Unfortunately it is too often the case that by the time I first meet with a new client, their situation or dispute is already well advanced and is sometimes approaching complete disaster, with them facing the loss of their business, loss of the family home or a debt which is simply unrecoverable.
When unwinding the events and transactions that have led to that, it is often easy to see that with a little bit of legal advice at the beginning, a lot of legal cost and personal hardship later could have been avoided.
As noted in our earlier blog “Using generic online contracts and what that means for your business” more and more legal documentation and indeed legal advice is now available online. Just as there was (and remains) a trend to “self-diagnose” medical illnesses and treatment online, there is a large number of people now taking their legal advice from the internet rather than a trained and experienced lawyer.
"When that all has to be unwound in a later messy dispute, it becomes apparent that the money saved was in fact time wasted and the expense is now considerably higher."
They then set out on their venture confident that they know the law and that their position is secure when in fact, that may well not be the case. Legal and business relationships may be entered into on completely misguided or entirely incorrect assumptions and beliefs.
When that all has to be unwound in a later messy dispute, it becomes apparent that the money saved on doing legal research at home was in fact time wasted and the expense is now considerably higher.
Common misunderstandings caused by reading law incorrectly (including reading law in the wrong jurisdiction or material which is simply inaccurate or out of date) include:
- believing that leaving a modest amount to a person in a Will (say $1) prevents that person from contesting the Will;
- failing to understand the difference between a partnership, joint venture, company, association or trust;
- assuming that all property settlements in a relationship are split 50/50 upon separation;
- not understanding the difference between merely having a legal obligation and having that legal obligation properly secured
- believing that possession actually is “9/10ths of the law”.
The reality is that the law is complex and in many respects is getting ever more complex. Lawyers train for many years to earn the right to practice and then continue to learn on the job every day as well as undertaking compulsory continuing legal education each year.
Whilst they may do that in part for their own benefit, the obvious advantage to their clients is reaping the benefits of that comprehensive knowledge, training and experience.
Whilst it may cost money to get good legal advice from the outset, doing so early often ends up being much cheaper than having to see a lawyer later to fix a significant problem that has arisen.