How many times have you read an article written by an attorney and saw a disclaimer at the bottom telling you that the information was not legal advice? Do you ever wonder why attorneys do that? No other profession seems to be so adamant about a disclaimer.
Attorneys often complain that they receive random questions from people looking for quick answers to their legal matters. These types of situations can pop up anywhere from a church setting to a cocktail party. Most of time, it isn’t in an official office setting. Most attorneys are leery about answering any unsolicited random questions. It isn’t because attorneys are mean or don’t want to help. It’s because attorneys are held to a very high professional standard. I know, I know, most jokes about attorneys don’t lend the profession to good morals and ethics. But setting aside the humorous stereotype, attorneys must conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner at all times. There are professional rules of conduct that govern their licensure. Those rules are set by the bar association of each individual state, but for the most part they are very similar throughout the country.
It is important to understand that the rules of professional conduct and responsibility dictate, for the most part, that once an attorney communicates with another person, who believes the attorney is offering legal advice, then an attorney-client relationship is formed. So, what’s the big deal? Well, it’s important for an attorney to control when he creates an attorney-client relationship, because as soon as he does, he is responsible for the results of the legal matter they discussed. And if he has not fully investigated the legal matter and the newly-created client relies on the attorney's advice to the client's detriment, the attorney could be sued for malpractice. Imagine an attorney advising a person on what to do about his situation without knowing all the facts. Or imagine if the attorney isn’t aware that the legal matter requires timely submittal of documents to the court and fails to warn the new client.
So, what does this have to do with an article? Well, if the reader feels the attorney is responding to his legal needs, a court may find that the attorney was offering legal advice and hold him responsible for the communication because it created an attorney-client relationship. That is why attorneys usually write in general legal terms and usually claim that the communication was either for informational or educational purposes. They want to make sure that there is no instance of creating an attorney-client relationship.
So, the next time you feel brushed off by an attorney, don’t take it personally. He probably doesn’t want to engage in the matter in that setting. And the next time you read an article and think it solves your legal problem, schedule an appointment with a legal professional and make sure you develop a truly proper attorney-client relationship. It’s what is best for both of you.
The content in this newsletter is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide formal legal advice. There is no attorney-client relationship created, expressly or implied, by subscribing, reading or participating in this newsletter post. If you are in need of legal services, please contact a legal professional in your area for a consultation.