What Lawyers Want You to Know
Like medical advice or trivia answers at headquarters, you need to be careful when getting legal advice. More than twenty years later on the Internet, people still make terrible decisions based on a misunderstanding of the law . We asked several lawyers to share what they thought everyone knew about US law, the legal profession, or how to get a lawyer. Here are their answers.
Thomas Kretschmar, Marriage and Family Law:
People assume that in a divorce, the assets acquired during the marriage are necessarily divided equally between the spouses. In fact, in the vast majority of states (including New York), property is divided according to a subtle doctrine called “fair distribution,” which calls for a fair – but not necessarily equal – division of family property.
Hillary Benham-Baker, Campins Benham-Baker shareholder practicing labor and civil rights law:
Working “at will” does not mean that you can be fired for any reason. Self-employed employees still cannot be fired for unlawful reasons such as discrimination or harassment.
Roman Fitchman, business attorney, owner of TheLegalist.com :
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I represent startups, entrepreneurs and growing companies. For them, funds are always stretched, and their biggest problem is cost. As a result, they often do not contact me, believing that it would be too expensive. The consequence of this is that they resort to DIY freestyle contracting, ignore the problems of brewing partners or customers, postpone the call to me until they receive a subpoena.
If there is one thing I am trying to impress on my clients, it is that a small micro-investment in ongoing consultation yields great results. I especially remember how an hour-long consultation convinced an entrepreneur to invest in a deal that subsequently collapsed by several million dollars. Or how a startup almost decided to create an LLC using a service that advertises on TV, and after one of the founders contacted me, I instead formed them as a corporate corporation, letting them take over the venture capital.
So don’t be afraid to seek advice. The most interesting thing is that I (and many other good business lawyers) often do not take money even for micro-consultations.
Yosef Peretz, owner of Peretz & Associates, a litigation firm on behalf of the plaintiff representing the employees:
Finding a lawyer to represent you can be stressful. But when you get to one, take it seriously and be prepared. Collect your story, arrange documents in order, and create a timeline of major events. The more focused and organized you are, the more likely you are to get the attention you deserve.
Kawi Reddy, Deputy General Counsel, Gizmodo Media Group (Publisher of Lifehacker):
1. Too many people think the First Amendment applies to everything they do or say. The reality is that it prevents the government from restricting your speech (for example, it prevents you from expressing your opinion about how much the government sucks or deceives you), but that does not mean that your employer (assuming you work for a private company) is not can tell you something not to say or not to do. Blocking someone on Twitter or firing someone on Google isn’t a First Amendment issue!
2. Many people also seem to think that there is a magical number of seconds you can use for someone’s video or music, which means that it is fair use. There is no magic number! This is a factual analysis that takes into account how much you use, how you use it / what you use it for, what the main job is, etc. It would be nice if there was a magic number, but it would be too easy.
When you need to make an important legal decision, try to contact a real lawyer – he will answer your question for free. And when you have a smaller question, at least check your sources and don’t trust anonymous information. Because “That’s what the internet said!” does not seek to win legal cases.