Two situations I encountered this past week really drove home how valuable it is to obtain a little professional advice before agreeing to something. For privacy reasons I can only say that both of them signed away something very valuable without realizing it. I am sure that if someone had suggested to either of them that they should consult an attorney first, their first thought would have been that the expense was too great for something that seemed so simple. That is what most people would think. It is something I would have thought too prior to going to law school. Now, though, the cost to each one has grown exponentially because they are either paying to clean up the mess or have lost a right forever.
If I can convince just one person out there that it is cost effective to get legal advice on the front end of a deal, then I will be content. This is especially true if you can locate a reputable solo practitioner or small firm. There are a few reasons for this. First, a solo practitioner will personally look over your circumstances rather than relegating down stream to a new associate or law student that is clerking for the firm. Second, most solo practitioners and small firms have lower hourly fees because of their lower overhead. Lastly, the solo’s and small firms are interested in long term business, even the small stuff, so they are more likely to give your issue the attention it deserves. Even if they do not have the answers when you first talk to them, they have the know how to get those answers.
Seriously – most solo’s and small firm attorneys can look over a release form, contract, or custody papers in half an hour. In Kentucky, that would be anywhere from $75 to $100 dollars for routine issues (perhaps more for specialized issues). That is far better than having to pay for many, many hours of legal help in trying to fix a matter once it has gone sour.
I want to doubly emphasize this if you are an individual and the other party to the contract is a corporation such as an insurance company. They have already spent thousands and thousands of dollars to lawyers with the end resulting being release forms and contracts that give them maximum protection and you minimum wiggle room. So, spend a little on the front end and save a lot in the long run.