Presenting law on a layman's level
New York — Laurie H. Hutzler says she wants to become the Sylvia Porter of law. Just as Miss Porter shares her financial know-how with a wide public, Miss Hutzler would like to share her ability to unravel law and to break down complex legal points into simple language.
Miss Hutzler says she is far more interested in helping the masses understand the elements of law than in one-to-one legal counsel or colorful courtroom practice.
"This whole idea of educating people and helping them to help themselves by knowing more about those aspects of the law that most effect their lives, is my driving force," she explains. "Too many people fear and misunderstand both law and lawyers, and so feel threatened rather than safeguarded."
This New York lawyer's thrust is to change that misconception through media communication. She is already the author of several books and pamphlets which her firm, Legal Management Services Inc., has published and distributed. She contributes a column on matters of law to a leading woman's magazine, writes for several trade publications, and would like to think that in the future she might be dispensing helpful and pertinent legal information via radio and television.
"This all means I am practicing law in the way that I most enjoy," she says. "My whole emphasis is on preventive law, and in teaching people how to stay within the bounds of the legal mechanism in their work, home, and family-related situations, and how to steer clear of costly lawsuits. People need to better understand their rights and responsibilities under the law. They can prevent most of their legal problems if they understand how the law works."
Miss Hutzler, who grew up in La Crosse, Wis., graduated from the University of Minnesota and from New York Law School. She has been intrigued with the logic of law and explanatory writing since she was a young girl. She considers herself a natural researcher, as well as a compiler and filer of thousands of magazine and newspaper clippings about law as it affects people's lives. Her data bank now includes reams of material on many types of legal issues that involve home, health, family, personal privacy, marriage, money, finance, and credit.
Her husband, Jim Charne, who took his law degree at New York Law School at the same time his wife did, has now joined her in their unusual service company in Manhattan. They both live and work in their three-bedroom co-op apartment at 250 West 94th Street. The distribution center of their publications is PO Box 2614, La Crosse, Wis. A title and price list is available on request.
One of Laurie Hutzler's first efforts to explain complex things in a simple, graphic way was a handbook called "The Attorneys' Malpractice Prevention Manual, " which has been used by numerous bar associations and schools. Her other handbooks, distributed originally at the 1980 White House Conference on Small Business, to which she was a delegate, include "The Regulatory and Paperwork Maze: A Guide for Small Business," which is a guide to the regulatory process.
Her latest research and writing effort, called "A Financing Survival Manual for Small Business," is being prepared for fall 1981 publication.
In addition to her writing, Miss Hutzler conducts training sessions on "Law Office Skills" and "Malpractice Prevention" for the New York State Bar Association. She also prepares videotape productions that help explain specific legal aspects (such as anti-trust laws, legal malpractice claims, professional liability problems) to other lawyers, to sales and insurance executives, and to architects and engineers.
Miss Hutzler does no private counseling at all. her firm specializes in helping business and professional organizations, companies, trade associations, and government agencies by producing easy-to-understand publications and programs that convey useful legal information and instruction. Her video game show for CBS, called "The Name of the Game is P&L" won an industrial film festival award for its innovative techniques.
Miss Hutzler would most like to see the difficult "legalese" language of government regulations and legal documents translated into the language that most people use every day. She is chipping away at that task in her own way.
"I always try, in my writing, to set down clear problem-solving steps that anyone could follow," she says, "and to include paragraph headings and interesting illustrations. They seem to work for people."
These nitty-gritty details are grist for Laurie Hutzler's mill, and she is carving a different kind of law career in order to share them.