Breaking down the law

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Who you gonna call?
Most of us think about attorneys about as often as we do our spare tire: we know we may need to use that tire someday, but we don”t check the air pressure in it as much as we should. It”s not until we have a blow-out on the side of Interstate-85 that we realize what a valuable resource it actually is.

Similarly, when you experience a blow-out in life – whether it”s a business deal gone bad or a divorce – the importance of having access to a quality attorney becomes all too obvious. Attorneys can help you navigate the intricacies of a complex, rapidly changing legal system while protecting your rights and interests in a variety of areas. "The majority of people use an attorney for criminal or family law matters," says Jeff Hicks, past president of the Gwinnett County Bar Association; however, Gwinnett”s legal experts are ready to serve you in every aspect of the law, from preparing a will to resolving a landlord-tenant dispute.

You don”t have to wait to consult an attorney until you have a legal problem, either. Consider estate planning and business incorporation, just two areas where legal assistance today could mean fewer headaches – and big savings – should issues arise in the future. "It”s not really expensive to have a lawyer help you set up a business," Hicks says. "Down the road, problems are worse because you didn”t address things beforehand."

Whether you”re seeking a lawyer to solve a legal issue or consulting one to prevent a future problem, the process of finding an attorney can seem intimidating, but it doesn”t have to be. Your friends and business acquaintances may be great sources of attorney recommendations, and the Gwinnett County Bar Association provides attorney referrals through its web site at (Note: The Bar Association does not provide legal advice.)

Want more than a name and number? The legal profiles in this issue will give you an inside look at some of the area”s leading law firms.

As the law becomes increasingly complex, most lawyers focus in one or just a few specialties. Even "general practice" firms commonly limit their practice to a set of specialty areas. Just as you wouldn”t put the spare tire for a Mini onto a Hummer, for the best legal fit you should look for a lawyer with expertise in the particular area you need.


A Closer Look at Legal Specialties

To help you sort through the specialty areas, we”ve broken down some common attorney practice areas.

Bankruptcy lawyers help individuals and businesses file for bankruptcy, negotiate with creditors and hold onto assets. Often, these attorneys can arrange non-bankruptcy forms of debt relief – possibly alleviating the need to file for bankruptcy.

Attorneys handling business law assist clients in all aspects of forming, purchasing and running a business, including choosing a legal structure for a new business entity, drafting contracts, structuring loans, negotiating leases and other agreements, and advising on employment issues, shareholders” rights and liability issues.

Civil Rights
Civil rights attorneys handle issues involving rights protected by the U.S. Constitution; cases may involve employment, housing or educational discrimination, or other matters of discrimination based on race, sex, age or disability.

Collections attorneys assist clients in recovering bad debts, including writing collections letters, filing lawsuits and mediating disputes.

Representing developers and builders, genera

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