My parents were educators. My mother taught at Bay View Elementary School in Monterey for over twenty-five years and my father was a school principal and administrator in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. For a period of time, I thought of following in their footsteps with my own twist by becoming a college English professor, before I instead decided to go to law school. However, when I started practicing law, I realized that my “teaching genes” were quite helpful in explaining complex legal principles to my clients and to the public.
Early in my legal career, I presented estate planning seminars throughout the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas Valley. Based upon the questions and feedback I received from the seminar audiences, I honed my skills in “teaching” the law to non-lawyers. I carried these skills back to my office where I would further explain legal concepts in greater detail to my clients in private meetings using the teacher’s tool, the whiteboard. Over time, I created certain routine “lessons” that my clients really appreciated and understood.
I developed a philosophy that it was important to have a balanced approach to sharing legal information with my clients and the public. One extreme is the traditional approach to law where attorneys believe that the details are far too complex to explain to non-lawyers and they instead make various drafting choices for their clients without bothering to describe the various options available. The other extreme is pseudo legal online services or “legal guide products” that claim to be able to allow a client to take a “do-it-yourself” approach that oversimplifies the law, attempts to put tools in the hands of the public without adequate guidance, and is doomed to fail.
The law is far too complex to encourage non-lawyers to draft their own legal documents. Years of legal education, the preparation for and passage of the Bar Exam, and years of practice cannot be transported to a non-lawyer through a packaged “legal guide.” At the same time, having a legal background is not necessary to understand legal concepts in general terms to be able to make intelligent choices about one’s legal options with the guide of a qualified attorney. The key for the attorney is to avoid attempting to teach a law school course by putting on airs and using unnecessary legal vocabulary, while at the same time understanding what non-lawyers do not know but respecting their intelligence to grasp legal concepts in general terms.
The routine whiteboard “lessons” that I created provide this balanced approach to explaining complex legal principles in an easy-to-understand manner. In an effort to make these legal principles more accessible to the general public, I filmed my most common “legal lessons” and posted the videos on my website (www.krasalaw.com) under the heading, “Kyle’s Famous Legal Lessons.” The videos can be used by the general public to learn more about estate planning, by my clients to reinforce what I might have explained during a client meeting, and for other advisors such as tax preparers and financial planners to be able to share legal concepts with their clients.
These videos are not designed to take the place of legal advice but rather to provide a general introduction to estate planning concepts. Because the law is complex, everybody’s situation is different, and because in short segments important details must be left out, it is important to work with a qualified licensed attorney before acting on any of the information provided in the “legal lesson” videos. The idea is to give some legal familiarity to non-lawyers so that they can be prepared to discuss their estate planning wishes when they meet with their attorneys.