We all find ourselves in situations where we ponder the boundaries between the law and the actions of others or our own. From banking through an independent or overseas provider to selling through a third party, there are legal minefields waiting out there for attorneys to pounce on if given the right opportunity.
So is there the possibility to have an informal consultation or just a casual chat to a professional lawyer to test the grounds? Attorneys off the clock could be friendly and approachable on one hand or incredibly tetchy and dogmatic about their expertize.
Should you be enquiring about free legal advice, then one would assume that a pre-existing relationship would have been established between the attorney and yourself. Casual conversations between friends or family members is acceptable in the event that it does not involve current legal cases or sensitive material.
The moment an agreement is signed or a financial transaction is formed, then all of a sudden that relationship changes from a friend/family member to an attorney-client relationship. Both parties are then bound by that agreement, beginning a process that is fraught with ethical complexities.
Attorneys that are found to be conducting casual legal advice can be committing malpractice in the eyes of the law. This is particularly the scenario when clients act on that advice in a case and that interaction is then cited as per the process. In a majority of situations where lawyers act to protect themselves, they are best served referring onto colleagues or firms that have experience in a field that they require representation in.
Within the legal fraternity, attorneys are advised to avoid giving their expertize under almost all conditions. Even in that casual “let’s grab a second opinion” scenario where one individual is merely seeking some clarification, the waters become too muddied to follow through in good consciousness.
Yet there are many shades of grey that constitute what advice actually constitutes and the context in which that is given. A stop by on the street or a 2-minute chat over a barbeque is in stark contrast to an in-office consultation, or lengthy email thread or phone call.
They are important distinctions to make but if you happen to be in doubt, then free legal advice is a concept that does really exist for the average citizen. Even in the event that such an agreement is verbalized, any string that is attached is something that can return in the days, weeks, months or years later.