Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Unbundled Services and Limited Representation: How a Greater Portion of the Population has Gained Access to Legal Services

People now have greater flexibility than ever before in accessing and utilizing legal services. “Unbundling” of legal services is now allowed and the effect should be greater accessibility has created greater access to legal services by segments of the population historically unable to secure needed assistance of counsel in dealing with legal projects. The one exception to this new form of representation is criminal law. Unbundled services is a development we at Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC offer in certain cases, as it means we will have much greater flexibility in customizing services to fit clients’ particular needs where money is a real issue for the client.

Simply put, unbundling means breaking down a project into its component parts. Once a legal project is broken down, it is easier to determine what a particular individual is capable of doing on their own and what they may need assistance to complete. A home remodeling project is a good way to demonstrate unbundling. Included in the typical bundled remodeling project is framing, drywall installation, wiring, floor covering installation and painting or wallpapering. After breaking the project down to its components, or “unbundling” the project, one can determine what he or she comfortably can do and with what components he/she will need help. For example many are comfortable painting or wallpapering but might be uncomfortable with the other components of remodeling.  With an unbundled approach to remodeling, the homeowner secures services only in the components he or she does not feel skilled enough to handle.

How does this process work? It is actually pretty simple. Like the remodeling example, any legal project can be broken down into component parts. For example let us take a simple divorce. Among others, components of a simple divorce include initiating the action with a petition for divorce; engaging in discovery (the process of learning the other side’s case, how they intend to support it and securing information from the other side that helps present your case); document preparation; determination of support issues, property settlement, motion practice and court appearances. An individual contemplating a divorce or finding themselves a party in one initiated by their spouse and wanting to explore the option of unbundled services, simply determines, ideally in consultation with a legal professional, what components of the process they are comfortable handling and the components with which they would like assistance. An agreement is then made, and the attorney does the agreed upon work, and the client handles the rest of the matter they are comfortable with on their own.

            Another option is limited representation. This is similar to unbundled services, but is more appropriate when a person only wants the attorney to handle a single hearing. For example in the divorce context, a person may only want representation at a mediation or for a status conference/temporary hearing. The client can then provide the attorney with a smaller retainer, and the attorney can handle that specific hearing. Once the hearing is concluded, and the orders issued by the Court, the attorney’s representation ends unless the client wants the attorney to continue to be involved. Limited representation is allowed in certain contexts, and may not be appropriate for all cases. However, it provides greater access to legal services to those that may be unable to afford an attorney full-time.

At Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC, we offer unbundled services and limited representation in certain contexts. Our goal throughout our existence has been to provide competent legal services at a reasonable cost. If you find yourself in need of legal help, contact us today.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Workers’ Compensation: What is a Permanent Impairment?

                In Workers’ Compensation, it is commonly misunderstood by most people what an injured person is entitled to. In previous blog posts, we talked about how an injured worked unable to work is entitled to 60% of their average weekly wage while they are out of work. They are also entitled to have all medical bills that are incurred due to the work injury and reasonable and necessary medical treatment paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Yet, what happens when a person has a permanent injury that prevents them from working?

                First, it is important to separate that an injury that causes someone to be permanently and totally disabled entitles them to continuing wage (indemnity) benefits from the insurance carrier as long as they can’t work. If they can never work again, they are entitled to receive permanent wage benefits, and also possibly social security disability benefits. While often permanent injury cases are settled, there remains the possibility of the injured worker being paid a weekly benefit for life if they can never work again.

                Second, the injured worker who has a permanent injury is also potentially entitled to a permanent impairment award. This award is governed by statutory law, and has a series of potential injuries that affect the calculation. Most commonly, it involves a person with a permanent injury that affects their whole person. Thus, under NH law, they are entitled to a permanent impairment award for that injury.

                The way this is calculated is to have a doctor review the injured worker’s injuries under the American Medical Association Guidelines for Impairment, 5th edition. The AMA guidelines include a lot of information that doctors utilize to come to a percentage that a person is impaired. Thus, a person with a fused spine at one or two levels likely has a permanent injury, and a doctor would “rate” them with a percentage that affected their whole person. This percentage is then plugged into a calculation to determine the monetary award for the permanent impairment. So, for example, if a claimant received $500 per week in wage benefits from the workers’ compensation carrier, and they have a whole person impairment of 10%, then the calculation under RSA 281-A is to take that $500 per week, multiply it by 350 weeks, and then multiply it by the percentage for the final number. So, for example, the hypothetical person calculation above would be ($500x350)x0.10 = $17,5000. Thus, the permanent impairment award would be $17,500.00.

                This is a complicated process, and doctors often do not agree on the percentage that a person is impaired. If you were injured and think you have a permanent impairment, the experienced attorneys at Parnell, Michels and McKay can help you navigate this process effectively, and allow you to recover the full amount you are entitled to. If you are in need of legal help from a work related injury, please contact our office to find out what your rights are. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

NH Pro Bono Hockey Game - Tickets Available!

Attorney Rory Parnell and Attorney Neil Nicholson of McCandless & Nicholson have organized a great charity event to raise money for the NH Pro Bono Referral Program. These funds help the program find attorneys for those who cannot afford their own legal representation. We have limited playing spots available, but we have plenty of tickets for spectators to come and watch their lawyer friend skate. 

Come and watch nearly 30 members of the NH Bar who have signed on to participate in the charity hockey game to benefit the NH Pro Bono Referral Program.  Tickets remain available at a cost of $25.00 each, which provides entry to the NH Pro Bono Hockey Game and the Monarchs game that follows.  The game will be held at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, NH on January 16, 2016 from 4:20-5:20 p.m.  The Monarchs game begins thereafter at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets to both games can be purchased by contacting Neil Nicholson at neil@mcnich.com or 603-856-8441 and must be purchased by January 7, 2016. 

The event is being sponsored by Connelly Reporting and Videoconferencing; Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC; McCandless & Nicholson, PLLC; Upton & Hatfield, LLP and Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, PC. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


                In 2012, Washington State implemented a new program that created the limited license legal technician (LLLT). LLLT’s are not lawyers. They cannot represent clients in Court, nor can they negotiate on their behalf. Yet, they are allowed to provide limited legal advice like preparing forms, explaining legal documents, drafting legal documents and explaining Court procedures.

                This is very similar to the tasks paralegals perform, but paralegals are normally under attorney supervision. LLLTs are entirely independent of attorneys, and can pass along this advice without attorney supervision. Washington’s stated goal is to improve access to legal professionals, especially for those who cannot afford an attorney.

                There are two conflicting thoughts here. First, there is significant concern that allowing briefly trained LLLTs to give legal advice is opening up the door to bad legal advice. Lawyers are educated for 7-8 years after graduating high school, and are put through rigorous testing both in law school and in passing the bar exam. The training of an attorney is extensive, time consuming and expensive. LLLTs will have less than a fraction of that training, but the responsibilities of an attorney in giving advice. This could create a situation where clients are not receiving correct advice, which can lead to LLLTs creating issues for their brief clients.

                Second, is we have a problem in this country in getting access to lawyers. In an injury case, the lawyer is hired almost exclusively on a contingency basis, so many injured clients can get an attorney no matter their economic status. Hourly cases, especially family and land use cases, present a much different problem. A client must pay an attorney a significant sum to proceed on an hourly basis. In some cases these amounts could be thousands upon thousands of dollars. If you have the money, then it is easy to find a quality attorney. Those less fortunate, however, cannot afford such an expense and often go into Court unrepresented. LLLTs could provide these less fortunate clients legal advice they need to do the basics, which may level the playing field a bit with those more fortunate.

                No matter what, it is fascinating how the legal field is trying to adjust to the quickness of media today, and trying to create greater access to justice. If you are concerned about your legal rights, contact the law offices of Parnell, Michels & McKay to see how we can help you.   

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What is Negligence and who is a Reasonable Person?

            A large number of personal injury claims are based, at least in part, on a theory of negligence. Negligent conduct is conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. A person has acted negligently if he or she has departed from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances.

            To use an old logical saw, that ultimately begs the question of who a reasonably prudent person is. To some, the definition of that person comes as a surprise. The reasonably prudent person can sometimes be generalized as “Debbie Do-Gooder”. The reasonably prudent person stops completely at lights and stop signs. They signal a full 100 feet before making a turn. They always look both ways before turning, and never speed. This can be an intimidating prospect for some, as most people don’t operate that conservatively in their every day lives.

            This definition doesn’t stop with people driving cars either. A reasonable business owner salts the entrance to his business after every freeze. They shovel all snow from their pathways, and warn patrons of any dangers that could potentially affect them. They post warning signs, double and triple check food they make, and make sure they don’t hire anyone that could harm another.

            It’s a difficult idea to envision, and one our clients are always concerned with. If you have questions about liability at your business, feel free to contact our office today. If you’ve been injured, and need help, we provide free consultations in all injury cases. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Workers’ Compensation: How to Make Sure an Injured Employee is Getting What They Deserve

            Injuries happen to all of us. Often, a person will be injured at work as the result of the duties of their employment. It is at these times that an injured person must understand the workers’ compensation system, and how to protect your rights.
            When a person is injured at work, and they have to miss time, the first thing they should understand is that your medical visits are covered. If an injury occurs during the course of employment, then the workers’ compensation insurance carrier will be required to pay for the medical services provided for treatment of that injury. If the insurance carrier denies the payment of a medical bill, and the Department of Labor finds it should have been paid, the insurance carrier will also likely have to pay for the injured employee’s attorneys fees. This helps injured persons with little resources to help facilitate getting the legal help they need.
            The injured employee is also entitled to workers’ compensation wage benefits for the time they miss work. This figure is based on sixty percent (60%) of the average weekly wage of the injured person. Thus, if a person makes $1,000 a week in average weekly wages, they will be entitled to $600.00 per week in wage benefits. I
            The injured employee may also be entitled to compensation for any permanent impairment as a result of the work injury. This is commonly referred to as the “Permanent Impairment Award”. This is based on the disability the injured worker has, and the effect of that disability on their ability to work. A typical situation would be someone who lost a hand in an industrial accident, and now has a very serious permanent disability. The injured worker is entitled to a calculation based on the injury, the permanency of that injury, and the wages the worker was making before being injured.  All of these are factored into a complex calculation that compensates the injured employee for their permanent disability. Our firm will also help assist disabled persons in obtaining social security disability benefits, if they qualify.

            Workers’ Compensation law is complex, and requires the aid of an experienced attorney in navigating the system. Here at Parnell & McKay, we have been providing our learned and experienced advice to our workers’ compensation clients for over 20 years. Contact us today to find out how we can help you. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rory Parnell Named to Pro Bono Board of Governors

             Parnell, Michels and McKay is happy to announce that Rory Parnell has been named to the New Hampshire Pro Bono Board of Governors. Rory will continue to work hard for those in need that cannot afford legal services. Rory was most recently awarded a 2014 Rising Star award from Pro Bono for his work for those in need, and he is proud to continue on the long standing tradition of the firm of providing pro bono representation for indigent clients.

             New Hampshire's Pro Bono Program has long been providing legal services for those clients who cannot afford the cost of legal representation. It is Pro Bono's hope to expand on what they can do for lower income clients, and hope to continue to attract more and more attorneys to help those in need.

             If you are in need of legal services, and cannot afford legal representation, contact the New Hampshire Pro Bono Program at (603) 224-5387.