“This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True.”

Hamlet, Act I, Scene III, William Shakespeare

I know, this is quite possibly the most over-quoted line from Shakespeare. There’s a reason for that: it’s a great line, and something everyone should aspire to do. It’s especially appropriate here on the Holmlaw Blog because it’s quite possibly Mission Statement Number One for the Law Office of Nancy L. Holm, LLC. It’s the reason I struck out on my own and started my own law firm, and it’s also my philosophy with clients, adversaries, the Court, and anyone else who does business with me or my law firm.

I’m the daughter of an attorney, niece of an attorney, and cousin of attorneys, and now I’m an attorney (God help the rest of our family). I’ve been support staff for two law firms, I’ve interned for a trial court judge, and I’ve been the law clerk to an Appellate Division judge. I’ve worked with attorneys in three different states, and I’ve gone to law school with some awesome up-and-coming attorneys. I’ve worked with and against other attorneys throughout the great State of New Jersey. Not to mention, I have been the client of an attorney. All of these experiences have shaped how I have designed my law firm and how I treat my clients.

(1)       No Nonsense Billing. Where possible, I charge a flat fee. This usually comes into play for Real Estate Transactions, Property Tax Appeals, Estate Planning Documents, and other areas. Litigation and Estate Administration, on the other hand, require a reasonable, hourly rate. When it comes to hourly billing, I’m not someone who “looks at the file” when nothing is going on so that I make a few bucks. I’m also not into nickel-and-diming my clients for things like a per-fax fee. What you see is what you get. When I work on your file, you know that I am actually working on your file – not just generating billable hours.

(2)       Flexible Time. I will meet clients when it is convenient for them – weekends, evenings, etc. People have to work. They can’t take off to come and visit me for a consultation many times.

(3)       No Passing the Buck. Many times, you sign on with a lawyer in a firm, then you get passed along to an associate or a paralegal, and you never hear from the attorney you met with again. While it’s great that the associate charges a lower rate (as does the paralegal), what happened to the person who ultimately convinced you to sign on with them? Many times, they will only swoop in at the end for trial or for the real estate closing.  Obviously at this moment in time, I’m a solo practitioner, so I can’t pass you on to anyone else, but that’s the beauty of hiring a solo – I’m your attorney from beginning to end. I will be fully familiar with your file, and we will get to know each other through the legal process.

(4)       Empathy and Understanding. There are a lot of great lawyers out there, and many extremely talented litigators. However, what seems to happen over time is that many lawyers forget that no matter the circumstances of the lawsuit or other legal transaction, they are still dealing with human beings. Human beings who are stressed, upset, and/or concerned about what to do next. While much of litigation is strategy and calculation, I understand that many people take lawsuits extremely personally. I try my best to take as much of the emotional burden off of my clients, and I am sensitive to the toll that lawsuits and other transactions can have on a client.

There is an attorney out there for everyone, and one that fits every personality. You have to find the attorney that fits you, and I encourage you to stay true to yourself in the process. Don’t be afraid to shop around and find the best fit for you. I hope that you find my practice a good fit for your legal needs.

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Guardianship Checklist for Special Needs Children

If you are the parent of a special needs child, no matter what age, start thinking about guardianship.  Here is a “To Do” List to help get you started:

  • At age 17, contact an attorney to determine the fee schedule – if necessary, begin saving for the attorney’s fee or set the money aside as soon as possible.
  • Remember – if you are applying for the guardianship, you will also have to pay the court-appointed attorney’s fees.  Fees range from $1,200 and up, depending upon the complexity of the action and the individual’s fees.  Most judges will require that you pay the attorney within ten (10) days of the final judgment appointing you as guardian.
  • Begin discussing guardianship with family members.
  • If you are contemplating divorce from the parent of your special needs child, ensure that guardianship issues are discussed and settled in your divorce decree.
  • If you are already divorced and you have not settled this issue with your ex-spouse, begin that conversation – either yourself or through your family law attorney.  Contact a family law mediator to work through these issues.
  • Begin contemplating a Special Needs Trust – there are many financial issues that can impact the receipt of Medicaid and other government benefits.
  • Discuss estate planning with your spouse and grandparents regarding the special needs child as beneficiary – consult an attorney to determine the best way to do so in order to preserve the child’s entitlement to government benefits.

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Practicing Guardianship Law

Sometimes, you set out down a path, thinking you are going one way, then your life takes you in a decidedly different way.  Sometimes, you set out on a path, and you don’t realize that the experiences in your life have made you particularly suited for the path you’ve taken.

Of course, the first statement has happened to everyone, and parents of special needs children absolutely can identify with it.  The second statement came to me as an “aha!” moment while preparing for trial in a guardianship case, when I was explaining to a colleague how I approach my guardianship cases as a court-appointed attorney.  What I had not realized until this discussion is that the personal experiences throughout my life have made me particularly suited for practicing Guardianship Law – especially those cases involving guardianship over developmentally disabled children.

As a young child, I participated in many events and outings with physically disabled children.  My aunt was a physical therapist who worked with children who had cerebral palsy.  She would take me with her to special events, and I gained a great appreciation and respect for both the children afflicted with this condition, as well as the struggles their families faced in dealing with their child’s disability.

As a young teen, I used my athletic ability to help others when I volunteered with the Special Olympics.  What struck me at that age was the emphasis by the parents and other adult volunteers to treat these children as if they had no disability at all – don’t talk down to them, don’t placate them, but instead, talk to them as an equal and hold them accountable as equals.  It seems obvious now, but I saw how easy it was to slip into the other behavior and mindset.  Since my time volunteering for Special Olympics, I have practiced that philosophy in my encounters with developmentally disabled children and adults.

What is amazing to me is how those experiences have now impacted my legal career.  While I started my career in a different field, I now find myself back in a position to help families with special needs children, just as I had as a young person.  Now I am in a position to help families in this situation in a more profound way.

Since January 2011, I have been involved in many guardianship cases involving special needs children as a court-appointed attorney.  What has impressed me with almost all of my cases so far is what I learn from each family – perseverance, kindness, and love.  Each of these families have had to deal with varying degrees of disability, economic hardships, and family crises, but each one has pulled together out of love for their special needs child.   That goes for parents and caregivers as well as siblings and extended family members.  In the face of such difficulty, where it would be incredibly easy to allow the situation to tear families apart, families come together and make it work.

Even though it took me a while to realize it, I believe that guardianship is the area of the law that I am particularly suited to practice.  I started my own law firm to help people, and in my mind, guardianship cases are the best example of how the law can do so.

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Filed under Guardianship Cases, Special Needs Children / Adults

Working for those who work for a living.

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The Law Office of Nancy L. Holm, LLC, a New Jersey Limited Liability Company, is a full-service, general practice law firm located in Monmouth County, N.J., and serving clients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. You can trust our integrity and commitment to your best interests when you have a legal problem. We offer a free consultation and reasonable rates, so that legal representation is available to everyone.

(732) 444-6406 or email holmlawnj@gmail.com

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Filed under Agricultural Law, Criminal Law, Municipal Law, Property Tax Appeals, Right to Farm, Welcome