Simply put: Lawyers get a bad rap these days.
While I love a good lawyer joke as much as the next guy, the truth is that most lawyers are honest, hard-working, and knowledgeable professionals who look out for the best interest of their clients. Like doctors, mechanics, or accountants they are professionals with an area of expertise and an important service to provide.
But where most of us don’t think twice about having a family doctor or keeping a handyman on call, many people feel that having a lawyer is a sign that something is wrong. To many, it’s a sign that someone is either looking for trouble or doing something risky that might make them more likely to have legal problems.
Generally, if you aren’t super-wealthy or a villain on a crime show, it’s not widely expected you’d have an attorney you can call when needed without searching. Instead, you’re expected to “get an attorney” when things get rough.
But what’s expected of you is not always best for you, especially if you’re a webmaster, businessman, or someone who is in a position where they may need a lawyer sometime in the future. Just like with a doctor or a mechanic, it’s best to have an established relationship with someone before things go bad, so you have someone who knows who you are and can dive right in to help.
If you aren’t working with an attorney, today is a great day to get one because tomorrow it may be too late. But, even if there isn’t an urgent need on the horizon, there are still several reasons why it is a great idea to get a lawyer today. Here are a few to consider.
1. They’re Not That Expensive
One of the big reasons that people avoid talking with an attorney before it becomes absolutely necessary is cost. TV shows hype up lawyers with high rates and make your lawyers look more expensive than they actually are.
While lawyers do charge different rates and some can be very hard on the wallet, most are actually very reasonable. In fact, you can probably find a very capable attorney for a lower hourly rate than your doctor or even a licensed plumber.
Besides, even if a lawyer is expensive, they likely provide free consultations. In those consultations, they will talk with you about your situation and provide some idea of how they can help and how much it will cost.
In short, there’s no risk in talking with an attorney and trying to build a relationship with one.
2. Lawyers Prevent Problems
Most people think of attorneys as people who fix problems but, in truth, most of the work that they do is preventative in nature. Whether it’s reviewing contracts, writing up agreements, filing paperwork, or making sure that their client is compliant with the law.
An attorney is there to represent the interest of their clients and those interests are best served by keeping them out of legal trouble, not just merely defending them when they are in the middle of it.
Having a lawyer that can read your contracts, keep up your business filings up to date and guide you through any paperwork you may have can go a long way to preventing legal problems and that, in the long run, saves you a great deal of money and headache.
3. Your Partners/Competitors Have One
If you’re signing a contract with another company to do work for them, do you assume that they had an intern write the document? No, they had an attorney write it for them and prepare it with their interests in mind.
If someone you’re negotiating or competing with has an attorney working with them and you don’t, that puts you at a disadvantage. Not only will you understand less about the document and the law, but you won’t have someone in your corner acting and advising on your behalf.
While attorneys shouldn’t be seen as part of an arms race, you still don’t want to be the only one in the room without one representing you when it comes to any kind of negotiation or dispute. It’s safe to assume that the companies you’re working with and competing against have lawyers working for them so it makes sense to have one of your own.
4. Powerful Networking
No lawyer operates in a vacuum. Every attorney operates in a network with other legal professionals, including many different specialties, officials in various areas of government, and other professionals of all types.
One of the talents that makes a good lawyer a good lawyer is his or her ability to reach out, contact the right people and get active. That also makes a good lawyer a good place to get contact information for other professionals, informally and formally.
For example, if you need an accountant to help with your taxes? A lawyer is a good person to ask who in the area is good. Need to file some papers with the local government? A lawyer can usually tell you where to go and what to watch out for.
Having someone who can direct you to the right people is always invaluable and that’s something attorneys excel at.
5. You Never Know…
What if something happens and you find yourself sued tomorrow? You have a limited amount of time to respond and you are going to waste a lot of it trying to shop around for a lawyer and, when you find one, they’re going spend a lot of time getting caught up on you and your situation.
You never know when the next legal bump is around the corner and you might need a lawyer urgently. It’s important that you have an established relationship with one so they can hit the ground running and spend less time backtracking through your history.
A quick, effective response generally means a better outcome for you and money saved. In short, the better you know your attorney, the better he or she can help you.
We live in a society that thinks nothing of going to a doctor for checkups when nothing is wrong, having an occasional home inspection or even getting your car checked with every oil change. Yet, even having an ongoing relationship with an attorney is a sign of something being off.
I’m not saying you need to visit a lawyer every six months or even yearly, but you should establish a relationship with one as soon as you can and see about stopping by every time your situation changes. Routine stuff such as minor car accidents, contracts, wills, etc. is great, low-pressure opportunities to introduce yourself to a lawyer and find one you like.
So take the opportunity to seek one out. Most likely, you’ve been putting off some legally-oriented task for a while so make it a late New Year’s resolution to get it done and, along the way, establish a relationship with a legal professional that can help you a great deal down the road.
When you need your lawyer, you’ll be glad that you met them when you did.