What happens when you seek legal ‘quick advice’

If you have a serious problem, then go get serious advice, says one lawyer

If You need legal advice, you need to retain counsel. Period. This was the advice by a US-based lawyer when responding to a discussion on the numerous legally-oriented questions at times posted on the social media.

“Messaging lawyers you don’t know and who don’t represent you, and sending them extensive factual information on your situation is a bad idea. Don’t do it,” said Jonathan Pollard (picture), the principal of Pollard PLLC, a Florida- based litigation boutique focused on competition law.

One basic reason is to aviod conflict of interest from coming into play.

“Lawyers — especially good ones — have lots of other clients. There could be a conflict. Thus, any legitimate law firm will always screen for client conflicts. The point being: Don’t send random lawyers who don’t represent you any information about your case, unless and until they’ve given you the green light (ie if they told you they’re willing to consider the matter and don’t have any conflicts),” he said in one recent discussion on a social media platform.

Beyond that, he warned that asking a lawyer for a “quick advice” or a “quick question” was a recipe for disaster.

“If you have a serious problem, then go get serious advice. A ‘quick question’ through social media isn’t serious advice,” he said.

The pointer is relevant to individuals facing some personal issues or entrepreneurs facing some company-related matters.

On the question when do you actually engage a lawyer, a Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer said it should be at the onset of a venture, not when one gets entangled in issues.

You need to engage a lawyer as early as possible in your journey as an entrepreneur, says Van Geyzel

“You need to engage a law- yer as early as possible in your journey as an entrepreneur. Nothing beats getting things right from the very beginning,” said Marcus van Geyzel, who is also the author of “Law for Startups: What You Need to Know When Starting a Business”.

Hiring a lawyer becomes a must when you are negotiating an agreement of any kind.

“You absolutely have to engage a lawyer at this stage, and definitely before you sign anything legally binding,” he said.

Many of the respondents at the discussion session initiated by Pollard agreed with his views.

“So true. Of course, asking the question is quick. It’s the answer that takes time. And thought. And experience,” came the first response.

Another respondent high- lighted the different emphasis that lawyers may bring to the table, especially when employees are dealing with their company lawyers.

“A company’s attorney is working for the company, not the employees. Never rely on a company’s attorney’s advice or promises to protect you as

an executive or employee if you help them get what they want or need, or make their lives easier without consulting with your own personal attorney, who you may well have to pay.

“Your attorney will be working for you and not the company, which is important in situations where interests are not necessarily aligned. In general, follow the advice of your attorney even if you aggravate the company’s attorney for best results,” said the second respondent.

In the end, as noted by yet another respondent, hiring a lawyer is no different than hiring other professionals like plumbers, mechanics, doctors and electricians.

“You don’t want to have to pay, and generally think you have paid too much, but it is ultimately necessary,” the respondent commented.