In today’s complex society, there is no shortage of legislation that spews from parliaments all around the world. To avoid the pain and expense that comes from burying your head in the proverbial sand, you’ll want to learn how to be your own lawyer.
Let me be clear
What do I mean by becoming your own lawyer?
I certainly DON’T mean that you should go and study a law degree… unless of course you really want to. I have found it a fruitful career and believe you might too if this interests you.
I also DON’T mean that you should not consult a specialist lawyer in your area of concern. This is a prudent step you should take in almost all circumstances to avoid potentially suffering enormous losses.
But what I DO mean is that you should get yourself up to speed on various areas of law that affect what you do day to day.
Examples of what to learn
What you should learn will depend on what you do each day and what exposure you have.
For example, if you operate a construction business, you absolutely must learn the fundamentals of:
Why? Because a small blunder in any one of these areas could cost you thousands and thousands of dollars or even wipe out your business or your career.
Am I being a little too melodramatic? I don’t believe I am. You see, in my practice I regularly have clients come to me with problems that started off small and have then blown out of all proportion very quickly. In some cases, the problem could have been solved very easily in its early stages but when left to fester for months and years, ultimately destroyed years of hard work. Unfortunately, however, they didn’t know what to do and didn’t know they had a festering problem in the first place.
If you operate a construction business, you need to know the fundamentals of contract law so that you know the elements that make up a contract and can ensure that you have certainty about your terms of trade with your clients. If you don’t have, for example, a good contract that you use religiously on all your projects you will end up with one or more clients (one day) deciding not to pay you. You will then be forced to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees to argue that you did have a contract and the terms of that contract were what you believe they are to be. Of course, because you don’t have it in writing, the “client from hell” will have an easy time delaying your case or more simply, making it so uncommercial for you to chase your money that you will be forced to give up, or lose thousands and thousands fighting just to make sure that “client from hell” doesn’t get the better of you. Either way, they win and your lose.
Save thousands by becoming you own lawyer
When you invest your time in doing some “light” reading of the law in each of the above areas you will be “light years” ahead of your competition and your clients.
This will help you:
speak confidential when dealing with clients and subcontractors
ensure your fundamentals are in place so you can drastically diminish your exposure to rogue clients and subcontractors
strategically manoeuvre your business development and project management to ensure you will always have both the legal and commercial “high ground” making any rogue client or subcontractor quickly decide they’d better pick on an easier target and leave you alone (believe me, I’ve helped many a client achieve this even when it seemed too late, but it would have been much cheaper for them if they had done so before coming to see me or any other lawyer)
minimize significantly the cost of engaging legal advice because you will not waste it on being taught the legal fundamentals by your lawyer (as you will already know them) and you will also know how to work more efficiently with your legal expert to get to the resolution quickly and more cost effectively.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Grab a good book on a relevant topic to your field of endeavor (preferably one that is not written for lawyers but written for the professional in that field of work) and study it. I suggest that you buy the book so that you can highlight its contents and make notes in the margins as you please. But if this is not feasible for you financially, don’t hold back. Borrow the book from your nearest library (or get them to borrow it for you from another library if they don’t have it) and make sure you study it.
Studying these topics doesn’t mean you need to spend 50 hours reading and recording notes on each topic. Not at all! I suggest you spend about 3-6 hours on each topic (assuming you have a good book) and extract for yourself notes about critical areas that, if you were to fall foul of the relevant legal principle, it would be costly to you or your business. Then invest another hour on updating your business systems so that you implement strategically what you have learned.