By: Paul W. Quantz BA, LLB
Strangely, it is a question we get quite often. I could get cheeky and reply, “If I were a Dentist, would you ask why you couldn’t perform your own root canal?”
We live in a society where the “rule of law” is paramount in our dealings with each other and our governments. The rule of law is critical to our very existence as a country. With the SNC-Lavalin scandal currently swirling one might ask, “Does our own government follow the rule of law?” That is the question. Without the Rule of Law our society would break down and the road to totalitarianism would be laid.
Laws are pervasive and complicated. Every day each of us has an encounter with some aspect of the law: “rules of the road”, family matters, children, schools. Even paying our taxes requires at least a rudimentary knowledge of the law. Most can navigate these everyday experiences with the law. There are times, however, when knowing what laws apply to a situation and then deciding what action to take become critical. That’s where seeking the knowledge and expertise of lawyers becomes essential.
With the expansion of knowledge-based internet sites, sometimes people are tempted to try to figure it out on their own rather than spend the money to consult with a lawyer. However, there are pitfalls to the DIY approach. Lawyers are trained to take facts situations and apply the relevant laws to the facts and give cogent advice. Sometimes fact situations require lawyers to research into applicable laws and judicial decisions and then predict outcomes and give options for clients, based on the set of facts provided. Many lawyers today “specialize” in certain areas of the law and, in fact, that is the expectation of clients who seek advice – that their lawyer has specialized knowledge of relevant law or can refer you to a lawyer who does.
“What you don’t know can hurt you.” I often use this phrase in relation to clients who seem to think the solution to their legal problem is obvious and simple. Sometimes clients have a friend who has experienced a similar situation. The client thinks the same solution can apply to their own situation. Most of the time, however, even slight differences in fact situations result in different laws being applied to the facts.
I was asked once in a Wills and Estates seminar, “Why do lawyers make the law so complicated? Is it for their own benefit?” I explained that lawyers don’t make the law. Parliaments and legislatures make laws. Also, judges make laws by ruling in certain ways in cases put before them, and these decisions become precedent for other cases. Lawyers provide advice and interpretation of the law, but do not make them, let alone make them “complicated.” Laws are complicated because society is complicated, and the human mind is complicated. And becoming even more so each day.
To answer the question first stated, I know the answer is “yes.” Predictable, right? Yes, but also true. Don’t put your future and that of your business or your family in jeopardy simply because you thought you could do it yourself or you found a solution on “ask Jeeves” or on a Google search. Often the solution you choose or the law you thought you knew when applied to the wrong situation, can have disastrous consequences. Don’t become the next legal “train-wreck”. Seek the advice of a competent lawyer.
NOTICE TO READER: The summaries of legal rights and remedies described above are general references to the Alberta laws existing at the date of the publication and may not apply to the reader’s individual circumstances. Also, the laws may change. These legal summaries are not to be relied upon as applicable to your individual circumstances and are subject to a complete review of the facts and applicable laws in every case.