How to Format and Ask Questions of Us
Remember that we can't give you legal advice ever
We get a lot of questions here, and they can be extremely difficult to understand, much less answer. If you have a question, please follow the following format. We will not answer questions that don't.
First, please remember that I cannot give legal advice to you. EVER. Legal advice is forming a judgment, based on specific facts, as to what the law requires or how it applies.
Second, I will not do research for you. If you ask me what the statute of limitations for credit cards is in [name your state], it is either asking for legal advice or basic research.
Third, remember that I must first try to read and understand your question before trying to answer it. That takes time, and if you fill your question with noise (see example below) or confusion (again, see example below), or if you do not use paragraph breaks, you multiply the time burden on me probably way more than you would ever believe. See the example below.
If you are a member, and if there is not an urgent situation, it's better to save the question for a teleconference. Doing so will give me a chance to get your exact question and help you focus it. It will also help other members who may be facing the same situation. And you will probably get a faster, better answer.
If you are not a member. If you are not a member, feel free to ask, but remember that one benefit of membership is the amount of attention I can devote to you.
Below is a question submitted by a member. It isn't a particularly bad effort - it's just a recent question fairly typical of what I receive. I am using it because it provides an example to help you understand what I mean by these requirements.
Hi Ken, Since I talked with you on Sunday's conference, I have found out some
additional information regarding how discovery is to be done now in [state]. It
says there are 5 amendments made to the [State’s] Rules of Civil Procedure
effective/1/1/15(attached). I received a notice of the Trial Scheduling
Conference set for 10/4/16 yesterday. In the instructions it says prior to the
trial-setting conference, the parties must file a Trial Scheduling and Discovery
Plan (attached). But before that can be submitted, a Discovery Conference is
to be conducted within 21 days of any defendant's answer or appearance. We are
now 52 days from the date of my answer or 7/29/16. I tried to ask the Clerk of
Court about the 21 days restriction and was told to contact a lawyer. I have no
idea who is supposed to initiate the Discovery Conference or how to conduct my
questions, etc. This is very overwhelming and confusing to say the least. Any
help would be greatly appreciated.
In the first place, this question should simply have been saved for the teleconference, which was set for one day after the question was sent to me. But this is a judgment call – the conference was set for two weeks from the date the question was sent, though, so it is not an emergency.
This format makes it almost impossible to understand the question, and the noise adds to the difficulties. I have highlighted the noise in yellow.
I have highlighted the confusing comments in blue.
In addition, I MUST HAVE PARAGRAPH BREAKS! And the paragraphs need to be SHORT.
I can’t answer questions that do not have paragraph breaks – it triples the amount of time I must spend to understand what is being asked.
Weeding out the noise adds yet more time, although I realize you won’t always know what is noise and what isn’t. Your feelings, the clerk’s tone of voice, the opposing lawyer’s attitude, or other, similar things, are almost always noise that should not be included. Although there can be exceptions IF we have discussed them.
If I understand the question correctly, here's how it should have looked, and a sample of my answer to it. Please note the paragraph and line breaks! I realize this kind of question takes more time to construct - but it will force you to understand what you are really asking and help me give you a better answer. Also, if you don't spend the effort to be clear, I have to make guesses that reduce the quality of the answer you get.
Since I talked with you on Sunday's conference, I have found out some additional information regarding how discovery is to be done now in [your state].
I received a notice of the Trial Scheduling Conference set for [date] yesterday.
In the instructions it says prior to the trial-setting conference, the parties must file a Trial Scheduling and Discovery Plan. But before that can be submitted, a Discovery Conference is to be conducted within 21 days of any defendant's answer or appearance.
We are now 52 days from the date of my answer or 7/29/16. I tried to ask the Clerk of Court about the 21 days restriction and was told to contact a lawyer. I have no idea who is supposed to initiate the Discovery Conference.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Normally it’s the plaintiff’s obligation to file trial scheduling and discovery plans, after speaking with the defendant.
However, the absence of that activity makes me suggest you double check to make sure your case is subject to that rule – sometimes cases in courts of lower (dollar amount) jurisdictions – like small claims courts, “Associate” courts, etc.) are not subject to the same rules.
If you got the rule right, you should file a motion with the court asking it to reset the trial scheduling conference to give the parties and opportunity to talk and file the proposed order. You should consider also making specific mention of your expected need to conduct discovery.