I’m working on several big stories right now. The first two are on new services, one released and one scheduled for release, that help fight plagiarism. The last one, which will likely be posted Monday, in on a subject that’s already making its rounds on blogs across the world. Though I’ll be late to the party with this news, I’m conducting a major investigation into it and I’ve turned up some interesting tidbits.
However, before I post that article, I feel the need to explain something that has come up in the course of my research, something that wouldn’t be entirely clear otherwise. Namely that you should never turn to your family attorney to handle copyright matters. Instead, you need to ask your friendly neighborhood lawyer to recommend a good intellectual property attorney, it will both save you money and get you much better advice.
Going to the Doctor
General practice attorneys are very good at handling a wide variety of problems. Most such attorneys handle bankruptcies, divorces, personal injury matters, wills, secessions, some criminal matters and a variety of other tasks. Basically, any legal need your average citizen is likely to have can be met by your friendly neighborhood lawyer.
In that regard, general practice attorneys are a lot like family doctors. They both handle a wide variety of cases and likely know a little bit about nearly everything in their fields. However, they’re still going to focus heavily on what most commonly comes through their doors, that’s what they’re going to read journals about, follow news on and generally keep up with.
Thus, when something specialized and outside of their field of expertise walks in, they have two choices, either spend time to bring themselves up to speed and handle their situation themselves, though they have little experience with it, or pass off the case to a specialist that already knows what is going on and has likely seen this problem many times before.
Unfortunately for those of us handling copyright issues, people needing help with intellectual property problems don’t frequently walk into lawyers offices. Though plagiarism and copyright infringement are rampant, especially on the Web, legal cases involving them are rare, especially when compared to divorces, bankruptcies and other, more common, reasons for visiting a lawyer.
So, much like you can see your family doctor for the flu or a broken bone but need to see a specialist for a more serious or rare illness, it’s important to see a bona fide intellectual property attorney if you’re dealing with copyright issues. Most likely, the lawyer that drafted your will is simply poorly equipped to handle such matters and trying to have him do as such will only cause more problems and cost more money.
Time is Money
When dealing with an attorney, time literally is money. Lawyers bill hourly and do so for any time that they spend researching your case, even if it is to bring them up to speed on the law itself. Thus, even though specialized attorneys are generally more expensive, that difference is easily made up by having a lawyer that knows the issue beforehand and can dedicate every minute of work to actually working on your case.
Say, for example, that a intellectual property attorney bills at $150 per hour while your family attorney bills at $100. If you go in with a simple question, the specialized attorney will know the answer and will probably only bill you for either fifteen or thirty minutes. Your personal lawyer, on the other hand, might need to spend hours researching the matter before he can call you back with an answer.
The result, you wait longer and pay several times more by going to the “cheaper” lawyer.
Worst of all, attorneys unfamiliar with a particular type of law are more likely to make mistakes when they venture into it, especially very gray and constantly-changing areas like copyright law. Getting an attorney unfamiliar with the law could result in getting bad advice or, worse still, losing the ability to effectively defend your rights.
With so much at stake in these matter, both financially and emotionally, it makes sense to put these issues in the hands of those most capable. However, many still don’t.
Reality Sets In
The potential for misguided advice, high costs and lost time make me worry whenever I see people turning to their family lawyers for copyright advice. With IP attorneys in nearly every city and many available online, some willing to offer free guidance in many situations, it seems only a fool would turn to someone with little or no experience for help.
Yet, that’s what countless people do every year. Be it turning to friends in the legal field or attorneys they know and trust, people entrust very specialized legal matters into the hands of lawyers with little experience in them. This goes beyond copyright law and into other areas of specialized practice, including felony criminal defense, maritime law, etc.
Since most people aren’t very familiar with the legal system (this is why we hire lawyers) it’s important that we know how to pick good attorneys and understand that, many times, a very capable attorney in one area can be barely an attorney at all in another. Most attorneys will tell you if they’re over their heads and, if they say so, it’s wise to listen to them.
Because it’s best to select a lawyer the same way you pick a doctor, go where the experience lies.
[tags]Plagiarism, Content Theft, Copyright Infringemet, Laywers, Attorneys, Law, Intellectual Property[/tags]