When Do You Need a Lawyer?
Many people and businesses seek the assistance of legal counsel only in time of crisis or when problems arise. Although this may be intended to save money, this approach may, in fact, be more costly than consulting legal counsel on a regular basis.
In law school, one of the basic concepts which we were taught is that attorneys serve both as advisors and as advocates. As advisors, we consult with clients before they undertake a course of action in order to educate them as to their legal rights, raise issues to be aware of, and present thoughts and ideas which they may wish to consider. In this capacity, we draft, review or modify contracts, prepare wills, trusts, or other estate planning documents, assist in establishing corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, or other business ventures, prepare agreements among stockholders or other business owners designed to protect them in the event of catastrophe, counsel clients with respect to making claims under insurance policies, advise businesses and individuals with respect to employee benefit and employment issues, etc. Our experience from studying the law, as well as having experience in litigation, can prove extremely helpful in avoiding or minimizing ultimate legal problems.
Sometimes, however, it is necessary to pursue a claim or defense through litigation in the courts, or through administrative proceedings. It is on those occasions in which we serve as advocates for our clients. Bearing in mind that prompt resolution is often in the best interest of all parties, we are fully prepared to pursue litigation to ultimate resolution. Our attorneys have experience in essentially all areas of litigation including pursuing and defending ERISA claims of employee benefits, Title VII claims of employment discrimination, claims for disability insurance or workers' compensation, RICO and fraud litigation, restrictive covenant lawsuits, estate and trust litigation, etc.
So how does our role as advisor/advocate affect you? We are reminded of a client we had several years ago who was constantly attempting to act as his own advisor. He would only come to us when matters had reached a high level of contention or impasse. Even as we were acting to fix some of his self-created problems, he was creating others. For this client we were constantly handling legal disputes as advocates. While he may have thought he was saving legal fees on the front end, this client ended up spending considerable amounts on legal fees in resolving disputes which could have been avoided by seeking legal assistance and advice earlier. In contrast, we have represented numerous clients who sought our legal advice routinely, on a periodic basis, in order to determine the most prudent course of action. For these clients, an ounce of prevention provided more than a pound of cure, and for many, we never had to act as advocates. For those instances in which litigation was inevitable, it was usually resolved expeditiously and economically. The legal fees charged to these clients have, in the long run, saved them considerable amounts of money, time and aggravation.
For clients, it is neither difficult, time-consuming, nor expensive to establish an open line of communication with us as legal advisor and to use us for trouble-shooting and advice. From our standpoint, while successful litigation is exciting and rewarding, we take greater pride in the long-term relationships we have with clients who approach business and related issues in a careful and considered way.
In choosing a law firm, it is important to engage a firm that can act as both advisor and advocate. There are firms which handle only litigation (such as an insurance defense firm or firms advertising "DWI, divorce, personal injury") and there are firms which choose not to engage in litigation, but simply offer legal advice. Firms such as ours, with experience in both arenas, can provide the diversity which is necessary in addressing various legal issues which may arise in your life or in your business. Our recommendation is to open a line of communication with your lawyer. Feel free to consult with your lawyer on those issues in which his/her experience and knowledge can give you positive direction. Getting advance advice rather than needing help to put out fires is more prudent and economical in the long run.