I am grateful for the privilege to do what I do. I serve consumers who would otherwise go without. I help people who have no choice but to stand up for themselves. I prepare documents for those who have no idea how to proceed. I am a Florida legal document preparer. "Proudly serving the under served." appears on our association site. And I mean it, it is not just a catchy marketing phrase. It is what we do. I am proud and humbled at once.
Couples break up. Neighbor sues neighbor. Disputes fester. Solutions are elusive. Most people want things to be fair, even while acknowledging that the world isn't fair. We've known that the world isn't fair since we were children, but still wish it were so. Wishing isn't getting, but we can try. Try for that reasonable and fair solution. The compromise where no one is completely happy, but no one feels trod upon.
Rental leases, cell phone contracts, car rental contracts, insurance, employment contracts, non-compete agreements, bills of sale, promissory notes, pet care agreements, construction contracts, powers of attorney, and licensing agreements are just a few of the contracts that consumers use and sign, often without an attorney. In fact, most of these types of contracts are usually signed without an attorney looking out for the signer's best interest. Few new hires would refuse to sign an employment contract until an attorney had a chance to review it. And, it would likely be less than cost effective to have an attorney review and approve a cell phone contract prior to signing.
But, when a marriage deteriorates. Or business partners disagree. Or an arrangement that once worked becomes unbalanced. Or when the powerful prey upon the weak. And there is no compromise in sight, the dispute lands in court. When property, money, and children are at stake - somehow, some way, the dispute needs resolution. Even if that means taking it out of the hands of the disputing parties to let a judge decide.
It is always always always better to resolve disputes without judicial intervention, as long as the solution does not leave the weaker party weaker still. And there's the rub. It's hard to know. Presented with a settlement agreement or contract, for example, how does a layman have any idea whether he should sign? It may seem to say that the agreement is reasonable, but maybe there is also some language that doesn't make obvious sense. Then what? Research, education. Ask for clarification and/ or lawyer up, I guess.
Document preparers encourage their customers to seek legal advice when they do not understand their rights. We encourage consumers to consult with an attorney and ask for advice regarding their rights and responsibilities. We also encourage consumers to educate themselves about their rights and responsibilities. We are here to prepare documents once a consumer knows their rights and responsibilities. And then once the documents are prepared, we then encourage consumers, to have an attorney review the documents. Whether a consumer can afford an attorney or not, depends entirely on that consumer's specific financial means.
And even as we encourage consumers to seek legal advice, we know that many will not be able to afford the fees. We are not part of the problem, but we certainly aspire to being part of the solution.
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