One thing that law school did not prepare me for is how offended people will become when you tell them that you cannot help them. I often get phone calls from people about areas of law that I have no practical experience in. Yes, I did take a property class in law school, but no I will not help your cousin look over and edit his commercial lease. There is a huge difference between reading case law from a book in law school and actually practicing an area of law. In my mind, I am being honest and letting the caller know that I would not be able to give them the sound representation they deserve. Instead, I think people either believe I know the answer, but I am not willing to help them, or they tell me they are fine with me giving it my best guess. The problem with my best guess is that it could lead you to the wrong decision and you will not be happy with me when everything goes wrong.
It is true that attorney’s do not officially specialize in an area, like doctors, but many attorneys do focus their practice on a few areas of the law. Attorneys in smaller towns may not have that ability and there are some who will handle any business that walks through their door. At the end of the day, clients should ask the attorney how often they handle the area of law they need help in. Although an inexperienced attorney may be able to figure things out, an attorney who has handled similar cases will be able to anticipate issues and solutions. I have seen a situation where a real estate attorney, who was a friend of the defendant’s family, give on the spot advice that had drastic effects on the case. You would not be mad at a foot doctor for refusing to do a heart transplant, so you should not be mad at me when I cannot tell you the best way to create a nonprofit company, because, at this point in my career, I have no clue.