A many called me this past week seeking to hire me to help with a financial problem. The man had already retained one attorney, but the man was upset with his attorney because the attorney would not respond to his legal questions. This man said he had posed legal questions by email to his attorney, and that the attorney had either not replied with an answer.
I understand why the attorney had not replied to the man’s emailed legal questions. I seldom answer legal questions submitted to me by email either from my own clients or from blog readers. Most legal questions have complex answers which cannot be adequately answered in a brief email reply. Answers to legal issues usually depend upon the facts and almost all general legal principals have exceptions. The answer is almost always more complicated than the question itself. Email is not suited to receive legal, or medical, advice.
Second, an attorney’s email answer to your legal question is a written legal opinion for which the attorney may be liable if the written email reply is either incomplete or is misunderstood. Attorneys charge a lot of money for a written legal opinion because of the liability involved. Most attorneys are not going to provide definitive legal opinions for free in the limited space afforded to email replies.
People probably email legal questions to attorneys for any number of reasons. Maybe the attorney does not return phone calls and clients are using emails to get through to the attorney. Maybe clients know attorneys will charge them for a phone conference but expect that email answers are free. Email is useful for some purposes such as requesting a phone call or providing information to the attorney. But, don’t expect to get either good and complete legal advice by email exchanges.
About the Author
Jon Alper is an expert in asset protection planning for individuals and small businesses.
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