Free Legal Advice is Worth What You Pay For It
I recently gave a talk to a group of small business owners and warned them of the dangers of trusting legal advice (or legal documents) that they find on the internet. It reminded me of an article from David Colby (of Colbylawannotations.com) regarding taking shortcuts with your company’s legal affairs. Too often, I must tell a business owner that their reliance on “free” legal advice or their use of homemade or “fill-in-the-blank” business forms, has has backfired and exposed them or their company to unnecessary legal or economic peril. David further wrote:
The “do it yourself” (DIY) ethic is in the very DNA of the entrepreneur. It is both a native instinct and a learned survival mechanism. In example after example, it is because of the DIY attitude that many entrepreneurs are able to launch new businesses in the first place. Moreover, in this economy one has to be radically different and revolutionary just to exist let alone compete with the establishment. DIY skills level playing fields and open doors by slashing costs and eliminating expensive obstacles. To play by the rules is to accept the status quo, is to formally recognize the barriers set up to stop competition and to keep you toiling in mediocrity.
However, as practicing attorneys, we see many cases where DIY has gone horribly wrong. In most cases it is an example of an entrepreneur moving forward with Legal Zoom or some other online legal service without having a competent attorney to counsel them in context. These DIY websites make it clear that they offer no advice and you are on your own. Many clients that have taken that road come to us when it is too late or when things are so entangled that it ends up costing three or four times more to fix a problem than to have done it right in the first place.
DIY law can also be faster, but if something goes wrong that time savings may go out the window. You also need to decide what you’re time is worth. Some entrepreneurs start out with a talent, whether they are a designer or create a cool product or provide a cool service. Once they get busy setting up their business, they forgot what their talent is and start spending hours upon hours working on legal and accounting matters rather than focusing on what can make money. Is all this DIY legal work worth your time? Perhaps having legal counsel is a better pay off time wise—especially when you realize it is a tax deductable expense. It all ultimately boils down to one thing: Risk. When deciding whether to do it yourself, you need to ask yourself, “How much risk do I face? What are the consequences if I screw something up? What’s the worst that could happen?”
It should be recognized, plain and simple, that there is a much greater risk that you’ll screw something up when representing yourself. We see so many small, budding companies starting out with bad advice that we end up reforming all of their corporation or LLC papers. We also find that trademark, while it looks easy, is misunderstood on a fundamental level. We find major mistakes all the time. We would much rather work with you in the beginning than meet you later when you have a major problem. A lawyer is trained to spot potential problems and figure out how to avoid them. Attorneys have the benefit of experience. You may have what you think is a simple legal matter, but we regularly spot dozens of issues that would be better off considering before a problem arises. So before doing legal work for yourself, you need to evaluate the possible risks. That is where we feel we can offer the best advice.
For questions about this topic or any other business law questions please feel free to contact Brandon Woodward, Esq. directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.The Law Office of Brandon Woodward P.A. is pleased you have visited our web site or read our blog. The materials and information contained here are provided for informational purposes only and are not to be considered as legal advice.