Legal DIY – Why spend Money on Lawyers?

Guiding Principle

Spend money on lawyers only if you need your contracts to work. In all events where that does not matter, save yourself some time and money and proceed without a contract!

Money tends to be tight, particularly in pandemic ridden times. In light of this backdrop it is understandable that individuals and particularly companies try to save as much cost as possible, and frankly, who does not?

One of the “lowest hanging fruits” in terms of cost-saving appears to be reducing funds spent on lawyers. After all, most people tend to think lawyers do not deliver anything tangible and just make things more complicated, right? Well, maybe. Or maybe not. Let us take a look:

What do lawyers do?
In a nutshell, one of the key roles of a lawyer is to ensure that whatever a client intends to do is being done in a legally compliant way. Admittedly, some lawyers interpret this in the sense that all they need to do is say “no” to virtually everything. An understandable approach for somebody who does not feel very secure in his own territory.

If nobody does anything, nothing can go wrong, right? Slightly more progressive colleagues will listen to the planned objective and then find a way to “get there” in a legally compliant way.

One thing both, “good” and “bad” lawyers have in common, however, is that they understand how matters work in a legal context. This is not just “common sense”, but quite a complex construct, which to understand and interpret is what legal professionals’ study in law school for several years.

Another key role of lawyers is to find a legally and commercially suitable structure for a planned transaction. There are usually “many ways leading to Rome”, not only one. It again depends on the preference and skills of the individual lawyer which way s/he suggests. Quite similar to some cab drivers, some lawyers prefer taking the (unnecessarily) long way to maximize their income. Others focus more on their clients’ needs. Something no lawyer will ever offer, however, neither the good one nor the bad, is the infamous “we are all friends” solution. Being friends with as many people as possible certainly is a good thing. Yet, the degree of transactional foolishness tends to increase proportionally with the amount of money at stake. Or, to put it differently, remaining friends over AED 100 is easy, but many friendships end at a million. In such events, maybe asking a person who actually knows what s/he is doing might be a good idea?

Legal DIY (Do It Yourself)
Let us take a look at what legal DIY usually looks like. To make it easier, I will present this in a way that will make it easy to relate to for readers of both genders.

Legal DIY (Male)
Imagine you want to get a car built for you. It is not particularly difficult to somehow weld together something with four wheels (ideally with all of them having the same size) and something that looks like a steering wheel.

Similarly, putting something in writing that “looks like a contract” is not difficult either. Just take a little bit of legal mumbo-jumbo from here and a little bit from there, add a little bit of what you think should be said in the agreement and off you go with a perfect contract, right?

Well, there is a reason why automotive engineers have to study and train hard and for years before they can even attempt designing a vehicle that performs like a modern vehicle and not like a home-made “thing” with four wheels and a steering wheel. And while we all tend to believe to be the pinnacle of human evolution, maybe it would make sense for us to be just a tiny little bit humble and try to imagine that an automotive engineer, having gone through all the training s/he had to, might know a thing or two that non-engineers do not. This may well be the reason why a car that has been designed by an automotive engineer (or many of them) performs as we expect it to. Now let us compare this to above mentioned self-made “car” …

And – you guessed it – this leads us back to what lawyers do. Drafting an agreement skillfully is an art, which takes years to learn and master. Enough said at this point. Let us now look at the second example.

Legal DIY (Female)
Imagine getting your wedding dress tailored for you. Yes, there is the solution that I as a trained lawyer can offer. My solution will be taking lots of white fabric that should roughly cover your body in most places and stitch it together with my grandma’s knitting needles. The result will be, I can assure you, truly one of a kind, maybe not in a sense that you imagined, but one of a kind nevertheless.

Another option is to ask your good friend Vera Wang to make your dream of a wedding dress a reality. Let us assume, just for a moment, that Vera Wang knows just a tad more about fabrics and seams than I do.

And again, “home-grown” contracts are as much capable of safeguarding your transaction as a “genuine Michael Krämer” wedding dress is capable of sweetening the wedding of your dreams. If you genuinely do not care about your wedding, go with Michael Krämer. If you have more in mind, maybe leave your wedding dress creation to somebody who actually knows what s/he is doing.

So, what am I trying to say?
If you have an issue with a dental prosthesis made from chewing gum (looks really similar!), your accountant applying “the other” logic while maintaining your accounts or your gardener using hairspray to keep your Bonsai collection look nice, maybe reconsider your approach to legal DIY.

Advising you properly, as much as crafting agreements that work the way they are intended to, is an art that does require years of studies, training and experience. Your “common sense” is not enough to qualify you as an honorary legal professional (and believe it or not, Google is not a legal professional either!).

Similarly, even if you have dealt with contracts for years while doing business, this, does not mean that you can draft such contracts. In other words, just because I can drive a car does not mean that I can build one.

Yes, it is indisputable that there are both, sub-competent and greedy lawyers out there, as much as there are sub-competent and greedy orthodontists out there. Yet, nobody would get the idea of fabricating braces himself and will trust even the “bad” orthodontist’s advice instead.

As with sub-standard protective equipment, a poorly prepared agreement will show its true capacity only once tested. That, however, is its only purpose! The sole reason cyclists wear a helmet is that they want the helmet to protect them when needed. Not many people will wear a bike helmet as a fashion statement. Similarly, it is understandable that spending time and money on putting a proper agreement in place can appear unnecessary. And it is, but only as long as you do not need to rely on such agreement.

If a bike helmet is incapable of protecting the person wearing it, the helmet is just a nuisance. Similarly, an agreement that is incapable of protecting the parties to it legally is not worth the paper it is written on. With that in mind, I was not joking when at the beginning of this article I suggested you proceed without a contract if you do not care about protection. It is nothing but a waste of time and money indeed. If you do feel that you need contractual protection, however, please bear in mind that this is most certainly nothing you can do yourself. If, like presumably most of us, you go and see a doctor if you broke your leg instead of “fixing it as Rambo would”, please consider asking a professional to take care of your legal needs.

Broken legs with a “Rambo fix” tend to be short-lived and will then need to be fixed in a much more complicated process by an actual doctor. DIY legal work falls into the same category. Get it done right from the start and pay little or “do it yourself” and pay triple later.

Some choices appear really easy, don’t they?

Author: Dr. Michael Krämer

Senior Lawyer