Google Search and Legal Research

In today’s information age, consumers have the ability to learn far more about a topic in a much shorter period of time than ever before. These days, people have the education power of a major university at their fingertips, and this has drastically changed the way everyone does business.

For example, in the old days, you would walk into a car dealership without knowing what any of the cars were really worth, then you would have to haggle for several hours with a sleazy salesman to make sure you were getting a good deal. Now, you can walk in armed with all the information you need to make a well-informed purchase.

With Google seemingly holding the answer to every question someone may have, consumers are becoming accustomed to using the world’s largest search engine to get advice on virtually any topic. Want to know how to get rid of your headache? Ask Google. Want to know the best gift to get your wife for your anniversary? Again, ask Google. Want to figure out how to keep your driver’s license after your DUI arrest? You guessed it…ask Google.

But is it really a good idea to trust some of the most important decisions of our lives to a search engine? Sure, if you are looking for a recipe for how to bake delicious cookies, Google or YouTube might have a good answer. But what about that medical or legal question?

You may have heard the term, “knowing enough to be dangerous”. This is definitely applicable to many of the resources you find with Google and other search engines. In the legal realm, if you are fortunate enough to come across the website of a reputable lawyer or legal directory, you might be able to find some helpful information. But the information you find online is fairly general, and it is not the same as receiving legal advice about your specific case.

Free Resources vs. Hiring an Attorney

The temptation to use free resources from Google to solve a legal problem is understandable. Most consumers are working with a tight budget, and lawyers are seen as expensive. So, if all the information you need is (literally) at your fingertips, why not just do it yourself? Or a variation of this would be to go halfway and use a free or cheap prewritten template for certain legal goals, such as creating a will or incorporating your business.

The challenge with this approach is that, in many cases, it is shortsighted. Yes, you may save a few dollars by using a cheap template rather than having a lawyer draft your contract, but a contract with standard boilerplate language that is not tailored to address your specific needs could become very costly in the long run. A large percentage of business litigation cases stem from contract disputes, and if the language in your document is too general, you could end up in an expensive court battle sometime in the future.

There are several reasons that it usually makes sense to hire a lawyer rather than going it alone when you have a legal matter to resolve:

A lawyer can provide sound legal advice

Unlike Google or your friend who “knows a little bit” about the law, an attorney will give you qualified, professional advice based on years of experience and an in-depth knowledge of the area of law you are dealing with. With an attorney, you will receive strong legal guidance that takes into account all known factors, and you will have all the information you need to make the most informed decision regarding your case.

A lawyer will value your privacy and confidentiality

In order to achieve your desired legal outcome, you may have to share some private and sensitive information with your attorney. It will be very important for your attorney to know all of the relevant facts of your case, and this may require you to disclose information to them that you do not want shared with anyone else. The good news is that attorneys are required to keep the information you share with them confidential (with a few rare exceptions), so you can rest easy knowing that no one else will find out what you tell them.

A lawyer can help you strategize on the best approach for your case

There are countless strategies and tactics that can be used to approach a legal matter, and much of determining what you should do is based on knowing what you can do within the limits of the law. The average layperson does not know all of the ins and outs of our complex legal system, and it is impossible to learn all of this just by reading a few articles online.

A lawyer can help ensure that all proper paperwork is filed and required procedures are followed correctly

Sometimes, a legal goal can be upended by a technicality. A missed document here, a missed filing deadline there, and you could find that your case has been set back for several months or longer. You might even lose your right to take legal action if a legal filing deadline is missed, for example. When you are working with a lawyer, they take care of all the complicated legal tasks, and they make sure that all of the “I”s are dotted and the “T”s are crossed.

A lawyer can help ensure that your legal rights and interests are protected

As we touched on with the example earlier about the business contract, when you enter into a legal agreement or you are involved in any type of legal action, you need to make sure your rights and interests are fully protected. This is true whether you are getting a divorce, filing a personal injury lawsuit, or defending a criminal charge. Without knowing all of the complexities of the area of law you are dealing with, it is difficult (if not impossible) to know what pitfalls might trip you up. Attorneys who have previously handled cases like yours have already seen these types of pitfalls repeatedly, and they know from experience what is necessary to ensure a smooth, seamless, and successful legal outcome.

A lawyer can get you a better financial result in your case

Earlier, we talked about the most common reason people decide to go it alone or depend on Google rather than hiring an attorney; money. But what if we told you that a lawyer can actually put you in a better financial position at the end of your case? How, you ask? Here is an example from the personal injury world:

Let’s say you were injured in a car accident and you decided to handle the claim on your own with the other driver’s insurance company. In such a case, you will most likely be dealing with an insurance adjuster whose interests are not aligned with yours. Since they work for the insurance company, their goal is to pay out as little as possible for your claim, and this runs contrary to your goal of being fully and fairly compensated.

If you have never dealt with a claim like this before, you are at a severe disadvantage in this scenario. The adjuster might be friendly, but in reality, he/she will be trying to get you to say or do something that will undermine your claim. And since you are not working with an attorney, they have very little incentive to offer you a fair settlement, because they know that you are not likely to take the case to trial.

If you hire an attorney on contingency (which is how most personal injury attorneys work), you will probably have to pay them somewhere between 30% and 40% of your winnings as their fee. This might not seem like a very good deal, until you consider that the average personal injury plaintiff who has legal representation receives a settlement that is 3 ½ times larger than someone who does not. Is giving up 30% to 40% to gain 350% (while not having the stress of worrying about the complicated legal details of your case) a good deal? Most people would say “yes”.

Coming out better financially may not be this cut and dry with every type of legal scenario, but the principle still applies. You are paying a lawyer for years of knowledge and experience that they have obtained, and thus you are leveraging their expertise while saving the time and stress of learning all of this yourself. How much is that worth to you? Is it worth a few hundred dollars for a legal contract that protects your interests or a few thousand dollars to maintain your driving privileges and keep you out of jail after a DUI arrest? While every individual case if different, for a large number of people, again the answer is a resounding “yes.”

A lawyer can give you peace of mind

Finally, working with an attorney you have confidence in gives you the peace of mind knowing that you are in the best possible position to obtain a favorable outcome. To help illustrate this point, we will close with a true story that Paul, a member of our Sundown team experienced.

In the late 2000’s, Paul and his wife Angelina were nearing the end of a long and complicated adoption that forced them to move to the Philippines in order to successfully complete. They had hired a Filipino attorney to shepherd their adoption through the local court, but now they needed to figure out how to secure a US immigrant visa for their soon to be adopted daughter Sarah.

Paul knew a lot about immigration law, and he felt like he could probably do all of the paperwork himself. But their case was complicated. There were very few precedents he could find of American couples who had adopted Filipino children locally and later been approved for an immigration visa. So after some thought and consideration, they decided to hire an American immigration lawyer who was based in the Philippines to handle it for them.

Although they might have been able to do it themselves, they had come too far and there was simply too much at stake. They needed to make sure their petition would get approved, and going it alone was just too risky. By hiring a lawyer who was familiar with their situation and had handled other cases like theirs before, they knew that their petition was in good hands and that they would be able to bring their whole family back home to America as they had intended. And in the spring of 2012, their nine-year journey ended successfully with their daughter being approved for a US immigration visa and on her way to becoming an American citizen.

About Sundown Legal Marketing

Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Legal Marketing.