Trying to use one lawyer to review all the documents for everyone involved in a legal matter (or not seeking any legal advice at all) can seem like a decent way to save money and lower expensive fees.
In truth, skipping an independent review is not good practice as it can result in you signing your agreement without fully understanding your rights and obligations. What’s more, in some situations, one lawyer is not allowed to provide advice to everyone involved.
With complex situations, like matters that result in complicated prenups or separation agreements, we sometimes lack the legal understanding required to do a review of our document ourselves to ensure it not only fits our needs but isn’t unfair.
In this post, we lightly unpack independent legal advice and explore what it is, why it is important, and how it protects us.
What is Independent Legal Advice?
Independent legal advice is when you get advice from a lawyer separate from the other people involved in the matter. Typically, a certificate of independent legal advice is signed and included with your agreement. Without independent legal advice, your document may not be enforceable in court.
For instance, let’s say you are preparing a Prenuptial Agreement. To ensure your document is valid and enforceable in the event of a dispute, your future husband or wife would get their agreement reviewed by one lawyer, and you would get yours reviewed by another.
Whether independent legal advice should be sought or not can depend on:
- The document you are creating (certain documents, especially potentially contentious ones that have a large impact on your present and future rights and obligations, often require a higher degree of scrutiny to ensure equality is maintained in the contract)
- Your situation (if there is a conflict of interest, joint retainer, or the attorney is acting as a mediator, independent legal advice may be needed)
How Does Independent Legal Advice Protect Me?
On the surface, independent legal advice can seem like just another fee for lawyers to charge. In reality, it is crucial to maintaining fairness in contracts.
The purpose of independent legal advice is to:
- Provide an objective review of a legal document
- Confirm a client understands the document properly
- Verify a client has not been pressured into signing their document (i.e. duress or undue influence)
Finalizing Your Documents
It can be a pain to pay the extra cost for separate legal advice, but it is worthwhile in ensuring your legal needs are met and you have not been taken advantage of.