There is a commercial on television that makes me smile. It’s the one where a surgeon is talking on the phone with a “patient” about how to perform surgery on himself by isolating the area and commencing a cut to begin the process. The “patient” nervously asks “Shouldn’t you be doing this?”
I would never assume to do what a surgeon does. Nor would I attempt to do my own accounting or plumbing or car repairs. I leave that to the experts in their field. I suspect that most people do as well. Why is it then, that many people attempt to be their own lawyer and go on the internet to get forms or instructions on “do it yourself” legal issues? Perhaps they think the costs associated with a lawyer are too expensive. Perhaps they have a friend who “did it themselves” and had limited success. Or perhaps they think that they have watched enough television programs to tackle their own legal matters.
The fact is that lawyers are trained professionals in their field. Not only that, but there are certain areas of law that actually REQUIRE the individuals to execute documents in front of an actual lawyer after the lawyer has reviewed the documents with them and explained their rights. Things like separation agreements and releases are contracts that people are held to and no amount of pleading with the court that the person did not understand it or did not read it will get them out of their obligations. I have had clients come to see me after they had entered into an “agreement” with someone and later on found out that the agreement was unenforceable due to the legislated formalities of signing in front of a lawyer not being met. This may end up costing the client far more than it would have cost them if they had simply had a lawyer assist them in the first place. Mostly because the lawyer then has to unravel the details of what has transpired and try and protect their client under their abilities within the law, usually after a period of time has elapsed. When that happens the first thing I hear from people is “well nobody told me”. The “self-help” documents on the internet are not going to give you the rules and procedures with respect to what will make these agreements valid. Only a lawyer can properly do that.
Of course if you are the type of person who is able to fix your transmission and perform your own appendectomy, then by all means you might be qualified to draft and execute your own legal documents. However if you are like the rest of us, I suggest it will be more cost effective and more to your benefit to consult with a lawyer before embarking on your own path to self- representation. Not only that, in many cases it is REQUIRED.