Legal Counsel vs DIY / Online Legal

March 29, 2016

Years ago I was a partner in Spieth Bell, McCludy & Newell, a Cleveland based boutique business law firm that (alas) no longer exists.

While at Spieth Bell, a client of mine needed help with a labor law matter. I referred him to one of my colleagues. After my colleague spoke with my client and realized that my client had been handling a relatively complex and high risk dispute with the Department of Labor himself. Without benefit of counsel. My colleague asked me, rhetorically, whether my client was someone who would remove his own gall balder?

I’m continuously amazed that so many business owners and others eschew legal advice and opt to handle legal matters without advice of legal counsel or opt for DIY or online legal services.

Why? Legal issues can be complex and high risk/high stakes. Why? Legal issues can be complex and high risk/high stakes. The lure of ‘more affordable’ online legal services, can mean missing important gaps and issues in the most straightforward legal documents.

Sophisticated and experienced legal counsel should be able to assist business owners and others to cost effectively avoid risks and solve problems.

I was reminded of all of this recently when a new client explained to me how she had acquired a home using a land installment contract. She had already paid $125,000 towards the $150,000 purchase price. She was concerned that the seller might be unable to clear the existing mortgage on the property, and unable to deliver clear title to the property.

You can imagine my surprise – and the new clients – when I discovered that nowhere in the land installment contract did it provide that seller was to convey title free of the existing mortgage.

My new client had not bothered to retain counsel in connection with entering into the land installment contract, preferring to save money and relying, instead, on opposing counsel. How penny wise and pound foolish, when any lawyer worth his salt could have identified the deficiency and revised the document so that it would have provided that seller would deliver clear title.

I think we can solve this problem for the client but the lesson is clear. Find legal counsel you can trust and consult with him or her regarding important legal matters.

Don’t be someone who would take his /her own gall bladder out!

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