We see in a lot of legal dramas, like Extraordinary Attorney Woo, of lawyers passionately arguing for their clients and presenting their cases in court. This probably fueled the misconception that people should get lawyers or seek legal advice only when they become involved in cases. Contrary to this popular belief, the best time to consult a lawyer or a legal expert is actually way before a case is filed and whenever we make big decisions.

The medical philosophy, “prevention is better than cure,” is also very much applicable to our laws and legal actions. Everything we do has legal consequences, affecting both ourselves and the people around us, and if we’re not careful, it could negatively affect our lives, livelihoods, businesses, properties, or relationships.

There are numerous reasons why prevention is better than cure, but here are some of them:

You can save money, time, and energy.

Filing cases, or defending yourself against them, take up a lot of resources, such as time, money, and energy. Since a lot of cases are pending before our courts, your case might take years before it is finally resolved. It could take even longer because the parties might appeal to a higher court to challenge the decision.

If you’re the complainant in civil cases, you also have to pay filing fees and other expenses. Not only that, because of the pending case, you are forced to engage a lawyer. This would involve the payment of not only the engagement fee, but also appearance fees for each hearing. Since it would take a long time, your expenses would balloon as the case would drag on.

Even if you win the case, the time you lost because of the case can never be taken back, and the hassle you experienced can’t be compensated well enough.

To prevent this unnecessary stress and save a lot more money, you need to consult legal experts whenever you buy properties, enter into contracts, or other big decisions and avoid litigation as much as possible. In buying land, for example, you have to make sure that the seller is the real owner of the property and that it is not involved in disputes. In entering transactions, you also have to ensure that the contract contains provisions that are fair for both of the parties, and not too oppressive on your part. It is best you make sure you understand the legal effects of the provisions of the contract that you would be signing.

In the case of employers, it is also important that you retain a lawyer or law firm for guidance in hiring or dismissing employees. If you do not pay employees what they are due under the law or follow the proper procedure or dismiss an employee on valid grounds, you may have to pay them backwages, which would usually be with interest, and damages.

If you have no choice but to litigate, you already have the proper evidence to support your case.

The sad reality is that just because you’re right doesn’t always guarantee that you can win a case. Cases are usually not as dramatic as the ones we see on television, and most of the battle is fought in the preparation stage. Our courts rely on the evidence provided by the parties before making a decision; and if you don’t have this evidence, the judge might not believe your side of the story. So, if you have no choice but to litigate, it is important for you to already have the necessary documents or witnesses; otherwise, the case is already lost long before it started.

For instance, under our Civil Code, most contracts do not need to be written for them to be valid; but if you don’t have a written contract or any other evidence of your agreement, even if you agreed with the other party through word of mouth, there could still be a chance that your case will be dismissed because aside from your testimony, you don’t have concrete proof that you and the other person agreed on that.

There could also times where, even if you have evidence, it would be inadmissible. For evidence to be considered by our courts, it must comply with our rules of procedure.

Also, unlike the legal dramas you see in shows where lawyers have a eureka moment and present a new witness all of a sudden, we can’t just easily present documents and other pieces of evidence, or change our arguments in the middle of a trial. Our courts are a bit stricter, and already expect that we have the necessary pieces of evidence and witnesses by the pre-trial stage. Long before a case starts, you need to be ready and you need to know what evidence to prepare.

You avail of legal remedies in times.

Just like for your health, there are certain medicines that we need to take within a given time for them to be effective. A little longer than that, they might not work anymore.

Similarly, there are remedies provided under our law that we can only avail of within a certain lapse of time. In criminal cases, you need to file a case against a person within the time provided by the law. This period could range from 1 year to 20 years depending on the crime committed. In the same way, you can only enforce your rights in civil cases within the period under the law. After that time expires, you can no longer file a case to enforce your right, even if the other person is wrong.

For properties, like unregistered land, you could lose ownership over it, if a person possesses it for more than 10 years or 30 years, depending on the circumstances.

If you’re an employee, you can no longer ask for payment of wages, overtime pay, 13th month pay and other monetary claims if you don’t enforce your right within 3 years from the time you were entitled to them.

These are just some of the reasons why you need to consult a lawyer when entering into transactions, starting a business, or protecting your rights, whenever your resources permit. Protect your rights by being prepared.