Wells: Here’s how to help you avoid most legal problems | Local

I had the privilege of writing a monthly legal column for the Winston-Salem Journal for nearly 20 years. After writing more than 200 articles and conducting a similar number of legal discussions for businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, service organizations, and religious denominations, what most citizens want and need to know on the law?

This: The best legal problems are the ones that never happen. Show citizens how they can often help themselves and avoid many legal problems. And to direct citizens to advocate organizations and resources that attempt to provide solid direction to the public, often at no cost or for a very modest outlay to those in need.

1. General legal information.

  • The North Carolina Bar Association’s attorney referral line. A North Carolina citizen in any geographic area and regarding most legal issues may receive a 30-minute conference with a competent attorney for up to $50. (800-662-7660).
  • The North Carolina Bar Association also offers a number of other free or low-cost services. NC legal aid hotline. (www.legalaidnc.org; 866-219-5262); NC Free legal answers. (www.freelegalanswers.org); and Attorney Assistance Program for North Carolina Entrepreneurs. (www.nc-leap.org.
  • What do you get for free or almost free from a lawyer? In fact, a lot. Knowledge of the law in a free society is a great power. Take advantage of these helpful services provided by the North Carolina Bar Association and other nonprofit organizations, especially for those with limited financial means.

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2. Home construction projects.

  • Home building projects go better if you have a strong contractor and a strong contract. Many calls and emails I receive concern these legal and practical issues. A good and ethical entrepreneur avoids many problems. Contact the Home Builders Association of Winston-Salem and see what they suggest. www.hbaws.net. (336-768-5942). This website also provides other useful tips.
  • The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors also provides a wealth of free information and advice that you should consult, especially for any major construction project. www.nclbg.org. (919-571-4183.)
  • Ask those who know local contractors well for recommendations. Talk to real estate agents and friends who have used a contractor. Ask the contractor for references on the work done and call the references to get their feedback as well.
  • Have there been any complaints about the contractor? Contact the Better Business Bureau of Central and Northwest North Carolina and check to see if any complaints have been reported. (336-852-4240.) These only include reported complaints, but it’s a good place to start.

3. General consumer topics. A number of challenges arise with ordinary purchases. Here are some suggestions:

The product you just to have to have

  • will almost certainly be there tomorrow, despite what the salesperson tells you. Sleep on a decision about a major purchase.
  • Get a major mechanical product you want to buy from a friend inspected by a neutral party before closing the deal. Your friend is honest, of course, but if there’s a mechanical problem, your friend may not know either.
  • If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is.

4. Other sources of general information.

  • Ask Sam in the Winston-Salem Journal. “Sam” knows a lot about a lot of things. Sam researches issues and often contacts lawyers and others on various legal matters. ([email protected]; or write to Ask SAM, PO Box 3159, Winston-Salem, NC 27102.)
  • Past legal columns. My past columns deal with many other legal issues that people also face. Search the Journal’s website at www.jounalnow.com. Or Google a topic regarding North Carolina law and review articles from other credible sources.

The best problems are the ones that never happen because you’re asking the right questions of the right source of information. Take advantage of these and other resources when you need them.

Remember: an informed choice is an intelligent choice.

Mike Wells is a partner at Wells Law, PLLC in Winston-Salem. His email address is [email protected] and his phone number is 336-283-8700.

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