Being in the public domain is not always an easy experience, as many times people are not able to distinguish between the attorney, and the public speaker.
Consequently I get a lot of legal inquiries on my WhatsApp number. What this shows to me is that there is a serious gap in terms of legal representation in the country.
I have decided to take a more proactive role this week, and deliberately share some thoughts on some common things that can help you safeguard your legal interests.
You have interests to protect I presume, and perhaps that is the reason why you are reading this article.
#1. Have a personal lawyer
Legal services by their very nature are not cheap, hence so many people still remain unrepresented.
However, now you can secure legal insurance from registered insurance firms that can help you with this facility.
Ensure however, that any cover that you take allows you to have a lawyer of your choice rather than a lawyer who is imposed on you.
Lawyering is like medicine, it’s personal, you rather work with someone you are comfortable with. There other option is to work on a retainer with a particular firm or lawyer of choice so that you can be guaranteed of legal representation whenever you need one.
I did an article on “Why you need a lawyer?” Please read one. You need to protect yourself through having effective counsel. The best time you need a lawyer is when you do not need one. It’s not advisable to look for a lawyer when you are in trouble.
#2. Do not sign contracts without reading them
You take this for granted. Are you on Facebook, Gmail or any form of subscription service? Have you ever noticed that they have “terms and conditions”. These are usually very long, and a number of us are quick to say “Accept”.
Many of us are guilty of this. Have you ever imagined a live agreement that will directly impact on you should you default? Do not rush to sign agreements without reading and understanding them.
It’s possible to just read without having an understanding. Use the service of your lawyer to have a professional eye before making commitments.
A number of times people only realise draconian terms once the terms are now being enforced. Once a contract has been signed, it becomes binding as long as it meets the basic requirements for a valid contract.
The general principle which applies to contracts, and commonly designated as caveat subscriptor, is that a party to the contract is bound by his signature, whether or not he has read or understood the contract, or the contract was signed with blank spaces later to be filled in.
The Court will not liberate you from the terms of a contract. The Supreme Court of Zimbabwe confirmed the sanctity of contracts in Magodora v Care International SC91/13 held that; “In principle, it is not open to the courts to rewrite a contract entered into between the parties or to excuse any of them from the consequences of the contract that they have freely and voluntarily accepted, even if they are shown to be onerous or oppressive.
“This is so as a matter of public policy.” I will pursue this in future articles. Be proactive and protect your interests and rights.
#3. Do not ignore Court process
You cannot wish away Court process. When the Messenger of Court or Sheriff serves process on you, do not pack it away and just hope that somehow it will go away. I know of several people when they were served with Court Summons, they just filed them away, and some daring ones threw them away.
You see, there is something called “dies induciae”, in English this means the time within which you are supposed to act. If you do not act, the law creates room for a process for default judgment. Even if you are “tired” of that marriage do not ignore the divorce summons. There is a procedure for consent, let it be formally noted on record that you consented.
When served with Court process, do not purport to be an attorney when you are not one. Call your attorney for advice, and you will be advised of the next recourse.
There is University of Zimbabwe Access to Justice Centre where you can get free legal advice if you are indigent person. DO not abuse the clinic for commercial matters.
Legal Resources Foundation, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association among other organisations offer legal aid, but they also discriminate on the cases they take.
Get advice in one way or the other. Even a paid consultation session with an attorney can end up being a great saving for yourself as you get to have an indication as to the direction your case may take.
When you are served with a Notice of Set Down, go to court and appear yourself if you cannot afford the services of an attorney. If you do not appear in Court the other party will get a default judgment which may be to the possible detriment of your interests.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The material contained in this post is set out in good faith for general guidance in the spirit of raising legal awareness on topical interests that affect most people on a daily basis. They are not meant to create an attorney-client relationship or constitute solicitation.
No liability can be accepted for loss or expense incurred as a result of relying in particular circumstances on statements made in the post. Laws and regulations are complex and liable to change, and readers should check the current position with the relevant authorities before making personal arrangements.
Arthur Marara is a corporate law attorney practicing law in Harare, Zimbabwe. He is also a notary public and conveyancer. He is also passionate about labour law, commercial law, family law and promoting legal awareness and access to justice. He writes in his personal capacity. You can follow him on social media (Facebook Attorney Arthur Marara), or WhatsApp him on +263780055152 or email [email protected]