Flat Fees – Pre-Packaged Legal

Here at Wolfe Law Group we love flat fees. This is an area of our practice that has been blossoming for good reason. Business owners and contractors like to know what they are getting when they buy products. Legal products are no different. Many potential clients avoid using lawyers because of the often complex and expensive fee structure. There are a number of occasions where attorney fees are an issue in a case, and the company who has paid upfront is in a much better position at the negotiation table and/or the court room.

Here are a few of the more popular or most common purchases on our flat fee menu:

Although we have a fixed list on our website, there are a number of other services we can offer. By scheduling an initial consultation you can speak with one of our attorneys and they can quote you flat fees on just about any service we can perform.

Sports and Construction – Lessons Learned

Growing up in South Louisiana, originally from Baton Rouge and now residing in New Orleans, I’ve had a really rough week being a sports fan. After LSU laid an egg in the BCS Championship game and the Saints came up seconds short in the NFL playoffs, I began to ponder, what can we learn from this? Being a construction law attorney, I wanted my clients and readers to learn form the mistakes and shortcomings of my favorite teams.

Some general themes we can take away from both losses are that the teams who are most prepared and execute the game plan the best will be the most successful. In both instances, LSU and the Saints did not execute and were not as prepared as their oppoinent. In the construciton world owners, general contractors, subcontractors and suppliers succeed when they are fully prepared for the project at hand and fully execute the company’s specific game plan for success.

IF LSU’s BCS PERFORMANCE WERE A CONTRACTOR IT WOULD NEVER GET PAID

LSU worked very hard all season to get into the big game. This paralles a budding company doing all it can to land that very promising bid for a substantial project. A contractor prepares for months and years to get that big once-in-a-lifetime project. When the big stage rolls around, the contractor needs to make sure, he/she does everything correctly so that they get paid and produce quality.

In LSU’s case this contractor would have not been successful in negotiating a quality contract that is mutually beneficial to each contracting party. They would not have filed all of the preliminary documents such as a notice of contract. This is a company that would have had numerous delays along the way, many of its own doing. During the course of the project this company would have not made any adjustments as the project went along continuing to further bury itself with no chance for success. When then end of the project rolled around, there would be no substantial competion filed, no adequate demand for payment, no lien filed or any other tool used to secure payment. This company would be last in line to get paid, and when its all said and done, the dream project would have been a disater, possibly putting this company in financial ruin. I encounter this type of company all the time and unfortunately, by time it gets to my desk, there is little or no hope of securing full and final payment.

IF THE SAINT’S PLAYOFF GAME WITH THE 49’ERS WERE A SUPPLIER IT WOULD FALL SHORT OF SUCCESS

The Saints on the otherhand had a game that played out just a bit differently. Had it not been for mistakes early on and poor late game defense, they too would have advanced and been in the NFC Championship game. This is analogous to many issues that suppliers have when trying to successfully obtain full payment at the conclusion of a job.

By the time I get a call from a supplier who is not being paid on a job, many of the typical right protection devices are no longer present due to the mistakes that suppliers have made early on. When supplies are delivered to a job, notice to the general contractor, hiring party and property owner need to be given to preserve lien rights. Also, suppliers need to make good practice of obtaining a personal guarantee from the contracting party. Further, suppliers need to set up an “open account” in the supply contract, which will statutorily preserve rights for attorney fees and costs. All of these precursor items can be set up in the begining and save a supplier lots of time, money, and stress at the end of a project.

When I finally get the call from the supplier to aid in collection efforts, we make a strong last minute charge to file a lien, send a demand letter asserting rights under open account, and file suit to protect these causes of action. Depending on the set of facts at that juncutre will determine our chances of success. In the case of the Saints, too many early mistakes and a shoddy prevent defense, led to their downfall. If this were a supplier then they would have gotten pennies on the dollar at best on this project, no matter the last minute heroic efforts.

WRAP UP

We need to look at the success and failures of others and learn from mistakes and good calls. There are lessons to be learned here. My teams will live to fight another day, but many companies do not. In these economic times an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, to steal a medical analogy. Set up your game plan to do it right from the start and you will end up with success, unlike the teams noted above.

Contractors Get Good Insurance & Use It!

More and more in my everyday practice I encounter issues with contractor general liability insurance (GL). Whether I am defending a contractor or going after one, there tend to be issues with GL carriers. Here are some tips on coverage and others for contractors who have issues.

First and foremost, contractors need to get a solid policy, pay the policy premium form year to year and do not let it lapse. This is typically where contractors get it right. The bad thing is, that most think this is all they need to do in order to be “covered” in the event of a loss or occurrence. Unfortunately, I represent contractors all the time who never take it past this step.

Next, the most important and most often overlooked aspect is notifying the insurer when trouble starts. Every policy has notice requirements within it that must be strictly followed. If you are an electrician and a fire happens on the job, the first person you should call is the insurer and/or your insurance agent and put them on notice. This way you put the ball in the insurance company’s court, and legally they must do certain things in response, such as decline coverage and/or adjust the claim. If you ever have a lawsuit filed against you put the insurer on notice immediately! This is a must, and I’ve had insurers get out of cases the insurance company was not noticed timely.

A lot of contractors do not want to make claims to the insurance because they feel they policy premium will rise. While this may be an end result, the potential downside of litigation is much more harsh than an increased policy premium. Do not be afraid to make the claim because the insurer will not hesitate to deny your claim and/or fight you regarding coverage.

One huge benefit of notifying insurers when problems occur, is the insurers duty to defend. Even if there is the slightest possibility there may be coverage under the policy, the insurance company has s duty to defend a contractor in litigation. This aspect alone could save you thousands of dollars in legal fees. Insurers will defend the insurable interest, so it may be wise as a contractor to get separate counsel to assure that all of your interests will be covered. The counsel you retain personally can work in conjunction with the one provided by the insurer, whereby you get double the legal manpower for half the price.

Finally, most contractors know and all should know that GL policies do not cover bad work or defective workmanship. This would be covered in a totally different policy called builders risk. Courts here in Louisiana have decided on a number of occasions that GL policies do cover damage that is a result of bad workmanship. ie… a GL policy does not cover a poorly installed leaky roof, but it will cover all the water damage the house suffers as a result.

The moral of this story for contractors to not only get GL coverage, but to use it. There is no point in paying thousands of dollars each year for a premium, if you are not going to use the benefits of it. If you think the insurance company is going return the favor if an issue does arise, you will be sadly mistaken.

Wolfe Law Group fights for the rights of owners/contractors who are having issues with insurance companies and other players in the construction industry.

Louisiana Suppliers – Extra Notice Needed for Lien Rights

Over the past holiday season, I was at a Christmas party discussing with a friend of mine who runs an electrical supply company here in South Louisiana, the intricacies of notice provisions before a company like his can file a lien on a private project. Others party-goers probably thought our conversation boring, but we were intrigued. This conversation got me thinking that I should report to the supply world what my friend did not understand…

Here at the Wolfe Law Group we love liens. We file them for clients and recommend them to all others out there as a tool to preserve rights if, and often when, funds dry up and you are not paid on a construction project. Part of the privileged class under the Louisiana Private Works Act (La R.S. 9:4801 et al), are suppliers.

There are two types of suppliers protected under this act. Suppliers who lease equipment to contractors (“Lessors”) and suppliers who provide the materials to be used in the project (“Suppliers”).

EQUIPMENT RENTAL (see La R.S. Art. 9:4802(G)(1))

For Lessors, these companies need to deliver a copy of the lease agreement to the property owner and contractor within ten (10) days of when the leased equipment is delivered to the site. This notice is required as in most states to put all relevant parties on notice of potential future claims. So for companies who deliver equipment to job-sites as a rental, it is PARAMOUNT that you send out this notice so that you can file a valid lien after not getting paid. Then with your properly filed lien you can go after the party you have a lease agreement with and the property owner, general contractor and as a last resort you can foreclose on the property! Very strong rights indeed.

MATERIAL SUPPLIERS (see La R.S. Art. 9:4802(G)(2-3))

Next, for supply houses, such as plumbing materials, and electrical supplies – these companies also need to send out a notice to the property owner and the general contractor after delivery of goods. The Supplier needs to send notice of non-payment to the owner at least ten (10) days before filing a lien. Notice needs to be sent by certified mail return receipt and needs to have the name, address of the Supplier, description of materials provided, description of the property and the total amount owed, plus interest and fees. Also the Supplier needs to put the hiring party, general contractor and owner on notice of the items list above within seventy-five (75) days of the last month that the materials were delivered to the project via certified mail return receipt – or no later that then lien period. Strategically it may be best to send out one notice after the goods are delivered to all the parties above with the required information, just to preserve the right to file your lien.

These notice provisions can be tedious and if not followed to the letter of the law, will result in an invalid lien. The notice practice should become a staple in the administration of the aforementioned types of companies.  My office constantly invalidates liens that were not filed correctly. We also file a number of notices and liens which are filed correctly. General contractors and owners pay lien holders typically first because of the added security.

Bottom line – all of the successful rental and supply companies have these notice mechanisms in place. If you are a company who plans on competing in this arena, then following notice laws is always a smart plan.

Other resources on the topic: Zlien.com, reasestatelawyers.com, levy-law.com,