Signing Things

  • Don’t sign anything until you read it.
  • Don’t sign anything until you understand it.
  • Don’t sign anything unless you agree with it.
  • Don’t sign anything with blank spaces.
  • Keep a copy of everything you sign.
  • If you’re told what is written down really means something different from what you think it means, don’t automatically believe it.
  • If you’re not sure about signing something, take it to a lawyer before you sign it, not after.
  • Keep good records.
  • A verbal contract is worth the paper it’s written on.
  • If someone is trustworthy enough to do a deal with, they should be willing to sign a written agreement.

Buying Things

  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • When buying a house, don’t rely exclusively on the advice of a real estate agent who gets paid only if you buy the house.
  • When buying a house, hire your own home inspector, preferably one who is a licensed engineer.
  • Do lots of research before hiring a home improvement contractor.
  • If a deal is valid only if you sign right now, it is almost never a good deal.
  • After you buy most things, you do not have 3 days to change your mind.
  • Use credit cards very sparingly.
  • You’re still responsible for paying your apartment lease even if you move out early.
  • If you give your car or house voluntarily back to the bank, you still owe them the balance of your loan after they sell your property at auction.

The Police

  • Don’t give permission to the police to search anything.  They need a search warrant.
  • When the police say they are “just trying to clear things up,” it really means they are looking for a reason to arrest someone.
  • The attorney for the state decides whether to drop criminal charges, not the victim.
  • Be polite and respectful of the police.
  • If stopped by the police, stay calm and in control of your words, body language, and emotions.
  • Don’t touch a police officer.
  • Don’t resist a police officer, even if you think you are innocent.
  • Don’t run from the police.
  • If stopped by the police, keep your hands where they can be seen.
  • If stopped by the police, don’t reach for anything at all without first asking the police officer.


  • If you’re in a car accident, no matter how minor, always get the other driver’s name, phone number, insurance information, and license plate number.
  • If you’re in a car accident, no matter how minor, and the other driver leaves, write down the license plate number, description of the car, and number of people in the car.

Privacy Things

  • Don’t give out your social security number to anyone other than employers and to companies from whom you are requesting credit.
  • If your driver’s license or insurance identification number is your social security number, request that it be changed.
  • Request a free copy of your credit report every year.  Then review it for accuracy.
  • Don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t be willing to see on the front page of the New York Times.
  • There’s no such thing as a confidential memorandum or email.

Solving Problems

  • Take responsibility for your own actions.
  • Not everything bad that happens to you is somebody else’s fault.
  • Suing someone should never be the first way you try to solve a problem.
  • If something inside you tells you that what you’re going to do will end up being a problem, don’t do it.
  • When you have a problem, being honest with the other party is usually the best approach.
  • If you have a problem, telephoning does not preserve your legal rights.

Life in General

  • Don’t be greedy.
  • Be adequately insured.
  • Carry disability insurance.
  • Have a Will.  Review your Will every year.

Whether it’s someone in a business transaction; in a sale of a house; or the police who are interviewing you; if someone on the other side tells you that you don’t need a lawyer, you almost certainly do!

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