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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 2, 2008 / 2 Elul 5768

Costly Advice

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: Recently I went to a public lecture by a known lawyer. At the end of the lecture he gave out his e-mail and offered to answer questions. When I sent him a draft contract I want to sign, he sent me back his comments plus a hefty bill. Do I have to pay?


A: There is a stereotype that people are wary of asking lawyers even casual legal questions, such as at a cocktail party, fearful they might get a bill the next day. Perhaps lawyers themselves are grateful for this wariness, so that they can enjoy themselves at cocktail parties without feeling they are on a "busman's holiday".


While charging for cocktail-party banter may be a bit excessive, when a lawyer or any professional is approached for actual professional advice, they are allowed to assume that they will be paid for their services according to the going rate. When you take your car to the garage you may expect an estimate, but if for some reason you don't get one, you don't expect them to fix your car free. Likewise, if you ask specific advice from a lawyer, medical professional, public relations representative or any other person who gets paid for his or her advice, it is proper for them to specify that they are working for pay and to state what the rate is. But even if they don't do so, they have a right to be paid for their work.


This principle is illustrated in a few examples in the Talmud. In one place, we learn that if a person does uninvited field work in someone else's field, and it can be shown that the owner routinely hires this kind of work and so the efforts of the "interloper" (usually this is due to an honest mistake) saved him money, then the worker must be paid even though he was not hired. (1).


In another case, a person invited an acquaintance to dwell in his house for a period of time. The "guest" was surprised when the "host" demanded rental payment, but the court upheld the claim of the host; a person who offers to put someone up for an extended period of time is assumed to be doing so on a commercial basis. (2)


The authoritative Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles)sums the law as follows: "Any person who does an action or favor for his fellow, [the beneficiary] cannot claim, you did it as a favor since I didn't ask you. Rather, he must give him his pay." (3)


In your case you actually did ask the lawyer to do the work for you, so certainly he is entitled to pay.


It seems that you were misled by this lawyer's offer for people to write him with questions. Most likely the intention was general questions relating directly to the topic of the lecture, not substantive legal advice like reviewing a draft contract. Another possibility is that the lecture was given free with the explicit intention of drumming up business, and the call for questions was no more than an offer of services for pay.


Given the potential for misunderstanding, and the general obligation for a proper meeting of the minds in any commercial deal, it would have been proper for the lawyer to advise you of his fee schedule before undertaking the work. However, now that the work is done he has to take responsibility for it like regular professional work, and you have to pay for it according to the same standard.


In general, if you have work that is typically done through a paid professional, it is inappropriate to try and find someone who will do it free, unless you are particularly needy and are asking a person to do the work pro bono because of your special situation. I frequently get letters from professionals complaining that friends, neighbors and even strangers are constantly pressuring them to give free advice. Most of these people are already struggling to succeed and are not in any position to be giving distributing their services free of charge.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 101a. (2) Jerusalem Talmud, Bava Metzia chapter 5 Mishna 8 Halacha 1. (3) Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 264:4. See also Ran commentary on Ketubos107b

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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