It is a rare occurrence today for people to frequent their corner candy shop, neighborhood pharmacist or local vegetable stand. With the ever-increasing popularity and expansion of superstores such as Target, Wal-Mart and Costco, for example, individuals crave the convenience of “one-stop shopping,” a megastore where you can buy anything from plumbing supplies to fashion accessories, a warehouse where products too numerous to list are categorized and organized for your purchasing pleasure.
This one-stop shopping mentality used to pertain to the family attorney — a lawyer who clients could go to with any legal issues that plagued them. Unfortunately, for as much as the superstore has become desirable to consumers, this approach to attorneys has become less than preferable.
With the ever-changing face of the law, both statutory as well as case, it would be near impossible for one attorney to stay current with all areas of law. Clients are better served by seeking guidance from an attorney who is well-versed in one area.
I speak about this topic because I am an attorney in a field that many other attorneys tend to dabble in. I have seen many clients, senior citizens most notably, disadvantaged by this dabbling. Most attorneys would think relatively little of drawing a “simple” will for a client after handling their real estate closing or divorce.
But an attorney who does not regularly practice in the trusts and estates field may not be familiar with the intricacies of estate and tax law. The dabbling attorney may not know enough to counsel a client as to the reasons why a simple will may not be sufficient for post mortem planning or why the “living trust” that a neighbor said was necessary to protect one’s assets may not meet the client’s present planning goals. Similarly, an elder law attorney may not know which clauses are standard to a contract for the sale of a house and which of those provisions may be amended or negotiated.
Even with the extinction of the family attorney, some things remain the same, such as the old adage “Buyer beware” or, in our case, “Beware of the dabbling attorney.” As an added bonus, clients will be pleased to know that some attorneys still make house calls.
The writer is an attorney within the law offices of state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside).