Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Author Topic: Getting legal advice from professors?  (Read 821 times)

emarejay

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 86
    • View Profile
    • Email
Getting legal advice from professors?
« on: January 14, 2006, 04:28:34 PM »
Are there any problems with asking a professor for legal advice? My parents are getting sued over pure garbage relating to some property issues and a shoddy contract. The lady suing them is a complete moron and is basing her entire complaint off of a contract that directly involved my dad, but was signed without his knowledge by somebody else who certainly wasnt an agent of his. He has some procedural type questions that could easily be answered by a prof with little familiarity with the situation. I just don't want to commit some big no-no if in fact it is wrong to ask.

BigPimpinBU

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 144
    • View Profile
Re: Getting legal advice from professors?
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2006, 05:03:02 PM »
The best you can do, without dropping the ball, is asking your prof to recommend someone. Don't ask for counsel straight out. Profs are lawyers, and lawyers get good money to do that kind of stuff. Another major thing is that by giving you legal advice, your prof would be essentially entering into an attorney-client relationship with you, which has lots of implications. It'd be an awkward position for him/her to say no to you, obviously.

I had a thing last year, and I went to my contracts prof to ask him to recommend me a good employment lawyer. He happily did - hooking up a buddy of his, while providing me (my mom actually) with a Harvard guy who, to noone's surprise, really knew his s$$t and helped out. Anyway - just ask for a recommendation. Don't ask for advice. 

tacojohn

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 989
  • "I voted. P. Diddy told us to vote"
    • ICQ Messenger - 176834534
    • MSN Messenger - tacojohniu@msn.com
    • AOL Instant Messenger - TacoJohnIU
    • Yahoo Instant Messenger - tacojohniu@yahoo.com
    • View Profile
    • Fearfully Optimistic
    • Email
Re: Getting legal advice from professors?
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2006, 06:20:58 PM »
I think you can ask for advice, but you need to be very upfront about it.  Just go to his office and say "My family is involved in a legal dispute and I have a few questions.  Could you either answer them for us or recommend someone who can?"  It would be best to include some sort of acknowledgement of the issues BigPimpin brought up, namely the attorney-client relationship and the fact that they get paid for this.  I just don't know a good tasteful way to do that.  Maybe "I understand this might be a little awkward, or that you probably charge for this," but even that seems awkward. 

If you can find a good way to ask that acknowledges the reasons why he/she wouldn't do it (so you don't get "What are you stupid?  I charge people $300/hour for this type of stuff" thrown back at you), I would ask for advice as well.  If the question is asked right, the worst the professor can say is no.  If you don't feel comfortable doing that, asking a professor is a very good way to find an attorney.  But if you can get some free legal advice, it would be worth a shot.

Final point: I would only ask for advice from a professor that I had a good relationship with.  That is, one who knew me, one I had talked with repeatedly, visited in his or her office, and who I wasn't afraid of

ApproachTheBench

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 61
    • View Profile
Re: Getting legal advice from professors?
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2006, 01:29:12 AM »
The other thing to keep in mind is, that depending on where you go to school, your prof might not have any idea of what's going on.

Seems almost none of my professors have any real lawyering experience; instead they are pointy-headed academics.  I wouldn't trust them to write a will for my dog.  Ok, that's a little harsh, but you get the idea.  Maybe they can refer you to a real lawyer though.
Save time, save money, find a summer job at http://www.approachthebench.com

lipper

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
    • View Profile
Re: Getting legal advice from professors?
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2006, 02:49:17 AM »
true story:

My prof told us about a time, one of the law professors at the school was stopped for speeding, turned out he had an expired license and some other junk was wrong with his record (unpaid tickets i believe), so they arrest him. Once in jail, he calls one of the other professors at the school and asks the guy to come down and straighten this out. The other law prof. replied "how the hell should i know, im not a lawyer".

u cant make this up.
check the footnotes ya'll

jetcat33

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 6
    • View Profile
Re: Getting legal advice from professors?
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2006, 03:20:24 AM »
I'd say don't do it. There are various scenarios:

1. The prof. gives you advice. He/she may be entering into an attorney-client situation with you. He/she shouldn't want this, and you don't want advice from someone who may only be giving it half-heartedly.

2. The prof. looks at you in a cross way and points out that the syllabus says not to ask him/her about legal issues.

3. The prof. is nice about it and gives you a few generic tips and then you leave. You feel stupid for asking because he/she didn't give you more info than you already knew.

If you still want to ask your professor, and you are not looking for full representation and an attorney-client relationship, think up a generic scenario of your case. Go to the professor and tell him/her that you came across this scenario in a case and were wondering what he thinks about it.

jetcat

tacojohn

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 989
  • "I voted. P. Diddy told us to vote"
    • ICQ Messenger - 176834534
    • MSN Messenger - tacojohniu@msn.com
    • AOL Instant Messenger - TacoJohnIU
    • Yahoo Instant Messenger - tacojohniu@yahoo.com
    • View Profile
    • Fearfully Optimistic
    • Email
Re: Getting legal advice from professors?
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2006, 10:22:21 AM »
If you still want to ask your professor, and you are not looking for full representation and an attorney-client relationship, think up a generic scenario of your case. Go to the professor and tell him/her that you came across this scenario in a case and were wondering what he thinks about it.
The OP said these were small procedural issues, so you have to be very specific.  And this is just a terrible idea.  I think a prof would much rather tell you no than be tricked into giving legal advice.  If the prof found out, I would be suprised, nor would I fault him for trying to get you kicked out of school.  If you want to get some advice, you need to ask for it straight up.  And yes, check the syllabus or try to remember any communication you had with professor, even an off-hand comment in class, where he or she specifically said "Don't ask me about your legal problems."

jetcat33

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 6
    • View Profile
Re: Getting legal advice from professors?
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2006, 10:55:43 AM »
If you still want to ask your professor, and you are not looking for full representation and an attorney-client relationship, think up a generic scenario of your case. Go to the professor and tell him/her that you came across this scenario in a case and were wondering what he thinks about it.
The OP said these were small procedural issues, so you have to be very specific.  And this is just a terrible idea.  I think a prof would much rather tell you no than be tricked into giving legal advice. 

Asking a general question is not about tricking the professor. Rather, it's clear that the more general a question is, the less likely it is that you will be entering the realm of attorney-client privilege. Instead, you will stay squarely within the teacher-student situation.

I once had a legal question. I didn't fuss about tricking the professor. Instead, I went up to him and said "Prof., I have a question. I know you can't give me legal advice, but I think this is a questions that is general enough and pertains to our class material. Well, so and so and so, etc."

jacy85

  • LSD Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6859
    • View Profile
Re: Getting legal advice from professors?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2006, 12:27:50 PM »
check and see if your school has a student legal services program.  Mine does; student "caseworkers" gather information on legal issues, and an attorney comes in once a week and sees those who worked with the caseworkers the previous week to actually give the individual legal advice.

At my school, it's a free service to anyone from the school community, faculty, undergrads, employees, etc.

jdmaxey

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 25
    • View Profile
Re: Getting legal advice from professors?
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2006, 09:01:27 PM »
You know if you're wanting free legal advice to point you in the right direction you could always do the research yourself. Granted, you're not a lawyer yet, but you do have at least a basic knowledge of how the law works. Especially if it's a K or Property issue that needs to be answered. Of course you can't take your own advice to court, but the OP didn't say that they were going to be taking the professor to court either.

Just phrase your problem like a RWA assignment and do the research and see what you come up with. If nothing else you could take your results to your professor for verification. I think they would appreciate the fact that you had most of the legwork done instead of just coming to them wanting them to do everything.

Also, if you have issues you can't figure out you can always post them here. Lots of eager young legal minds with nothing but free time on their hands!  ;)

But in the end your parents are going to have to hire a real lawyer before they get to court! They just might be impressed if you can give them the answer before they pay someone else to do it.