Life Advisor: A lawyer for my grownup answers (similar to a Dad for my childhood answers)
May 7, 2010 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to find a good "renaissance man/jack of all trades" Legal adviser for my real-world questions/grown-up decision making?

I'm out living on my own in the world now and have frequent questions pop into my life. Given whatever topic/situation I'm takling in the future, I'd love to get the applicable parts of the letter of the law explained to me from a professional, *accurate* source, as well as some common options that this adviser has seen people choose before while remaining independent. This person would provide me with all of the legal choices I could make, and then let me know how (s)he's seen each one play out (without influencing me).

I'd love to find a single person/professional/jack of all trades who would provide me with these independent answers (Lawyer?) instead of a gaggle of advisers who try to push their respective company's products on me as their answers (i.e., Financial Advisor pushing his 401k at me when I ask a general retirement savings question). My questions are mainly in the following areas:

-Finance (savings, budgeting general expenditures)
-Real Estate (home owning, investment property)
-Insurance (educated guess as to what services the health care insurance company will pay for, what auto insurance coverage will I *need* given my personal history and what can I do without (i.e., rental car coverage since I never rent/can take public trans if my car dies))

These are questions I would have asked my Dad in the past (and gotten a fairly *accurate* answer), but now I want the same kind of "renaissance man" insight, except i want fact based answers (and the opinion of someone who has seen multiple clients face these same decisions before).

Does this exists?
posted by WhereAmI to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For personal finance issues, assuming you're more-or-less middle class, I don't think you're looking for a lawyer so much as a financial adviser. You want a fee-based financial adviser that charges by the hour, rather than on commission or as a percentage of assets under management.

In many situations the financial adviser can and should refer you to a lawyer or an accountant. He can tell you why you'd need someone else but it's not reasonable to expect one person to do it all. (It's reasonable to expect knowledge about why a specialist is needed, and issue-spotting to know when he's over his head.)

For "wealthy" amounts of assets, family-owned businesses, etc. -- yeah, lawyers do this. In business development they call it the "trusted adviser" role. But that's not economical / warranted for most middle-class situations.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 8:22 AM on May 7, 2010

Response by poster: I'm middle class so I'd like to ask what fee-based financial advising companies/associations exist that don't also sell products so they can provide me with an independent opinion without pushing me to buy something/invest with them?
posted by WhereAmI at 9:19 AM on May 7, 2010

I think the regulation of the legal profession has put this out of reach for the non-rich.
posted by grobstein at 9:38 AM on May 7, 2010

OP, the NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) website might be a good place to start.

Grobstein, I think the affairs of the non-rich aren't so complicated that they need a legal adviser on retainer. Have they ever been? Perhaps the high price of legal advice puts regular legal consultation out of the reach of many. But historically, hasn't legal advice always been expensive?

I'm not sure regulation of the legal profession has much to do with it either. ABA Model Rule 2.1 says, "In rendering advice, a lawyer may refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral, economic, social and political factors, that may be relevant to the client's situation."
posted by QuantumMeruit at 9:46 AM on May 7, 2010

I didn't mean that it would be unethical for a lawyer to provide general advice, but that it would be unaffordable.

Our society is thoroughly legalized, so regular people have to deal with complex legal problems all the time in their everyday lives. But in general they can't afford to get advice on these problems. If legal services were regulated differently, perhaps they could. My impression, though, is that the professional monopoly on dispensing "legal advice" makes it rather costly to do so. As an example, consider the enforcement actions against real estate agents providing minimal "legal" help. (Perhaps lawyer malpractice also plays a role.)

This is getting somewhat far afield, though, and I'm happy to take it to a private channel.
posted by grobstein at 10:29 AM on May 7, 2010

Our financial advisor in the USA and our accountant in Australia help us out with a lot of this. The Australian accountant wrangled the mortgage and tax implications of our investment property there. Our local financial advisor is setting up an investment portfolio and hunting out life insurance options for us.

How to find them? We totally lucked in to the guy in Australia, inheriting him from friends and recommending him in turn to everyone who will stand still long enough. The financial advisor required a much longer search. Being Australian I wasn't even sure what search terms I needed; accountants here don't really do what Glenn does in Australia. Eventually I read Suze Orman's site and realized I needed a CFP. I searched locally and noticing that a Suze Orman fan had written a glowing review for one such planner. Sure enough, Liz has been a delight.

Note that whoever you find may not be a dad-like figure. Our accountant's only a little older than we are. Liz is much younger, and a woman.

You're also going to want to be an informed participant in the decision-making. Glenn found the mortgage but we found the property. Similarly, Liz presents us with options, but we'd already decided we wanted mostly index-linked mutual funds.
posted by rdc at 10:50 AM on May 7, 2010

Can I recommend the library? It's free, and full of books on these topics:)

I don't mean that snarkily, but I think the kind of legal jack-of-all-trades you're talking about would be a) overkill unless you have very complicated financial stuff going on, and b) costly.
posted by grapesaresour at 4:53 PM on May 7, 2010

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