Skip

protecting oneself legally and otherwise
January 13, 2009 7:25 AM   Subscribe


 
just remember, a "free consulation" is just a way of saying
you need a lawyer.
once in a great while they will tell you you do not
and will not charge.
oh and try not to gab, at 225-500$ an hour, time is money.
posted by clavdivs at 7:37 AM on January 13, 2009


You should contact a lawyer in your area that specializes in ${issue}.
posted by jquinby at 7:46 AM on January 13, 2009


I found this site useful for locating lawyers by community and by specialty.
posted by netbros at 7:48 AM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


*grumbles incoherently*
posted by jock@law at 7:59 AM on January 13, 2009


I am generally skeptical of any "free" or casual legal advice, even when carefully done. I get asked questions all the time from friends and family, and invariably I put out a long caveat that I am not their lawyer, and my comments (if any) are not to be construed as legal advice. When I can answer, I typically give them other information I find on the web, rather than my own knowledge. This is for both their protection and mine. It's for their protection, because 99.99% of the time their questions are not within my area of practice, so it would be incompetent and unethical for me to render my legal opinion. Furthermore, because I am not their retained attorney, they cannot automatically hold me accountable for malpractice. It is for my protection, because I'm always terrified that someone will rely on something I say, caveats notwithstanding, and it screws them over and they end up suing me for malpractice or negligence.

In short, if you need legal advice, get a lawyer.
posted by shen1138 at 8:15 AM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found this site useful for locating lawyers by community and by specialty.

Also Martindale.
posted by terranova at 9:13 AM on January 13, 2009


I sort of expected the Jiu-Jitsu link to cover moves like the Subpoena Tuck, where you flip your opponents onto their backs while simultaneously stuffing process papers into their clothing, thereby providing the required notice of your lawsuit.
posted by exogenous at 10:08 AM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Come on people! It's a blog full of Legal Guides plus one on Brazilian Jiu-Jitzu? Either a Fark-worthy non-sequitur, a lawyer admitting that not everything can be handled in court, or definitive proof that the best lawyers are all Jiu-ish.
posted by wendell at 11:40 AM on January 13, 2009


DIY legal work is like DIY surgery.

Sure, on something extremely inconsequential and of little real value, go for it! Why bare the cost of a professional over something so minor as $500 or to remove a hang nail.

But 95% of the time, you are a damned fool for trying to do something--that you aware involves legal rights and liabilities--by yourself, and the predictable results are your bad. The problem is that the lay person does not know enough to know where the problem areas are, so while they might think they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, they can't see anything wrong because they do not know what can be wrong.

One can read all of the information in the first link--which is, after looking at it, a very fine resource that I have bookmarked--and still not make informed decisions about doing their own legal work.
posted by dios at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2009


DIY legal work is like DIY surgery.

Gross simplification. There's a huge variety of legal instances, plenty are reasonably low key, like "How to Protect Your Website’s Copyright When Someone Steals Your Content". Rather than pay a lawyer for a living will or a will I found free legal forms online. Same with a roommate agreement.

and still not make informed decisions about doing their own legal work

The thing is that both medical and legal information have previously only been available to professionals. At least now one can get a basic idea by reading what's online. If one had a medical or legal problem a decade ago there was little help available outside of going to a small handful of libraries with maybe the right books. Maybe.

Now, since search engines were invented and google is a routine tool, the information available, real, professionally intelligent, wise, accurate, practically helpful information is just a google use away.

As somebody facing several life-threatening illnesses in the last few years I have to say that if it were not for the web, the DIY medical and research information available free online, I would likely not be alive. Among a dozen examples I can rattle off easily, at the very least I'd be in ongoing, unbearable neuropathic pain (unless I found out and used L-Glutamine to help stop the neuropathy during chemo) and probably have undergone a totally unnecessary brain surgery after sub-arachnoid bleeding (a stroke caused by straining) instead of taking a common daily supplement, magnesium citrate. Neither piece of info told to me by a doctor I paid to see until after I found the info on the web, told the doctors and then they said, "Oh yeah." as if that were nothing.

When a doctor uses the web for clinical research, it's being well connected. When a patient researches the web doctors say, "90% of what's on the web is crap", as if they were the only ones capable of accessing PubMed.

Info on the web has literally saved my life, not just once but several times. Things I was not told going to highly educated doctors, hospitals, which I found with a quick google.

What I like about this free law info site is that it's educational in general as well as being practical.
posted by nickyskye at 3:02 PM on January 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's a huge variety of legal instances, plenty are reasonably low key,

Yeah, I pretty much said that in my comment referring to "extremely inconsequential things."

Rather than pay a lawyer for a living will or a will I found free legal forms online. Same with a roommate agreement.

Sure it can work. Of course, if you have an estate of any legal complexity or have any fractures among families or the like, filling out that easy will form may not be sufficient protection, because when you are looking at some things, they may look straightforward and easy enough to the lay person, but you might not know about why certain facts make the situation complex or problematic. That's the concern. So if the subject matter is of little consequence, then go for it. But if there is anything of complexity or value at stake, simple forms are not going to be good enough because the person is not going to know why the simple form is not enough.

If it is a roommate agreement that Joe is going to take care of the water bill and Mike is going to be responsible for the cable bill, that's one thing. But it does not take long to go down a road with the result that a co-tenant agreement could reach the level of complexity that a "simple form" is not enough.

At the end of the day, "I leave all to Beth, signed Steve" on the back of a cocktail napkin may be sufficient to create an enforceable will under certain circumstances, and a form can certainly work as well. But there are all kinds of considerations that can go into a will that a person may not be thinking about; and issues that a will form can leave elided.

I have handled enough commercial cases where two buddies form a company together and just informally have put together some form agreements only to find out years later, when they are rolling in cash and they decide to go through a business divorce, (shocker!) the agreements are wholly insufficient and the situation is FUBAR.

At least now one can get a basic idea by reading what's online.

I agree. The thing that this is good for is to present information. It is extremely valuable and I advocate it as a source of information.

But there is a distinction between providing people with information and convincing them that they can "do it themselves." So, to take your example, sure it is great that you learned what a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage is, but it does not mean you can give yourself a 4-vessel cerebral angiogram or install an interventional coil to treat the haemorrhage or start Triple-H therapy on yourself, etc.

But it is asinine for someone to read on the internet about headaches and not realize that they are suffering a sentinel headache and say, "ahh, well its probably migraines and this site says if I take tiger penis, my headaches will go away." It's the same with the law. Sure, there is great educational value that might let people know what an easement is or how "income" is defined in the law or what the purpose of an "informed consent" form is. Educationally it is good to be able to read about those things. But knowing the information on one hand and "doing it yourself" on an issue of any sufficient complexity or importance on the other hand are two entirely different things.

What I like about this free law info site is that it's educational in general as well as being practical.

Educational? Great!!! Practical? Well, you get what your pay for, so caveat emptor.
posted by dios at 4:38 PM on January 13, 2009


Let me just add in case I did not make myself clear: nickysyke, I think it is great for people to be proactive and learn about medical and legal issues themselves. I think most doctors would agree that they prefer to have patients who are proactive and view the physician-patient relationship as a partnership. I know lawyers certainly like it when their clients have shown that they have taken the time to try to educate themselves about the issues so that the lawyer does not have to explain every detail.

And I think it is great that as person who obviously has faced a tough course (and hopefully come out of it alright!) has been able to take a role in their own health by taking the time to read and learn about relevant medical issues. So please do not take this as me saying people should stay ignorant and just submit to the Keepers of the Arcane Knowledge. I said in my first post that I thought the first link is great, and I did bookmark it. It is nice to have a resource I can direct people to for them to look up things themselves.

Easier access to information is a good thing and it is why the internet is such a revolution in this world. But one thing that should be warned against is that people may get bad information or lack the tools to know that information is bad or inapplicable to their situation. So when you are dealing with important legal rights or your health, learn about things and go to a professional and be a partner with them in protecting you.

About three years ago, one of my hospital clients was sued by a pro se litigant. A very proud pro se litigant. One who clearly spent a lot of his time reading about to sue a hospital and thought his straightforward case was one he could handle himself. He read about the concept of a statute of limitations and found the particular statute which said that health care liability claims had to be filed within 2 years from the incident (pro se people frequently screw that one up). So he filed it before the two years ran. This guy was the best informed pro se litigant that anyone in my firm has ever seen. Only one problem for the guy, he did not know that the 2 year statue of limitations did not apply in his case because the particular hospital he sued was actually owned by the county so it was governed by the Tort Claims Act and he blew the requirements to timely file against such a facility. Now him reading the statute of limitations provision would have told him "file med mal case within 2 years = ok." But there would be no indication to him that some hospitals are owned by the county and a different statute applies. Most attorneys who do that kind of thing probably would have caught that. Or at least, if not, then the guy who have a nice malpractice case against his attorney if the attorney blew the deadlines.

Information is good. The more the better. So this is a good thing. But it is not a good thing to oversell the value of information and suggest that access to information alone is enough to "DIY."
posted by dios at 5:00 PM on January 13, 2009


Information is good. The more the better. So this is a good thing. But it is not a good thing to oversell the value of information and suggest that access to information alone is enough to "DIY."

Access to construction supplies doesn't mean one can make a house. But Home Depot is thriving and plenty of people find ways to DIY in lots of aspects of their lives that are more than "extremely inconsequential things".

The DIY aspect does not suggest to be your own lawyer under all or even any circumstances. But in offering the information it allows the reader to make choices: to be better educated and, should the person wish to do so, act on their own behalf.

Even with the best lawyer, a contract, however well written, is no guarantee of not being ripped off under every circumstance.

Highly educated professionals in any field make mistakes all the time too. That's why, in part, there is malpractice insurance for example.

One old, well respected lawyer told me that the law is so complex it's impossible to remember all the cases and that they learned things from law students.

I think a lot of people presume they have little rights or expect rights that they do not have. Or end up not getting any legal coverage because they think it will cost too much or are intimidated by professionals who presume those without fancy degrees are idiots.

People who are intimidated by lawyers die without wills for example. I had a neighbor who died without a will and all his hard earned money over half a century never saw its way into the hands of his poor Moroccan family but into the US government coffer, where it probably paid for a few Wall Street executives to party hearty after the recent crash.

This DIY aspect is, I think, also to do with getting a grasp on how to even approach a situation legally.
posted by nickyskye at 5:50 PM on January 13, 2009


Shorter dios: These are some good links but allow me to shit on them anyways.
posted by bardic at 7:08 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


> DIY legal work is like DIY surgery.

Plenty of time to say that when everyone who needs a surgeon gets one, as they now do not. Plenty of time to say "never try to do your own legal work" when everyone can afford a lawyer. Playing either of those broken records now is the same as saying "Oh, you're poor? Oops, overlooked you."

You needn't mention pro bono work either. The supply of that is (estimating generously) .0000000001% of the need. Naturally it's best to have the help of qualified professionals. But fully qualified help or no help?

I recall a cartoon from way back. Jungle. Two English chaps in pith helmets, up to their chests in quicksand. One chap to the other: "They always say one shouldn't, but I've half a mind to struggle." Plenty of voyageurs have taken a couple slugs of whiskey and jerked the arrows out of their own chests. Some lived.

Honestly! There have been haves, have-nots, and have-nothings since forever, we all know that, but even so it's bad form (to say nothing of dangerous) to go around saying "Let 'em eat cake."
posted by jfuller at 8:27 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If poor people can't afford lawyers and physicians, they shouldn't have problems and get sick.
posted by terranova at 6:23 AM on January 14, 2009


I cannot believe that you are trying to turn my comments into a suggestion that I'm trying to screw poor people. What bullshit.

My comments stand as a general principal. Either discuss them on their own merits or don't. But don't try to appeal to emotion by suggesting that my argument is somehow mean to poor people. That's not the way to discuss an idea.

On the medical front, there are hospitals and clinics who treat people who can't afford to pay. There are government programs that will cover medical expenses for those who are poor. It's utter bullshit to say that poor people are left with dying or DIY medical care in every case. There are options. And DIY-ing it is likely to make them worse off.

On the legal front, again there are clinics, pro bono attorneys, and public defenders to help those who cannot pay. And if there is any potential at a recovery, you can find an attorney who will work on a contingency. So again, to suggest that we need to advocate DIY legal work to help poor people is not correct. And DIY-ing it is likely to make them worse off.

Returning to my point, the fact remains that further access to information is a good thing, but on anything of any importance or complexity, lay individuals should not attempt to DIY, whether it be medical or legal.

This underscores my point:

Access to construction supplies doesn't mean one can make a house. But Home Depot is thriving and plenty of people find ways to DIY in lots of aspects of their lives that are more than "extremely inconsequential things".

Messing up the drywall in the bathroom is going likely to lead to serious medical problems or waiving legal rights. And that is why the DIY stuff is a bad idea. Mess up the drywall? Tear it down and fix it. Mess up your own legal work? Lose legal rights that cannot be fixed. And perhaps that is another reason DIY legal work is not a good idea: lay individuals may not understand the importance of what they are doing and think that it is the same thing as doing their own construction work.
posted by dios at 8:38 AM on January 14, 2009


Correction: Messing up the drywall in the bathroom is not going likely to lead to serious medical problems or waiving legal rights.
posted by dios at 8:40 AM on January 14, 2009


What if you scrawl out a waiver of legal rights on the drywall using ricin ink?
posted by brain_drain at 11:41 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older Dinners with Dubya   |   London V2 Rocket sites ... mapped Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post