Some lawyers are decent people. I’m a lawyer myself. So are my beloved father and many of my friends. But, who are we kidding – you’d rather not have to hire one, right? Sometimes they’re helpful. But if you can avoid them, that’s ideal. These tips apply everywhere, not just Los Angeles, but my office is in L.A., so that’s my focus. Here are some tips to make it less likely you’ll have to deal with a lawyer:
1) Only deal with people you trust. When you hire a contractor to work on your house, you’re taking a risk. When you lease out your spare room to someone, you’re taking a risk. No matter how thorough the contract or lease, if the other person is untrustworthy, you’re going to have a huge hassle on your hands. Of course there’s no way you can guarantee that your trust is well-placed, but who the other party is matters a lot more than what you make them sign.
2) Don’t let anyone get too far ahead of you. In other words, don’t agree to pay that contractor a huge amount before the work starts. It’s understandable that they want you to pay something up front, and that’s ok, but the only way you’ll wind up paying $100,000 and getting nothing for it, is if you pay $100,000 BEFORE you get anything for it.
3) Don’t over-rely on legal advice at the start of any business relationship or during crisis. One way to create conflict with someone is to treat them primarily like a litigation threat. Every time I sign a waiver form at a gym, for example, I become more likely to sue that gym later. Legal attempts to prevent liability don’t work very well – people sue if they’re mad, no matter what they’ve signed. Treating people like people isn’t foolproof, but there’s plenty of evidence that treating people well is the best defense against legal problems. (Check out this little bit of advice to doctors – contrary to their lawyers’ advice, they’re better off if they ADMIT their mistakes to their patients).
4) In case of a conflict, sincerely hear the other person out, and sincerely share your perspective. Awkward though it may feel, it’s when communication breaks down that people get lawyered up.
5) If you get sued, immediately, before even calling a lawyer, offer to have a conversation directly with the person who is suing you. If that seems too scary, call me and let me help with that conversation!