Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'm not that kind of lawyer

People always have the idea that if you're a lawyer, you must know the law. All of it. That you can answer questions on all kinds of legal topics, no matter how far removed from your own area of practice. So friends ask me to comment on any news story that has a legal angle to it. Family members bring me their tickets, their fights with utility charges or credit card companies. Child custody disputes, divorces, estate issues. Sometimes I want to respond to these questions with a reminder that I'm just a criminal lawyer.

They're not exactly wrong to ask me. I did go to law school, after all. I do know a little about administrative law, family law. I know a thing or two about bioethics and the law. I did pretty well at Contracts, Property, and Trusts and Estates (actually, 3 of my 4  highest grades in law school, oddly. Evidence was #4, which makes more sense). I took classes in all of these things and I've even retained some of it.

And if it's a constitutional law question, I really can answer that. But for the most part, I can't give the kind of answer I feel like people deserve. I can state some general principles and probably refer the asker to an attorney in that field, but I can't write a two page essay. It's a tad frustrating to feel like I'm letting people down by not having all the legal answers.

But on the other hand, I would probably hate it more if any of my family or friends came to me with a legal situation I was equipped to handle. I'd just as soon not have to help any of them face a major felony charge.

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