From the desk of Barry Stewart Silver, Attorney at Law
Dear Clients and Friends,
As I write this, the trees outside my office window are changing from green to gold. Somehow amazingly, autumn has arrived.
It was one terrific summer! I coached my son’s baseball team…enjoyed a peaceful vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico…and participated in four triathlons. In fact, this year marked my best time, as I shaved more that 17 minutes off last year’s record. Training and experience do make a difference.
Actually, that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. We all want the best for ourselves and our families—the best health care, the best school systems, the best of everything. Yet the average American is bombarded with something like 3,000 advertisements a day. How do you cut through the hype and determine what really is “the best?”
I can’t claim to know how to pick the best stocks, but I do know how to find the best professional service providers. That’s what this Silver Bulletin is about—finding the best for your.
BUYER, BEWARE! THE PROS AND CONS OF INTERNET COMMERCE
Are you “online?”
If so, you are not alone. In fact, you’re in the company of nearly 200 million Internet users worldwide. There’s no question about it: the World Wide Web is changing the way we spend our time and money.
E-commerce, in particular is growing at a breathtaking rate—and transforming the way American buys. Have you yet to make your first online purchase? After all, now you can buy anything from auto insurance to zinc supplements…without ever leaving the house.
In many ways, E-commerce is a good thing. A competitive market keeps prices low and quality high. And for time-pressed individuals with long busy days, it couldn’t be more convenient.
So if it’s your cup of tea, on-line shopping is an easy way to buy name products such as clothing, CDs and books—i.e., branded goods of known quality. It’s also a great vehicle for price shopping more expensive items, like airline tickets and electronic goods.
But some things should not be bought on-line. And as you might have guessed, legal and financial services top my list.
About Professional Services
Many professional firms (attorneys, accountants, insurance agencies) have created wonderful elaborate web sites designed to draw prospective clients. (Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against web sites. In fact, I am in the process of creating one myself. Like this newsletter, it will provide me with another vehicle for communicating with you!)
The point is, there is a tendency to confuse style with substance. By all means, check out those web sites. If you are impressed with what you see, follow up with a phone call, and then a face-to-face meeting. Do this before you allow someone to represent you in such an important capacity. Make sure they are as creditable in person as they are in cyberspace.
How Valuable is Free Advice?
Another phenomenon that has arisen from the Internet is the proliferation of free advice. There are several on-line services that offer no-cost legal advice for the asking. Users beware!
If you are interested in educating yourself on a particular subject, this could be a legitimate resource for your—just like a trip to the library. However, this growing trend has some regulators concerned. In Texas, for example, the state Supreme Court recently shut down several web sites for practicing law without a license. (One web site offered to file divorce petitions for a fee, but neglected to advise that they did not employ attorneys!)
In addition, legislation varies from state to state. Lawyers, as you know, are trained and licensed to practice law in a specific state. So if an individual here in Illinois is receiving advice from a lawyer in California, it raises all kinds of potential problems…and is probably not in the best interest of that individual.
Nothing Comes Close to the Personal Touch
When it comes to choosing a service professional to represent you, I suggest you use the personal touch.
Get to know prospective service providers, such as attorneys, accountants and insurance agents. Find out what their background is. Ensure that their specialty meets your needs. Ask them how they plan to help you; in fact, ask them everything you can think of. After all, they’re supposed to represent you. You have a right to make sure that they’ll do the very best possible job—the very best.
Here are some interesting facts every Illinois resident should know.
- If your car is insured through State Farm, you may benefit from the recent class action lawsuit. State Farm was ordered to pay out more than $450 million in damages and $600 million in punitive damages to policyholders whose cars were repaired with so-called "aftermarket" parts. If you’ve been affected, you’ll need assistance wading through the paperwork, don’t hesitate to give me a call. I’d be glad to help on a pro bono basis. (More good news: State Farm will no long authorize auto repairs using non-original parts.)
- A similar victory for consumers: one of the largest product-liability settlements ever. Recently American Home Products has agreed to pay nearly $5 billion to settle lawsuits of dieters who developed heart-valve damage (or remain at risk) caused by the diet drug fen-phen. Affected individuals may collect up to $1.5 million each.
- Insurance companies are alive and well. When the Tort Reform Act of 1995 was struck down two years ago (removing the $500,000 maximum pain and suffering award), it was predicted that some insurers would be driven out of business. Can you name even one? I can’t!
- Contrary to popular belief, medical malpractice insurance is not increasing your medical costs. In fact, in Illinois, medical malpractice is a very lucrative line for carriers, with profits representing one-third of premiums.
Is there a subject you’re interested in learning about? Write me or call me; perhaps we’ll address it in the next Silver Bulletin.
My specialty is personal injury and worker’s compensation issues, and I’ve built my practice by looking after the best interests of my clients. If I can be of service to you or someone you know, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Barry Stewart Silver
707 Skokie Boulevard, Suite 505
Northbrook, IL. 60062
Copyright © 1998, Barry S. Silver, P.C. All rights reserved.
“Silver Bulletin” is a trademark of Barry S. Silver, PC, Attorney-at-Law