obscured doesn't change the law (ordinance) that parking in that area is only allowed for "x" time. If there was no sign, you have an argument, because there was no notice about the parking restrictions. But an obscured sign by natural causes, that is not enough. Hopefully, for your sake, I am wrong. All you can do is request a hearing, present your case, and see what happens.

    See question