DISCLAIMER: None of this is legal advice. It’s all common sense or ideas heard from others. It doesn’t clarify how to be a decent human being, and complete compliance may in fact do the opposite. Visit My Omnibus Terms and Conditions if you feel compelled to sue.
In a litigious society, everyone must learn basic legal safety.
- 80%+ of the people, in any society, are decent-enough that they honor laws and don’t like litigation at all.
- The other ~20% of the people may cause trouble for you in a legal capacity, since they’re willing to profit off the experience without regard to others.
- 3-10% of that 20% are very good at unethically exploiting legal boundaries and conducting lawfare, and they’re very dangerous to even associate with.
In short, basic legal safety involves several things:
- Be a decent human being.
- Keep some sort of record of every potential future conflict.
- Stay out of court.
Courts often aren’t fair
Laws are the most intensely enforced social norms.
- Law is the domain where human decency breaks down.
- Some laws (like murder) tie to a philosophical human universal, but other laws do not break cultural norms.
- Even though some laws threaten prison or death, there’s a certain degree of subjectivity and interpretation that only lawyers can expertly navigate.
Unfair discrimination in law is tragically frequent.
- In principle justice is blind to favoritism, but imperfect and corruptible people carry it out, and it’s also sometimes blind to facts outside the situation.
- Most court cases are a battle of attrition through attorney fees, and the groups that typically win court battles have more money to pay their lawyers.
- People can often abuse laws to operate against the spirit they were originally designed for.
- While “innocent until proven guilty” is often the doctrine within the courts, the police system around it is typically “guilty until proven innocent” and in practice becomes “innocent until proven poor”.
Every court hearing is inherently biased.
- With the exception of forensics (i.e., science for legal purposes), each person in a court is human.
- Many cases never make it to trial because they’re resolved with a settlement or plea bargain, which means that it becomes a complicated negotiation about specific provable facts that align with various statutory regulations.
- Though the judge and/or jury decide the case if it goes to trial, everyone in the case affects the verdict by their pull with those deciding people.
- In some incredibly infamous instances, good men have been sentenced to death or exiled from a strictly philosophical disagreement.
To put it another way, laws aren’t directly morality:
- Law is a value system made collaboratively over time by leaders with authority.
- At first, the values reflect the leaders’ philosophies, but adapt and conform to trends over time to enforce justice.
- If there is anything moral about the laws, they exist in the framers’ minds, and future morality comes through how we interpret how law enforcement creates consequences from those laws.
- We all, in our own mind, have our own imitation of those laws, which is perpetually over-ruled by permutations and misunderstandings of those laws relative to how large organizations use them.
Your legitimate innocence is the best legal defense, and being a decent human being will avoid most legal issues.
People don’t usually sue well-liked people.
- The only people who good people are varying degrees of evil, and are either conceited enough to waste money or know how to abuse the legal system.
- Your reputation (in whatever form it takes) is a history of past interactions with other people, and people trust it because it expresses your habits over time.
- Behave fairly, with everyone.
- Without people who value you (e.g., your legal fiction), your reputation is defined by the pettiness and cruelty of your worst enemies.
Manage conflicts correctly.
- If someone will not like what you want to do, conflict is unavoidable.
- Even when others deserve it, avoid harshness.
Never, ever escalate a conflict.
- The person who starts yelling is the first antagonist (though it’s protected in many Western societies barring some exceptions like threats).
- The one who makes the first physical interaction (e.g., punching, throwing water, etc.) is usually performing some form of assault.
- Escalating a conflict (e.g., pulling out a knife or gun) can often make your case far more severe in a criminal hearing.
Make your public presence (e.g., social media) as a persona.
- When you use a brand, people look for your official legal name behind it.
- If you use your full legal name, you open yourself to the risk of identity theft and other social risks (e.g., doxxing).
- Using a fake name or a nickname allows you to maintain a reputation without the risks of connecting to your legal existence.
Be careful when you’re not sure
Most legal issues come through inappropriate behavior or inappropriate boundaries.
- How you behave establishes a habitual precedent, and deciding to change toward practicing healthy boundaries may become a breach of contract.
- If you had been overstepping your authority, then stopped, a court may still consider you to perform your over-reached actions (since you had set a precedent).
- The longer your relationship with someone else in a professional capacity, the more implied expectations, and the higher the likelihood of bad boundaries.
- Carefully consider anything you do habitually with others.
Extend your legal risk calculations to people and things that go beyond you.
- You can often be held legally liable for the consequences of pets, employees, children, vehicles, and property associated with your name.
Your silence may exonerate you.
- With the exception of specific professional duties, simply not saying something is typically 100% safe.
- Not saying things (or simply not responding) often requires much more research for someone to prove anything.
- Stay completely open about obvious matters, but it’s wiser to stay completely silent about things people don’t need to know.
Research the rules whenever possible.
- Governments usually post their laws publicly (though many bureaus have unclear or conflicting precedents), which usually make sense if you can get past the jargon.
- Closely consider everyone’s legal rights and responsibilities.
- Even when you’re violating your responsibility, them violating their responsibility exonerates you (“In pari delicto”).
- The rules are often more complicated than they seem:
- Some laws are only written down (de jure), but are not enforced.
- Some social rules are not written down or formally established cultural norms, but are a very bad idea (de facto).
Either record every legal filing you must perform, or pay someone to do it.
- Get every permit, certification, and purchased right before doing anything.
- When you don’t know, the legal code itself is typically available to the public even if you can’t afford a lawyer.
Watch for specific places with higher legal risks:
- Being in public, where more activities are considered criminal behavior (especially late at night).
- Transporting things, especially across political boundaries.
- Talking with officials (e.g., police, judges, etc.).
- Operating a vehicle, where some otherwise legal activities (e.g., drinking alcohol) are illegal.
Whenever you feel unsafe, record everything.
- Maintain audio recordings of every important conversation, and get their consent when the situation permits.
- Many times, a recording is inadmissible in court without them consenting to it, but your testimony of the recording is still valid.
- Get a vehicle dashboard camera designed to save the last few minutes of video when you hit a button.
- If you’re particularly paranoid, carry a portable retroactively-saving camera on you with you everywhere.
- If you can’t record the conversation, summarize the main thrust of the conversation in writing.
- Write down relevant names, times, and places.
- Do not use erasable gel pens, and use a pencil if you’re not sure.
Always give caveats to your testimony and promises.
- Only state what you know to be true.
- Lying in many contexts risks a wide variety of problems: lying under oath, defamation, libel, slander, false advertising, fraud.
- Give all relevant information to permit others to make the most educated decision possible.
- You will not remember everything perfectly, and that humility can protect you in many capacities.
- Always add modifiers that imply uncertainty (“I remember…”, “By my recollection…”, “The statement I read was…”).
- If you’re giving advice, add modifiers that imply expertise but no promises (“I’ve experienced this…”, “This has happened before elsewhere…”).
Trust others, but verify everything.
- Screen people and perform background checks.
- Screen organizations (e.g., Better Business Bureau, AM Best).
- Someone may approach you for a business arrangement, but with illegal intent, and your consent may make you the accessory to a crime.
- Don’t invest in anything where you don’t know how the object was sourced, or with multiple third parties involved.
Research who you’re working with.
- Ask a wide variety of people to assess the reputation of a person or entity, especially professionals in industries close to them (e.g., asking an accountant about a bank).
- If you’re particularly concerned, pay for background checks to make sure (such as private detectives or credit checks).
- If you act on behalf of someone else (e.g., sales representative, agent), misstatements you make are often legally enforceable as being from the organization you represent.
Avoid conflicts of interest.
- It’s very easy to mix personal and professional matters when we work with our friends and family.
- Be careful borrowing from clients or loaning money to them.
- If you’re an agent and have a murky situation, get out of the way and have the parties directly interact with each other (at least for that situation).
Avoid discrimination in any form whatsoever.
- It’s intuitive to not discriminate against someone, but favoring someone can often be illegal as well.
- Even when you do discriminate, make sure you have a secondary reason as well (e.g., gender discrimination is illegal, but body type may not be).
Keep at least some connections with large organizations: large entities have strong ties to other large entities, and spread a lot of information back-and-forth.
- Insurance consults LexisNexis’ CLUE report, as well as police records as applicable
- Banks use checking account reports and a credit score
- Medical entities consult the Medical Information Board
- Most employers run background checks, which show criminal history
- Apartments, telecom companies, and others have their own
Closely consider your responsibilities in any explicit or implicit contract.
- Never take a gift if you have any questions about the other person’s trustworthiness.
- Receiving a gift from someone earns them an unspoken favor, which is exposure to an unknown obligation.
- Stay especially careful of gifts given outside the normal flow of gift-giving behavior.
- Be careful even giving information, since it may represent an implicit contract.
- Often, most marketing gimmicks (e.g. free car sweepstakes) are designed to get information they can use for future contact.
Only make promises you can fulfill.
- If they want more promises, plainly state what you’ll do and promise you’ll do your best.
- Never promise you’ll do something when you’re unsure, and make constant disclaimers that your performance is likely but not guaranteed.
- You can use terms that imply intent but don’t state it:
- e.g., “I can definitely do that.” (later, after not doing it) “I didn’t say I would.”
- It’s unethical and will get you in court more frequently, but you’ll probably win the case unless the judge doesn’t like you.
- When estimating the consequences (e.g., as a consultant), bluntly give the worst-case possibility alongside the worst-case likely possibility (to prepare them for the worst).
- The safest way to consult is to never be more optimistic than what’s likely to happen.
Be careful with things outside the scope of your experience:
- If you’re advising, make sure you’re disclaiming that your statements are not advice.
- If you’re performing, take the time to educate yourself on the industry’s idiosyncrasies and take extra time on the tasks themselves.
- Fully clarify to them what you do and don’t have authority and experience with.
- When you’re unsure, walk away and admit defeat, or try again months or years later (assuming you’re still obligated to perform).
Watch the timing of what you say.
- Only speak freely when you know with absolute certainty that nobody is recording you.
- If you know someone tends to take screenshots of conversations, send them audio recordings instead.
- Interacting with the wrong person in the wrong context can lead to a civil case.
Pay close attention to opt-in or opt-out status, since its default state can be a dark pattern.
- Opt-in makes the default condition opt-out, and it may be discriminatory or work against the interests of the consenting party.
- Opt-out makes the default condition opt-in, which may make the consenting party agree to something they weren’t aware of.
Before consenting to anything, research beforehand about the reasonable cost and standards for goods and services.
- If you’re not careful, consenting to a contract may force you to:
- Pay more than you expected
- Make less than you thought was promised
- Do something unethical
- Waive your rights
- Keep performing until an arbitrary standard (e.g., “until work has been completed”)
- Make sure you have the right to terminate a contract for any reason whatsoever and, in the interest of fairness, they have that right as well.
- If termination will cause an undue burden, clearly demarcate the consequences (e.g., cancellation fee, notice required before cancellation).
- Watch for “all-in-one” services that could be inadequate for what you need.
- Stay cautious of emerging high-risk areas, especially new ventures or small operations.
In all engagements, either include or request a mediation/arbitration clause or limitation of liability clause.
Always read the contracts you sign (“caveat emptor”), and never sign an agreement you don’t fully understand.
- Pay close attention to the definitions at the beginning of the contract, since it typically frames the scope of words and their usage in the document.
- Stay closely aware to the rights for any named entities (e.g., The Holding Company).
- Often, a third party has the power to perform actions the contract-writer can’t do, but can tell them to do.
- If you can’t read it because it’s too difficult, make sure someone you trust (e.g., a legal-minded family member, an attorney) skims through it.
- If you don’t have access to what you’re signing, do not sign.
To avoid an urgent decision, give as much time as possible to review a contract (e.g., set a future effective date).
- If you’re not sure about all the clauses involved in the contract, give it time to read through it or consult a professional who would know more.
- Generally, more disclosures and clauses are them trying to protect or insulate themselves from you.
- Watch for dark patterns that streamline your consent, since it’s usually to coerce consent which no reasonable person would agree to if they read them.
Note any terms which may hurt your capacity for choices later.
- When the other party is much more powerful than you (e.g., large organization, franchisor), be very cautious about your own responsibilities in the arrangement and the procedure for resolving conflicts.
- Pay extra attention to any exclusive or non-exclusive domains, since the power dynamic is tilted against your interests if they have unlimited license but you must exclusively use something in particular.
- Pay close attention to the scope of automatic renewal clauses. You may consent to a service that you must pay for way longer than you expected.
If there’s a warranty, track its duration.
- The warranty period is often a precise measurement before the device was engineered for planned obsolescence.
- If it’s “as is”, expect the possibility you’ll fix something yourself soon.
- If you can pay for an extended warranty, closely consider if it’s worth the cost and its additional terms (since they often profit from it).
Always look ahead to how a contract terminates, even if you don’t think it ever will.
- Note the region’s laws or arbitration remedies that take effect in the most likely adverse events.
- The rules for the region may be different based on the offering party’s location versus yours.
- Watch for mandatory arbitration clauses that prevent you from taking action against the other party in the case of an injury without their approval.
- Calculate the cost for canceling the contract later.
- If you’re required to provide a notice before the cancellation date, you’ll be responsible to pay that difference.
- Add in any administration fees indicated for cancellation.
- If there is no cancellation clause, you’ll likely have to pay for the entire term each time.
If at all possible, try to manage every arrangement which could cause adverse situations.
- If you have a loan, the collateral is always at risk of being lawfully claimed by the lienholder, even if you only owe $1.
- In any employment capacity the noncompete, non-disclosure and non-solicitation agreements are very enforceable in a civil lawsuit.
- Fewer contracts mean you get less done, but also have less risk exposure.
In an uneven power dynamic (e.g., you’re an employee looking for a job), don’t be afraid to discuss amending the contract.
- Instead of editing the proposed contract itself (since lawyers may require it to be there), add a rider.
- Make sure the rider says at the bottom “If any portion of this rider is in conflict with the main contract, the terms of this rider will override the terms of the contract.”
- You can also simply say “this contract isn’t worth enough to justify these provisions. We can bump the contract if you want, but otherwise I’m not interested”.
- They’ll typically modify their contract, since they do not want to pay more money.
- Learn the power of saying “no”, since absolutely any contract comes with many implications.
- If you do not modify the contract, any verbal promises will not be enforceable (“parol evidence rule”).
- If you’re working with a very prestigious party, you will be enslaved to their terms unless you have a lawyer specialized in the situation.
- The one-time contract that transfers title to your name, a lease for a duration of time, or possibly a hybrid of lease/purchase.
- If you don’t have all the money up-front, an ongoing contract with a bank.
- If the bank requires it, you may need to pay for insurance.
- If you’re receiving government assistance (e.g., FHA mortgage loans), that government has another contract involved, with many conditions of its own.
- An extended warranty is essentially an ongoing service agreement, which may be with the seller or a third party.
- Very frequently, failing an obligation can involve another third party (e.g., debt collector), and can very quickly make the experience unpleasant and bureaucratic.
Throughout the business relationship, watch for changes over time.
- Generally, the more parties involved and named in a contract, the shorter-term that contract will be without modifications.
- Every time you hear about an “update to the terms”, read them, since you’re consenting to them by continuing to engage with that contract.
- Sometimes, your contract can become “grandfathered” into a favorable situation, which may make maintaining that contract very worthwhile, even if it costs a little bit more or the business’ service on that contract becomes scattered.
If you’re making the contract and it’s not a standard form, make sure it’s well-worded and reviewed by a lawyer, since the burden falls on you to get it correct (“contra proferentem”).
- Using language that mandates arbitration may create a ruling strictly in your favor, but mediation guarantees more long-term results, including people paying what they owe and renegotiation of more mutually beneficial contracts.
- If you have them use any private information, include a nondisclosure agreement.
- Make sure everyone relevant signs all the relevant lines of the document.
You’re typically not obligated to established the contract (e.g., the right to refuse service) but are typically required to perform an existing contract.
- Be very mindful of specific discrimination-based matters (e.g., racial, sexual orientation, religion) that create grounds for litigation.
- If you intend to discriminate with those domains, always have an “actual” condition that you’re discriminating against.
- If you’re an agent on behalf of another organization, you’re only allowed to amend, cancel or interpret the contract, but can not be a party stated in that contract.
Give yourself lots of extra time to do everything correctly.
- Most errors come through hastiness.
- You can work faster and make more money, but you’re more likely to fall into a major legal pitfall later.
Always ask 2 questions, constantly:
- Did they get the message?
- Can I prove they got the message?
From the beginning, manage expectations with others.
- Clearly articulate what you will and will not do, and make sure they thoroughly understand it.
- Avoid using any jargon that may confuse them or make the situation vague.
- Don’t use vague statements (e.g., “we always give good service”).
- If possible, communicate anything that uses numbers (e.g., effective dates, dollar amounts, limits).
- Record absolutely everything you agree with anyone, preferably in writing.
- If anything changes, notify everyone involved immediately and record that in writing as well.
- Use standardized checklists to track what you did and didn’t promise and what officially happened.
Document everything that might be potentially pertinent.
- Track all key information:
- Clear articulation of what happened.
- What everyone agreed to verbally.
- Any limits, clarifications, exceptions, or caveats to the original agreement.
- Date and time of the notes/discussion.
- Signed and initialed by everyone involved.
- Pay close attention to special cases:
- If they declined anything, clarify exactly what you offered and they declined, any potential risks you’ve communicated that they’ve heard, and other alternatives you’ve offered and they’ve also declined.
- Get a signed waiver for any risks they’re assuming themselves, or for any declinations or exceptions to the standard agreement.
- If you’re declining an agreement, clearly document exactly why you are and what can still be arranged.
- Do it as soon as possible (i.e., minutes later), since you’ll likely forget key details by the next day.
- It doesn’t have to be typed, but it must be legible, and preferably stored in a well-organized location (with backups).
- The validity of the documentation depends heavily on the consistency of your records:
- Freehand notes on blank paper (e.g., sticky notes, notepads) give complete freedom for vagueness when recording it, and it’s hard to prove anything was discussed.
- Standardized forms (e.g., checklists, call surveys) are more consistent, but still hard to prove.
- Recording an issue in writing to someone else and saving a copy (e.g., sales proposals, binders) indicates the information was communicated.
- A signed disclaimer or acknowledgment by the other party indicates the information was understood.
- Electronic documents are excellent, but stay consistent with organizing them:
- If you can’t find the document when you need it, you may as well not bother having it.
- For digital signatures, make sure they’ve consented to electronic-only document delivery.
- Either import the information from a cell phone, or have them call an office phone number with a recorded line.
- Store voicemails electronically.
- Text messages require a date/time and actual contact information (i.e., phone # for SMS or phone/email for MMS).
- Email is formal written communication, so do not speak badly about others or admit to an error.
- Treat OCR/ICR scans and faxes like email attachments.
- Save any files (e.g., PDFs) as formal documentation.
- Take screenshots of anything that may be relevant.
If you or they are at all unsure, make the record more official.
- If the contract has significant conditions, have it notarized.
- If you’re unsure about the owner of a title, get it bonded and/or get title insurance.
- If they expect any relevant insurance, make sure you get a certificate of insurance from your agent.
If you’re hiring anyone, always include a noncompete, non-solicitation, and nondisclosure agreement for the duration of their employment.
- Don’t extend the noncompete term beyond their employment with you, since it’s unethical and sometimes illegal.
- If you’re really concerned about some form of intellectual property, make an ironclad nondisclosure agreement instead.
Frame the language of the contracts with the other person’s interests in mind, preferably more inclined toward their interests than your own.
- Only emphasize the specific interests which work the most in your favor, and give a wide license to terminate the contract.
- Finding a new service provider is much less trouble than forcing a current service provider to perform, especially if the contract has clearly stated their fees for cancellation.
- You can often win out in the short-term with a more constraining contract on the other party, but it generates tension that could lead to a legal battle later.
- Even if you’re using subtle tricks to hide what you’re doing, you’ll damage your long-term reputation when people eventually find out.
Do not include predatory clauses that could force noncompliance or get you in legal trouble.
- Unless you’re paying them a lot of money, a no moonlighting policy is unethical.
- Reducing features or the scope of the contract is sometimes legally defined as a cancellation of service.
Generally, avoid lifetime contracts unless both sides are providing continued lifetime investments:
- Lifetime contracts for a one-time payment or limited obligation are always an undue burden on one side, meaning the quality of their performance will suffer over that lifetime or the entity may become unable to keep performing.
- The only time a lifetime contract is worth it is when that lifetime is significantly shorter (e.g., terminal cancer) or when there’s a secondary use for the consideration (e.g., investing the proceeds into a continuous source of income).
- Instead, make a significant long-term contract with a fixed number of years (e.g., 5 years, 20 years).
Watch and confront any drift from the agreed terms (e.g., situation has changed).
- Stay aware of specific relevant domains which may change the situation:
- Any new connections with other entities or related fields.
- All geographically nearby associations to them or you.
- All new risk factors that emerge (e.g., news stories).
- Possible changes from potential new arrangements they make with others (e.g., bank loans).
- Possible other people who may be affected by the change, and all of the above for them.
- Append or amend the contract as needed to keep everyone safely within their scope of duty.
- Inform them as soon as possible about the consequences of any changes you’re aware of.
- Communicate all new changes before they happen.
- Let every affected party know of of any relevant changes as soon as possible, and preferably in writing.
- Make sure you’re only performing according to the parties with the authority to amend or cancel the contract.
Every time the contract renews (e.g., annually, semi-annually, quarterly), you’re very obligated to review everything:
- The current status of the agreement.
- Increased costs from various factors (e.g., inflation, population growth, urban decay).
- Recommendations for better opportunities (e.g., low prices for scaling operations, discounts by changing agreements to an updated one).
- Alternative options that exist and are available if their situation has changed.
- Ask important deeper questions about the agreement:
- Why are you still in business with them?
- How will that relationship unfold in the future?
If a contract is going to cancel, make sure all relevant parties are completely aware.
- If you’re completely terminating your engagement with them, send them an off-account letter to clearly indicate your arrangement.
- Let everyone know, send mail, return money promptly, and keep customers publicly informed.
If you’re required to mail something, make sure the package will be signed for, and have a clause/backup plan for the possibility the package doesn’t arrive.
Perform only within your range of expertise and comfort.
- Be careful moving out of your comfort zone to round out your service capacity.
- Keep an excellent attorney with a specialization in your needed legal coverage.
There’s usually a critical time frame where something must be performed.
- You usually have a reasonable amount of time, assuming you’re somewhat organized.
- Keep yourself organized with a daily project management/suspense/diary system that tracks all important transactions.
- Make sure everyone in your organization uses that system, and ask for help if you ever get behind.
Stay on top of communication.
- Most legal notices give 30-60 days to perform, which means you may be late if you check your mail once a month.
- Make a habit of checking your email/voicemail/mail every week.
- Thoroughly change your address every time you move (e.g., insurance, bank information, loans, etc.).
Try to give degrees of separation whenever possible.
- Run things through a PO box instead of a physical address.
- Establish a trust, corporation, not-for-profit organization, or limited liability company for large-scale activities.
- Use bank safety deposit boxes and storage units instead of storing things on-site.
If you’re not sure, do nothing.
- With the exception of fully-defined “negligence”, doing nothing rarely runs the risk of implicitly consenting and there’s no prior performance to create an implicit contract.
- It may be harsh at times, but non-involvement is the strongest way to be legally safe.
- If you do care about the person who you may be able to help, it typically doesn’t hurt to communicate why you’re not helping them (e.g., “I don’t want to establish a precedent”).
- However, while not acting is the most legally safe thing to do, it’s often also unethical.
Be careful when transporting goods.
- Even when you don’t know, you can often become the accomplice to a crime.
- Require them to seal it so you can’t know what’s in the container.
- Make sure the seal is unbroken until the receiving party signs off on it.
Avoid “legal voice”.
- Stating legal rights antagonistically will win no favors, and typically creates more friction (e.g., “You must vacate by next Tuesday because I hold the title deed to the property”).
- That tone can exploit people through fear, and may often be founded on correct information, but even the slightest misstatement or provocation to the wrong person can bring the wrath of a more sufficiently-funded legal battle upon yourself.
- Instead, expressing some degree of empathy for the difficulty of their situation (without apologizing) can go a long way toward their compliance and general peace.
Always keep yourself open to mediation, negotiation, and arbitration.
- Getting a settlement is a win/win when done correctly.
- Only go to arbitration as an individual if you can legitimately take them to court if it fails.
Besides a settlement offer, never start a dispute.
- Don’t say anything that someone could construe as a threat.
- Do not strike first in a physical altercation, and preferably only respond after they’ve drawn blood on you.
- If you have a gun, only fire it if you see them about to fire theirs and you have nowhere to retreat.
For your safety, have a general idea of how a physical altercation will end.
- if you’re not sure you’ll be safe, dial 911/211 and leave the phone in your pocket (since they’ll trace it).
- Don’t expect the police to save you: a violent assault which can kill you happens in seconds.
- Do not intensify the fight: while you can walk away from most fistfights, the chances of surviving a knife wound or gunshot at close range are unlikely.
People usually sue because they desire justice or expect financial gain.
- A lawsuit is meant to recover damages, but prosecuting for non-material damages like emotional or psychological damage is usually very difficult.
If you can take a favorable settlement, you’ll come out ahead.
- Legal fees are very expensive, for everyone, so consider that when negotiating the settlement amount.
- A judge’s decision is binding, and can only be overturned by a higher court if you can successfully appeal it.
- On the other hand, avoiding a judge (or appointing a mediator/arbitrator) guarantees more flexibility within the proceedings.
The “burden of proof” sits differently depending on the system and context:
- Civil cases apply the “balance of probabilities” doctrine.
- Criminal cases apply the “presumption of innocence” doctrine.
- Most interactions with law enforcement informally applies the “presumption of guilt” doctrine.
Consider the costs they cover, versus what you must pay.
Understand ahead of time what the late and cancellation fees are, and how they’re assessed.
Stay aware of when the owner can enter the premises without consent, including the domain of emergencies.
If you plan to have guests/family or pets, read what the guest and pet policies are.
Look at what you can change to the property, and to what extent.
Look at what they can change to the property, and to what extent.
Defending – Prevention
Disclaim everything, since nobody can sue if you’ve successfully repudiated yourself as:
- Not giving actual advice
- Your product isn’t intended for any useful purpose
- Your service doesn’t assist in any capacity that provides any benefit
- Nobody should use your product and you’re not liable for the most dangerous or illegal ways it could possibly be used
Don’t let other people abuse your choice of words.
- Apologizing by force of habit is an unintentional admission of guilt.
- If you disclose any unnecessary information, people can misuse it for things like slander or false advertising.
Observe who is suing and why.
- Many lawsuits come from parties-in-interest not directly making the agreement.
- Many attorneys create work for themselves by pursuing illegitimate cases they can change conditions with to win on a technicality.
- Other groups, such as patent-abusers, file actions against people who can’t afford a huge legal battle to extort a settlement.
Don’t get too curious.
- Sometimes, merely knowing something can get you in trouble.
- Don’t ask questions unless you’re prepared for the answer, as well as the legal implications that come from knowing it.
- A professional applies every thought, action, and spoken word as 3 possible forms of “status” toward the interests of their client:
- Risky or dangerous
- To them, every word has a very, very specific meaning with several uses:
- Delivering a very specific set of information with very few words.
- In-group virtue signaling to indicate legal proficiency to other lawyers.
- Keep around lawyers for all relevant domains you work in:
Defending – Protection
Don’t own anything.
- By not officially owning anything, nobody can sufficiently pursue you for damages in a civil case.
- If you have a prominent legal presence, transfer ownership to someone else (e.g., a trust, family member, friend, etc.).
Don’t owe anything.
Never begin paying for installments unless you intend to finish paying it.
- The first $1 payment declares a contract as legitimate.
For a minimal fee, you can register your dog as an “emotional support animal” and landlords can’t discriminate or raise their rent for it.
If your car is about to get towed, jump inside it to qualify further action as kidnapping.
If you’re a professional with a government-endorsed certification, you’re held to a higher standard.
- To operate in an official capacity as a teacher, doctor, architect, lawyer, beautician, engineer, banker, insurance agent, investment counselor, or psychiatrist, it requires continuous education requirements and a much higher standard of behavior and care.
- However, you can often operate without government approval in very specific capacities, and without the responsibilities involved from the official title.
Only discuss legal matters with a qualified lawyer.
- If you discuss it with anyone else, you expose yourself to more risk.
- If someone else asks for information or documents, including another party’s lawyer, you do not have to provide them.
If you ever are served documentation regarding a legal dispute and have plenty of money, paying money to high-quality lawyers can heavily affect your results.
- By postponing the situation, requesting continuations and stays, and generally prolonging the event, you can win a case simply by attrition.
- If you lose the case, you can generally appeal it and try again with more postponement.
- Eventually, the prosecutors’ action can fall outside the statute of limitations or the prosecuting party will give up.
Defending – Errors
In a professional capacity it’s impossible to avoid legal action (since you can make mistakes which some people will sue you over).
- It’s very important to get errors and omissions or malpractice insurance to transfer the risk away from you (and permit you to keep working).
- While courts won’t hold you liable, it can still incur legal fees.
Most errors simply come from misstatements.
- You can avoid most of them simply by re-reviewing the contracts you’re framing or the performance everyone expects.
If you’re writing the contract, keep the language simple.
- Poor writing drives difficult legal language in most contracts, not specialized concepts.
Treat most interactions as contracts.
- There’s a requirement to perform on both sides.
- If they don’t perform, you have the right to sue.
- Generally, the threat of a lawsuit is worse than the suit itself (since it’ll cost a lot for everyone involved).
If someone performs a breach of contract and doesn’t pay, don’t hunt them down.
- The legal costs for suing about unpaid fees is only worth the cost if it’s a lot of money, and is typically worth selling the bad debt to a collections agency instead.
- If you’ve overpaid, the damages for seeking restitution aren’t worth it, and you’ll damage the organization far worse by publicly shaming them on social media.
- If you do make the experience a public event, make sure the information isn’t protected by a privacy regulation (or that part is omitted) and that your issue is fashionable enough for most people to feel angry about it.
Generally, it’s a better bet to leave a hostile work environment than sue.
- By natural consequence of an employer/employee relationship, you have less power (and legal resources) than them, even if a jury would more likely side with you.
- If your manager and manager’s manager are working together, you will succeed much more by recording the experiences and publishing them on social media after quitting.
Mind the impression you give.
- Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can give the impression that you’re a criminal.
- Asking the wrong questions to the wrong person can imply you have ulterior motives.
Watch for mandatory reporters.
- Mandatory reporters are required by most states’ laws to notify of any suspicions they have about specific activities, especially pertaining to children and the elderly.
- Some examples of mandatory reporters are school faculty, medical personnel, social workers, military, psychological counselors, and police officers.
- In the case of military and police officers, they are almost always able to hold things you say against you as a legitimate eyewitness account in a court hearing, as well as arrest you.
- Generally, the farther left-leaning a nation gets, the more places that society establishes mandatory reporters.
For a non-emergency, call 311 instead of 911.
Outside of breaking and entering (such as climbing a fence), private property signs usually have no legal enforceability.
Having an open container of alcohol in public is considered public drunkenness, even if you aren’t drinking it.
It’s illegal to use someone’s public WiFi network without their permission.
Do not do anything in a loud or disruptive way.
- Avoid yelling, exposing anyone to significant risks (e.g., waving a gun around), or dress immodestly for the culture.
- Quite a few seemingly innocent things qualify as “disrupting the peace” or “public indecency”.
Physically touching anyone, even your child, can be counted as assault if anyone presses charges.
- Intentionally splashing a drink on someone or flicking their ear can sometimes be counted as assault.
Be very careful what intellectual property you share, and to whom.
Unless you want to risk your life, don’t try to organize with others or confront the government about anything directly.
- Even in free societies where you may not die, you’ll find governments will make your other government affairs “coincidentally” more difficult.
- Only confront the government if you plan to become part of it (e.g., winning an election) and have the finances to take it on.
Talking with police
Avoid ever talking to the police.
- You rarely have any obligation to answer a police officer’s questions when stopped in the street.
- Always use a lawyer to ever discuss matters with the police.
- Stay private as much as reasonable.
- However, do not get defensive or they can justify you had something you were trying to hide.
- The police often see themselves as part of the prosecutor’s team, even if you’re not defending yourself.
- Their job requires them to seek criminal activity, so you’re a suspect unless you’re also law enforcement.
- Many 911 dispatchers assume by default that most callers are lying.
- The only safe thing to discuss with the police is the scope of their responsibility (e.g., the standard procedure for a specific type of criminal charge).
You can unintentionally implicate yourself if you say anything at all to the police.
- If you make any mistakes retelling what happened, you’ve technically falsified information.
- The officer may incorrectly remember what you said in front of a judge.
- Police have no obligation to tell you the truth and may trick you into saying inaccurate things.
- Your statements could mix with faulty eyewitness accounts, poor testimonies, and bad luck to convict you of a severe crime.
In the USA, you must say your name and what you’re doing at the moment, but nothing else.
- If they press the matter, you can ask for your lawyer.
- You are not required to unlock your computer’s/phone’s passcode, and the officer can’t tell a jury you refused their demand.
- If they ask to search anything you own, including your vehicle, they must tell you what they suspect you have.
- The Fourth Amendment is now built to permit the police almost every right to search and seizure if they ever feel like it.
- The Fifth Amendment is now built to favor the police based on when you plead it, so don’t plead it.
Be very careful when and how you bribe.
- In a low-corruption region (e.g., USA), giving a bribe will cause you more trouble than simply paying a fine.
- However, in a high-corruption region, you’ll need to keep around bribe money simply to avoid a prison sentence.
If you’re in a high-crime region, hiring off-duty police for security wins favor within the law enforcement community.
- While it’s technically a form of bribery and on-par with the mafia’s “protection money”, the police will be less likely to cause any trouble for you and more thorough at responding to an emergency call.
Police hide on long straightaways to track speeding drivers.
- Truck drivers will often slow down by communicating police presence via CB.
- Use an app like Waze to see police traps ahead.
Traffic laws don’t apply to private property, including parking lots.
Handicapped parking signs on the ground are usually only enforceable with posted signs.
Sleeping drunk in your car with the keys in the ignition can still classify as driving.
Use your turn signals even if you don’t think anyone is watching.
Officers will often follow you for several miles to write a harsher ticket from observing a series of offenses.
If you are ever pulled over by the police:
- Turn on your interior lights to show you have nothing to hide.
- Keep your hands visible at all times.
- Tell them when you are grabbing something and avoid making any sudden movements.
Defending – Court
For most things (e.g., unsafe vehicle, inadequate property) you’re required to receive a notice of violation first.
In a criminal situation, don’t expect the courts to side with you.
- A police officer’s testimony typically holds more weight in front of a judge than yours.
If you’ve researched, you likely know a decent-enough lawyer to help.
- Pay a retainer for the lawyer and memorize their phone number.
If you’re legitimately innocent, you always have the truth on your side, but the truth isn’t always easy to defend.
- Every nation’s criminal justice system is at least partly adjusted unfairly against the defendant.
- Whenever possible, your video and audio evidence will exonerate you much more than eyewitness testimony.
- If your people group or ideology doesn’t reflect the majority of that culture, the odds are stacked against you.
If you’re not in a favorable situation, taking a plea deal can often save years of potential incarceration.
If you’re released on probation or parole, be extremely careful.
- Most people go back to life as usual, but even the slightest misstep before your period is over will be a violation that will send you into a very bad place.
- Unless you’re making the choice to flee the region (and never come back in your life as well as face the risk of extradition) absolutely honor every single requirement placed upon you, and communicate openly about every single aspect that may influence your situation with them.
Your only hope for redemption is through living better than before, to the point of never even implying that you do what you once did.
- Once you’re fully free, it also often makes sense to change regions (e.g., move to another country, move to a remote location) where you can start life again.
Legal safety is not part of the Good Life
The only way to stay fully out of trouble is to do absolutely nothing.
- Every single task we perform comes with legal risks.
- Therefore, most meaningful and ethical tasks are often more risky legally than if we did nothing.
Living a good life requires operating outside the world of what’s legally admissible.
- We can only find happiness in our thought life, and legal matters are only the world around us.
Fight for a worthwhile fight.