I swear I can almost hear that thought passing through the cerebral cortex of many a client when it comes to discussing charges. Never mind that, as a part of a mid sized firm, I deal with flat fees instead of hourly and advise on strategic ways to reduce costs, when it comes to contract and prosecution of intellectual property, most people think they can do it on their own without a lawyer.

With the number of blogs (including ours) which list out how to file and register trademarks or any other stream of IP, to the check-lists of terms required for any agreement, I guess it is possible that most people feel they can do things on their own. Information is power and clearly Google lists out a tonne of it for people to be empowered. I have nothing against people reading up, (I do it when it comes to diagnosing diseases, which would tick off my dad, a surgeon, if he found out), its good to know if the service provider is being honest with you. When it comes to doing something with that information though, I would leave it to the guy who’s trained for it.

While my line of thought may be a tad self serving, I believe there are certain objective reasons against just taking something off the net instead of legal advice.

One size does not fit all:

The information provided online in most cases give you what’s needed for a standard agreement or a basic trademark application, but when is anything ever standard in life?! Take a shareholders agreement for instance, while you can get a decent draft online, can you guarantee that the terms your investor would like, fit in exactly with what’s given. Any contract is drafted on the basis of mutually agreed upon terms and taking someone else’s draft may not be in line with what you’ve agreed on with the person you are entering into a contract with!

Its just the beginning:

Filing a trademark/copyright/patent or design application is just the beginning, there is an entire registration process which has to be dealt with. While that can be handled independently as well, choices you’ve made at the time of filing the application have a direct effect on the way forward. Someone trained with experience should be able to advise and have the foresight to anticipate certain issues at the time of filing the application and take appropriate steps to avoid or mitigate them.

Means to an end:

The final and most important reason I see against going with a draft contract or DIY information online for legal work, is that your contracts and IP registrations are just a means to protecting your business interests, they are not the end in themselves. Having a registration certificate for a mark with a condition disclaiming exclusive rights to the word may be worthless or a 20 page agreement which can’t be enforced since the clauses don’t apply in your jurisdiction defeat the purpose. Since they are just the means, it would make sense to invest in getting those done properly to actually get where you intend on going!

I’m sure this affects all professions and the advent of blogs and articles online does help people at-least verify if service providers are taking advantage of them. I’m sure there are a lot of people who have been affected by bad legal advice and even paid heavily for it. As with any issue, there are most certainly two sides to this.

This is probably just my side and I’m open to hearing concerns that anyone on the other side faces. [You’re most welcome to comment below] But the truth of the matter is that with a good lawyer, one who works with the client, there is only one side !

This article has been authored by Navarre Roy, an IP Law practitioner.

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