HELP I JUST GOT A LEGAL THING!
Okay, you just got a “legal thing.” Maybe it’s a letter on expensive paper with a zillion names at the top all ending in “Esq.” Maybe it’s an actual summons or other court filing. Could be anything. But it’s filled with things like “Cease and Desist” and “infringement” and “damages” and “injunction” and dollar signs with crazy numbers after them. Whatever it is, it is scary as Heck.
Here’s what to do first:
- Take a deep breath. Seriously: Don’t Panic. It’s going to be okay. We can fix this.
- Read the rest of this post very carefully. Don’t do anything until you’ve read the whole post. It’s not long.
Here’s what not to do. Again, seriously. Do NOT do any of these things:
- Do not, under any circumstances, call anyone whose name is on the legal thing. Don’t call the lawyer, don’t call the judge, don’t call whoever the lawyer is representing. (If it’s not from a lawyer, don’t call whoever sent it.) If actual police or other law enforcement personnel are involved, be polite and do not, ever, lie to them. But don’t call them. If they call you, see “What You Should Do,” below.
- Don’t email them, text them, Tweet them, or tag them on Facebook, either. Do not contact them in any way. Do not refer to them publicly in any way. Do not disclose the fact that you got the legal thing to anybody other than any business associates you may have. If you do tell any business associates, make them read this list before they do anything.
- Do not, I repeat DO NOT, delete anything. Don’t throw away any paper files, don’t delete any emails or computer files. If you delete something relevant to a legal matter after you know a legal matter exists you can get in much worse trouble than almost anything that’s in that legal thing. And you might be discarding evidence that could get you out of trouble. Sit tight.
- Last, but not least, do not throw the legal thing away and pretend you never got it. This never works and it usually makes things worse. Take another deep breath, and read on.
Now that you know what not to do, here’s what you should do:
- Call. Your. Lawyer. Don’t have a lawyer? Well, you should, but this is no time for blame. We have an issue to address. Get a lawyer. You can find them at places like Avvo.com or through your local bar association or heck, just start Googling. If you don’t have a lawyer, you are welcome to contact me and ask for some direction. Please note that if you contact me, while anything you say to me is confidential, I may or may not be able to accept you as a client. If I can’t, I will help you find a good lawyer. So please feel free.
- Tell your lawyer everything. Don’t just tell them what’s in the legal thing. If you have other information that could be relevant, you need to tell them that too. Lawyers do not like surprises.
- Form a plan with your lawyer. Get a date from them as to when they will respond to the legal thing. On that date, if they don’t advise you they’ve responded, ask them. Give them the benefit of the doubt, but don’t put up with stalling, either. If they haven’t responded, ask them why they haven’t and when they will.
- Follow the plan. Make sure your lawyer gives you regular updates. Make sure you update them if you get more legal things or new information comes to light. Do whatever the plan calls for you to do and even more importantly, don’t do anything your lawyer told you not to do.
- If someone named in the legal thing tries to contact you or your business partners, refer them to your lawyer. Say exactly this: “I am represented by an attorney. You can contact them at this number/this email. I cannot discuss this matter further. Please contact my attorney.” They may yell, scream, bluff, threaten, or just try to sweet-talk you into responding. Don’t. Refer them to your attorney. If they say your attorney is not answering or they just have a “simple question” (this is a pretty common trick) get a phone number and tell them you will give it to your attorney. Then do so. This includes all contacts from police or law enforcement officials.
Okay, there’s your plan. Go do it! If you have questions, feel free to drop me an email and ask. Good luck!