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Taking Care of Business
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Old May 30th, 2015, 06:43 AM   #1
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Legal threat

This Uncomfortable situation with Client continues, we couldn't come to an agreement, and therefore I wont return the project without being compensated.

I received a voice mail from someone who leaves a name and number to call them back. I didn't recognize the name so I just ignore it. To my shock, I receive a notice via email from a lawyer, the typical "If you don't return the project, you may face fines, jailtime, etc...

Well great, now what am I suppose to do? Do I ignore it and call there bluff? The amount of money, I'm owed isn't worth hiring a lawyer for. I'm surprised they did, but more likely this lawyer must be a family friend or something.

This stinks, I feel pretty helpless in this situation, I certainly don't want to talk to their lawyer, perhaps I'm being paranoid but I'm concerned that even writing an email or text to the client could be used against me in some way.

We never signed a contract or anything, so I am not sure if that is an advantage for them or myself but how is the drive their property as they claim, if I haven't been paid? Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you
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Old May 30th, 2015, 07:39 AM   #2
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Re: Legal threat

Kind of odd their legal counsel is making phone calls and sending emails rather than a demand letter isn't it?
Seems like they are owed whatever they have paid for at this point. However when someone plays the attorney card I'm all in for a response from mine. If you give them anything I'd require a release saying they are happy with what they received and you won't have the pleasure of hearing from them again.
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Old May 30th, 2015, 09:16 AM   #3
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Re: Legal threat

Joe,

Tough to know what to do here as I do not completely understand all of the ins and outs. But, since this was a low/no budget project to begin with, the handwriting is probably on the wall with regards to further compensation...

What is left is really up to you. Finish the project while holding your nose with VERY explicit guidelines of your involvement. Or just throw your hands up and say I am done and give all of the material back to the client so they can finish the project with another editor.

These types of situations are not because your did not have a written contract (may help but losers are losers in the end) but rather a lack of investigation and communication of details at the beginning of the project. It is very important to snuff out if the folks wanting to hire you know what they are doing or not. I ask a ton of questions in the beginning. People who are 'making it up as they go' are the types that will put you in this situation down the road.

It is more important to protect your time and business by investigating than actually having a written contract in my experience. All of my bad situations can be traced back to lack of communication/investigation at the front end. Once it goes bad, there is not much hope of getting it back on track.
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Old May 30th, 2015, 09:20 AM   #4
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Re: Legal threat

not sure where you are, but here we can often get 30 mins with a legal professional for free, and get an opinion on what to do. This does seem to be too complicated to advise you on here.
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Old May 30th, 2015, 10:05 AM   #5
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Re: Legal threat

I would just give them there job, and be done with them. BUT I would also ... Contact the BBB about the company, and immediately contact collections and have them deal with it. U may receive only 0%-60% based on what collections can do, but at least you know someone is after your money and bugging the crap out of them. Or you can always get an attorney to write you up an agreement letter for being paid for the job, and tell them you will not be giving them the media till the sign and agree to pay for your services. So now your leaving the decision to them.
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Old May 30th, 2015, 11:55 AM   #6
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Re: Legal threat

Seems like it is time to do some sleuthing. Since you have the alleged "attorney's" name, find out if he is licensed in the state where this incident is. Hopefully both you and the other party are in the same state.

Potentially, this "attorney" may be just a paralegal. Maybe he is licensed but working for a law firm and doing this on the side for a friend or relative. Wonder if the law firm has any employment caveats about moonlighting?

Second, don't say anything slanderous on-line.

Is the dollar amount within the Small Claims Court jurisdiction for your area? Maybe you can counter sue!

There's already some pretty good advice above. Such as Tim's post #3 about finishing the project. You want to make sure you completed your part of the bargain. I'm not saying you have to give it to them before being paid because we don't know what was agreed.

Keep good records. Put it in writing and try to be professional and congenial.

Our area has free attorney support also, but one has to have very low income to qualify and it isn't necessarily timely but it is something to consider.
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Old May 30th, 2015, 05:22 PM   #7
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Re: Legal threat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Michael View Post
Kind of odd their legal counsel is making phone calls and sending emails rather than a demand letter isn't it?
Seems like they are owed whatever they have paid for at this point. However when someone plays the attorney card I'm all in for a response from mine.
Well, the email was a demand letter and I don't have an attorney. Really, who can afford 300/hr? I'm sure the rates vary but I can't. Which is why I'm surprised they can but I suspect and as John says it is probably a "family friend". I did look up the attorney, very young, looks legit but maybe only in practice for a couple years.

A free consultation is always an option and Jim great idea, if I do hand it over, i need them to sign some sort of a release saying they can't come after me.

Anyone have a link to a template for such a release let me know.


Quote:
Contact the BBB about the company and immediately contact collections and have them deal with it.
Do their collections work for you even if you're a freelancer and not an employee?
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Old May 30th, 2015, 06:55 PM   #8
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Re: Legal threat

Send the atty a bill/invoice for the remainder you are owed for work completed, and state that you will be happy to resolve and return the drive or whatever once payment has been made by cashiers check (no checks they can put a stop on once the transfer of the drive is completed).

Not sure if all the expected work is complete, from your earlier post it sounds like this project went more than a bit off the rails, and now it's probably hard to figure out what is done and what isn't? And I'm guessing you've lost interest in doing anything ELSE on this sinking ship...


The threat of "fines, jailtime" screams "amateur hour" to me (or maybe some bozo who got kicked out of the collections racket, as those threats ARE illegal in that "game"). It may in fact be an illegal "threat" (or cause for a BAR complaint filing...) in some jurisdictions, since this is strictly a CIVIL matter (unless they intend to accuse you of theft and file police reports, which will go about nowhere, since this is obviously a CIVIL business dispute, not a criminal matter - you have something they want, and it's "security" for what you are owed...

THIS is why contracts are important, even if they are just crudely drafted so the parties lay out what expectations are... it gives SOMETHING to go from if things "go south". AND it can give you an "easy out" when someone decides to get out of line - you have something to point to and say: "this is what was agreed"
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Old June 2nd, 2015, 09:40 PM   #9
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Re: Legal threat

You won't get a good, experienced attorney to give you a free consultation, not even over the phone - those guys make north of $300 per hour and will not waste their time. The free "consultations" are more of an information gathering exercise (so the real lawyer then can call you back not to tell you what to do but to say I can take your case for $X0000), and are done by paralegals or interns with zero experience. Besides, this sounds like an IP (intellectual property) case, no use calling your neighborhood law firm.

In your shoes I would call back this lawyer or "lawyer", and offer to sit down with him to explain the situation. You might be surprised what may come out of a face to face meeting.

Last resort, just give them what they want and be done - it doesn't sound like you have any hopes to make money with this project anyway. You will sleep better, guaranteed.
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