Don't Swim With The Sharks Unless You Have Protection
The cost of legal services can be expensive, but not as expensive as it would be if you fail to get the help of competent attorneys. Often clients come to us to fix legal issues that arose because they tried to act on their own behalf in a legal matter. It doesn't matter if it is a divorce, or a real estate purchase, or negotiations in a business transaction. When lawyers write, we often use special language or legal terms of art that is understood to mean something specific to judges and other attorneys. When lay people try to use those words, many times something gets lost in translation, and what they meant to say is not what the legal world would determine in means.
This is true for forms that are now readily available on the Internet for things like do-it-yourself divorces and wills, and various other documents. They may look attractive because sometimes they are free or very inexpensive. All you have to do is fill in the blanks. If you use the wrong word, term, or phrase, the outcome could be exactly the opposite of what you intended.
In a recent case, one of our clients drafted a document based on something she found on the Internet. It was full of fancy legal terms and looked very impressive. Upon review of the document, it appeared to have been written by an incompetent attorney. That, however, was not the case. The client had written it herself, and she had never had it reviewed by an attorney prior to signing. The end result was protracted litigation that ended up costing the client ten times what it would have cost to have it drafted by an attorney.
When the opposing party has an attorney, it is even more important to get your own counsel so that you are on an even playing field. Like the title of this blog post states, if you are going to get in the water, and there are sharks, you want to make sure you have a smarter or more savvy shark on your side. I don't want to imply that all attorneys are sharks, but the legal system is set up to be adversarial which means that attorneys have to take sides, and cannot give legal advice to the opposing party. So the take away from this: STAY OUT OF THE WATER! Let your attorney fend off the unfriendly sharks!
PLEASE NOTE: There are better ways of dispute resolution such as Collaborative Law and Mediation. But, that's for another time....