Do you need legal advice? While it may be tempting to ask family and friends for a lawyer referral, it isn’t really a good idea. It may cause a rift between you and the people you care about while your legal issue remains unresolved. Read on to understand why.
* 5 min read *
Imagine this scenario:
Olivia owns a small business in Queensland. To amp up her online presence, she hired a digital marketing agency. After a month, she was given a bill that included hidden charges. She did not want to pay for those charges and wants her contract canceled. She knew she needed legal advice to make this happen.
So during a brunch with family and friends, she asked for lawyer referrals, and she got one. The neighbor of a friend’s second cousin is a lawyer and maybe he can help her. Calls were made, meetings were set up, and grievances were aired. After a week, Olivia did not hear from the lawyer anymore. She went back to square one with a hefty bill still looming above her head.
Time is running out and she needs a lawyer ASAP. It was very disappointing for her because she thought asking for lawyer referrals from people she knows personally would mean she’d get the best legal advice. But boy, was she wrong. Not only did she not get what needed to be done, but there was also now an awkwardness between her friend and her.
If you're like Olivia, and you have a legal issue that needs to be addressed, asking around for lawyer recommendations isn’t the best option. What’s right for a family member or a friend isn’t necessarily right for you. Yes, there are times when we follow a friend’s recommendations about what car to drive, a suburb to live on, or what mortgage to get into. However, you do not usually consider their views 100 percent. You'll still ultimately make your own decisions, the same with hiring a lawyer. Another key reason is to keep your lawyer at arm's length by minimising personal connections.
To understand why, read on.
1. What’s Right for Karen may not be right for you, Sharon
To Each Their Own
There are no two people alike, ever. Even if your best friend and you have sported the same hairstyle since 6th grade and pinkie-swore to do the same stuff together till the end of time, sorry to say that what’s right for her may not be right for you.
Even a slight change between your circumstances has a huge effect on the outcome of your legal issue. There will always be differences in your story. So the legal advice your friend received, no matter how similar your issues are, may not work for you.
Lawyers Have Specialties, Too
If for example, you’re having abdominal pain, you wouldn’t go to an ophthalmologist, wouldn’t you? Maybe the eye doctor can give you first aid being a medical practitioner and all, but wouldn’t be able to pinpoint what’s really bothering you.
The same goes for lawyers. There are over 40 areas of law in Australia, and a lawyer chooses one specialty to focus on. So a personal injury lawyer who was recommended to you by a colleague may not be able to give you excellent advice on your divorce. Yes, he may try to give advice ( he passed the bar exam, after all) as a courtesy to the friend who referred him, but he may need to bill you extra for the additional hours that he will spend researching your issues.
Remember that there are also variations in laws per state. A lawyer who practices in NSW may not be the best lawyer to help you with your issues in Victoria. Yes, meetings can now be done online, but it would be in your best interest if your lawyer knows the laws of your state like the back of his hand.
What’s Yours is Not Mine (and Vice Versa)
Your friend may have had a bigger budget to spend on her legal advice but you, on the other hand, do not have the same bank account as hers. Or, it can be the other way around. You may also have different time constraints. Some issues are time-sensitive, while others are not. So, the legal advice that your friend received from her lawyer may not be appropriate for your situation. You may share clothes and purses, but definitely not lawyers.
2. Get Up and Do the Legwork!
People often use referrals as a substitute for searching around for the lawyer that’s right for them. But when you are about to spend a significant amount, say, $1000 or more for legal advice, wouldn’t you want to know if you’re getting yourself a good deal?
You spend so much time shopping around and researching about the hottest smart fridge or phone. Why wouldn’t you do the same for a very serious matter such as hiring a lawyer? It really pays to do the legwork yourself.
3. Keeping a Low Profile
Cousin Elinor, Uncle Rufus, or even Jack, your longtime gym buddy, do not need to know the details of your divorce or the stressful Will dispute you’re having with your family. There are personal issues or confidential business information that are best kept to yourself.
If you ask for lawyer recommendations from family and friends, you have no choice but to spill the beans, risking exposing your personal life to them.
You wouldn’t want to be having ten different conversations about your separation. Talking to your mother about it is hard enough. Imagine, needing to give the sordid details to every person you ask for referrals from. Or maybe you’re eyeing a house you might not get at auction and you want to keep it on a down-low.
Save yourself from telling everyone and talk to a lawyer from Essia Law, who will be able to provide you different legal options in a confidential meeting. Your problem is already hard as it is. You don’t need to be answering “how’s the divorce going?” at the next dinner party.
4. That’s Awkward!
Asking a friend to speak to her lawyer first on your behalf may start a web of complications. If for some reason your lawyer doesn’t work out, it would be awkward to tell your friend that you’ve decided not to push through with it.
If for example, your friend or a family member has an ongoing business with your lawyer- are you going to feel comfortable disputing a bill with this lawyer and not worrying that your family/friend's matter is going to be adversely impacted? Sure your lawyer has professional obligations to act in the best interests of their client at all times, but won’t you feel awkward about it?
There will always be a cloud hanging over your head thinking about how your friend/family member feels about you butting heads with their lawyer. You’ll just get sleepless nights worrying if the lawyer may not want to work with them again. Therefore you’ll just keep your mouth shut to keep the peace on something you should open it about. These aren't issues you want to deal with. Straining your family relationships or friendship isn’t worth the drama and the awkwardness.
What if You’re the Referrer?
What if the tables are turned and someone asks you to recommend your lawyer? Maybe you won’t think twice about it since you never had any problem with the legal advice you got. But consider this- what if the lawyer who you said was great ended up overcharging your friend or family member? Or what if he just did not do a good job like you were raving about? For sure, your friend or family would be pissed off. And you’d feel guilt and regret - two of the worst feelings to have.
Maybe it won’t be too awkward if it’s just a $100 matter. No biggie, just water under the bridge. But what if it’s about an important life decision such as a business contract, a battle for custody of their kids, or a $50 thousand legal dispute that ends up in court? Don’t put yourself in that sticky situation of being responsible for the outcome of their legal battle. Let them seek legal advice themselves. Trust yourself to protect your interests the best and trust others to do the same.