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What Your Lawyer May Not Want You to Know
By Billy F. Brown
Abbott PressCopyright © 2013 Billy F. Brown
All rights reserved.
The Law, Lawyers, and You
There is an old adage—and if there isn't, there should be—that says, "There are some things so complicated they are not worth getting involved with."—BFB
The law has been spoken about with irreverence, sarcasm, contempt, disdain, and rebuke. Conversely, on other side of these positions most would agree that the law should be idealized as a symbol for order, discipline, and control of certain relationships in society. The law represents the maintenance and enforcement of some structure that provides for defined relationships between people and things affecting ownership, freedom, and the rights of the individual in an organized society. Once you recognize that the "law" is a mere structure for promoting conformity and compliance in a civilly organized society, there is much less sting in the pain of one's criticism. The "law" represents what should be the rules of society to lead, guide, and direct behavior between the individuals of a society in their personal lives and the life of a society. These laws are promulgated by those in positions of power, charged with the responsibility for deciding what the law should be.
The "law" standing without the benefit of interpretation would be mute and would carry no meaning. We derive meaning out of life in all its aspects from the interpretation of the language conveyed. Our judicial system has evolved over many years, and has been concerned about the interpretation of language. You are familiar with some of these words: "freedom of speech," "freedom of religion," "due process," "civil rights," and on and on.
This process of interpretation is a daily struggle in the life of a judicial system. As a sophisticated society, we have grown very concerned with what is being thought by those in positions of judicial power about what certain things should mean. However, in reality, there is a practical balance of opinion on almost every public issue that accounts for a stalemate in the weight of any one favored direction. So, everything eventually tends to equal out in the position between extremism and the state of being conservative in our society as a part of the social process. Irrespective of this balance in the societal arena, there is still a continuing squabble over those who have the power to influence the swing of the pendulum in the judicial process. Ideally, the judicial process should mirror the profile of the society in which it operates.
The more direct and immediate impact affecting the ascertainment of the values considered essential and important in any society is the vastness of diversity in its morals, dogma, and culture.
In the society of which you are a part, there is one idea, one underlying process, one persistent driver, and one non-eroding quest that remains a steadfast, insidious goal of many of its members. This goal is the discussion of this book.
Noteworthy and obviously noticeable, this one word has been intentionally omitted from the previous paragraphs. This word has caused more problems in the history of mankind than any other word. Even though this word is a part of freedom, it is also a part of bondage and slavery. There has been a continuing fight to maintain this word's influence in our life and in our society. This word represents and means responsibility and what's necessary for stabilizing a reasonable balance between polarized forces that grind toward making new ways and new ideas in our society. On the other hand, a vigilant lamp is always lit to impede the overzealousness of manipulation to assure that there is never an irresolvable barrier in the direction of anyone's destiny. This word that has been the biggest catalyst for changes in the life of mankind and the world is "control."
Control inevitably is one of the major components in life. There are those who seek to control and there are those who resist control. There are those more in control and there are those in less control. There is an underlying belief in any civilized society that lawyers are in control of many things influencing the society's freedom, liberty, peace of mind, well-being, and the security of its property. Lawyers have played a decisive role in the development of a modern way of life in this world.
Control Is Everything When Moderated
The major involvement in the development of a modern civilized society is how "control" is going to be balanced for the mutual benefit of all the interested parties involved. When you study the United States Constitution, you realize the document creates a central government of "enumerated" powers. Regardless of what culture you emerge from, "power" has always been equated with the "capacity to control." Control, as noted above, is the quality that a government must have in order to fulfill its mission to its citizenry.
When you trace the history of the development of power between any government and its citizens, you will eventually discover an evolving struggle between the two. This is an ongoing process and should never be expected to terminate. Aside from the long process of how a national government has evolved to its position of exercising its powers, states likewise were vested with the power to control their own survival and the relationship of peaceful civility between their citizens. The establishment of both national (Federal) laws and state laws is the essential means by which the governmental systems, both state and Federal, survive. States allocate authority to counties within the states to exercise power in the form of establishing laws to promote, protect, and provide for their citizens. Then, municipalities are further given authority to pass their own laws to regulate civil life in the community.
So, we all have to recognize and acknowledge that laws are ubiquitous. Without laws, there would be no organized control of our society. Without the necessary structured efforts being made to promote civility in our society, there would be only a low quality of life without safety, security, peaceful enjoyment, tranquility, or peace of mind. Whether you like it or not, control through execution and enforcement of the law is absolutely essential to continue in the style and quality of life we have so progressively acquired. This has not been attained without conflict, difficulty, struggle, and consternation. Mankind has fundamentally resisted most efforts to control his basic behavior from the earlier time of homo erectus up to the current time of the latest celebrity resisting a charge of D.U.I. When you think about it, the entire history of mankind has been a struggle over "control"—from religion to politics to the institution of marriage.
When you stop and realize that, overall, the law represents a form of control, you should instantly recognize that the internal effects of control and its aftermath must cause conflict.
Lawyers Are Bridges Between You and the Law
The lawyer is perceived as one in society who has a unique relationship with the law. Most of us don't think much about the fact that the law is so inherently interwoven into the heart and fabric of our lives. The law is an essential part of all of our lives to a real extent. Some people are luckier than others in that they may go through life without ever having to consult a lawyer. Others become very familiar with lawyers and their role in society as having the means and ability to help you avoid conflict, minimize conflict, and minimize the damaging effects when conflict arises.
Lawyers have learned how to deal with power. If you had the ability to deal with power and conflict, you would not need a lawyer. The point is that lawyers are essential to the preservation of life and society. Some even reflect that the legal profession and its lawyers are a necessary evil. However, lawyers are "conflict" specialists. They deal with power on a daily basis to assist their clients in restoring the status quo in their lives.
There are many treatises on the shelves of bookstores blasting lawyers as thorns and weeds in the garden of life, thieves with a license to steal, betrayers of the justice system, diabolical perpetrators of injustice, out to destroy the family and promote moral decay. The list could even go on. The truth is that some of this is true but most of it is not. These broad sweeping generalizations really aid no one. No system is perfect. Doctors, engineers, preachers, and even salespeople have similar problems because they are in service businesses where people enter into the relationships with different expectations and perceive performance beyond what is often considered reasonable and appropriate.
When You Need a Lawyer, You Need a Lawyer
There are also many books loaded on the shelves of bookstores which attempt to broadly and generally advise you on various legal matters. These books serve a good general purpose but most offer the proviso and admonition that such a book should never be construed as a replacement for a lawyer. When you need a lawyer, you need a lawyer. There is no attempt here to advise you of the general principles of law. Most of us are surprised about how much is known in society about child custody, accidents, contracts, bankruptcy, divorce, employment rights, malpractice, real estate, corporations, insurance, patents, copyrights, wills, workmen's compensation, product liability, and even estates. You likely read newspapers and magazines and watch TV just like everyone else. You probably know a little bit about all these areas.
The point is that if you are not a lawyer when you have a legal problem, you need a lawyer. Then, on the other hand, when you are a lawyer and have a personal legal problem, you still need a lawyer. Someone wisely stated that the lawyer who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.
You can read all the books from the bookshelves and may not be able to advise yourself if you actually do need a lawyer. To be able to render competent legal advice, a lawyer must not only know the basic principles of law involved but must also understand the practicalities of pursuing a remedy or solution in terms of the overall benefit for the client. These are questions which are not answered merely by reading Everyday Law Made Simple. Legal advice is more than just knowing the right answer, as you'll discover ahead. Don't let this admonishment be a downer. Go buy all the legal encyclopedias and law guides you want, but never ever think, even in the slightest of moments, that you can decide if you can handle your own legal problem. If you think you have a legal problem before you try to advise yourself, rest assured, you will after you take your own advice. Giving yourself advice is often on the order of a self-induced lethal injection.
The market is plentiful with "do-it-yourself" kits covering everything from setting up your own corporation to crafting your own divorce settlement, estate plan, and will to filing your own personal injury suit. These initially inexpensive shortcuts are green pastures for lawyers. Lawyers love for you to "do it yourself."
Can you do it? Sure, you can, but you don't know what you are doing. All you are doing is filling in the blanks. It's like learning to fly a plane by passing the written test or like learning brain surgery by reading the surgical procedure book. Knowledge should always be accompanied by common sense. Common sense dictates that just because you have a surge of "feeling your oats," you don't go and try to do your own thing. If you do, it just may take two lawyers to get you out of the jam you put yourself in when you were dreading seeing just one lawyer. Now follow this to the next chapter and be glad that you decided not to do yourself in by acting as your own lawyer. You are worth saving from yourself and your lawyer.
Watch for Mr. or Ms. Lawyer "Know-It-All"
One final note here: when you finish reading this book you'll really appreciate the complexities of the legal profession and the difficulties all lawyers have with it. If the lawyer you have chosen after reading Chapter 3 tells you that he or she has never had any problems understanding the law and its application, thank him or her and then get out of that office immediately. You would probably be well advised not to even take the time to retrieve your hat and coat. Competence, training, and education are very important but they are not absolutes and no one seems to have ever cornered the market in knowing all things and doing all things to the full satisfaction of everyone. Arrogance can be rampant in the legal profession. Better luck on your next shopping trip ...
Do You Really Need a Lawyer?
There is an old adage which says, "People are afraid of what they don't know." This needs some modification to a new adage which allows that, "Most people are afraid of what they don't know only if they realize that they don't know."—BFB
Do you really need a lawyer? At times, this question is not easily answered. Sometimes it is obvious. Every time, it should be carefully analyzed, studied, and evaluated from a number of perspectives which we will attempt to examine. There are those who avoid lawyers when only a lawyer could possibly solve their problem. There are others who call their lawyer at every slight incongruity in life that might not meet their exact expectations. This latter group is better labeled as "P.I.T.A.s" which is an acronym for "pain in the anatomy." In some circles the last word in the description is substituted with another. P.I.T.A.s are difficult people to work with since this lawyer is steadfastly attempting, at least initially, to maintain good public relations with all of those who would darken his door seeking representation. Lawyers want clients who will place confidence and trust in his legal abilities to thwart any of life's aggravations which could be soothed by application of good representation in the legal process.
You Will Not Have a Problem Getting to Talk to a Lawyer
A lawyer, most often, will talk to a potential client about almost anything regardless of the subject's level of stupidity, ignorance, or even irrelevance. However, you are not required to use much of your imagination to appreciate that lawyers are looking for a legal problem that not only has some substantive issues which can appropriately be dealt with using their skills, but a problem that also is of some gravity and import worthy of engagement. When the case is of such significance, the lawyer can then be justified in applying their system of receiving fees for his or her services. Otherwise, the case problem is one of a nuisance which will net little satisfaction for the client and only a small fee, if any, for the lawyer. You'll discover that the smaller case is often as difficult to solve as the larger one, and more often than not is more difficult for the client since no lawyer wants it and the client does not know how to go about getting it solved.
Let's Talk About a Potential Legal Problem
An example might be if you own a home in a subdivision where the yards are separated by a common fence. However, there is a tree in your neighbor's yard that is leaning over toward your house. If the tree is blown down because of a strong storm the tree would fall across your house. You have asked but the neighbor refuses to cut the tree down even though you have continued to lose sleep over your anguish. You want to sue to make the neighbor cut the tree and for money damages for the resulting mental suffering you have endured because of your neighbor deliberately refusing to cut the tree. When a lawyer is presented with the psychiatrist's bills along with prescription costs, it is difficult to deny that the client is serious about their legal position. A lawyer's dilemma here is whether this case represents one within his skills, ability, and training, whether he believes the case has any merit for which a reasonable legal solution may be acquired, and whether the case is worthwhile for the lawyer and the client. Don't scoff at these facts! People every day in life are burdened about situations for which they have no apparent solution. This brings us to the point of this chapter.
Will "Common Sense" Do the Trick of Solving My Problem?
The question in every potential client's mind is whether a lawyer should be consulted, or can I, as a reasonably intelligent able-bodied human being, make application to my own reservoir of common sense to solve the problem? The question of "common sense" is a tough one. The most difficult problem for the lay person is to compile an inventory of reasonable approaches based on education, training, and experience to assist him in solving his particular problem. This not only takes considerable experience in life but some rudimentary familiarity with legal principles and procedures. Even a little knowledge can be a most desirable and useful asset in a life problem/solution. However, there is a "catch-22" here because the old adage about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing looms heavily, just waiting for its chance of application. Most of those who know more than a scintilla about their legal rights and the practicality of pursuing them have had some experience in the legal arena and base their reasoning—right or wrong—on what they have observed. Where do we go from here in evaluating whether or not you need a lawyer?
Excerpted from What Your Lawyer May Not Want You to Know by Billy F. Brown. Copyright © 2013 Billy F. Brown. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
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