Make no mistake about it, we are living in a world where the average consumer is completely out gunned by sophisticated experts operating in virtually every area of commerce. This may sound paranoid, but if you look closely, you’ll see this phenomena operating in the areas of nutrition, medical, business and investments, and yes, the legal field.
For example, in his book Money Master the Game, Tony Robbins concludes that the average person has no business trading stocks because mom or pop cannot compete with the high frequency traders and other experts.
Another example, in his book Food, What the Heck Should I Eat, author Mark Hyman, M.D., concludes that the medical community and organizations like the AMA have been plagued by conflicts of interest and thus propping up flawed research for years to support dietary recommendations that have been found to be wrong and dangerous.
This are simple observations by this author that suggest that economics has created a scenario where the average person MUST rely upon experts to make prudent decisions. Going it alone can be a prescription for disaster.
This fact leads to our next question to consider:
Can I Just Figure Out My Own Estate Planning Concerns Through the Web?
The Pros and Cons of Web Based Legal Guidance
We are living in a time when it is easy to learn “on the fly” and there are numerous “self help” resources available in all areas. This reality begs the question of whether, when it comes to legal matters, it makes sense to do your own research and rely upon web based do it yourself estate planning tools.
What comes to your mind when you think about needing a lawyer or hiring someone for legal services? For many people the feelings that arise may be less than positive and this begs the question whether one is better off just handling their own legal matters via the web.
As a lawyer licensed in Florida and California and inactively in Minnesota, I have no problem admitting that if I were to personally need a lawyer, my thoughts and impressions would include: stressed, hard to understand terminology, egotistical people, hard to know what to do, will I go broke, etc., etc. You may have also managed a few positives such as driven, resourceful or smart. I shudder to ask if caring, compassionate and concerned professional make the top ten list.
What to look for when hiring a legal professional?
Following this logic, the first and most pressing question for many “Do I even need to consult with a lawyer?” It goes without saying that we are firmly entrenched in the information age. Any professional, myself included, should be aware that information about any topic is immediately available from multiple professional sources on line.
Are You An Effective Legal Researcher?
So in deciding whether to hire a lawyer, regardless of your legal concerns, the first question is whether you are “geared up” to become a legal researcher? I have worked with many a smart person over the years that hired me because they were not so “geared up”. I recommend some initial research for any person “prior to consulting a lawyer” and I also recommend a balanced approach to the research meaning that you should obtain information from a number of different sources so that you’re not potentially duped by one person’s opinion. When you have some grasp on your legal concerns and objectives, you will need to make the decision whether to hire a lawyer?
How Can You Know To Ask The Legal Questions That You Don’t Know?
At this point, some might decide to go it alone and/or pursue “self help” legal services. However, the reason to forego self help at least temporarily and hire a competent lawyer for a consultation (and even to pay for the advice) is that as a non-lawyer/consumer, you do not know what you don’t know” and an experienced attorney arguably does know what you couldn’t possibly know due to his/her years of exposure to the subject matter. So the “take away” for today is do your own homework but be cautious about the questions that you may not know to ask.
Consider Filling in the Blanks by Talking To Competent Legal Counsel With At Least 5 Years of Experience.
Be open to filling in the blanks by hiring a competent attorney for at least an review or consult and I recommend someone with at least five years of background in your specific area of concern. A footnote about paying for a consultation (because most everyone nowadays loves free consults) is that the information obtained during a paid consult may be more complete and more specific to your situation because that attorney will have in the back of his/her mind that you are paying for the legal advice and thus may be more motivated. Also, you should be aware that there are ethical and moral factors relating to legal advice offered for compensation.