Guest post by Scott Morgan
Going through a divorce can be a very traumatic experience. You feel like your world is collapsing, so it is hard to think clearly. It is important that you do not lose your health insurance coverage. You never know when you might become sick or insured and need medical attention; therefore, health insurance is crucial to avoid huge medical bills. If you are going through a divorce, here are a few options to consider in order to keep your health insurance coverage.
If a company or business that has over 20 employees employs your spouse, you might qualify a program to keep your health insurance coverage. COBRA, or Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, permits you to keep heath insurance if a situation arises in which you might lose coverage. This plan could allow you to maintain coverage for three years after your divorce. You must pay premiums, and you could be required to pay additional fees. You need to inform your administrator within 60 days following your divorce, and he will inform you about your right to elect a continuation of coverage.
Obtain Coverage through your own Employer
Even if you qualify for COBRA, it could be cheaper to purchase health insurance coverage through your own employer. If you were not working, chances are that you will need to get a job in order to support yourself. You need to talk to your employer about health insurance plans that are offered. You can then purchase health insurance through your employer, and you will maintain health insurance coverage.
Purchase Individual Insurance
If your health is good and you do not smoke, you will probably qualify for individual health insurance. You can find numerous affordable plans with low deductibles. Search online and find a reputable provider that offers quality medical insurance. In some cases, the court will consider the cost you pay in health insurance when determining alimony payments.
If you cannot afford health insurance coverage after divorce, you might be eligible for Medicaid. The program was established to allow all people access to health insurance. Some of the requirements in order to qualify for Medicaid include:
- You must be a United States citizen
- You must have children under 18 or be pregnant
- You must meet the income qualifications
Each state will differ on Medicaid requirements, so you need to check the laws in your state to see if you qualify. If you are pregnant, you will need have proof that you are carrying a child.
Negotiate Reimbursement of Premium Cost in the Divorce Settlement
When going through a divorce, you probably have hired a lawyer to protect your rights. You might be able to negotiate health insurance coverage. Your lawyer could be able to make sure your health insurance coverage is maintained.
It is important to keep your health insurance coverage. Therefore, you need to take the proper steps and research your options to ensure that you will have medical insurance.
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Some people might say that voicemail is good enough for their business. But here’s why I pay Ruby instead of letting calls go to voicemail: people don’t leave voicemail messages.
Unfortunately, Ruby doesn’t answer my phones 24/7. They’re people, so they do need breaks. Today (Monday, December 26th), for instance, they were closed for Christmas. When Ruby isn’t open, my calls do roll to voicemail.
Today I received NINE calls from unique numbers that haven’t called my office before. Guess how many of them left voicemails? ONE.
Can you imagine how much business I’d lose on a daily basis without Ruby? Without Ruby, we’d be hosed. They expertly take care of my overflow from 8am to 9pm Eastern, Monday through Friday, and from 9am to Noon on Saturdays. Thankfully, that covers my needs very well.
If you want to see how Ruby can help your business, give them a spin with their 14-day free trial.
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Richmond lawyer Horace Hunter is fighting the Virginia State Bar on the issue of website disclaimers. Unfortunately, I’ll bet he’s going to lose. (Thanks to Carolyn Elefant for pointing the story out!)
According to a Washington Post article, the Bar has taken issue with the lawyer’s lack of a disclaimer on his website. It sounds like Horace is claiming the Bar is trampling his First Amendment rights.
Disclaimers are clearly required by Rule 7.2(a) under several circumstances. It’s not a gray area, and it’s not a best practice. It’s a black-and-white rule.
Disclaimers are required in three instances: endorsements by celebrities or public figures, actors portraying clients, and cumulative or specific case results.
Just a quick browse of Horace’s website shows a CLEAR violation of Rule 7.2(a)(3) – specific case results.
If he had just put a one-sentence disclaimer at the top of that page and any other similar ones, I’ll bet everything would be fine.
Personally, I think this was a stupid move on his part. It’s not a First Amendment issue. The Bar isn’t saying he can’t blog about cases in general, legal news, or his own case results. He can do ALL of that. But if he blogs about his results, he has to precede the results with the appropriate disclaimer.
Good luck Horace. You’re going to need it.
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For the past eleven days, I’ve been the proud owner of an Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Now that I’ve used it a bit and gotten the hang of things with it, it’s a good time to provide my thoughts.
GO BUY ONE!
This device normally retails at $399. Right now Staples has a coupon for $100 off tablets (through July 30th). Office Depot should match that deal, and they have the Transformer in stock. For $299, this device is a steal.
Here are my more detailed thoughts, in no particular order.
The Transformer is slim and light. It’s much more comfortable to hold and used for extended periods than my Asus netbook (which is tiny and light compared to my Dell laptop).
The build quality seems very solid. I carry this thing with me to court, to the office, around the house, etc. I hope I don’t drop it, but I think it would survive a reasonable tumble.
The battery boggles my mind. The device is always on, ready to go. I charge it at night, and it lasts all day. That’s using it heavily for a couple hours at court, then several more hours in the afternoon and evening at home.
I’m sure it would need a boost if you watch videos on it, but it’s amazing for my level of use.
The Transformer has easily ran any app I threw at it. Everything runs smoothly and quickly.
Honeycomb itself takes some getting used to, and I’m a devoted Android fan. But that’s just due to different placement of some buttons and menus. After a couple days those tweaks sink in, and everything feels second nature.
It may be sacrilege, but I didn’t buy the keyboard dock. I wanted to see how I could operate with just the virtual keyboard, since once you add the dock, you’ve lost that light tablet form factor.
I’m pleased to report that a virtual keyboard is sufficient for my needs. Yes, I could type a bit faster on a physical keyboard, but using SwiftKey X, I’m able to type quite proficiently. In fact, I’m typing this entire review using SwiftKey.
Let’s face it: any computer is only as a powerful as the software that you can run on it. Android tablets get a bad wrap for not having as many apps as the iPad. But is Android truly lacking in that department? Nope. Here are some apps I’m finding super helpful.
Gmail – Google did an amazing job with the Honeycomb Gmail app. It’s a treat to use.
Dolphin HD – The default browser is a bit lacking. Dolphin adds some extra bells and whistles that I dig, such as add-ons. One beef I have with it is that entering much text in a text area gets cumbersome. Sometimes the cursor gets misaligned, and it can be difficult to select text. But if overall, it works.
Evernote – I’m a long-time Evernote fan. They just rolled out a tablet-optimized version of their app, and it’s made of cool!
Dropbox – Yep, I’ve gone back to the service that just gets file sync right (that’s the subject of another blog post). The Android app works awesomely on Honeycomb, and it integrates seamlessly with DocsToGo (for spreadsheets and word processing) and ezPDFReader (for PDFs).
ezPDFReader – DocsToGo is great, but it’s not very powerful for PDFs. That’s where this little app shines. You can fully annotate and mark up PDFs with ease. If you open a PDF from your Dropbox, each time you make a change, Dropbox uploads the new file automagically.
If you’ve been on the fence about getting a tablet, grab the Staples coupon and go get one. You won’t be disappointed with the Transformer. If you are, you must be Johnny Raincloud.
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I’ve said before that reciprocal endorsements might be a problem in Virginia under Rule 7.2(c):
A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may…
(exceptions are for advertising costs, non-profit lawyer referral services, and buying a law practice)
I decided to contact our ethics folks to see if I was crazy. Here’s my email to them:
With the rise of Facebook, and now Google’s “+1″, there’s a temptation for attorneys to ask each other to “Like” (Facebook) or “+1″ (Google) our websites. In return, the attorney says they’ll reciprocate.
Is it allowed for an attorney to say: “If you ‘Like’ my page on Facebook, I’ll ‘Like’ yours in return?” (Or the same thing for Google’s +1 or a similar service?)
To me, this violates 7.2(c), since the “Like” or “+1″ has marketing value for the attorney.
Please let me know.
Here’s the state bar ethics response. But first, please note this is an informal, quick response from the ethics folks. It’s not official, and it’s not binding on anyone.
Yes, Rule 7.2(c) prohibits a lawyer from rewarding another for recommending the lawyer’s employment. Cross-endorsements are a quid pro quo arrangement that would violate the rule. Very similar to ‘lead-sharing’ which we addressed in LEO 1846.
In other words, to all Virginia lawyers – I’d think twice before engaging in reciprocal endorsements (“If you Like my Facebook page, I’ll Like yours.”).
I’m considering asking for a formal ethics opinion to get a final answer on this issue.
For the record, I don’t have anything personally against reciprocal social media endorsements. It would be great if Virginia would allow that sort-of thing.
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Have you ever looked back at a day and wondered what you actually did? I’ve had a crazily busy day today, so I decided to figure out where my 13 hours of work went.
Here’s my day:
49 email conversations
44 phone calls
4 hours and 14 minutes on the phone
13 new potential clients
4 newly hired clients
1 in-person client meeting
Now it’s bed time.
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Some companies have an impressive understanding of client service and relations. Ruby Receptionists is one of them. They’re my awesome virtual receptionist.
In a nutshell, a colleague’s mother is in the hospital (please pray for her). He’s a solo attorney, so the emotional toll due to a situation like this will also take a toll on his practice.
A good friend of mine (Deb Matthews) decided to see if Ruby could help out (she’s a thrilled Ruby client like me). Sure enough, they quickly volunteered. They’ve offered our colleague three free months of live virtual receptionist service with no setup fee. He can have Ruby answer his phones and help to keep his practice running while he focuses on his family.
How many companies would do something like this? Not many.
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As the attorneys out there know, we have particular rules about sharing fees with people who aren’t attorneys. It’s one HUGE area that has surprised me in my young legal career.
Here’s my take: referrals fees are allowed in Virginia; I receive them, and I’m happy to pay them.
That single sentence may cause a lot of tension, but I’ll back it up.
Virginia allows referral fees
Virginia used to prohibit referral fees. If lawyers shared fees, they had to be taking on responsibility for the matter. You could have a co-counsel relationship and split the fee, but you couldn’t simply pay a fee for sending a case over.
Former DR 2-105(D) of the Code of Professional Responsibility required that “Both attorneys expressly assume responsibility to the client” if fees were being divided.
Rule 1.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct changes that. Subsection (e) says:
A division of a fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if:
(1) the client is advised of and consents to the participation of all the lawyers involved;
(2) the terms of the division of the fee are disclosed to the client and the client consents thereto;
(3) the total fee is reasonable; and
(4) the division of fees and the client’s consent is obtained in advance of the rendering of legal services, preferably in writing.
See? No requirement of assuming responsibility. Don’t believe me? Check out the commentary:
Paragraph (e) eliminates the requirement in the Virginia Code that each lawyer involved in a fee-splitting arrangement assume full responsibility to the client, regardless of the degree of the lawyer’s continuing participation. The requirement in the Virginia Code was deleted to encourage referrals under appropriate circumstances by not requiring the lawyer making the referral to automatically assume ethical responsibility for all of the activities of the other lawyers involved in the arrangement. However, such an arrangement is acceptable only if the client consents after full disclosure, which must include a delineation of each lawyer’s responsibilities to the client.
And if that’s not enough, Legal Ethics Opinion 1739 analyzed this exact point. Yes, Virginia lawyers can pay referral fees.
But just because it’s ethical doesn’t mean that it makes sense to do it. Or does it?
Referral fees make business sense
I market a lot. I get a lot of phone calls and inquiries into my firm. But I certainly can’t handle them all.
Just this year we’ve already referred out 270 potential clients to colleagues throughout Virginia. And it’s only May!
It takes resources to generate those inquiries. And it certainly requires time on our end to answer the phone, chat with the caller, and figure out if it’s something we can handle or not.
I’m running a business here. Shouldn’t I get paid for that? You betcha!
Now I certainly don’t select the attorney to refer a case to based on the referral fee. I first make sure it’s a good attorney who I trust. Then I check to make sure the case is the right fit for them (as best I can anyway). And THEN we make the referral.
On the flip side of this coin, why should an attorney pay a fee for a case?
Referral fees are the safest advertising expense out there.
Think about it. Would you have that case if your colleague hadn’t sent it to you? Probably not.
How do you get your other cases? If you have a consumer-oriented practice, you’re probably marketing somehow. And that’s probably costing you money (or at least time, which is money, right?)
But all those other marketing and networking efforts are speculative and risky. Who knows if they’ll ever pay off? Even so, you still invest in them.
With referral fees, you get the call from a client today. You make a note that John sent him. IF the client hires you, THEN you send John the fee. You only pay when you get paid. What’s not to love about that?
What do you think about referral fees?
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On Tuesday a colleague asked if I’d read a free guide published by an outfit called “Attorney Sync”. They do lawyer web marketing.
I was curious what they had to offer, so I checked out the guide she mentioned:
(I’m purposefully not making this an active link because I don’t want them to benefit from it. You’ll have to copy and paste it into your browser’s address bar.)
The first thing that I noticed was that Java loaded for their website. Who uses Java for anything online these days? People who are behind the times. A bad sign for a web marketing company.
Naturally, to view the “free report,” I had to give them my contact information. Against my better judgment, I did it.
Surprisingly, the guide was mostly on target. The tips were pretty good, and it wasn’t too salesy. They did leave out a couple important things, but that’s a topic for another day. And I suppose nobody can cover any topic to perfection in a handful of pages.
Here’s the REAL problem: they spammed me.
My cardinal rule for ANY marketing company is to evaluate how they market themselves. If they do things I wouldn’t want done for my business, I stay far away.
When I filled out Attorney Sync’s download form, there was a field entitled “Questions, Comments, Feedback? Please Share:”. In that field, I typed something like “Please don’t contact me.” I can’t remember my exact words, but I was very clear that I didn’t want a bunch of junk from them.
Since then, I’ve received two additional emails from them (aside from the initial email with the report link, which I actually wanted). This all happened within 3 days of obtaining their report. Habitual spam.
I don’t know how I could’ve made it more clear that I didn’t want to be emailed. There was nothing on the form that said I was subscribing to an email list, and I was clear that I didn’t want multiple emails. They obviously don’t listen to their customers. And they don’t mind spamming the shit out of people.
I’ve now unsubscribed from their spam list, so hopefully the emails will stop. But my point is that I shouldn’t have needed to take that step.
I was skeptical of the company when I first saw their website. Their report had some merit, and I was thinking they might be ok. But now that they’ve spammed me, I’ll never hire them for anything.
Is that how you want your marketing handled?
PS: I’m curious if they actively monitor their brand online and will see this post about their company. Time will tell.
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One question that comes up a lot for attorneys is: What to put in the client fee agreement?
I’ve worked hard to make mine simple, not intimidating, and in plain English. I know it doesn’t cover every imaginable possibility, but it’s worked great so far in my practice. It has evolved a bit over time, and I hope to continue improving it.
Here’s what I use:
This is our agreement that outlines the work I will do for you, the costs involved, and our relationship together. In order to hire me as your attorney, you need to complete two steps as soon as possible, but no later than December 8th:
A. Read and sign this Client Plan. Follow the directions in your web browser to easily e-sign.
B. Pay your fee deposit. After you sign this Client Plan, I will email an invoice to you. You can pay it online with a credit card or mail a check to my office (as long as we receive payment on time).
Project. You are hiring me to represent you in the following case: reckless driving charge in Spotsylvania on December 15, 2010.
Fees. I will handle this case for a flat fee of $xxxx. You must deposit the fee with me before I begin work for you, no later than December 8, 2010. If the court requires you to pay any money, that is separate from this legal fee.
Appeal. Your Client Plan only includes representing you for the original trial listed above.
Termination. If at any time you become dissatisfied with my work, please tell me so we can resolve the situation. You may terminate my representation at any time. In the event of termination, you will be responsible for paying any fees earned and expenses incurred. I may terminate this agreement only when required or permitted by laws and regulations. Failure to pay fees or expenses or make deposits when due will be cause for such termination.
Outcome. I will use my best effort in representing you in this matter, but you acknowledge that I cannot guarantee the final outcome.
–e-signatures go here–
That’s it. The entire agreement (including signatures) is less than a page. For Virginia clients, there is a second page that authorizes me to get their driving record. It’s a whole sentence long!
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