Sunday, March 21, 2010

15 Things Every Non-Lawyer Should Know.

In no particular order...

  1. NEVER just pay a traffic ticket without appearing in court.  NEVER plead guilty to a crime (no matter how small) without a lawyer.
  2. Thinking lawyers are too expensive to solve a small problem is how things become big problems.  Pay a little up front to AVOID total disasters, and it will save you money in the long-run.
  3. Similarly, do not represent yourself in court.  The law is complicated-- hire an expert.  
  4. Lawyers are not magicians-- we cannot fix every mess you have made.
  5. Powers of Attorney and Wills are not the same thing, but both are important to make sure you are cared for and your last wishes are carried out, respectively.
  6. Families are greedy-- they will fight over towels and sheets after your death without clear instructions.
  7. Lawyers have more clients than just you.  We will call you, but it may not be immediately after you leave a message.  Calling every 15 minutes when you don't receive an immediate call back only irritates the staff.
  8. Be kind to the person who answers the phone and to the lawyer's paralegal-- you want them on your side.
  9. Lawyers genuinely care about their clients and want their clients to succeed, be happy with their services, and never need to call us again.  Even those clients that annoy us to death.
  10. DIY legal documents are dangerous and can cause major problems in the future.  (See #2 above.)
  11. Lawyers do not give advice just to hear themselves talk.  You have gone to a lawyer for advice (and probably paid some money) believing that he or she knows more than you do.  Go with this thought and listen to their advice-- they DO know more than you about the law.
  12. On the other hand, lawyers cannot be experts on every subject and to the minutest detail-- we will not know the answer to every question you ask.  However, a good lawyer will admit this and find out the answers to help you.  Being a little patient will pay off.
  13. As much as people think they should get something for nothing, we lawyers have to make a living too.  Please don't call and ask how you can fix your problem without hiring/paying me.  We don't ask you to sell us your goods or give us your time and services for free.  (However, I am willing to barter...)
  14. READ ALL DOCUMENTS BEFORE SIGNING.  Even if they're long-- you will be held responsible for knowing what is in them.
  15. The easiest way to get into trouble is ignoring problems.  If you get legal documents from the court system, law enforcement, or a law firm-- call an attorney IMMEDIATELY.  Your delay can cause you to lose options and rights.


  1. from a teachers point of view...that is 15 things, not 14...and as a lawyer, YOU ROCK:)

  2. HAHA. It is 15! All of these apply to accountants, too...

  3. So right-- I added the 15th after my title!! Aaaahhh!

  4. Number 6 is sooooo true. We used to joke that in our family estate planning meant, "He who shows up first with a U-Haul gets what he wants."

    We came up with that after my grandmother and her sister fought for years over items my great-aunt took from their mother's house while my grandmother was busy arranging to have their mother's body transported from out-of-state.

    You can't make this stuff up.

  5. I love that U-Haul rule. It's unbelievable the worthless crap that people will fight over-- never ceases to amaze me.