Sunday, December 5, 2010

Amateur Legal Advice

I have something on my mind that has once again been brought to the fore by some recent events, so permit me to vent.

If I ever went to a hospital for surgery, I would probably run a mile (if my condition allowed it) if someone came in to my room and said, “I am not a doctor, but I am going to cut you open and remove your appendix, however, you should not consider that as being surgery as, again, I am not a doctor and don’t even play one on TV!”

Sounds silly doesn’t it. Yet all the time I hear the same lunatic nonsense emitting from the mouth of someone who is just about to give out legal advice. (A practice that is illegal in most states in the USA and many other countries). They behave as if the “disclaimer” makes everything fine. “Don’t worry, I’m not really a shoplifter, while I will be taking your goods in a moment it is not to be considered theft as I have told you it is not”—the whimpering ramblings of a mountebank and snake oil salesman.

I once went to a day long seminar, taught by a non-lawyer, with a whole slice of the day devoted to “legal issues”—when the segment began we heard the usual, “I am not a lawyer, BUT…..” and then I proceeded to hear about their view on the application of the law to the issues we were discussing. For those who might otherwise claim not to know this is called giving legal advice and it is the same as practicing surgery without being qualified; you may get lucky and get it right, but you shouldn’t be doing it.

Friends, colleagues, countrymen “lend me your ears”, there is a reason this is against the law and the reason is that many times the “advice” dispensed is just plain wrong. Now I am not saying that the advice dispensed by lawyers is always right (not by a long shot) but most lawyers carry malpractice insurance for when they make mistakes and can also be subject to discipline by their licensing body. This means that the person who acted on the bad advice may receive compensation and the offending lawyer could lose their ability to practice.

Ask yourself the following: If someone will render advice when they are barred by law from doing so what else will they do? If they will risk being arrested for a crime for one matter it is not too much of a stretch to think they will do it for another. Furthermore, why are they doing it? Typically to make money off those assembled.

So be wary, and run next time you hear the unqualified speaking on subjects they are not permitted to speak on. The only language they are likely speaking is pure “Charlatanese”!

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