How to Determine If You Need a Lawyer
There are many types of legal issues that might require a lawyer's help. You may consider hiring a lawyer if you have suffered an injury, been wrongfully terminated at work, are thinking about starting a business, or have been accused of committing a crime. Lawyers can help with legal problems after they come up -- after a car accident, for example -- but in other instances, consulting a lawyer before a legal issue arises can help you anticipate and prevent serious legal problems.
Some common situations where assistance from a lawyer may be necessary include:
- An accident involving personal injury or property damage.
- A family problem such as divorce or a child custody dispute.
- The sale or purchase of a home, real estate, or a business.
- Discrimination or harassment on the job.
- The formation or incorporation of a business.
- The drafting of a will, trust, or estate plan.
- A tax problem.
- An arrest or questioning by law enforcement officials.
A lawyer will assess your legal issue and can tell you at the outset whether it is worth your while to obtain legal assistance and/or pursue legal action. If you are unlikely to prevail, or if the benefits of obtaining legal assistance do not clearly outweigh the costs, you will not need to incur unnecessary time and expense. If legal action or assistance is necessary, your lawyer will evaluate all aspects of your situation with you, explain your options and what to expect at every step, and will take any action necessary to ensure that your legal rights are fully assessed and protected -- researching the law, interviewing witnesses, collecting records, conferring with expert consultants, planning legal strategy, preparing and filing necessary paperwork, and negotiating with insurers and opposing counsel -- all with an eye toward ensuring the best possible outcome for your legal issue.
Most legal situations (such as those identified above) require the assistance of an experienced lawyer. But in other less serious matters, self representation may also be an option. You may be able to resolve a minor legal dispute by writing letters or negotiating informally, or in a "small claims" court if the dispute has a value less than or equal to a certain amount (perhaps $5,000). Be sure to check with your local court for applicable "small claims" limits.