The situation is fairly common. A business professional such as an attorney, CPA, stockbroker, or even a well-established business owner gives some friendly advice. It doesn’t matter if the advice was requested, or was given in a general context. But, the recurring issue is that someone used this advice and it did not work out as they planned. Some people seek out compensation for lost funds, damages, or even claim that there was a harmful intent in this advice.
Of course on the other end, the business professional honestly believed that they were providing valuable insight. Most business professionals are careful to only speak on subject matter where they have a specialty or expert level of knowledge. When business professionals give advice or insight into particular elements of their business or their industry, they open themselves to Legal risk. When that happens, it is likely that they’ll need a business law attorney to help sort out this potential disaster.
Giving Advice vs. Providing Paid Services
There are key differences between providing free advice and providing a paid service. When providing a service there is usually a contract or agreement which protects the business professional from legal action. Many accountants will provide advice on finding investors, or handling taxes as part of paid services. When the advice falls in the context of a paid service, it becomes a professional suggestion and those contracts or agreements protect the business professional if those suggestions don’t work out as planned.
However, if a business professional is giving generalized advice and not using a contract, then they don’t have any type of protection. For example, if a stockbroker were talking with a group of people and offered umbrella-type investment advice that could get them in some trouble with various regulatory bodies and through civil legal action.
Differences Between Giving Business Advice and Legal Advice
One dilemma that many attorneys face is the trouble of separating business advice and legal advice. Many attorneys work closely with business professionals and business owners. However they only work in a legal capacity, but their clients frequently turn to them for business advice.
A client may ask if they should agree to certain vendor terms, or they should assume a certain risk. That is often outside of the scope of an attorney. Attorneys usually work to explain legal risks and options to mitigate that risk.
What the Bar Association Says About Conflict of Interest
The American Bar Association specifically addresses the issue between lawyers and clients when it comes to conflict of interest. They point out that as these two work together there is the opportunity for the attorney to overreach, even unintentionally. Engaging in business, property, or financial transactions that aren’t related to the subject matter of their relationship could be a conflict of interest.
Each Different Business Professional Works with Different Scopes
It is difficult to say that business professionals should never provide advice because many works to do exactly that. For example, a CPA works to give advice on minimizing tax burden and minimizing the risk of negative interaction with the IRS. They serve to provide advice.
On the other hand, stockbrokers should never provide advice because it puts them in an extremely risky position. Whereas financial planners or financial advisors who have very similar expertise and knowledge to stockbrokers do give advice. It’s important that as a business professional you understand the scope of your work and how you should or should not give advice.
Assessing Your Business Legal Needs
Many business professionals might find themselves in a bit of trouble if they’ve given more advice than they should have. There’s also the struggle of identifying where there may be conflicts of interest and we’re professional scopes end. 8 bore or governing body that serves over a business professional group should provide insight into the differences between advice, paid services, and conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, many professionals find out about these regulations or restrictions too late.
If you’re facing legal trouble with a governing body, client, or personal acquaintances because of the advice you provided then it’s likely you need an attorney. Clients and personal acquaintances can begin civil lawsuits against business professionals when they believe they’ve acted outside of their scope. Business professionals, however, can work to show that they operated legally and were consistent with what they provided in terms of services or free advice. Aeton Law Partners can support business professionals throughout this process to ensure that they’re on the right track towards a strong defense against any allegations.