Q. My friend told me verbal contracts are good in California. Is this true? (Santa Ana, CA)
This is an example of what I call “Layman’s Law.” Other examples: “Verbal contracts are good for 2 years”, “You can’t sign a contract on a Sunday”, and “All contracts must be in writing.” Believing these simplifications lose clients money. A lot of it.
Understanding the difference between law and Layman’s Law requires understanding the difference between an attorney and a non-attorney.
After being accepted into law school – which is no easy task – the attorney endures three years of tough legal training. This includes intense coursework, legal analysis, clinical work, and reading so voluminous that law students make their first visits to optometrists (at least one colleague suffered permanent eye damage requiring glasses for the rest of her life).
Law School professors are leaders in their field and expect law students to show to class prepared. Students are called upon randomly and grilled on case law under aggressive scrutiny and immense pressure. There is the old adage that you should make two friends on the first day of law school because one of them will drop out by the 3rd year. In my case, both dropped within the first week.
Graduation only signifies the beginning of study for the state exam. California is notorious for having the hardest exam in the country, with mayors, governors, and Deans of law schools, failing. The pass rate is below 50% with many on their 6th, 7th, and 31st attempts. (watch the CA BAR exam documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnvPL9myL-Q)
Even after passing, attorneys are expected to attend conferences, complete additional coursework, and must stay educated on legal developments. So, when you speak to an attorney, you are speaking with a seasoned professional who holds a doctorate in the field of law – a title less than 1% of the population can claim.
Keep this in mind when a non-attorney offers legal advice. Notarios are not lawyers. “Multi-services” are not lawyers. And your friend is not a lawyer.
To answer your question, a true lawyer will take your case, examine the details, and research the applicable statutes and case law before giving you a definite answer. A true lawyer will not say, “Verbal contracts are good in California.”
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