Do-It-Yourself (DIY) is a go-to approach for businesses and households seeking to save money on various tasks. However, when it comes to navigating law, DIY can ultimately cost much more than any initial savings. We handle many matters which are created or made worse by DIY legal decisions that were made without legal counsel. In everything from forming a business partnership to attending a hearing in a disputed matter, proceeding without proper representation is very risky. And, commonly, such unrepresented individuals are unaware of the full scope of the risks involved.
One form of this occurs when a party decides to attend a hearing, arbitration, or court date without an attorney, believing he or she can contact an attorney if unsatisfied with the outcome or confused by the experience. This is a large mistake. Too often, one is not given a second bite at the apple. Appeals are usually determined by a different standard and are not a chance to re-litigate issues. Each of the substantive law, evidentiary law, and procedural law must be carefully navigated to avoid compromising or waiving certain rights and claims.
Another example is a person or business who uses a form contract purchased online, from an office supply store, or provided through a non-lawyer who has related experience. Such contracts are often unfair or omit very important terms. For example, contractors must comply with certain licensing requirements for contract terms. Landlords must comply with certain tenant protection regulations in their notices and lease execution. Architects must ensure certain terms are included in design build contracts. Wills come with certain tax consequences and must meet certain requirements to be self-proving. And so on….
Individuals who truly cannot afford legal services should contact Legal Services of New Jersey for assistance with disputes. Other organizations addressing specific social issues may provide assistance with finding legal services, as well. For businesses, the Small Business Development Centers sponsor various consultations, including legal.
However, for other individuals who do not want to invest in legal services, instead preferring the DIY approach, please be cautioned. The adage “penny wise, pound foolish” is repeated time and again through DIY legal services. The attorneys at Shanahan & Voigt, LLC handle many disputes that arise out of circumstances involving improper contracts, Last Wills, transactions, and the like. The costs, time, and stress involved are often much greater when legal services are obtained only after problems arise.