In an era of boundless information and digital resources, the allure of self-help has become stronger than ever. From drafting wills to handling personal injury claims, many believe they can navigate legal complexities without the guidance of an attorney. Yet, as experience has shown time and again, the path of self-help often leads to unexpected pitfalls and costly consequences. In this blog post, we’ll explore the reality behind the allure of self-help in the legal realm and uncover the potential risks it poses.
In this technological age and with the endless resources on the Internet, there is a tendency for people to want to engage in “self help” rather than consult an attorney. In days gone by, I have had potential clients tell me that probating an estate should be easy and with the help of the clerks in Probate Court, they didn’t need an attorney. My response was to wish them well and tell them clerks aren’t allowed to give legal advice but that it was going to cost them more for me to clean up the mess later than it would to let me handle the estate from the beginning. My prediction was generally correct.
Recently, I handled the estate of the sister of a long-time client. He had gone to the local law library to get a form for a will for his sister. There were two witnesses and a notary. However, he omitted the required “self-proving” language om the document. He was puzzled why we needed one of the witnesses to actually appear in court. That omission required services to have the witness attend court and prove the will, which cost more than the fee for an attorney to have prepared the will.
This subject came to mind when a young friend of my wife asked about having me prepare testamentary documents for she and her husband. Her husband felt strongly they could just get forms from the Internet and avoid the cost of a lawyer. Forms are great if you know how to use them and, as I explained in a previous blog post, sometimes even documents prepared by an attorney, unfamiliar with litigation, can be deficient. The simple maxim is “you get what you pay for”.
The same is true for personal injury claims. One of my favorite mediators tells the story of a party in a mediation who was a commercial pilot wanting to tell the mediator how to conduct the mediation. The mediator said to the pilot “Since you want to conduct this mediation, you won’t object to me substituting for you on your next scheduled flight and try to fly your airplane.” The pilot understood the message. “Self Help” has its risks.
In the world of law, shortcuts and half-measures can often backfire, leading to outcomes that are far from what we envision. While the allure of self-help is undeniable, the wise choice is to seek professional guidance and expertise. At the Law Firm of Bixler Howland, we’re here to navigate the legal intricacies on your behalf, providing you with the peace of mind that comes with decades of experience. Don’t let the mirage of self-help lead you astray—reach out to us today and let’s ensure your legal journey is smooth, secure, and successful.