This article is written by Peters and Associates.
The Internet has ushered in a new age of the do-it-yourself mentality.
Most of us carry the world’s knowledge in our cellphones, allowing us access to self-help forums, videos and unlimited opinions, all at the press of a button.
Having this vast amount of information at our fingertips isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be dangerous when misused. Jumping out of the legal realm for a minute, I wonder: How many people have changed the brakes on their own car?
While I’m sure there are a few out there who have, I’d wager the majority have not (including myself). But there are guides, videos and instruction manuals on the Internet, aren’t there? In fact, the videos on YouTube make it look easy!
Anyone can go buy new pads and change their brakes in 15 minutes, right? Wrong.
The reason we hire experts to change the brakes on our car is because they have training and experience. Without a trained, experienced mechanic watching over our shoulder, there’s a strong likelihood we could get something wrong, causing the brakes to fail and the car to crash.
Sure, a few of us might be able to get it right the first time, but most of us would not.
The same is true about legal matters. There is a wealth of knowledge to wade through online about bankruptcy, divorce, loan modification, handling your own injury claims, providing your own defense to criminal charges, etc. There even are places you can go to buy generic versions of the forms you might need to get things done; just like you can buy a manual on brake pads. Some of what you’ll read may be right. But a lot of it is wrong.
Like the brake job, you’ll even see people who purport they did it themselves and were successful. Or nonattorneys piping up and quoting laws that may or may not be relevant to your case, without understanding there are years of case law directly affecting how those laws are interpreted.
If you mess up your brakes, you’ll crash. If you mess up your own legal matters, it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars, you could lose your house, lose custody of your children, wind up in prison or worse.
There’s an adage used in my profession: “The person who represents himself /herself has a fool for a client.”
As a general rule, attorneys won’t represent ourselves even on simple matters, even though we have the knowledge and experience to do so. That’s because we know enough to know the value and necessity of proper, objective legal counsel. Representing yourself can cause even the best attorney to “crash.”
While the cost associated with legal counsel may lead some people down the DIY path, it’s important to remember that oftentimes, a good attorney is like a good insurance policy: While there may be a nominal fee upfront, it could save you a lot more in the long the run.
So if you’re ever wondering, “Should I hire an attorney to deal with this?” the answer is simple: Yes, you probably should hire an attorney, or at the least, get an initial consultation (which usually is free).
If you have a question you’d like to see answered by an attorney in a future issue, please write to questions@PandALawFirm.com.
Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.