We are a "do it yourself" nation. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the "how to" section of any bookstore or library and you’ll see what I’m talking about. There are books on how to do just about anything, including practicing law. Now, I’m not here to knock those kinds of books because they have their place. I understand that the economy is tough for a lot of people and, truthfully, some of these books are a good starting point for common legal issues. But what happens if you’re dealing with a very specific and complex legal issue? Do you really think that Internet research will be enough? I think you’d agree with me that it’s certainly not enough.
What you need is legal representation from a lawyer who has experience in the kind of case you need to be handled. It is not enough that he or she has practiced for 30 years as a general litigator if you are dealing with a defamation action or a SLAPP case. Nor is it enough that he or she works for a big firm or has a fancy website. The lawyer who you are talking to must have experience dealing with the specific issue you need him or her to handle. Let me give you an example to illustrate.
Today I was in court in Los Angeles on a matter and I happened to notice across the way (in another courtroom) that there was an anti-SLAPP motion on calendar relating to a libel matter. Given that this is one of the main practice areas I concentrate on (and my personal fascination with the topic), I thought it would be interesting to hear the oral argument. Boy was I shocked!
The judge, who has been on the bench for a number of years (and who has a good reputation), totally got the law wrong. I mean, it wasn’t even close (I felt compelled to stand up and say something, but thankfully I thought better of it).
So, if even an experienced and well-regard jurist can get the law wrong, how much more likely will it be that a general civil litigator with little-to-no experience will get it wrong?
My point is: Do not gamble by doing it yourself. This also applies to attorneys as well. I don’t know how many times an attorney has called me after the "damage has been done," and they tell me: "gee, I wish I would have called you sooner." Happens a lot.
So do yourself a favor and eliminate the "do it yourself" mentality. You don’t pull out your own cavities so don’t try to practice law on your own.