A GROWTH INDUSTRY FOR LAWYERS
January 10, 2013 § 3 Comments
Last weekend, as the mind-numbing parade of college bowl games played itself to an end, I noticed television ad after ad for legal do-it-yourself material. All of these spots proclaimed the ease and utility of their service, and painted a glowing picture of the marvelous legal landscape that even the most basic person could paint for himself.
One ad — I am not making this up — encouraged viewers to use their forms for “family trusts, incorporation and estate planning.” Those matters would be in addition to the more routine matters one might expect, like divorces, wills and custody. Oh, but what about anti-trust, shareholders’ derivative suits, patents and personal injury litigation?
I was sitting there pondering what these customers might do for tax advice as to the trusts, incorporation and estate planning, not to mention that as to all of the matters listed above — and many, many others — one size emphatically does not fit all, and there are all kinds of legal ramifications in the way documents are worded.
A few weeks ago I was presented with a provision in a computer-assisted property settlement agreement that read: “Husband shall pay one-half of the college expense of the minor children (transportation), and clothing and automobiles.” Ambiguous? You betcha. Not only is the husband’s obligation scarily unclear, particularly in light of Zweber, but what is wife’s obligation (my guess is none; that’s the most unambiguous part of the provision)? I denied the divorce and suggested they get the assistance of a lawyer.
But as I pondered these imponderables, it dawned on me that this legal self-help business may actually be a boon for the legal profession. Consider all of the litigation it will take to untangle all of those family trusts, corporations and estate plans. The tax lawyers, in particular, will have a field day.
Family law matters are another fertile field. Anyone who has practiced any length of time will tell you that representing parties later who represented themselves in a divorce is a pleasant undertaking because it is the client himself who got himself in this mess, and he will be the goat if you fail, while you be the hero if you succeed. That’s a win-win for the lawyer.
Okay, before anyone gets all offended, I confess that this post is most certainly tongue-in-cheek. None of us who understand the importance of the legal profession and the demands of professionalism takes any delight in the misfortune of those who venture without a competent guide into the legal jungle. It’s just hard to understand why any layperson would take the risk to save a few bucks.