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Spring Cleaning: The Perfect Time to Organize Legal Paperwork

Spring cleaning is the perfect time to clean up legal paperwork.

Tis the season for spring cleaning! No, we’re not talking about washing your windows or scouring the floors. We’re suggesting you do a spring cleaning of all things legal.

We think spring cleaning is the perfect time to review your paperwork and find ways to organize your most important legal documents. That way, even if you don’t get the closet cleaned out or walls scrubbed down, at least you know everything is in order when it comes to important paperwork!

Taxes

Nothing beats April 15th for striking fear in the hearts of taxpayers around the country. Most people can get by doing their taxes themselves or through an accounting firm. But if you run into trouble with the IRS, it might be time to hire an attorney who specializes in tax concerns. See our Taxation Lawyer referral list for information on who to call.

Estate Planning

Have you written a will yet? How about designating a Power of Attorney to handle your affairs if you become unable to do so? Spring cleaning is the perfect time to get everything in order, including designating an executor to handle your estate. Don’t forget – if you have children or dependents, consider choosing a legal guardian to protect them. We offer a variety of legal forms good in Washington State that you can download and fill in yourself to get these documents ready. While you’re at it, consider giving your estate plan a review by an experienced estate attorney. For more ideas on estate planning, including a link to a free downloadable checklist, click here to read our recent blog post.

Insurance Policies

Do you have all of your insurance documents in an easily accessible file in your office or on a computer? Spring cleaning is the perfect time to gather and review your insurance policies so you can avoid trouble down the road in the event you have a claim. Take a look at your auto and homeowner’s insurance policies to make sure they’re up-to-date. Do you have insurance for the contents of your home, whether you own or rent one? Review your contents insurance to make sure you have enough coverage for collectibles, too. Make sure you’re not over paying or under covered because you haven’t valued your assets properly. Need an attorney to handle an accident or injury case? Check out our list of attorneys to find one to handle your problem. 

 

Meet and Greet A Lawyer

Springtime is a great time to find an attorney who can work with your family or your business to handle any potential legal matters that pop up. Don’t wait until you have a crisis on your hands and must hire the first attorney you call. Instead, using the spring to find a law firm that handles the types of problems you could experience down the road could pay off big. To find a suitable lawyer or firm, make an appointment to meet with several different ones to see how you work together. See our recent blog post about questions to ask a potential attorney or law firm before you hire them.

Document Scanning: 7 Reasons to Scan Vs. Offsite Storage and Records Management

Document scanning saves time, $$ and resources.

Storing boxes of legal files in offsite storage facilities sounds like a good idea, right? After all, that’s how it’s been done for decades. Savvy law firms are discovering a far more efficient way to secure record management–– they know document scanning allows them to easily retrieve files at a moment’s notice.

While you could say, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” the truth is you’re missing out of a slew of advantages digital documents offer if you still store boxes of documents offsite. We’re talking time, resources and $$ saving benefits you don’t get with conventional storage methods. Here are our top seven reasons for making the switch to scanning:

Eliminate Costs of Records Storage
According to an independent analysis conducted by Legal IT Professionals, an online magazine dedicated to legal technology news, it costs $57.52 to prepare, pack, pick-up, and store one box of files when you send it to an off-site storage facility. Those document storage fees sound reasonable… until you realize they do not include the cost, time and labor of your staff and/or the storage facility to locate and retrieve the box, then return it to the storage facility when you’re done.

No More Lost Documents
No firm wants to be part of the mind-boggling statistic saying 7.5% of all paper documents are lost forever. In a legal firm, that’s practically a crime. Document imaging eliminates this problem. Need we say more?

Immediate Access
The biggest benefit of document scanning is instant access. Just imagine – it’s the middle of the night or a long holiday weekend. You need a file, but obtaining storage boxes of files from a facility requires emergency retrieval, adding to the already high cost of the service. On the other hand, once your documents are scanned, there are no future costs. Instead, simply insert the thumb drive or disk containing all of your documents into your computer or upload the documents to your network if your staff needs access, and bingo! You’ve got immediate access with no waiting around. You can even upload the documents to the cloud for access from any computer/laptop with an Internet connection.

Meet Disaster Recovery Goals
The elephant in the room no one wants to talk about is disaster recovery of your files if fire or a natural disaster occurs. If you store your files onsite, you could be facing a huge problem. But with document scanning, you can store the data in the cloud for access from anywhere at anytime, including right after a fire, flood, earthquake or other natural disaster. We recommend keeping multiple copies of the disks or thumb drives in different locations since the devices take so little storage space. Keep one at your home, one in the office and another in your safety deposit box so you keep downtime after a disaster to a minimum.

Avoid Waiting Until Records Are Inactive
Document scanning simplifies the work involved on current cases, too. Rather than searching through hundreds or thousands of pieces of paper, simply review the digital index for that case and access the document immediately. This provides flexibility to work on the case without having to carry heavy boxes of files home or frantically searching for that one file before you can leave the office.

Local and Low Cost in Seattle, Washington
AIB is a locally owned business in Seattle, so it’s easy for us to handle your document scanning needs. We don’t have account managers who lose track of what’s going on with your project. Plus, we don’t have the high overhead costs of nationwide marketing or miles of shelving space to store all of those boxes. So, we pass that cost savings to you. Typically, our clients save up to 40% of the costs the large, impersonal storage facilities charge for similar services.

One-Stop Doc Scan Service
Our clients love the ease of our document scanning services. We handle the job from start to finish, including retrieving the boxes of files, scanning all documents, indexing the contents, providing a device with all of your files on it and destruction of your files, if you so choose. Add the scanned documents to your server for multiple people to work on, or you can work directly from the device we provide to instantly access the documents you need.

Here’s what our clients say about our scanning services:

We think being proactive about paper storage is the wave of the future, and there’s just no need to store hard copies of documents when there’s a more efficient way. That’s why relying on AIB’s digital scanning services was a smart move and a good investment for us. They’re reliable, and it saves storage costs.  Without scanned files, it could take a week to 10 days to get a file. Now, we instantly access the files from the thumb drive AIB provides to us. Plus, their friendly and approachable manner makes it easy to work with them.
Ann Carey
Carey & Lillevik Attorneys at Law

AIB’s scanning services are great! They pick up our boxes about once a year and return with a thumb drive containing all of our files. Everything is organized the way I want it. I upload the scanned files to our secure server, and anyone in the office can instantly retrieve any document. We could do the scanning ourselves, but this way, our staff isn’t tied up at the copier all day. Plus, because of AIB’s custom interface, I can just search for the client’s name or narrow down the results based upon customized criteria that I set up with AIB.  I don’t even have to leave my desk to access the files. Otherwise, to get files out of storage, someone has to drive there, search for the files in a room with one light bulb, and then bring the file back. Now, I just click on an icon, and instantly, I’ve got access.
Frank DeMarco
Principle
Linn Schisel & DeMarco

It’s exciting to find a company that’s as easy to communicate with as AIB. When I use them to document and scan my medical records, I feel valued as a customer. When they were scanning my files, I had a patient request a record. AIB was quick to pull that information, put it on a disk and get it to me so I could hand it to my patient in a timely manner. They’re friendly and very professional. That’s rare today when most businesses rely on a robo phone to do business.
Afia Menke, ND
Cottage Clinic

 

 

Resources available for civil legal problems in Washington state

Representing yourself or a family member in a civil court can be an overwhelming challenge. First, you must understand the complexities of your legal issue and any related legalities, such as courtroom procedures and filing documents. The problem is that a lack of knowledge about what’s involved means your civil case could turn into a drastic event, such as losing your home or custody of your children.

Fortunately, the following resources are available to low-income people in Washington state to help get civil cases resolved.

Northwest Justice Project

The Northwest Justice Project offers free legal assistance to low-income people. The organization also provides self-help resources and free legal information as well as attorney advice and assistance. They also offer a Foreclosure Prevention Unit to help people who face home foreclosure. If you live in King County, visit this page to get contact information. Otherwise, if you live outside of King County, visit the CLEAR Hotline website page or call 1-888-201-1014.

Washington Web Lawyer

This online resource provides free legal advice to low-income people with civil legal problems. Volunteer attorneys provide the legal advice to those who post their questions in the website’s forum. Simply register as a new user and answer some questions about yourself, your income and legal issue to see if you qualify for the free help. If so, you’ll set up an account, then post your questions so one of the volunteer attorneys can answer. Click here to learn more.

Housing Justice Project

Many counties in Washington have set up homelessness prevention programs to offer volunteer-based legal services for tenants facing eviction. Click on one of the counties listed below to get more information about available programs:

King County

Pierce County

Skagit County

Snohomish County

Thurston County

Volunteer Lawyer Program

The Advocate Resource Center program relies on volunteer law firms to provide legal help to low-income people. Visit their website to find participating volunteer lawyers by county.

Columbia Legal Services

This not-for-profit organization focuses on providing civil legal services to low-income people or those with special legal needs. Columbia Legal Services provides legal education, advice and representation to help enforce your legal rights. The group also has special programs for migrant and seasonal farm workers, residents of long-term care, Native Americans and victims of domestic violence. Visit their website for more information.

Scanning: 7 reasons to get your paperwork scanned

Document scanning saves time and space you can put to use in other ways.

Document scanning is a lasting trend for good reason. After all, you know how cumbersome it gets when you keep piles or filing cabinets full of paperwork around. Storing years of paperwork in bulky files for each client is a thing of the past once you discover the wonders of using scanned documents.

AIB has been offering document scanning services for years, and our clients love the service. While you can read some of the testimonials we’ve received by clicking here (scroll down to “What Clients Say”), we really want this piece to stand on its own as an argument for the importance of scanning.

  1. Save space and eliminate clutter. If you’re like most home or business offices, space is at a premium. Document scanning reduces those mounds of paperwork into digital files, with thousands of scanned files fitting on a single small disc or drive. Plus, you can get rid of those ugly piles of files sitting on top of desks and filing cabinets, which helps reduce visible clutter. You’ll discover you have less need for those hefty, unwieldy filing cabinets, too. Those monstrosities are likely costing you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars annually by taking up valuable space.
  1. Find important documents faster. Rather than searching through multiple hard copy files to find that one critical document, scanning allows you to review an index of files. You then click on that file and it immediately pops up on your screen.
  1. Eliminate the risk of lost documents. Rather than taking the risk of losing important files and documents, scanning eliminates misplaced files you may never find again.
  1. Defy age, wear and tear. Paperwork becomes fragile over time. Document scanning helps preserve the integrity of the original documents so fading and tears won’t affect your ability to read and use the documents in the future.
  1. Include scanning in your disaster recovery plan. Fire, earthquakes, floods and other delights of Mother Nature could cause you to lose valuable documents that are irreplaceable. That’s the beauty of scanned images – you can store multiple copies of the disks or drives. Keep one in your safe deposit box and store others in various safe locations around your home and office.
  1. Share files more quickly, easily and inexpensively. Scanned documents are far easier to share with your family members, trusted advisors and office personnel. Upload the scans to a your corporate server, and now you can share the files with clients or staff in multiple offices. Not only can you share information immediately, but using scanned documents saves $$ compared to the manpower/expense of copying, mailing and delivery of hard copies.
  1. Reuse rather than recreate. Did you know documents are recreated 50% of the time rather than reused? Scanning helps eliminate this major waste of resources, helping to improve your bottom line while saving valuable time.

To learn more about AIB’s scanning services for businesses of any type, click here.

Hiring a law firm: Questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line

Before making a decision, know what to ask before hiring a law firm.

Are you searching for an attorney or hiring a law firm? Whether you need an attorney immediately or want to have one on standby, hiring a law firm that will work best for you requires some thought. Print this list of questions, and take it with you to meetings with potential law firms. Also, visit our attorney referral service to find a law firm that offers a free session, giving you a chance to get all of your questions answered before hiring a law firm to have on call.

 

  1. What is your experience with this type of case? Ask for details about previous cases the attorney has handled to get a feel for their experience.

 

  1. Have you worked in the courthouse where my case will be tried? If so, the attorney is more likely to have dealt with the judges and prosecutors and should have a clearer idea of what could happen.

 

  1. Can I get references to satisfied clients so I can call them and find out what they thought of your services? If the attorney balks at providing references you can call, ask for testimonials to review. If these are also not available, be wary.

 

  1. How much will this cost me? When hiring a law firm, ask them about fees and expenses if you have a specific case you want to bring them. Find out whether the attorney will charge an hourly rate or a fixed rate. Ask about contingency fees involved in cases where you’re suing for money. Request information about expenses, too, such as for photocopies, filings, etc., as these can add up.

 

  1. Are you familiar with the court system in this area? Ask the attorney if she practices in the specific courthouse where your case will be conducted. An attorney who has experience with the judges or prosecutors who preside over your case can make it easier to determine the outcome.

Neighborhood Legal Clinics offer free legal advice in King County

Have you heard of Neighborhood Legal Clinics? If not, you may be missing out on a great resource if you live in King County, Washington.

These free clinics, sponsored by the King County Bar Association, provide limited legal advice as well as referrals for residents of the county. If you have a legal issue in King County but do NOT live in the county, you can still participate in one of the free clinics.

The clinics consist of 30-minute sessions during which time you meet with an attorney for legal advice on civil legal issues. You can get help with papers you’ve received from the court. Referrals and additional resources are also provided, if needed.

According to their website, the clinics do NOT provide advice on criminal legal issues, just civil issues.

Clinics are also offered on a variety of specialized topics, such as bankruptcy, elder law, family law, cross cultural family law and domestic violence. You can also sign up for clinics in various languages, including Spanish, Korean, etc.

Visit this link to make an appointment and to find out when the next Neighborhood Legal Clinic will be held near you.

 

 

Tenant rights explained in Washington state

Do you know someone who is having trouble with his/her landlord? Whether the issue is about a problem with a rental unit, getting a deposit back or simply learning about you rights before you rent, Northwest Justice Project offers a thorough resource with all of the information you need to educate yourself about tenant rights. This thorough online resource – “Your Rights as a Tenant in Washington” – gives you all of the information you need to understand what you can and cannot do when renting.

For instance, topics such as eviction notices, utility shut-offs and when your landlord is allowed to enter your rental, are all described in easy-to-understand language. You’ll also find information on making deposits before you move in and getting them back once you leave your rental. Look at the section on what you need to do to give notice to move out to be sure you’re doing everything legal.

This resource also covers what to do if your unit needs repairs. The responsibilities of you as the tenant vs. your landlord’s responbilities while you’re in the rental are also covered.

Your Rights as a Tenant in Washington” is available for free at http://sites.lawhelp.org/documents/1593216300EN.pdf?stateabbrev=%2FWA%2F.

If you need a lawyer to help protect your rights as a tenant, visit our Find An Attorney page at http://aibinc.net/findalawyer.