Lawyers: Read What the Bond Says Before You Sign It

In Davidson County, I file a Cost Bond with every new lawsuit. A “Cost Bond” is given pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-12-120 and means that the plaintiff’s lawyer is acting as surety for payment of all court costs in the matter.

These costs generally run from $200 to $500 and, of course, it’s the client’s obligation to pay; nevertheless, the Clerk wants the lawyer to make sure those costs get paid. If, at the end of the case, the court costs aren’t paid, our Clerk gives it about 6 months, then they send the attorney a bill under the Cost Bond.

No big deal, right? (Well, it’s sort of a big deal. I never sign as “David Anthony”–I sign them as my law firm, “Bone McAllester Norton”).

Recently, I was blown away by seeing an attorney sign a different type of bond. This attorney signed a “Surety Bond,” in the mid-five-figures-range, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-130(b)(2).

If you don’t know that statute, that’s the detainer appeal bond statute, which requires a defendant who appeals an eviction judgment to post a bond in the amount of one year’s rent (in order to remain in possession of the property). Instead of posting a cash bond, one option is to have two Sureties guaranty payment of any damages and accruing rent.

So, in the event that the defendant loses the appeal, this attorney is personally liable for the damages. This defendant hasn’t been paying her mortgage, and it’s quite possible that she isn’t going to pay an entire year’s rent on the property. But guess who will be liable for the entire debt?

Yep. This attorney. For the entire amount. Watch what you sign.

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Google “[Attorney Name] lawyer [City]” — If the Results Don’t Locate You, Your Marketing Efforts Have Failed

I have a friend who’s husband is a fairly new attorney. When I had a conflict on a matter recently, I decided to refer the work his way. So, I googled the guy to get his law office’s address/phone number to pass along to my client. 

To my surprise, I couldn’t find him.

He didn’t have a website.  He hadn’t claimed his Avvo profile. LinkedIn took me to a dentist in California. I found bunch of miscellaneous sites that mentioned him (when he passed the bar; about a case he had worked on; about a time he found a lost dog). 

But, there wasn’t a website that included: his name; his address; and his legal practice areas. 

Well, actually there was: After about ten minutes of digging, I found a directory of lawyers on the Tennessee Bar Association site. I finally found him. Frankly, it was hard work. I had to really, really want to find this particular lawyer. 

My advice to any lawyer is: Get a website. They’re cheap. They’re easy. And, unless you want to get really fancy, once you have one, you’re good. (If your firm already has a website, then  you’re fine.)

You never want it to be that hard for somebody to find you. It doesn’t have to complicated. Address. Phone Number. Practice Areas. If you’re unsure how much info to post, look at this great Venn Diagram on “What Lawyer’s Websites Have versus What Clients are Looking for.”

If you don’t have a lawyer website,  you’re depending entirely on Avvo, Yellow Pages, or whatever other third party service to find your information (on its own) and provide it to your customers. 

With your own website, a client, potential client, or adversary should be able to google search for “[name] lawyer [city/state]” and find you. If they can’t do that, you’re doing it wrong.