Attorney Tip #13 – Know Your Stuff or Get Help

There are many areas of the law, and no lawyer is an expert in all of them.  So before you offer legal advice and/or services that venture into an area of the law that is not within your expertise, be sure you know your stuff or get help.

irs-logoImagine you are defending a client in a breach of contract action where your client refused to close a corporate stock exchange agreement because the opposing shareholder challenged your client’s intended corporate tax strategy with respect to a land transaction.  Specifically, imagine the opposing shareholder alleged that your client’s “tax strategy” amounted to tax evasion or tax fraud.  And suppose you are a general practitioner and know little if anything about federal corporate tax law. Your next steps could implicate your client in a tax evasion or fraud scheme – an outcome you may not realize could result.

It is important for all attorneys to know the limits of their expertise.  There is no shame in admitting that a certain area of the law is outside of your expertise or experience.  Federal corporate tax law, for example, is a highly specialized area of the law involving interpretation of the IRS Code, which is voluminous, technical, and quite different from the interpretation of common law.

When a legal issue that is outside your expertise and experience arises — seek out, consult, and possibly bring in an expert in that area of the law.  Not only are you ethically obligated to do so, but you could save yourself a boatload of trouble in the long run.

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Center for Legal Practice Reform
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