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The "Law of Holes" and Its Impact on Resolving Tough Legal and Financial Issues
The “Law of Holes” states that “when you find that you’ve dug yourself into a hole, stop digging”. It’s a simple rule, yet so difficult for many people to follow. Here are three reasons why people who “go it alone” should seek professional guidance for a problem before it becomes worse or before it’s too late to fix.
Hiring a professional representative, such as a real estate agent, attorney or accountant, has as much to do with these agents serving as an emotional buffer as it does their education or experience. Take for instance real estate agents. There’s a long list of instructional materials available for selling a home “by owner.” Hidden obstacles (too many to name here) and the emotional roller coaster that comes with it, make hiring an experienced agent sensible. Perhaps the home fails an inspection or the buyer’s mortgage financing falls through. Emotions can, and do run high. A good agent can tackle the issue, smooth out the wrinkles, and keep emotional parties focused. An experience agent is not only a professional problem solver, but acts as an emotional buffer between parties to get an purchase offer to the closing table.
Likewise, people who insist on handling important legal or financial matters on their own proceed without the benefit of good counsel. Often these people they lack clear focus and objectivity. They generate excessive and needless costs to themselves, leading to more of their own frustration and time wasted. A professional adviser helps take emotion out of a particularly difficult process so that reasonableness prevails.
There is an old adage, “if you think that a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur.” Being thrifty has its place and time, but when it comes to personal safety, health, or legal responsibilities, hiring a professional at a reasonable price is a far better choice than paying for future consequences. For instance, performing electrical, structural, or plumbing work without a permit comes with hidden costs. Insurance carriers will deny property damage claims when the source of damage was a repair or remodeling project performed without a permit.
Recently, in a debt settlement matter, a business woman proudly proclaimed that she had personally negotiated down a substantial portion of her debt on a large promissory note. That she was now paying smaller monthly payments to her creditor. But later, she learned that this settlement was really a consent judgment and it allowed the creditor to attach all other assets owned to reduce the balance. Unknowingly the settlement allowed the creditor to garnish her bank accounts. In terms of price, forgoing the use of a professional in order to save money is silly and is costly in the end. If the work was done poorly or without full knowledge of a subject matter, there will be a higher price to pay down the road. Seek out professional advisers who are competent and reasonably priced.
With technology, people have access to all types of information on almost any topic. Besides a professional education, practical experience developed over years in a profession is just as valuable to a client. Consider for a moment that most C.P.A.s are skilled in the U.S. Tax Code. But the C.P.A. who spends years negotiating with a particular IRS department has the contacts and understands the procedure better than a colleague who may only deal with state sales tax issues. If this CPA has a good reputation among IRS agents for being prompt, thorough, knowledgeable, and respectful, then chances are that his services will be most valuable to his client, and a particular problem may be resolved more smoothly, efficiently and less costly.
Another example of hiring for experience is when one hires an attorney who understands how to clear a complicated title issue that prevents the sale of a building. The attorney’s relationship with a title underwriter is based upon years of past and positive experiences and can save his client thousands of dollars by not having to litigate the matter. Professionals are rarely asked by their clients about their alma mater, but they are frequently asked about their professional experience in handling a particular matter. Experience is worth paying for if one wishes to advance their cause efficiently.
Emotion, price and experience are all good reasons for people to seek out competent professionals in their respective fields of concern. Lay people who wish to do work that is commonly within the scope of trained professionals, either have too much time on their hands, or are masochists… or both. But one thing is for certain, it costs more time and money reinventing the wheel than it does hiring the right adviser. So to them I say, “keep digging”.