The concept for obtaining a law degree and opening a law firm began in about 1988 when I decided to open a tax service, Five Star Tax Services, an outgrowth of the real estate company I shared with Sharri Horton.
We had 43 clients that first year, some of whom are still with us.
Soon after opening, we moved from Moffett Park to Tasman Square in Sunnyvale and co located with Five Star Realty. As people began bringing me tax problems beyond just doing tax returns, I found that I needed more credentials to work IRS problems and took the IRS Enrolled Agent exam.
Now, as an Enrolled Agent, I could have a little more “muscle” dealing with clients’ problems with the IRS. We began doing installment arrangements, audits, and resolution of IRS collection tactics.
Still, more was needed. An Enrolled Agent doesn’t have privilege with respect to client discussions, and can’t take a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. I signed up for, and spent four years in, Peninsula Law School, took the bar exam and passed it first time.
Our initial focus continued to be on taxes and tax problems. After some time, I began to take on family law cases and other forms of legal problems from sexual harassment to real property disputes. A number of my tax clients began to bring their estate planning problems to me and we worked out some solutions that really helped. Also, people with financial problems brought their cases to my office and we developed a significant practice in bankruptcy.
Now, we take on cases that we feel have especial merit, not just cases that would be profitable. My initial philosophy in the tax service was to charge for the time I spent doing the tax return, and not for time doing research for answers I should know. For tax preparation, my office charges by time, not form, and we rarely charge for problems created by the IRS or FTB (California).
Not all lawyers are rich, and I’ll sign up on the “poverty” side. Still, I have my pension from the US Air Force and Social Security, so I can live. Keeping the business open costs a lot of money (see the discussion under “fees”).
A lawyer should see to it that a client receives fair treatment from the legal system. Can I represent you if you tell me you killed your spouse? It’s not my job to decide whether you should be held as guilty for that, the court and juries make those decisions. My job is to present your side in the most favorable light I can. Maybe your spouse was aiming a gun at you? Although, I once represented a client who wanted me to tell the judge that his roommate had backed into the knife. That’s a little bit of a stretch!
After a few years, I’m hard to surprise. What I ask of you as my client is to tell me the truth and don’t let me be surprised in court. Even if you give me facts that will be adverse to you, I want to know so I can help you prepare good explanations.
We adjust our fee structure according to client needs, but please be realistic and honest with me. I do have to pay my mortgage, too.