Perhaps you made some personal New Year’s resolutions geared towards improving your life, health or financial well-being. We’re hoping that you are succeeding brilliantly in keeping them!

But regardless of whether you are on target or wondering why you made them in the first place, New Year’s resolutions have a place in your legal life as well.

Here are three easy(ish) steps toward improving your legal affairs, both personal and professional.

1. Look under that rock

So many of us face personal and business legal issues that lie just below the surface, and the extent to which they may become troublesome in the future is uncertain. For example, perhaps you invested in a deal and are not getting good information about what has happened with your investment. Perhaps you bought an interest in an oil and gas company or piece of property and you’re not certain whether it is producing any income or ever will. Or perhaps you’ve been in an accident some time ago and you still haven’t made a full recovery.

Here is why you need to look under that rock, even if it’s uncomfortable: you may be giving up important legal rights without even knowing that you have lost them, because of the running of the limitations period. (The limitations period is the time in which you must assert a legal claim by filing a lawsuit, or lose the claim. How and when it begins to run, and how long before it runs out, can be complicated issues.)

It is far better to consult an experienced lawyer to evaluate whether you have any rights, and when you must assert them, to make an informed decision about your assets and liabilities. Think of it this way: would you put money in the bank or stock market and never, ever look to see whether it is still there or has increased in value? The same is True of legal claims: they either have value or they present a risk, and “not looking” doesn’t enhance or diminish them.

2. Get a will or a succession plan

We all need a will, regardless of age or marital status. (You knew that already, we know!) What you may not realize is this: if complicated family or business relationships are weighing you down and you simply don’t want to deal with them, a good lawyer will know the workarounds to accommodate whatever issues you’re struggling with.

The beauty of selecting an experienced lawyer is that they will have seen the circus you’re watching a thousand times, and will know how to keep the show in order.

Similarly, if you are in charge of a business, you need a succession plan. Who will take on your responsibilities, and will your business continue to exist after you leave it? Again, a knowledgeable lawyer will have some creative answers for how to plan for those events.

3. Hire the right kind of lawyer for your situation

Finally, identify the right kind of lawyer for your needs, and interview good ones before you need them.

I have seen several recent situations where good lawyers who were not quite right for the case needed to be replaced or supplemented with a lawyer with the right knowledge base and experience.

Spend time thinking about the issues you face, then research and conduct due diligence on potential lawyers’ skill sets, experience, locations, billing rates, conflicts and other driving factors. Doing so will save significant time and money later.


The Castañeda Firm represents litigation clients in the energy industry and beyond. From offices in Dallas, the firm provides extensive experience in a variety of complex litigation, including oil and gas disputes, complex commercial cases, products liability suits, and toxic torts and other environmental matters. For more information, visit or contact

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