On Being and Attorney and an Author…

Because it’s come up a time or two, I thought I’d take the time to lay all this out for anyone who might want the clarification.

1)      You work for the government. Does that mean that you don’t take on any private legal work?

NO. I do take on some private legal work. I am selective about what I take on, because I do have a full time day job, and a part time evening job (the writing) and a family. If I were to take on a matter that involved a lot of court appearances during times I was supposed to be at my desk, or took on something that conflicted with my day job, that might cause an issue. There’s also the time issue. My supervisor knows I take on some private stuff. She is not privy to ANYTHING that would violate the attorney/client privilege. At this point, however, I have advised her (and she’s okay with the idea) that I can/will take on the following types of work…

  • Simple Estates (non-trust)
  • Living Wills
  • Health Care Powers of Attorney
  • Business advice from a legal perspective
  • Paperwork/Document/Contract review
  • Foreclosure Defense
  • Debt Recovery

I generally do not take on anything involving domestic relations work privately, since it could impact/conflict with my day job responsibilities. There are some exceptions, but not many. I am willing to consider other matters, but would likely refer you to a colleague if it involved something I did not feel comfortable doing. And if you ask me for a referral when I’m working the day job, I will only give you the name and number of our current county bar association president, because I cannot give recommendations when I’m representing a public agency.

2)      I’m in another state, but you’re an author and an attorney. Can you review my publishing contract?

My knee jerk response here is no.

I’m not a literary agent. I’m an attorney, licensed solely in the State of Ohio. I’m not licensed in any other state. There are only a few publishers who are a) based in Ohio, or b) contractually state that their contracts are subject to Ohio law. Not just one, but TWO of those are my own publishers. Talk about conflict.

If you ask me as an author whether I have a problem with a specific clause in a contract, I’d probably give you my take on it. But, it’s not legal advice, you’re not my client, and I’m definitely not representing you against a publisher who I might have a fiduciary (that means financial) relationship with. No-sir-ee Bob. Not gonna happen.

Guess what? Author me knows more about publishing contracts than lawyer me. Most literary agents probably know them better than general practice lawyers.

3)      You’ve spoken about legal things on panels at conferences. Does that mean you’re giving legal advice?

Nope. Not even close. And in fact, if you’ve been to those panels, you’ve also heard me (and other panelists in the same boat of attorney and author) give the disclaimer that I/we don’t represent anyone sitting in to listen to the panel, that there is no attorney/client relationship, and/or that you should read/vet/clarify/research any of the issues we discuss on your own. We generally talk about boring stuff, like contracts and clauses and rights and reversion and stuff. It’s not legal advice. It’s about general information. Anyone getting into this crazy business of writing NEEDS to learn how to read a contract for themselves, period, at minimum so that they know the right questions to ask before signing on the dotted line. And those panels talk about generalities, not the application of a specific contract to a specific project, so they’re not designed to be one-size-fits-all approach to the specific needs of individual writers…only to hit the highlights of what to be wary of.

4)      What if I pay you?

Dude, if you hire me for legal services, I will charge you. Only a small handful of people that are my parents, grandmother, future in-laws, or siblings get free or family rate legal services from me. There may be a time or two that I agree to do some pro bono (that means free) legal work for something outside the family, but that generally involves my church, or some charity, or specific negotiation and a darn good reason. 

I have done some legal work on a barter system. That does not mean I’m going to do a ton of it. Generally it’s for people with a specific problem, who also have a skill I either don’t have, or don’t have the time to figure out. This isn’t something that I do a lot of.

5)      So, why don’t you list the names of lawyers you’d recommend on your website?

Um, no. First of all, there’s not an attorney in my county that I would feel bad about recommending. They all do a good job. But I’m not running an advertising service. I’m running a writing blog and website. Second, the day job is for a public entity. I’m not allowed to make recommendations as a government lawyer. It’s different if a) you’re my sister/real life friend/brother/future sibling-in-law/future parents-in-law/neighbor/Mom/Grandma/aunt/uncle/cousin and b) want a recommendation for a specific matter. Then I can safely say that you should call Mr. X or Ms. Y, because they’re awesome at ABC, and I don’t know that area of the law, or I can’t handle that kind of case.

This website is also NOT the place to contact me about private legal work. Best place is probably addiejking AT gmail DOT com (spelled out to avoid spammers), but understand that my time is limited, I’m under editing deadlines at the moment, I have other clients, and I have an upcoming wedding. I’m very likely to tell you at the moment that I’m as busy as I can stand right now, and that you should seek other counsel or give me a couple of months to dig out before asking again.