There are many people who fantasize about the “good old days” when you could seal a deal with handshake and walk away knowing you had the word of another person to do what they said they were going to do. While I do not doubt that our society has become less honest, this is probably in part a fantasy. The fact is, in Merry Old England hundreds of years ago there were people who lied, cheated, and stole from other business people. While you personally may have never been involved in such a problem, perhaps you should count yourself lucky.
A lawyer can solve your business problem once it has gone bad. Whenever a business owner comes into my office with a problem it is almost always the kind of problem careful planning and a small business attorney could have prevented. Your contracts and all the procedures in your business are like good nutrition to the human body: play your cards right and more than likely you will not have a problem.
When things go bad, that is where the litigator comes in. The litigator (often called a “trial attorney”) is a different type of attorney. If you were a country, they would be the army. Their purpose is to either frighten the other side into submission, beat them in battle, or minimize the damage and the terms of surrender. Having a good, honest lawyer will make all the difference in the world.
Handling lawsuits by oneself is actually fairly common in the US, and it isn’t always a bad idea. However, when someone comes into my office with a lawsuit they have already handled themselves, I rarely will take such a case. You could liken it to someone trying to fix their car by themselves without really having any training. For whatever reason (I blame television) people are under the impression that they understand the law. They think they can go in and simply argue the facts and the judge will see the light. This is, to be blunt, a really stupid point of view. The law is not like that at all. There are rules of evidence, rules of procedure, local court rules, rules for each individual area of law which may overlap. The California Code is a wall of books with hundreds and hundreds of volumes.
The term “Civil Litigation” is a misnomer. In fact, Probate, Family Law, Unlawful Detainers, etc. are all a type of civil litigation, each of which has it’s own specialty. Let’s say you have the good luck of obtaining a judgment in a court case. How do you collect it? Collecting judgments alone is a whole specialty unto itself.
The important thing about the law is knowing what you do not know. Hopefully your lawyer understands that. If your lawyer never has any doubt about any question you have, be wary. It is unlikely that this is true.
If you are a business person, consult a small business attorney. Otherwise, you may end up in my office and while that may be good for my business, it probably is not good for yours.